Waterwise Wednesday: Hazardous Household Cleaners

Photo © Johanna Goodyear

Household cleaners we use to sanitize, degrease, whiten and wash can also harm water. The “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)” – Phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia are common ingredients in cleansers.

Phosphorus composes 30 to 40 percent of dishwasher detergents. Ammonia is included in products for degreasing, sanitizing and removing allergens. Nitrogen is found in glass cleaners, surface cleaning products, and floor cleaners.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia cannot be removed by waste treatment processes. Instead they enter waterways, build up and cause accelerated and excessive growth of some types of plant life including algae. The dense vegetation clogs waterways, crowds out animal life and other marine plants.

The large amount of plant material also depletes oxygen in the water as it decays. The lack of oxygen in water suffocates freshwater marine life, further degrading the water with decay.

Choose, or make, cleansers free of VOCs. So when you clean your home, your water stays clean too.