The Hidden Truth: Health Risks Of Common Office Cleaning Products

It’s only natural that an office building will start to collect dirt. Dozens if not hundreds of workers are traipsing through every day, eating lunch on crockery, disposing of trash, creating layers of dust, and spreading bacteria across their workstations. If this isn’t kept on top of, it can easily spiral out of control and have grimy consequences for the business in question.

As a result, management and employees will implement a variety of methods and cleaning products to tackle this endless build up – from simple dishwashing liquid to more complex cleaning products. Despite the routine nature of these items, many everyday cleaning products can cause serious health problems if overused or used incorrectly.

While most people might think they’re using cleaning products correctly, some products are very easy to misuse, and others will create health risks regardless of use. Therefore, it’s important that precautions are taken when dealing with chemicals, such as ensuring proper ventilation, making first aid arrangements in the event of an emergency, and wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

In today’s article, we will explore the health risks associated with common office cleaning products, both the widely known dangers and the lesser-known ones. We will discuss how best to tackle these health risks, and how Vanguard Cleaning can provide the right cleaning solution for you.


5 Common Office Cleaning Products That Cause Health Complications


Here are 5 everyday cleaning items that have serious health risks associated with them.


1. Air Fresheners

Despite being a popular product and used extensively to freshen up rooms and offices across the UK, the particles released by air fresheners can indeed be harmful. A recent study by Chemosphere has found that a variety of cleaning products emit something called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), with air fresheners being a chief culprit among them.

VOCs are chemical compounds with high vapor pressure and low water solubility, which allows them to be easily released into the air. Once released, they can linger for extended periods of time, especially if released indoors. Exposure to VOCs has been linked to serious health conditions, such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, so it’s safe to say they’re best avoided.

The study found that other cleaning products, such as glass cleansers, laundry stain removers, and multipurpose cleaners, also gave out VOCs. However, some tested products gave out far fewer VOCs than others, with low exposure products typically being green, environmentally friendly items or products without any fragrances.

As a result, the best way to avoid exposure to VOCs is to use air fresheners that are advertised as green. Failing that, open a nearby window or turn on the air conditioning to ensure good ventilation and limit your exposure to harmful particles. Of course, it’s best to stop using these products in their entirety, but with sensible precautions, minor exposure should not cause long-lasting damage.


2. Hand Sanitiser

Rising to new levels of popularity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand sanitiser played an important role in slowing the spread of the virus. Being portable, convenient, and easy to administer, hand sanitisers have been crucial to killing everyday germs long before COVID ever swept the nation, and have since found their way into every shop, office, and restaurant in the country.

However, there are various health risks associated with the overuse of these gels, which could have far-reaching consequences for healthcare. Using hand sanitiser too frequently causes your skin to become dry and cracked, and leads to redness or discolouration, neither of which is good for your health. Additionally, as with many other chemicals, getting hand sanitiser in your eyes or ingesting it is also harmful.

Perhaps more concerning is the effect that hand sanitiser has on antibiotic immunity. The US’s FDA have found that overuse of bacteria-killing ingredients in consumer products could be contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These ‘superbugs’ have evolved to resist many types of antibiotics, slowly making drugs less and less effective at treating common illnesses. Naturally, this could lead to the many benefits of modern medicine being lost to time.

Washing your hands with soap and water is a better, less problematic way to keep hygienic. Hand sanitiser should only be used in special circumstances, both to keep your hands healthy and to avoid the development of resistant pathogens.


3. Bleach

Most are already aware of bleach’s toxic chemical properties, but some will not know why or what measures to take to avoid exposure.

Bleach is a combination of water and sodium hypochlorite, with the latter usually making up less than 10% of the mixture. This chemical makes the solution highly corrosive, which is the reason why it’s so effective against bacteria, but also why it’s so dangerous to humans. If bleach spills into someone’s eyes or onto bare skin, it will cause burning or irritation, and if inhaled or swallowed, it can cause serious internal damage. This can cause death if enough is ingested and help is not administered in time.

