If you’re searching for an excuse to avoid doing the dishes, consider this: Many household cleaners contain chemicals that may be harmful to fertility.

“The science isn’t black and white,” Alexandra Gorman Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices for the Earth, says. “But there’s enough evidence out there for us to be really concerned about the effect these chemicals are having on our reproductive processes.”

The lack of labelling requirements exacerbates the problem. “Just because something is labelled as ‘all-natural’ or ‘biodegradable,’ doesn’t imply it’s safe,” adds Scranton.

Here are some suggestions for things to avoid and instead choose:


Pthalates are compounds that bind synthetic scents in cleaning goods like laundry detergents. “The producers want you to smell the aroma when you open the package, when you use the product, and later when you smell the garments,” says Martin Wolf, head of product and environmental technologies at Seventh Generation, a nontoxic and environmentally friendly cleaning firm. “In nature, fragrances dissipate rapidly; [phthalates] attach the aroma to the garment, allowing you to smell it longer.” Air-freshening products of all kinds should also be avoided, according to Wolf. Baking soda and fresh air are both effective natural odour removers.

Petroleum-based surfactants

Alkyl phenoxy ethoxylates (APEs) are a less well-known but equally dangerous group of compounds. Surfactants, or compounds that help break the surface tension of water, are commonly found in laundry detergents and fabric softeners. APEs have been linked to decreased sperm count and testicular size in animal studies. APEs enter the water system after being washed out of your laundry since they aren’t easily biodegradable. While the effect on humans has yet to be established, nonoxyl-9, a member of the APE family of compounds, is utilised as a spermicide.


EGBE, or 2-butoxyethanol, is found in many glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, hard-surface cleaners, and oven cleansers, and has been linked to reproduction issues in lab animals. “What people don’t realise is that a solvent that claims to cut through grease is also a solvent that easily penetrates the skin and into the body,” says Devra Lee Davis, M.P.H., director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Center of Environmental Oncology and professor of epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health. “Studies in China, where fertility is regularly tracked, suggest a relationship between high exposure to these toxins and lower fertility in women.”

Making safer choices

The safest option for anyone wishing to start a family is to be cautious. “Reproduction is a delicate and complicated procedure,” Davis explains. “And while chemicals are evaluated one by one, we are not exposed one by one.” Our ability to comprehend the effects of these mixes on the body is severely limited.”

The lack of clear labelling is part of what makes picking safe cleansers so challenging. To find out what’s in that bottle, go to the manufacturer’s website and look for the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) (even though the MSDS normally don’t disclose all ingredients—only those the manufacturer deems hazardous). For more information, call the customer support number listed on the package and inquire about the contents. Seventh Generation’s Wolf adds, “Any corporation that won’t say anything is a company you shouldn’t trust.”

Three ways to clean green

Seventh Generation.  It was one of the first firms to take on conventional cleansers, and they are open about what’s in their products. On the back of each bottle is a functional component list, and the company’s website has a complete ingredient list. Except for the automated dishwashing detergents, all of the cleaners are made without petroleum-based components and are biodegradable and harmless. Are you looking for a non-scented, dye-free option? Take a look at the new “Free & Clear” line.

Holy Cow. These products are the real thing when it comes to safe, effective cleaning. The gimmick may be candy-colored bottles and a smiling cow, but they are the real deal when it comes to safe, effective cleaning. Holy Cow makes nontoxic glass, all-purpose, and concentrated cleansers that are strong enough to degrease a vehicle engine but delicate enough to use on your dishes, according to the business.

Make-it-yourself cleaners. You can make your own things if you’re feeling ambitious. Women’s Voices for the Earth contains a link to a variety of nontoxic cleaning recipes. Take a look at this all-purpose cleaner: Combine two cups of white vinegar and two cups of water in a mixing bowl. If desired, add a few drops of essential oil for aroma. Microwave the liquid in a glass jar until slightly hot to improve the cleaning power for stubborn jobs.


  1. Can cleaning products affect fertility?

    While most cleaning and disinfecting products are safe at low levels of exposure, those in some products that are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can harm men and women’s fertility.

  2. What chemicals can affect fertility?

    Organochlorine compounds (chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins), bisphenol A (BPA), and organophosphate pesticides and herbicides are the most potent fertility disruptors. Many other chemicals, metals, and air pollutants, on the other hand, have a negative impact on fertility.

  3. What products to avoid while trying to conceive?

    If you’re trying to conceive, there are nine foods you should avoid.
    High-mercury fish. …
    Soda. …
    Trans fats. …
    High-glycemic-index foods. …
    Low-fat dairy. …
    Excess alcohol. …
    Unpasteurized soft cheeses. …
    Deli meat.

  4. Does soap affect fertility?

    According to a study, men who have been exposed to parabens have lower testosterone levels and more sperm that are abnormally shaped and slow moving, suggesting that these ingredients may contribute to infertility.