We all want our houses to be clean. We may not exactly like cleaning them, but we do like them clean. Whether you do small jobs all throughout the week, or spend all day Saturday cleaning from top to bottom, it’s a chore that needs to be done.

But have you ever considered how the way you clean your home might be harming your pets. With so many toxic cleaning products out there, this is a real concern. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency notes that air pollution inside the home can be up to 100 times higher than the air pollution outside, and one of the highest offenders is household cleaners.

These days, many of our pets spend most of their time at home, so we need to be doing all we can to keep that environment as safe for them as possible!

It’s time to look at some of the most common toxic cleaning products and how they’re hurting our animals (and our families).

Common Toxic Cleaning Products

Don’t worry. When you know better, you can do better!


Many popular cleaning products contain ammonia. It’s highly alkaline, and while it can effectively remove stains, it is incredibly toxic to pets.

Ammonia irritates the mucous membranes, causing severe irritation to the skin and eyes. It can also burn the nose, throat and stomach. Ammonia also affects the respiratory system, causing breathing problems. And your pet can be exposed a few ways: through inhalation of fumes or ingestion of the cleaning product or residue itself. 

Found in:

  • floor cleaners
  • drain cleaners
  • window cleaners
  • over cleaners
  • multi-surface cleaners

Bleach (Chlorine)

Bleach can cause vomiting, diarrhea, internal burns and even seizures if your pet ingests it. Inhaling the fumes can also lead to respiratory illness. It’s a toxic respiratory irritant that can damage an animal’s skin, eyes, or other membranes. Bleach is heavier than air and lands in low-lying areas where pets live. Because our pets are smaller and breathe faster than adults, they’re even more vulnerable than children to toxic exposure.

Found in:

  • all-purpose cleaners
  • automatic dishwashing detergents
  • tile scrubs
  • disinfecting wipes
  • toilet-bowl cleaners
  • laundry detergent
  • mildew removers


Phthalates are the chemicals that give cleaning products their fresh, clean scent. No, unfortunately, in most products that lemon fresh scent doesn’t actually come from lemons! But while the scents may be pleasing, the effects are not. In fact, research shows that phthalates can cause liver, testicular and pancreatic tumours in animals because they disrupt the hormonal system.

Found in:

  • room sprays
  • air fresheners
  • fabric and linen sprays
  • carpet deodorizers
  • all purpose-cleaners


Yes, formaldehyde, AKA embalming fluid. Many cleaning products contain formaldyhyde because of its antibacterial effects.

Unfortunately, not only is formaldehyde classified as a carcinogen, it can also cause a laundry list of other issues. Irritation of the mouth and throat are common, and skin irritation is another issue. Exposure to formaldehyde usually happens through inhalation, but the skin can also absorb it.

Beware – formaldehyde does not need to be listed on the ingredient list. Watch for other names for this toxic substance: formalin, formic aldehyde, methanediol, methanol, methyl aldehyde, methylene glycol, and methylene oxide.

It’s also a problem because, which products may not contain formaldehyde, many chemical cleaning products react with ozone from air pollution to produce it.

Found in:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Various cleaning products

Alternatives to Toxic Cleaning Products

So, by the looks of things far too many cleaning products are hardardous to our pets’ health. So, what’s the alternative? Not cleaning?

Sorry, no, you can still clean, you just need to be more careful about what you’re using.

Numerous household items can be safely used for pet-friendly cleaning, including vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, etc. In fact, we have a number of recipes for pet-safe cleaning at this post: Pet Friendly Cleaners for Your Whole Home: 5 Simple DIY Recipes.

These recipes cover everything from floor cleaner to glass cleaner to toilet bowl cleaner. There’s even a pet safe super scrub!

Don’t feel like making your own? We have a pet-friendly multi-purpose clean concentrate that you can trust won’t fill your home with harmful chemicals. Find it here.

Household cleaning should do just that – clean house. It shouldn’t leave our homes full of harmful fumes or residues that can be dangerous to our pets; health (and our own)! Taking some time to work through which toxic cleaning products are an issue, and finding suitable replacements, is always a good idea for our animals’ health and longevity.