How to clean my bathroom without suffocating.
June 28, 2011 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Asthma-like breathing problems from bathroom cleaner. Tell me what ingredient in this bathroom cleaner I'm most likely sensitive to, so I can avoid said ingredient in the future.

I used this stuff for the first time yesterday (in a well-ventilated space, used a small amount, and I didn't spray it on my face or anything), and I got really bad breathing problems - coughing fit, painfully constricted airways, nausea - so bad I had to stop cleaning immediately and leave the room. I don't have any breathing problems or asthma otherwise. I'm a bit surprised because this is marketed as a "natural" product, and not even the most vile, chemical-laden cleaners (or any other substance, really) have previously led to anything like this. I'm not allergic to any plant or animal, AFAIK. If this is relevant, I'm pregnant, that's why I thought getting a "natural" cleaning product might be a good idea in the first place...

These are the ingredients: Water, Lauramine Oxide, Citric Acid, Fragrance*, Lactic Acid, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil - anything in there that commonly triggers asthma attacks? I'd like to know so I can avoid it in the future! (Recommendations for "natural" cleaners are welcome as well.)
posted by The Toad to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My guess is that it could be the two acids combined with the fact that this is a spray bottle. In other words, it's throwing out tiny droplets that you're breathing in, despite the ventilation, and this may be irritating your lungs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Allergies can be developed to just about anything at any time, so it's hard to rule in or out any ingredient on the list. But my money's on the fragrance, or the combination of fragrance and the fragrant oils. I have used that brand once before and had to stop because the scent was so incredibly overpowering. I was shocked out how strong it was.

A safer bet, especially while pregnant, might be to stick with vinegar (1/2 water 1/2 white vinegar mixture) for most cleaning, or baking soda when you need to scrub a surface.
posted by dayintoday at 8:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Shocked at" not "shocked out."
posted by dayintoday at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2011

Natural cleaner: baking soda and vinegar. Make a paste of it and go to town.
posted by cooker girl at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have asthma, and any kind of fragrant oils (lavender and orange) tend to make it hard for me to breathe. I'd look for something without fragrance.
posted by DeltaZ113 at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Heh. Cross-posted with dayintoday and I forgot the water part!
posted by cooker girl at 8:30 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Similar to what DeltaZ113 states, lavender is hell on my asthma. I have more trouble with the plant itself than encountering it as a scent in fragrances, cleansers, and candles, but it always provokes at least a mild reaction.
posted by juliplease at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I have a lot of chest congestion problems and thought it was due to allergies, but my doctor pointed out that a lot of things that affect my breathing are actually just irritants. For example, diesel exhaust always causes me to reach for my inhaler, but it doesn't have proteins in it that could cause an allergic reaction; it's an irritant. So your problem with this product may not necessarily indicate an allergy.

Also, my supervisor uses a "natural" lavender-scented cleaner to clean the bird stands in the office, and it always makes me cough and I usually have to use my inhaler afterward. I think people tend to think that "natural" means gentle or non-irritating, but that isn't always the case; you don't want to put undiluted plant essential oils on your skin, for example.

You might try Seventh Generation cleaners if you can find them; their products are pretty gentle, I've found.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:07 AM on June 28, 2011

I am also allergic to lavender.
posted by Andrhia at 9:10 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: So, the fragrance...grm. I'd rather have a dirty bathroom than clean with vinegar (hate the smell).
posted by The Toad at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2011

Baking soda and water is fine as well Or baking soda with lemon.

You can also wear a mask while you clean. Not the most comfortable idea, but it might make you work more quickly.
posted by Vaike at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2011

Oh, then skip the vinegar. You could use straight baking soda, a baking soda and water paste, or you could even scrub the baking soda with lemon rinds before rinsing it off. There are also plenty of "natural cleaners" that don't have any fragrance added, if you want to skip making your own.
posted by cooker girl at 10:02 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: The problem with "fragrance" aka parfum (versus things that just smell) is that it's a chemical soup that isn't really regulated and its ingredients don't have to be declared, so you have no idea what's actually in it. Studies have found that about a quarter of the ingredients are actually toxic! I'd link but my computer has decided not to let me anymore. Google "fragrance as toxic" or something. One bottle's "fragrance" soup might not trigger you while another's will, because they all have different ingredients.

I will be glad when this weird loophole finally gets outlawed but in the meantime it's a pig in a poke, and I try to avoid it whenever I can.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:06 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Lavender scents also irritate my asthma, which I think is funny because it's often recommended in aromatherapy as relief for asthma symptoms. Other scents do not.

Mrs. Meyers does make great products, and they're not too expensive - so maybe try another scent? I quite like the Lemon Verbena, but found the Basil a smell that I like in the garden but not on my floors.

I also love Dr. Bronners for some of my around the house cleaning and other uses. The almond is pretty mellow and I like it a lot; but I love how the peppermint can make some things tingly and smell fresher.
posted by peagood at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2011

So, the fragrance...grm. I'd rather have a dirty bathroom than clean with vinegar (hate the smell).

Maybe just try other scents out of the Mrs. Meyer's line? Or see if they have a "fragrance free"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2011

have asthma, and any kind of fragrant oils (lavender and orange) tend to make it hard for me to breathe. I'd look for something without fragrance.

This is true for me, too. I usually use a cleaner with a hydrogen peroxide base.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:16 PM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I would recommend sticking with cleaners you've used in the past without issue. I have all kinds of allergie and I find that simple chemicals, no matter how 'industrial' they are, are really the easiest thing to be around, when used at correct concentrations in the right setting (see 'WorkingMyWayHome"'s comment. 'Natural' labeling really gets up my ire, especially for cleaning products. There is nothing natural about cleaning -- the universe tends towards dirtiness. Also, from a different perspective, poison ivy is natural.

The residue from vinegar (and other chemicals like ammonia, bleach and ethanol) should fade rather quickly so that you're left with no smell, because they are volatile and evaporate rapidly (this is also part of why they are somewhat harsh and should be used with proper ventilation -- they enter the air quickly). but so many perfumes and fragrances depend on oily-type components, which don't rinse away so easily, don't instantly evaporate and therefore linger indefinitely. if it's helpful to think of it this way, even if you clean with something unnatural and chemical, it will leave rather rapidly, whereas a 'natural' product that contains fragrance will linger (and as small_ruminant describes, you can't be sure how natural these fragrances are -- even naturally derived fragrances like essential oils are unnatural with respect to their high concentrations).

alright, sorry for this somewhat ranty response, but i hope you will not limit yourself to only natural suggestions, when 'harsher' chemicals may actually be less harmful overall.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:56 PM on June 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Will try to avoid fragrances in the future. As to suggestions for switching to a different scent - I actually use the Basil countertop spray from the same brand for the kitchen. It also makes me cough a tiny little bit, but nowhere near an asthma-like reaction!

I'm using "Greenworks" bathroom cleaner now - no problems. I love Dr. Bronners liquid almond soap but I think it's not ideal for cleaning bathroom tiles, it leaves a bit of residue and doesn't remove limescale buildup because it doesn't contain anything acidic.
posted by The Toad at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2011

« Older Teenager wants to continue her studies, not be...   |   Cardio and numbness should not mix Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.