Home > Household Products > What is in Upholstery Cleaners?

What is in Upholstery Cleaners?

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Upholstery Cleaners Clean Upholstery

I’m sure none of us wash our curtains, carpets and sofa as much as we feel we should, but if you’re anything like me, every so often you look askance at the state of the soft furnishings and resolve to shake and vac…

Well before you do anything drastic, read this information and think again!

Whipping Up A Storm

When you sprinkle those little grime-busting grains onto your rug or whip up that clean-smelling froth to sponge onto your comfy chairs, you’re actually whipping up a concoction of noxious chemicals which could knock you out.Read on to find out more about the chemicals contained in domestic upholstery cleaners.

Perchlorethylene

Most carpet and upholstery cleaners contain perchloroethylene or ‘perc’ for short and also variously listed as PCE, perclene, perchlor and tetrachoroethylene. It’s a colourless industrial solvent used mainly in the dry-cleaning business and is the culprit of the chemical smell your clothes can have after being dry-cleaned.

However, this solvent is a noxious substance which if inhaled it can cause nausea, dizziness, confusion and fatigue. In fact it has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a ‘possible to probable’ carcinogen while the World Health Organisation has listed it as ‘probably’ carcinogenic.

Research has been carried out on workers in the dry-cleaning industry exposed to Perc which strongly links them to increased incidences of cancer; however, that’s not all. Exposure to perc also increases a risk of liver and kidney damage as well as neurological problems.

The molecules in Perc are volatile and so when you spread the cleaner on your upholstery, the vapours remain in the air and contaminate the atmosphere. Once ingested or absorbed by the skin, they can enter the blood stream and have been found stored in fatty tissue, the liver, brain and breast milk.

Ammonium Hydroxide

Another ingredient of upholstery cleaners is ammonium hydroxide, a compound of ammonia, which usually comes in the form of a strong-smelling liquid. This chemical is highly corrosive and very irritable to respiratory tract, eyes and can burn the skin. It has also been found to kill fish and reduce oxygen in water.

Again, this chemical is thought to be carcinogenic and fumes are known to cause a feeling of nausea, disorientation, dizziness and drowsiness.

Alcohol Ethoxylate

A milder alternative used in some upholstery cleaners is Alcohol Ethoxylate but although possibly preferable to Ammonium Hydroxide, it nevertheless still causes skin and eye reactions and in stronger dilutions, induces nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and sleepiness. Ethoxylate is also harmful to the aquatic environment and is a known hormone disrupter to birds, fish and mammals.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde, better known as something that is used in the building industry, particularly in the manufacture of new furniture, is also found in upholstery cleaners. It takes the form of a colourless, pungent gas and has been banned in Sweden and Japan, although is found in all homes in the UK.

It can cause a range of adverse symptoms, even at very low levels, in some people including watery, irritated and burning eyes, dizziness, coughing, headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, wheezing, irritation to the nose and throat and allergic reactions.

Formaldehyde is banned in Sweden and Japan

Methlyne Chloride

Methylene chloride is a colourless liquid which has commonly been used as an aerosol propellant and although removed from many products, is still to be found in upholstery cleaners and fabric spot removers.

Regulated as a Hazardous Air Pollutant in America, it has been noted as a probable carcinogen and proven to cause harm to the central nervous system and prolonged exposure whilst pregnant greatly increases the chance of a baby developing leukaemia.

Disposing of Upholstery Cleaners

What do you do with the liquid cleaning solution when you’ve finished?

Put it down the drain, right?

WRONG! The chemicals in upholstery cleaners do not easily biodegrade and pass into our waste water system and polluting the groundwater. They should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of in a safe manner. If in doubt, contact your local council to find out more.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • dlong
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Ive been living in a 1st floor flat nearly 3 years now, and 2 month ago we had new tenants move in below with dogs, after 2…
    17 October 2019
  • Kim
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    I live in a ground floor maisonette (rented) and have upstairs neighbours on the first floor who own their property. For the…
    7 October 2019
  • Flossie
    Re: Stop Smoking
    I followed the Government's guidelines and approached the local council about smoking impact from neighbours. My house, clothes and furniture smell…
    4 October 2019
  • Ella
    Re: Food Miles: The Environmental Impact of Food
    Very helpful for my homework :) thanks!
    16 September 2019
  • Lynsky
    Re: The Effect of Traffic Fumes on your Health
    I live on a housing estate, with a bypass quite near and a lot of traffic also passes my house, it is so noisy,…
    1 September 2019
  • Cooky
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    The farmer has dumped 8 artic lorry loads of chicken muck 40 yards from my house it is to be there for 2 months till it is…
    23 July 2019
  • smellynextdoor
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    help us please, we have lived in our house 12 years, love it have not intention to move as have just spent thousands last…
    22 July 2019
  • Paulo
    Re: All About Oil-Fired Heating
    You don't mention the airborne particulates emitted by these systems.My neighbour in the city has oil fired central heating and his…
    14 July 2019
  • Nuisance
    Re: Bad Smells and the Law
    The windows of our house are overlooking the restaurant with big extractor fan, which is a problem of smell and noise. 5 windows can’t be…
    11 July 2019
  • Paul
    Re: Bad Smells and the Law
    Please can you help. I have a treatment plant and each time we empty it, it smells for 3 or 4 weeks. I’ve bought Bactria powder to put in…
    8 June 2019