Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Common Skin Irritants


9
Household Cleaners
Before your tackle your house cleaning, know what chemicals you're using that could potentially irritate or damage your skin.
Before your tackle your house cleaning, know what chemicals you're using that could potentially irritate or damage your skin.
©iStockphoto.com/NuStock

Most household chemicals, such as cleaning products, have clear messages on their labels, like "do not swallow" and "avoid contact with eyes." Many of these products can also irritate, or even damage, your skin. You can avoid exposure by wearing protective gloves while you're using the products.

Here are some of the cleaners you may have around the house that can irritate your skin:

  • All-purpose cleaners can include ammonia, trisodium phosphate (TSP) and other hazardous chemicals designed to break up grease and remove stains from porous surfaces. While limited skin exposure to these chemicals may not seem to affect the skin, prolonged exposure can have caustic effects, drying and breaking down your skin's surface.
  • Window and glass cleaners typically include ammonia and isopropanol. Not only can these be caustic to the skin, but they can also irritate your eyes and nasal passages and should be used in a well-ventilated area.
  • Dishwashing detergents can leave your hands dry and flaky with significant use, but usually aren't harmful to the skin. The more concentrated detergents for automatic dishwashers are more harmful and can cause your skin to burn and itch.
  • Toilet cleaners and mold and mildew removers have pesticides that are highly caustic, sometimes including bleach, which also has dangerous fumes.
  • Drain cleaner main ingredients include lye and sulfuric acid, which are highly caustic and cause dangerous fumes.

Scientists have studied the health impact of these cleaners, and researched alternative cleaners that are not as harmful to your body. Some products now contain alternative chemicals reported to be less harmful and, sometimes, more environmentally safe.


More to Explore