5 Common Cleaning Ingredients That Trigger Asthma

building an asthma friendly workspace

Asthma has become as common as the housefly. But, just like the common housefly, it can sometimes cause serious matters.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that at least 235 million people around the world endure asthma. Moreover, it’s the leading chronic disease among children. Asthma is also rampant in the workplace. Frequent exposure to and skin contact with dust, mold, chemicals, animals, and even plants are common asthma triggers. 

And the number one cause of asthma? Conventional cleaning products. 

Most cleaning products contain irritants and allergens, which in turn activate asthma when inhaled or exposed to for a long period. Even in office spaces, commercial cleaning practices must be greatly monitored to ensure that not only efficient cleaning is achieved, but also a safer working space for everyone. 

So how do you go from trusting your cleaning products to do the work to doubting these cleaners? It can be a tough fact to grasp at first, but a little bit of research goes a long way. For starters, reading and understanding what each ingredient does aid you against misinformation. The bottom line is, it’s what’s inside your cleaners that are causing you to acquire asthma.

Here are the 5 most common cleaning ingredients that can cause asthma. 


This chemical is widely known for causing skin irritations and allergic reactions. On top of it all, it’s a carcinogen that can be found in beach cleaners as a synthetic preservative or anti-bacterial agent. 

Formaldehyde can also be labeled as:

  • Formalin
  • Formic aldehyde
  • Methanediol
  • Methanal
  • Methyl aldehyde
  • Methylene glycol
  • Methylene oxide
  • Formaldehyde can also be found in detergents. 

Quaternary ammonia compounds (QUATS)

This is pretty scientific, but quaternary ammonia compounds or QUATS are a chemical class that is primarily used as disinfectants, antibacterial cleaners, and fabric softeners. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) classifies QUATS as an asthma trigger, causing asthma even in healthy people. 

While QUATS are non-corrosive, this class of chemicals has the tendency to cling to surfaces and can be difficult to rinse off. 

At least 40% of antibacterial products contain QUATS. 


Most cleaning products and air fresheners have synthetic fragrances. These fragrances contain phthalates, which can trigger asthma. Moreover, this chemical can also be absorbed through the skin. 

Fragrances fall under a legal marketing loophole that supports its non-transparency. A lot of chemicals are listed under fragrance as a single ingredient, which misinforms consumers and unknowingly gets them into harm.

Ammonium hydroxide

Cheap and capable of providing intense cleaning, you can find ammonium hydroxide in just about any cleaning product. But to what cost? Ammonium hydroxide is a toxin that causes skin irritations and affects the respiratory system, with which long-term exposure to can lead to asthma. 

It’s far more serious than you think. Ammonia-based cleaners are like lung-damaging gas clouds. Inhaling it frequently can lead to the development of chronic lung diseases.

If you’re employing janitorial services, make sure they are not treating your office flooring to cleaners containing ammonia. 


This is a synthetic chemical known for its antimicrobial capabilities and combined in cleaning products as a synthetic preservative. Studies revealed that exposure to methylisothiazolinone can cause respiratory issues, skin burns and sensitivities like dermatitis, and even eye damage. 

With this one, you have to be extra careful in spotting it on labels of even “healthier” options. Apparently, some better alternatives still contain this chemical, so you have to be vigilant even if you’re taking the better choice off the rack. 

How to center on asthma-free cleaning

We’re living in a world full of chemicals. It can be quite hard to actually eliminate the use of chemicals when it comes to cleaning, even in the office. What you can do is consciously make the right choice. Awareness is the first step. 

Given the ingredients listed above, you are now aware of how detrimental these chemicals are to your health. Reading is also a huge help. Look for reliable resources on going green. You may find that there is still a lot that you can do to create a safer working environment for everyone. 

With the information above, you can actively participate in choosing cleaning products that do not contain these toxic ingredients. Always check the labels. Triple check if possible. 

A good option to reduce chemical use is to choose all-natural cleaners. While these may cost more than your average toxic cleaner, this choice is guaranteed safer, health-centric, and better, in general. 

If you’re having second thoughts about eliminating chemical use because natural cleaners are costly cleaning products, think of it as getting the value of your money. Would you rather save money now and let the chemicals take a toll on your health and pay the price? It’s not such a hard decision if you think about it. 

Asthma-Friendly Cleaning Tips

cleaning tips safe for asthma

If you wanna know where to start with your asthma-friendly journey, here are some easy cleaning tips. 

  • Try to go for unscented products as much as possible.
  • When cleaning, crack a window open or turn on the fan if possible.
  • Utilize a damp cloth or microfiber to remove dust to trap dust particles easily. 
  • Vacuum once or twice a week. Make sure that you are using a vacuum with HEPA filtration. 
  • Wash fabrics in hot water every week. 
  • As much as possible, eliminate clutter that could only potentially collect dust. 
  • Change clothes immediately after cleaning, and shower. 

If it’s an option, have someone do the cleaning for you. There are plenty of office cleaning services in Connecticut that can do the job for you to ensure an efficient clean without risking you the dangers of chemicals.

With the pandemic, cultivating an asthma-free environment is even more critical in the success of keeping a healthy hybrid workplace. You know you don’t want any more problems other than the virus that we’re already dealing with, right?

You may not be able to get it all in one go, but with baby steps, you will eventually find yourself making better decisions for your sound health and safety.