Spring cleaning: Why you should ditch the bleach for good to avoid ‘damaging’ effects

The Great Barrier Reef suffers worst case of bleaching ever

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Bleach is often the go-to ingredient for tough household cleaning tasks, tackling everything from stubborn stains to mucky toilets. While there are few things that bleach can’t clean, it turns out that this germ-fighting agent could be doing more harm than good. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, sustainable cleaning expert and co-founder of Smol, Paula Quazi, revealed the key reasons why bleach should be kept out of your spring cleaning kit and what you can use instead.

The rise in clever household cleaning solutions has seen a number of chemical products be replaced with household items, and there’s good reason for it too.

Baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice have become staple ingredients for cleaning every room in the house, but what makes them so much better than bleach?

Paula Quazi, sustainable cleaning expert and co-founder of Smol, told Express.co.uk: “Part of the organochlorine family of chemicals which can take centuries to decompose, chlorine bleach is a very strong chemical that we really should be trying to avoid as much as possible.

“It’s not just our bodies that suffer, the environment takes a beating from the high concentration of chemicals too.”

Why is bleach so damaging?

Many of our everyday cleaning products contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are often just as harmful as the name implies.

Paula explained: “VOCs can easily evaporate at room temperature, making them easily inhaled.

“They also readily react with the air around to create more VOCs that are associated with health risks including cancer.”

While chemical VOCs like bleach make for highly effective cleaning agents, these commercial formulas can wreak havoc on both the surfaces we clean, as well as our bodies as we inhale powerful fumes.

What effect can VOCs have on the body and the environment?

VOCs can affect the body in a number of ways, targeting everything from our hormones to our physical development – all while doing something as simple as spring cleaning.

Paula said: “Some VOCs disrupt the hormones in our bodies, meaning they can impact thyroid function, the nervous system, reproduction, digestion and insulin function.

“Other VOCs affect our bodies in different ways. Isothiazolinones, which are very strong sensitisers, have been shown to cause eczema, contact dermatitis and asthmatic reactions.

“Similarly, Zeolites can both suppress and stimulate the immune system and may also affect respiratory and chest health.”

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VOCs which disrupt the hormones can:

  • Impact the thyroid function
  • Impact the nervous system
  • Disrupt reproductive, insulin and digestive functions
  • Oppose testosterone – Phthalates have been linked to abnormal male development
  • Impact ‘normal’ development – parabens are estrogenic and can affect development, harm fertility and reproductive organs with increased exposure

VOCs such as phosphates can negatively impact the environment because they are unable to break down in water systems.

Once these chemicals infiltrate the water network, they can increase algae growth which drives up the oxygen content and harms aquatic life.

What are the best chemical-free alternatives to bleach?

While many of us would turn to bleach to blitz bathrooms, mould stubborn grime, there are plenty of harmless alternatives which can match the cleaning power of chemically-powered products.

Paula said: “Lemon is a great fix for a multitude of things!

“Mixed with salt it can fight mildew and added to a bowl of fresh water it can freshen up your microwave.

“You can even use a lemon to scrub chopping boards to remove odour! All this and it can be added to your food waste after use for extra-clean cleaning.”

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