Business, Clean, Clean Living, Health & Wellness

Fresh Start: Transforming Your Cleaning Routine for a Healthier Body and Cleaner Environment by Anika Sharma

Happy family playing in a bright, modern kitchen. The father is on all fours with the young child on his back, while the mother leans over them, smiling. The kitchen is decorated with plants and hanging ornaments, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The Hidden Dangers in Your Home

The general population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is very financially stable, meaning that most families employ a housekeeper to clean their homes or use a cleaning service to maintain their homes. In a survey that we conducted amongst UAE residents; results demonstrated that 47% of UAE residents have their homes cleaned daily. 

Pie chart illustrating the frequency of house cleaning per week. The largest segment, 47%, represents daily cleaning. Other segments include: once a week (11%), twice a week (6%), three times a week (8%), four times a week (10%), five times a week (7%), and six times a week (11%). The title reads: 'How many times a week do you have your house cleaned?

A study conducted by The Khaleej Times shows that 82% of UAE residents have their homes deep cleaned more than once a month. This is significantly higher than the percentage of people in other countries across the world as the global average is 71%*(this is based on the Dyson Dust Survey – deep cleaning definition many vary based on country definition.)

However, it seems as though UAE residents are unaware of the implications that their cleaning habits may be having on their health and on the environment. In fact, 72.2% of the UAE residents that completed our survey, are completely unaware of the implications that the cleaning products they use may be having on their health.

Understanding VOCs and Their Impact

Almost all cleaning products used in homes contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Amongst UAE residents, it seems as though the majority of us are unaware of what VOCs are, in our survey 67.5% of respondents were unfamiliar with the term VOCs.

Two pie charts side by side. The left chart shows responses to the question, 'Do you check the labels of your cleaning products purchased for your home?' with 55.7% saying 'Yes' and 44.3% saying 'No'. The right chart shows responses to the question, 'Are you aware of the effects that exposure to VOCs can have on your health?' with 63% saying 'No', 25% saying 'Yes', 8% saying 'A little', and 4% saying 'Very aware'.

VOCs are human made chemicals which vaporize and diffuse at room-temperature. The result of this is that these chemicals linger in our homes for hours after cleaning products have been used and end up being inhaled. This has the potential to cause respiratory problems and place people that suffer from respiratory problems (such as asthma) at risk. 

Additionally, VOCs can cause irritation in the eyes and throat, showing how using these chemicals in the home is very dangerous. Since these chemicals are being used so frequently indoors, their concentration in the air is extremely high. This is because there is a limited space for the particles to diffuse, meaning that the particles linger for extended periods of time. The effect of this is that, over time, the amount of toxic chemicals that we inhale has serious implications on our lung health.

VOCs can pose a serious threat to the reproductive system, as some of these chemicals are also recognised as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), this can have serious negative effects on family-planning. 

The Need for Safer Cleaning Practices

To ensure our own safety and wellbeing, it is paramount that action is taken to reduce the number of products containing VOCs that we purchase and to limit the impact that VOCs have on the body. 

A keyway to do this is to check the labels of the products that are being purchased and to avoid purchasing products with ingredients such as Glycol ethers (2-butoxyethanol), Hydrocarbons (Benzene, Toluene), Chlorinates (Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethylene) as these are the most commonly used VOCs. 

Avoid purchasing cleaning products with perfumes or fragrances in them. This is because companies are able to disguise a number of chemicals behind the word “fragrance” and therefore as consumers, we are left unaware of the toxic substances that are present in the product.

It is crucial to note that manufacturers are not required to state every chemical that has been used to create their product, if the substance is below a certain concentration, then it does not need to be stated on the label of the product. This also demonstrates how in the products we purchase, we are often only made aware of a small quantity of the chemicals in them.

Although the most effective way to protect our bodies from VOCs is to stop purchasing products with the chemicals in them, if it is required to use harsh disinfectants then it is paramount that precaution is taken to ensure safety. 

There are multiple ways that this can be done. For example, opening windows allows the circulation or fresh air so that the concentration of chemicals in the air is not as potent. Additionally, wearing gloves or goggles to prevent coming in direct contact with chemicals can help to avoid eye irritation.

Young woman standing by a large window, opening it to let in fresh air. She is wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans, with sunlight streaming in, illuminating her and the view of rooftops and greenery outside.

Lastly, ensure that vulnerable individuals are not present when harsh cleaning products are being used. These vulnerable individuals include, elderly people, young children, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions. 

Tips for Transforming Your Cleaning Routine

Here are five simple tips to help you make your cleaning routine healthier and more environmentally friendly:

  1. Avoid using unnecessary cleaning products. Often the components that make up floor, window, toilet and other cleaners are very similar. Therefore, limiting the number of cleaning products will reduce the number of unnecessary chemicals present in your home. 
  2. Transition to a more holistic cleaning practice. Using natural products such as white vinegar and baking soda to disinfect surfaces are very effective. However, these products can take the shine away from certain surfaces, so be cautious whilst using them.
  3. Using sustainable cleaning tools. Most cleaning tools are made from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic. The disposal of these products creates large quantities of waste. Consider switching to using reusable cloths, such as the ENJO product line and other tools that are made from natural and biodegradable materials.
  4. Only clean when necessary. In the UAE, the average number of times that households are having their homes cleaned is unnecessary and ineffective. Consider creating a cleaning schedule that ensures home cleanliness and sustainable resource usage.
  5. Do your research. Make sure that you educate yourself on holistic cleaning practices that best suit you and your lifestyle. Additionally, ensure you check the labels of the products you buy and watch out for harsh chemicals.

A teenager’s perspective on modern cleaning practices

Through the research I have conducted in order to write this article, I have been made aware of the consequences that the products we use in our homes can have on our bodies. As a result, I will be sure to implement more holistic practices in my own home to protect my family and I’s health. 

The long-term effects that using harsh cleaning products have are not worth the risk, and since the availability of sustainable and natural products has increased drastically over time, it is crucial that we all take small steps towards living a cleaner life for a healthier body.

Sources:

Residents of UAE and Saudi Arabia Most Frequent Cleaners in the World Survey 
What are volatile organic compounds VOCs
Cleaning Products Health Risk
NCBI 
Cleaning Products Health Risk

Anika Sharma

Anika Sharma

Student at NLCS Dubai

My name is Anika and I am a grade 10 student at North London Collegiate School Dubai.
I have chosen to work with HALO Middle East because sustainability is a topic that I care deeply about. I believe it is crucial that my generation are informed and educated on the importance of being environmentally friendly. By working with HALO Middle East I hope to learn about the different marketing strategies that companies implement to advertise their products and the importance of their products for promoting more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

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