Other than the air-fresheners in the house (which have at this point been eliminated) the biggest irritant I have found is the bathroom cleaners. The folks I share the living space with are quite fond of a sparkling clean bathroom. I mean, I am, too, but I'm even more fond of breathing! With the types of bathroom cleaners that were being used on a daily basis in the shower, I was once again, plagued with headaches, difficulty breathing, and I was just overwhelmed by the smell.
Turns out, once again, I was feeling so poorly because I was breathing in toxic chemical found in the shower cleaner.
The specific shower cleaner we were using in the house was a chlorine based cleaner. Chlorine is bad news!
Chlorine is actually found in a variety of products, not just bathroom cleaners. It is used to treat our water supply, in pools, in the production of paper, in the production of fibers to make clothing, in laundry detergents, scrubs, and, of course, in bathroom cleaners. Chlorine is very cheap to manufacture, which is why is is found in so many products. However, just because it is found in so many products, does not mean it is safe.
Chlorine is a harsh irritant of the eyes, skin, and lungs. If inhaled, it chlorine fumes cause coughing, shortness of breath, phlegm build up, and even pulmonary edema. If it comes into contact with the eyes or skin in undiluted form, it can cause severe burns or even irreversible damage. Exposure to chlorine can worsen asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
Chlorine is also bad for the environment. It is a major contributor to atmospheric ozone loss.
Chlorine can become even more dangerous if combined with other chemicals. If chlorine and ammonia are used together, for instance, chlorine gas will result. Chlorine gas is odorless, but lethal.
If chlorine is so dangerous, then why is it used so much? A big part of this is marketing. We have come to associate the smell of bleach with the idea of "clean." We have come to associate the idea of harsh chemicals with protection against dangerous germs and mold. However, the exact opposite is actually true. We have become a culture of over-cleaners, oftentimes killing helpful bacteria along with the bad germs, and ironically, putting our health at risk in doing so.
So, if not bleach based cleaners, what can be used to get that shower sparkly clean?
First off, it should be noted that the simple act of drying the tile and shower curtain will curb the growth of mildew. Rather than spraying she shower down daily, simply wiping with a towel or squeegee is sufficient.
Many of the same items used for spot removers in laundry can be used for bathroom cleaners (instructions for home-made cleaners to be found in a future post). There are also many commercially based safer alternatives for cleaning the shower:
Method cleaner is made from non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients.
Seventh Generation is another plant-based, non-toxic cleaner.
CitraSolv is a citrus based cleaner
KaBoom is an oxygen bleach (peroxide and baking soda)