Last updated: Mar 02, 2016

Its where we keep our powerhouse cleaning products: bleach, ammonia, tile scrubbers, etc. They are potent—and dangerous. “Theyre effective cleaning agents because theyre reactive substances,” says David O. Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, State University of New York. “You might want that in your kitchen sink, but you dont want it in your lungs.”


Many common cleaning products are considered hazardous substances and are regulated by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. Ammonia and chlorine bleach can cause headaches, burn skin, and irritate the eyes and respiratory tract. (Accidentally mixing the two releases toxic chlorine gas that damages lung tissue and impairs lung function.) And regularly cleaning with bleach—which generally contains chlorine, classified as a hazardous air pollutant in the 1990 Clean Air Act—is particularly harmful to kids because it can trigger and worsen asthma, Landrigan adds.

Thankfully, its simple to detox your kitchen. Replace potent products under the sink with milder versions from brands like Seventh Generation, Biokleen, and Ecover; they voluntarily list (less toxic) ingredients and banish most germs just as well. “You dont need the cleaning products we used in the past,” Carpenter says. “Soap, water, and elbow grease are all you need.”

Start by swapping the one household cleaner you use most. (Learn how to make your own safe versions here.) Each little change will improve the air you breathe.