The COVID-19 crisis has heightened attentiveness to maintain a clean and hygienic environment.  The focus on cleanliness and it’s correlation to health has never been more emphasized. The barren shelves from a surge in cleaning product sales since the onset of COVID-19 is evidence enough. As people focus on keeping homes and offices clean, it would appear that a compulsive cleaning disorder is an under-reported side effect of the virus.

All joking aside, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported a 20% increase in the amount of calls to poison control centers related to household cleaner and disinfectant exposures compared to the same time period 1 year prior. To put that into perspective, consumers made 45,500 calls to poison control centers during the months of January through March 2020, with specific concerns related to the use of common cleaning agents and disinfectants. While these calls cannot be directly tracked as COVID-19 related cleaning mishaps, the timing of this uptick correlates with increased cleaning efforts to decrease spread of the virus.

Regular cleaning is important to help slow disease transmission. However, it is imperative to perform in ways that both decrease the spread of germs and protect personal safety. Practice selective and effective cleaning with products. Concentrate on cleaning common points of contact in shared spaces, like countertops, tables, light switches, handrails, door knobs, faucets, toilets, phones and electronics. It is not necessary to wipe down groceries or packages. And please remember: cleaning products and disinfectants should never be used on humans.

The CDC lists over 400 products with the ability to inactivate the COVID-19 virus. Many of these products contain volatile organic compounds (vocs), fragrances or other harsh chemicals that impact indoor air quality. Common symptoms associated with alterations in indoor air quality from cleaning and disinfectant products include eye irritation, allergic reactions, headaches, upper respiratory irritation and asthma. Poor indoor air quality is associated with both the development and progression of asthma symptoms.

Recently published research has demonstrated adverse effects on respiratory health from common indoor air pollutants beginning in infancy. This new research points to an increase in the development of asthma in children who resided in households where higher amounts of household cleaners were used. Other research has demonstrated links to cleaners and disinfectants with impairments in respiratory health among workers in medical and hospitality industries.

Some of the ingredients found in cleaners and disinfectants also contain carcinogenic compounds that increase risk for cancer. Manufacturers in the United States are not required to list all the ingredients in household cleaning products; sometimes, products even labeled as “natural” or “green” do not necessarily mean a safer product.

Consumers can choose safer cleaning products by looking for the Safer Choice label. This label is certified through the Environmental Protection Agency. Products bearing this label are effective and formulated using the safest chemicals. In addition, the Environmental Working Group has cross-referenced the products listed as effective against COVID-19 virus to help determine the most safe and effective products to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Their recommendations include:

νClorox Commercial Solutions Disinfecting Bio Stain & Odor Remover

νClorox Pet Solutions Advanced Disinfecting Stain & Odor Remover

νLysol Hydrogen Peroxide Action Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Oxygen Splash

νLysol Hydrogen Peroxide Bathroom Cleaner, Cool Spring Breeze

νLysol Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Citrus Sparkle Zest

νLysol Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes, Oxygen Splash

νLysol Power Bathroom Cleaner, Island Breeze

νPurell Multi Surface Disinfectant, Fragrance Free

νSeventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Eucalyptus, Spearmint & Thyme

νSeventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Fresh Citrus & Thyme

νSeventh Generation Disinfectant Spray, Lavender Vanilla & Thyme

νSeventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Scent

vSeventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Scent

νSeventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes, Lemongrass Citrus Scent

νWindex Multi Surface Disinfectant Cleaner

νWindex Multi Surface Disinfectant Cleaner, Glade Rainshower

In addition, keep cleaning efforts safe by using cleaning products in a  well-ventilated environment. Open windows and doors. Never use cleaning products in small, enclosed spaces. Read labels carefully, follow directions and apply as directed. Wear gloves and any other personal protective equipment if needed. Never mix cleaning products and disinfectants together. Find out other important steps to take to reduce your risks for COVID-19 by talking with a naturopathic doctor.

Dr. Stacie Wells, ND, FAAEM is a Naturopathic Doctor & Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. She practices at the Northwest Center for Optimal Health in  Marysville, WA. Contact her at 360-651-9355 or


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