While it may seem easy to avoid swallowing or coming into contact with bleach, accidents do happen, and simple spillages or even a small splash can result in unexpected exposure. Wearing proper PPE helps safeguard against this, with basic precautions like eye goggles, face shields, and rubber gloves doing much to avoid harmful contact. If bleach does get into your eyes or on your skin, the best course of action is to wash the affected area with lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, if bleach is swallowed, seek immediate medical help.

On top of these health risks, bleach can also create toxic gases by reacting with other chemicals. These can be highly corrosive, dealing serious damage to your lungs if inhaled. Consequently, it is essential to avoid mixing bleach with any other chemicals, and if they do mix accidentally, immediately evacuate the premises.


4. Antibacterial Wipes

Another staple of office cleaning supplies, antibacterial wipes are used for disinfecting surfaces and killing harmful bacteria. What they are not intended for is hand washing, but they are sometimes used that way regardless. While some might get away with this, others risk having an allergic reaction, known as contact dermatitis, which causes inflammation of the skin and an itchy rash that won’t go until you identify and avoid the allergic substance. As a general rule, it’s best to wash your hands with soap and warm water rather than using chemical products.

Misuse of antibacterial wipes can also result in health risks. For example, surfaces coated with grime can make it difficult for the wipe’s disinfectant to kill the bacteria lingering underneath, so it’s important to first clean the surface with a cloth or paper towel. While some products may do both, others won’t, so always check whether your wipes are purely disinfectant or also a cleanser wipe.

Another key mistake is letting the surface dry too quickly. Antibacterial wipes take anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes to eliminate all bacteria, so it’s typically best to keep the surface visibly wet for at least a short period of time to ensure the wipe has enough time to work.


5. Multipurpose Cleaners

With cleaning being an everyday chore, it’s all too easy to fall into routine and regularly expose yourself to harmful chemicals.

According to a report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), inhaling chemicals from cleaning products can cause a whole host of respiratory health problems, such as increasing the risk of occupational asthma, as well as coughing, headaches, and a sore throat or nose.

Most of these can be avoided with sensible precautions, like PPE or increased ventilation, but before implementing these safety measures, companies must first determine what and where their hazards are with a detailed risk assessment. This ensures all hazards specific to the business and building are outlined, and protective measures put in place to mitigate them.


How Vanguard Can Eliminate Your Cleaning Health Risks

Studies have shown that commercial cleaning reduces the risk of employees getting ill by a whopping 80%. Therefore, cleaning is vital to office productivity, but with so many cleaning products having their own health risks, it can all seem like a minefield. That’s where Vanguard Cleaning come in.

Our cleaning products are fully COSHH accredited, with all relevant safety data sheets, to ensure our staff have the information they require to use our products safely. On top of this, all our chemicals are sourced from the same supplier, who joins us in taking measures to prevent cross contamination or dangerous spills, and with over two decades of experience, our products have been tried and tested across our client’s sites, and will ensure your premises remains spotless, without the dangerous side effects.

Delegating the responsibility of office cleaning to an external company like Vanguard provides several benefits. Not only will it reduce you and your staff’s exposure to harmful chemicals, both as particles in the air and liquid in the bottle, but it will ensure all cleaning chemicals are used safely and as intended.

All of our staff undergo rigorous training, accredited by the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), meaning they have the expertise to clean your premises and avoid the harmful side effects of many common cleaning products. Our staff will use a combination of safety measures, including ventilating your space, using protective PPE, and avoiding cross contamination, to ensure your office is safely and effectively sanitised.


Vanguard’s cleaning services include, but are not limited to:

  • Scheduled Daily/Weekly/Monthly Cleaning
  • Enhanced Deep Cleans
  • Professional Window & Floor Cleaning
  • Washroom Services
  • Specialized Cleaning Services


All of our comprehensive cleaning packages are entirely tailormade to the individual business. That means we take into account your business’s size, budget, and desired schedule to craft the perfect contract for you. Invest in as much or as little of our services as you would like – the choice lies solely with you.

To get a head start on creating a healthier and more hygienic office, contact our professional team for an entirely free, no obligation quote.