Toxic Dangers of Household Cleaners to Our Dogs/Pets

As an animal naturopath, I am often dismayed to find out during a consultation that pet owners are still in the dark regarding the toxic dangers of household cleaners to our dogs (and themselves) and are still using them in their homes where they live with their beloved animal companions and family. I am finding that most pet owners are ignorant of the seriousness of using household-cleaning products in and around their pets and their children!

I won’t even begin to get into the more commonly known household toxins such as Teflon chemicals (PFC), Fire Retardants (PBDE) and Mercury that our pets are taking into their bodies daily – there are several very in-depth and interesting studies you can read on the Environmental Working Group website about Polluted Pets them and I do highly recommend you read them all for your own health’s sake as well as your children and pets.

This article is intended to frighten you as much as it is to make you aware and to empower you to understand how to have your dogs (cats and other pets) and yourself be as healthy as possible in this toxic world we live in today. I also want to share nature’s solutions with you to this huge problem of our toxic household environment.

Did you know that more than 1.2 million children under the age of 5 had poisoning exposure at home, according to Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics published August 2010. 2% were fatal and over 10,000 cases needed some form of medical treatment as a result of poisoning from exposure to household cleaning products. Over 700 of those children suffer residual disability, we can only imagine how many of our dogs (cats and pet birds) have been poisoned due to exposure at home and the very dis-eases they are now suffering with are due to that exposure – allergies, skin ailments, thyroid problems, etc.

“In recognition of the unique roles that pets play in our lives, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) undertook a study to investigate the extent of exposures pets face to contaminants in our homes and outdoor environments. In a novel study representing the broadest biomonitoring investigation yet conducted in pets, what we found was surprising.” (1)

The dogs (and cats) tested were found to be contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to the study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals alone (Please NOTE: this test did NOT include cleaning products such as laundry soap, toilet cleaners, floor cleaner, air fresheners, etc.) in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic.

We all clean our homes in some way everyday. Do you know what is in your household cleaning products? Don’t be fooled by the use of words such as “natural”, “free”, “bio-degradable”, etc.  This is not proof of the product being safe around your pets our yourselves for that matter.

Cleaning toilets, washing dishes, doing laundry and mopping the floors are household chores that most of us are familiar with. We cook, eat,put the dishes in the dishwasher (or do them by hand in some cases), add some dish washing cleaning products, turn on the machine and let it run.

It sounds simple, and not much thought may be given into process since most of us do it all without thinking about it.

Where are the hazardous materials in your household cleaners?

Read the labels and you will find words like Caution, Warning, Danger, Poison, Flammable, Reactive, Corrosive, and Toxic.

Do you find those words in your cleaning products labels?

Most products have one or more of these words and even the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked this question: Did you know that most Americans add a toxic pesticide to their washing machine to help keep white clothes white?

They wrote that “this pesticide is also found in many household cleaning products to kill germs, clean mold and mildew from your shower or tub.” Do you know what this ingredient is?  Chlorine Bleach!

Yes, chlorine bleach is a pesticide!  Yes, it kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi but at what price?  It is  highly toxic and harmful to your body and your pets!

Did you that if you were using bleach in the work place that OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration), which regulates the safety of the work place, will require you use a mask and gloves to handle the chemical to protect yourself?  Scientists will only handle chlorine with gloves, face masks and ventilation.  Do you use these precautions at home?  Were you even aware you needed to?  Did you know that the Sanitation Department will not dispose of full containers of cleaners because they are classified as hazardous material?(2)

Children, seniors, pregnant women, those suffering from chronic disease with allergies, asthma, headaches and all of your pets are at an even higher risk from these toxic cleaners due to their smaller bodies and the fact that their immune systems are weak or already compromised in some way. The EPA stated that, toxic substances are chemicals or mixtures that are harmful when inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.

How many of you hold your breath when you mop your floors or clean the oven? We are always inhaling toxic chemicals while we clean. Our pets and family members are inhaling them long after you have put away the mop and bucket and the floors and counters are dry. Many of the household products like oven cleaners, floor cleaners, carpet cleaner, furniture polish, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, air fresheners and of course, drain cleaners are extremely toxic. How about those bug sprays (ant, roach, flea, tick, etc.)? That is a whole other ” can of worms” when it comes to their toxicity.

Some of us and/or our pets already have some health issues such as allergies, asthma, headaches, etc. that most likely are related to inhaling or touching surfaces “cleaned” by every day household products.

Other than chlorine bleach, here is a list of just a few of the most toxic substances used in household products:
Hydrofluoric acid
alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs)

Toxic Laundry?

Laundry detergent and fabric softener ingredients pose a variety of health risks, ranging from the relatively minor; like skin irritants and allergens to the severe: cancer, poisoning and neurological problems. Laundry detergents and laundry stain removers frequently contain alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs), which are common surfactants. Surfactants, or surface active agents, are chemicals that make surfaces more susceptible to water, allowing cleaners to easily penetrate stains and wash them away. APEs can damage the immune system, and they’re suspected hormone disruptors, which mean they can mimic hormones in the body that regulate reproduction and development. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also warned that ethoxylated alcohol surfactants, such as APEs, may be contaminated with carcinogenic 1, 4-dioxane, which penetrates skin. Tests conducted in 1997 by the Washington Toxics Coalition found that supermarket or drugstore labels are more likely to contain APEs than name brands.

Your everyday laundry detergents may contain a combination of many toxic chemicals many of which are harmful to your health. Even Seventh Generation is can be considered dangerous Check out this posting at

Studies show that some of the diseases were found in recent years among our pets, children and adults may be linked to exposure to chemicals. There is an increase in ADD and ADHD in children, miscarriages in women, smaller litter sizes in our pets, behavior issues, respiratory problems, skin problems and the list continues because of exposure to chemicals that most of us never think about using on and/or around ourselves and our beloved pets and children.

What are your solutions?

Where or to whom do you turn to when you are in doubt about the toxins in your cleaning products?  A great website to check out is the Environmental Working Group 

Please know that there are many non-toxic, healthy alternatives for cleaning and grooming and encouraging a healthy, non-toxic environment for you, your pets and family.

We can go back to the natural, basic cleaning products of lemons, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, borax, etc.   If you need help with recipes for making your own safe cleaning and naturally disinfecting formulas or suggestions of safe, non-toxic products for your pets,  send me an email  asking for information on truly healthy and safe household-cleaning recipes and products. I will share what I use in my own home around my own animals.  🙂


(1)High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemicals Contaminate Cats And Dogs By Olga Naidenko, Rebecca Sutton, Jane Houlihan, April 2008

(2) Dangers of Bleach

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