How Toxic Is Your Laundry Room?

The laundry room is a popular place to store household cleaners and various cleaning supplies (in addition to laundry detergent) because it’s often a convenient and “out of sight” storage space. While it’s always nice to keep your cleaners in one area, it can be bad for your health and even a risk to your safety.

Your Household Cleaners

Think about why you store your cleaning products in the laundry room; probably because you want to keep the harmful chemicals out of reach of your small child, right? Unless you make your own non-toxic household cleaners, you can assume that every household cleaner from window cleaners to laundry soap is toxic to you and your family (even your four-legged friends).

Some experts say that even “green” cleaners may put your health and safety at risk, so always make sure to store products safely and read all labels.

Most household cleaners have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are responsible for a variety of health issues such as minor eye and throat irritation to headaches, respiratory problems, chemical burns, and even cancer. Even if you don’t notice any changes to your health while using the products, it doesn’t mean that you’re not at risk.

While a natural product that doesn’t have any toxic chemicals is a safer option, it may not be your personal preference for deep cleaning. If you continue to use cleaning products with chemicals, always use with adequate ventilation and never mix bleach (or any product containing bleach) with ammonia; the chemical reaction could be fatal.

Laundry Soap

What would a laundry room be without laundry soap? We’ve all heard of the tragedies related to the ingestion of laundry soap pods and even if we keep them out of reach (and maybe under lock and key) are we any safer?

Most laundry soaps contain a number of ingredients that are proven to be toxic; the best way to steer clear of these toxins is to read the label. Here are some ingredients to avoid, if possible:

  • Anionic surfactants
  • Naphthas
  • Phenols
  • Optical brighteners
  • Bleach
  • Ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetate (EDTA)
  • Synthetic fragrances

The “Other” Reason You May Have a Toxic Laundry Room — Mold In Your Washing Machine

If you own a front-load washing machine, you probably purchased it with the environment in mind. Even though you’re using less water, due to its high-efficiency design, you may be exposing you and your family to mold.

While any type of washing machine may be at risk for mold, front-loaders are notorious for the black and toxic buildup, particularly on the rubber seal. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others, but it’s not good to be exposed regardless of the amount.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold can cause cold-like symptoms like congestion and coughing. Mold can also cause skin and eye irritation. It is particularly hazardous to people who have compromised immune systems and chronic lung illnesses.

Once you get rid of the mold in your washing machine, you’ll need to get in the practice of wiping down the rubber seal and leaving the machine door open to prevent mold growth.

Many DIY sites recommend cleaning the mold out with bleach; obviously, that’s a potentially hazardous chemical to use, so you may want to explore other alternatives such as vinegar and water.

Always wear gloves and a face mask when cleaning around mold or when using cleaning products. Don’t forget to read the labels, allow for adequate airflow, and keep all household cleaners out of reach of children or pets (a locked cabinet is a good alternative).

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Donna Fitzgerald contributor

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