I love to clean. It’s very therapeutic for me. What I don’t love is those noxious fumes from household cleaning supplies like Lysol and Pine-Sol that irritate my nose. And if I accidentally get it on me, I don’t want to have to worry about my skin disintegrating.
What To Look Out For
The chemicals you want to beware of in cleaners are methylisothiazolinone (MI), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), SLS, ammonia, chlorine, bleach, formaldehyde, fragrance, and dyes. Let’s talk about the preservatives MI and MCI.
Preservatives definitely have a crucial role in our lives whether we realize it or not, ranging from the food we eat to the makeup we apply on our face. Without them, unwelcome guests like bacterial colonies and mold would take over our products. But, some preservatives are definitely safer than others with regard to long-term health effects.
MI and MCI have a so-so track record. Liquid products, like cleaners, shampoo, body wash, and makeup remover commonly utilize the two in combination. They’re not horrible if you don’t have allergies to them, but they’re not great either. Researchers found that MCI and mixtures of MI/MCI commonly cause skin irritation. The American Contact Dermatitis Society even awarded MI “Allergen of the Year” in 2013.
With recent years, there seems to be growing concern regarding MI and MCI. Dermatology centers are noticing a rise in allergies to these two preservatives. In the 80’s and 90’s, problems arose because the preservatives were used in leave-on products at concentrations greater than 0.0015%.
That has led several countries to set limits to the concentration allowed in products. In Canada, mixtures of MI/MCI can’t exceed 0.0015% in rinse-off products, and it’s prohibited in leave-on products. The European Cosmetics industry voluntarily agreed to remove MI from leave-on products. Unfortunately, the U.S. hasn’t set any sort of restrictions thus far. The U.S.’s Cosmetics Ingredient Review did conclude that 0.01% was safe for use in rinse-off products, which is higher than what other countries allow.
So, what should you do?
You’ll definitely want to avoid these preservatives if you suspect you’re allergic. If you’re not allergic, then MI and MCI are among the safer preservatives when compared to parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.
Are there preservatives that are even safer but still effective?
The lesser offensive preservatives would be potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Primarily used as food preservatives, you’ll also find them in personal care products to prevent mold growth. Rarely, they could cause skin irritation, rashes, or watery eyes. Overall, they’re considered low health concerns when used in personal care products.
Side Note on Food: Although potassium sorbate in food is generally regarded as safe, be more cautious of it when combined with vitamin C and iron salts, as one study has shown this combination to damage DNA. There have also been studies linking sodium benzoate and artificial food coloring with increased hyperactivity, but more conclusive studies are needed. Furthermore, sodium benzoate along with vitamin C (often found in soda) can form benzene, a known carcinogen. You can avoid these preservatives by eating fresh organic foods and limiting your intake of processed food, canned food, wine, cheese, and soda/soft drinks. Your body will love you for it too!
Household Cleaning Supplies I Like
Why I Like It: The ingredients are non-toxic and don’t irritate your nose with noxious fumes. Best of all, it works great on many surfaces! I use it not only in the bathroom, but as a multipurpose cleaner around the house. (I actually don’t recommend the Honest Co. Multipurpose Cleaner because it has methylisothiazolinone.)
Why I Like It: Made with 4 simple ingredients, this cleaner works great on glass and leaves a streak-free shine! No more fingerprints and dog nose prints!
Why I Like It: The Honest Co’s dish soap works great on grease and grime, offered in lavender, white grapefruit, and lemon verbena. The company recommends it as a general all-purpose soap, so feel free to wash your dishes, car, floors, and deck!
Why I Like It: These dishwasher tablets, made with plant-based and mineral ingredients, received 4.4 stars from Amazon users. It’s biodegradable and fish friendly!