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Solid Waste- Hazardous

Solid Waste Home

Hazardous Waste

Disposal of Toxics Facility





Cleaning Products

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Cleaning Products

Just because a chemical is approved for household use doesn't mean that it is safe for your family or pets. Many common cleaners pose significant health hazards even with proper use.

On this page you will find:


air freshener sprayAir Fresheners - Most air fresheners actually reduce your ability to smell by disabling your nasal passages with an oil film or a nerve-deadening agent. One common chemical in air fresheners is formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancers.  Another common chemical is phenol, which can cause hives, convulsions, circulatory collapse, coma, and even death. Air fresheners have also been linked to migraines and depression.

Ammonia can damage your eyes, respiratory tract, and skin.

Bleach is highly corrosive and can damage the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.

Carpet and Upholstery Shampoos generally contain highly toxic substances like perchlorethylene, which can cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.  They can also contain ammonium hydroxide, which irritates eyes, skin, and respiratory passages.

Dishwasher Detergents often have high concentrations of chlorine, which is the #1 cause of child poisonings.

Oven Cleaner contains lye (sodium hydroxide) which can burn skin and eyes, as well as the esophagus and stomach if ingested.

Drain Cleaners commonly include lye. They can also contain hydrochloric acid, which irritates the skin and damages kidneys, liver, and digestive tract; or trichloroethane, which irritates the eyes and skin and depresses the nervous system.

Furniture Polish is highly flammable and can cause skin and lung cancer. It often contains phenol, which can cause hives, convulsions, circulatory collapse, coma, and even death. They can also contain nitrobenzene, which is an extremely toxic chemical that's easily absorbed through the skin.

Mold and Mildew Cleaners often contain sodium hypochlorite, a corrosive agent which can lead to fluid in the lungs, and formaldehyde, which is highly toxic and known to cause cancer.  

bleach bottle

Laundry Room Products may contain sodium or calcium hypochlorite, which are highly corrosive and can irritate the skin and eyes.  They also commonly contain hypochlorite bleach, which is a corrosive that can burn the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. If exposed to other chemicals, hypochlorite bleach may form chlorine fumes that could be fatal.

Antibacterial Cleaners often contain triclosan, which is absorbed through the skin and has been linked to liver damage.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners may contain hydrochloric acid or hypochlorite bleach.

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Do Your Homework
Keep toxic chemicals out of your household by being a smart consumer.

  • Before you purchase a cleaning product, do some research. Find out its active ingredients and whether or not they pose a danger to your family or pets.
  • Scan the label for hazard warnings. The words “Caution” or “Warning” show a product that is slightly to moderately toxic, while “Danger” means it is extremely flammable, corrosive, or highly toxic.
  • The following websites are good sources of information on the safety of common ingredients found in cleaning products.
    - The National Institutes of Health and National Library of Medicine compiled this searchable database of safety information on common household products:
    - For more information about specific chemicals, you can search the ToxFAQs database:

Cut It Out
The best thing you can do to prevent toxic exposure is to stop buying products that contain dangerous chemicals. This can either mean using commercial brands that manufacture their products without these chemicals, or making your own cleaning products out of simple, non-toxic ingredients. Switching to less toxic products not only benefits the health of your loved ones, but the health of the environment as well! Click here to view recipes for some safe and cheap homemade cleaning products.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read
Just because a product claims to be ok for you or the environment doesn’t mean it is true. Labels such as “natural,” “environmentally friendly,” “eco-safe,” “green,” and even “non-toxic” have no legal definition and can be found on products that are anything but. However, there are certain certifications and labels that can be trusted. Consumer Reports has compiled this website evaluating the meaning of various labels:

pill bottles

Get Rid of It, But Don’t Just Toss It Out
Now that you have decided to make the change to cleaning products that are safer for your family and the environment, you’ll probably want to dispose of leftover toxic cleaners or their empty containers. Don’t just throw these in the trash! Once in the landfill, these chemicals can leak out and contaminate the soil and groundwater, posing serious threats to people and the environment. In Whatcom County these chemicals are handled by the Disposal of Toxics program. To get more information about proper disposal call (360) 380-4640.



Contact Us

Solid Waste Division, Whatcom County Health Department
509 Girard Street, Bellingham, WA 98225; (360) 676-6724