San Francisco Department of the Environment

Cleaning Products

Household cleaning products often contain harsh chemicals that are not necessary to kill germs or keep homes clean. These chemicals can cause immediate health harm and may contribute to long-term health consequences.
Fortunately, safer alternatives are readily available.

Choose the right product.

Read product labels.

Since cleaning products contain ingredients that are hazardous and potentially fatal, it is important to read and understand product labels.

Thoroughly review the product label for warnings and directions for any cleaning product, including the safer alternatives.

Follow instructions closely, and fully understand what warning labels are communicating.

Caution - lowest signal word, indicates the product could hurt you and cause skin or eye irritation
Warning - stronger signal word than caution, indicates a potential hazard from normal exposure which can seriously cause harm
Danger -  strongest signal word, indicates the risk of fatality and permanent damage to the body

Avoid harmful cleaning chemicals.

Get rid of 99% of germs with plain water and microfiber cloths or mops.

Can’t make your own cleaning products or find safer brand name cleaning products? At minimum, try to avoid these ingredients.

Ammonia - can cause respiratory disease, liver and kidney toxicity, reproductive harm and central nervous disorders
Chlorine bleach - can trigger asthma, can damage skin, eye and other membranes
"Quats” - Alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride, known as Quaternary ammonium disinfectants, can cause asthma and contact dermatitis
2-butoxyethanol - linked to liver and kidney toxicity, blood disorders, infertility and developmental harm
Monoethanolamine - can trigger asthma and can cause tissue damage and shortness of breath
Triclosan - linked to endocrine disruption, allergies and may affect breast cancer cells

Use disinfectants only when necessary.

Disinfectants contain ingredients that can cause asthma. 99% of germs can be removed by a good cleaning with general purpose cleaners.

When to use: Only use disinfectants for high skin contact areas such as doorknobs and bathroom sinks.
How to use: Don’t just spray and wipe. To kill germs as designed, most products must remain on surfaces for 10 minutes.

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