Common Cleaning Chemicals

Chemicals are used for cleaning in countless applications, from pesticides to residential cleaning to cleaning food processing facilities. While many chemicals are assumed to be safe, unnecessary prolonged exposure may not be. Costs have shown to be a major driver in cleaning agent selection, but what if there was a safe, clean solution that left behind no residues that was more cost effective than the recurring expense of purchasing chemicals? Superheated steam can effectively breaks down buildup while also sanitizing impacted surfaces when operated correctly.

Pesticides have been shown to cause neurological and respiratory symptoms in humans.1 Children face greater risks from pesticide exposure, including reproductive disorders, birth defects, immune suppression, dizziness, nausea, and other problems.2 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that around 500,000 metric tons of pesticides are used in the United States every year.3 Many of these pesticides may end up in creeks, streams and rivers, polluting valuable water supplies. Many insects build an immunity to pesticides after prolonged exposure, requiring higher quantities, stronger chemicals or both for eradication.

The Chemicals

Phosphates are most widely used in soaps and detergents. They overwhelm modern sewage systems, leading to harmful algae blooms in our rivers.

Paradichlorobenzine is used in toilet blocks and as a deodorizing agent. While it might effectively mask unpleasant odors, it is also suspected to be carcinogenic.

Chlorine bleach is possibly the most widely used cleaning tool, but it is also highly corrosive and potentially toxic when used in conjunction with other common cleaning chemicals.

Petrochemicals such as furniture polish and many industrial strength cleaners are eye, skin, and respiratory irritants. Many petroleum based products may also contain the carcinogen benzene.

Perchloroethylene used in dry cleaning is a toxic airborne pollutant that it suspected to be carcinogenic. A small dose of this chemical can contaminate groundwater for years.

Alkylphenol ethoxylates and alkylphenols have been in use since the 1940's as very effective detergents, but they have been controversial because they aren't biodegradable, and have been linked to endocrine system failure in acquatic animals, and possible disruption of human functions in high enough dosages.4

Acetone is used as a chemical intermediate and as a solvent cleaner in fingernail polish remover, paint-related products and in the chemical production of other ketones.

Ammonia is a source of nitrogen, which is necessary for plant growth. Ammonia is also used as a source of protein in livestock feeds, in the production of fibers, plastics and explosives and in the extraction of certain metal ores. Ammonia is a strong irritant of the respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Severe burning of the eyes, runny nose and chest pain are potential effects of exposure. Breathing difficulties may be delayed from initial exposure. Exposure to high concentrations can lead to blindness, burning of the skin, respiratory failure and even death. Repeated exposure to ammonia may result in chronic irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract.

Benzene is used in the production of lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides. It can be found in crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. Benzene ranks high in the volume of U.S. produced chemicals. Breathing high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches and unconsciousness. Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, convulsions and even death. Benzene causes harmful effects to the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene is a known human carcinogen.

The Alternatives

In cleaning applications with accessible surfaces, superheated steam provides an alternative to harsh chemicals. With proper residency times, the MightySteam's industrial strength steam is capable of cleaning surfaces with minimal wear on the impacted surface. Because each application is unique, it is highly recommended to test the efficacy of MightySteam® for your particular cleaning application. Optimal operation of the MightySteam® entails proper residency time, distance from impacted surface and surface preparation among a number of other factors.


1(Sept 23, 2011) . Acute Illnesses Associated With Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs --- Seven States, 2003—  2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   doi:60(37);1269-1274
2(Jan 2002). Children Are at Greater Risks from Pesticide Exposure. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
2Maternal Pesticide Exposure and Neural Tube Defects in Mexican Americans
3"Pesticides." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. 4th ed. Detroit:   Gale, 2008. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 6 July 2012.
4Warhurst, A. Michael (January 1995). An Environmental Assessment of Alkylphenol Ethoxylates and Alkylphenols. 5Carcinogenic Chemical Database