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4 Ways Household Cleaners Negatively Impact Your Waistline

It’s no secret that nutrition and exercise are among the most important lifestyle factors when it comes to losing weight. As we’re discovering more and more, things such as sleep, stress and daily activity are not to be overlooked either. Yet even those who practice a nearly perfectly healthy lifestyle are still sometimes left with the mystery of weight that will not budge.

If not for your overall health and safety, maybe reconsidering your cleaning products for the sake of your waistline will be reason enough. Now you may be thinking, “What a weird concept. You mean the bleach-filled, bright blue, potent-smelling cleaner I use all over my bathroom may be harmful?!” As my toddler’s favorite TV character says, “Stop, and think it through.”

The average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals and up to 5-times higher air pollutant levels inside the home compared to outside. In fact, you may not realize all of the toxins you’re exposed to. But let me provide a wake-up call. The following are some examples: paint, floor coverings, furniture and carpeting coverings, building materials, dish soaps, laundry detergents, antibacterial hand soaps, multi-surface cleaners, glass & window cleaners, air freshener, toilet bowl and bathroom cleaners, lawn fertilizer, weed killer, herbicides and pesticides on produce…and I haven’t even tapped into personal care products such as shampoo, body wash, sunscreen, lotions, make-up and perfumes.

The average person is exposed to more than 100 chemicals each day BEFORE leaving their house. As consumers, we may assume these products are safe for use. However, the untold story is that the chemical ingredients are mostly untested and largely unregulated. Many of these products contain harmful chemicals that have been shown to disrupt our body’s natural balance and regulation of hormones and metabolism. Check out 4 ways that the products beneath your sink and in your closet may be partially at fault for your stubborn extra weight. 

May Increase Appetite

More and more research is emerging on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and their correlation with obesity and increased body size. Specific EDCs referred to as “obesogens,” are thought to alter human metabolism and predispose some to weight gain1.

Our fat stores are also the home of many toxins we’re exposed to. In fact, research suggests some obesogenic compounds may affect number of fat cells and/or size of fat cells, as well as the hormones that affect appetite and food preferences. In other words, the toxins in many of our household products may be impacting our cravings and appetite.

A few examples of obesogens may include DDE (found in pesticides in food and water), PFOA (nonstick cookware, carpeting and furniture protectants, etc.), BPA and phthalates.

Interfere with Your Estrogen Levels (eek!)

One of the most common chemicals we’re exposed to (that you may be more familiar with) is Bisphenol A, or BPA. This is a chemical produced for polycarbonate (hard, clear plastic) and epoxy resins.  A few examples of the many products that contain BPA includes: water bottles, spray bottles, food storage containers, the coating in most canned food and drink products and even store receipts.

One of the main reasons for concern with BPA is that it is a synthetic estrogen and may mimic our body’s natural estrogen (xenoestrogen). It binds to the same estrogen receptors as our natural estrogen hormone, causing a series of abnormal estrogen effects. Studies have shown that adults with higher urine concentration levels of BPA were associated with cardiovascular diagnoses, diabetes and clinically abnormal concentrations of liver enzymes2.

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone (although males have estrogen too), and plays an important role in growth and development, specifically in female sexual characteristics such as breasts, regulation of menstrual cycle and reproductive system.

Therefore, not only does your household cleaner itself contain potentially harmful chemicals, but the bottle it comes in may also be negatively impacting your health. One way to help offset exposure to BPA is to consider using glass spray bottles for your cleaning spray. You could also check your bottle of natural cleaning spray for the recycle code number on the bottom. Some, but not all plastics, are marked with recycle code numbers, and those with 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.

Impact Thyroid Function

Some household cleaning agents may also contain chemicals that could disrupt thyroid function. The thyroid plays a major role in metabolism, energy levels, growth and maturation of the body. Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine how a chemical that disrupts thyroid function could impact a person’s weight.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that phthalates and BPA exposure was found to be associated with lower thyroid hormone levels in the blood3. Phthalates (‘thal-ates’) are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, and some are used as dissolving agents (solvents) for other materials. They can be found in toys, adhesives, shower curtains, air fresheners, perfumes and other personal care products like hair sprays and nail polishes, etc.

Unfortunately, you most likely will not see phthalate listed on your product label, but rather one of these acronyms: DBP, DEP, DINP, DMP, and/or BBP. An almost sure-bet way to see if your cleaner or household product contains phthalates is to look for “fragrance” to be listed on the ingredient list, as it helps stabilize the synthetic perfume/fragrance.

Alter Gut Microbiota

The rage of antibacterial EVERYTHING… sigh. As we’re seeing with the overuse of antibiotic medications, the recent trend of applying antibacterial soaps, disinfectants and sprays on everything may not be the help we intended. Triclosan – an antibacterial agent found in these types of products, has the potential to alter gut microbiota (the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut), as well as endocrine function. Our healthy gut bacteria help our gut break down, digest, and absorb nutrients in our food, and without properly balanced levels and functioning, our waistlines may also be at risk. Triclosan exposure has even been associated by increased BMI in adults3.

To get a clean home, ridding it of all bacteria is not necessary and is, in fact, harmful. Help your gut, immune system, and weight loss efforts and switch to a safer, all-natural cleaning product instead.

Solution: DIY— You can do it too!

Now, I know I’m a bit on the atypical side when it comes to a clean house (I LOVE to clean), but you can’t tell me that I’m the only one who has experienced a slight headache after being exposed to a combination of cleaning products. Enough was enough, and over the course of the last few years I’ve swapped out all of my traditional cleaning products for all-organic options instead, many of which I actually make myself. These organic DIY products take minutes to make, I can customize the scent and I know it’s better for me and my family.

As with shopping for food, be a smart consumer and start reading labels. Don’t be fooled by tricky marketing claims.

Simple ingredients such as water, white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, liquid castile soap and borax can be used instead of harmful chemicals and do just as good a job (if not better) sans the disrupted hormones and headaches.

My easy, go-to option for a great multi-purpose cleaner is:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (or ~10 drops of favorite essential oil scent)


Mix the ingredients (careful to slowly add in the baking soda with the vinegar), and store in a glass spray bottle.




In health, Becca Hurt – Assistant Program Manager – Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

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