March 20 marked the first day of spring, which means many Atlanta-area homeowners are now in spring cleaning mode.

When done right, cleaning your home can improve both your home’s look and its air quality. But you may actually be using spring cleaning products that are poisoning your home’s air.

Here are three of the most common culprits.

Cleaning Chemicals

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most kitchen, bath and home cleaning products emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

These chemicals are more common inside than outside and have some adverse health effects that range from minor to severe. Exposure to high concentrations of VOCs can cause:

  • Skin, eye, and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Kidney, liver, and brain damage
  • Cancer

While it is almost impossible to find cleaning products that do not emit VOCs, there are several steps you can take to limit your exposure.

  • Store cleaning products outside your living space
  • Open windows and turn on exhaust fans when using them
  • Purchase low-VOC emitting cleaning products

Air Fresheners

Despite what their commercials tell you, most air fresheners do not actually clean the air, they simply mask it with a stronger smell.

Also, in research done by the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) they found:

“NRDC’s independent testing of 14 common air fresheners, none of which listed phthalates as an ingredient, uncovered these chemicals in 86 percent (12 of 14) of the products tested, including those advertised as ‘all natural’ or ‘unscented.’”

The NRDC points out that phthalates have been shown to cause:

  • Hormonal abnormalities
  • Birth defects
  • Reproductive problems

Air fresheners like scented oils, sprays and plug-ins should not be used to improve the air quality of your home and the NRDC recommends not using air fresheners in your home at all.


Much like air fresheners, you may use candles to make your home smell better. However, most scented candles release toxins into your home’s air when burned.

There are two ingredients in candles that can be toxic:

Some have recommended beeswax or soy candles as a safer alternative. However, you should still use these products with caution and only in a well-ventilated area.

Keep your home clean and safe

This year, keep your family’s air safe. Make sure you open up your windows while doing your cleaning and avoid using air fresheners and candles.

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