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Why Pine and Citrus Scented Cleaning Products are Harmful

May 20th, 2022 | 5 min. read

Why Pine and Citrus Scented Cleaning Products are Harmful

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You think we’d be crazy to say that cleaning is anything but next to godliness.

And don’t get us wrong, we haven’t changed our mind on this at all.

But something we’ve always known here at In-Tec has finally been brought to the forefront of the cleaning industry.

Scented cleaning products are harmful and can lead to adverse health effects. 

For years, the team at In-Tec have been advocating the benefits of chemical-free, fragrant-free, and sustainable cleaning solutions. And now, there’s a scientific study out there that has proved exactly why scented cleaning solutions are unsafe and dangerous.

Without giving too much away (because where’s the fun in that 😉), here’s a little snippet from what the study found.

A few minutes of mopping indoors with a fragrant cleaning product can generate as many airborne particles as vehicles on a busy street.

Having been in business for over 28 years now, we at In-Tec know more than anyone about the positives and negatives that come with different cleaning products. In this article, we’re going to take you through the science behind how molecules and ozone react to produce harmful aerosols, and the findings from the scientific study.

How does limonene and ozone produce harmful airborne particles?

Would you be shocked if I told you that the air in your home and office can sometimes be dirtier than the air outdoors?

No, we’re not joking!

Any kind of burning like candles, incense, and cigarettes are bad.

*Cue everyone blowing out the candles that are currently burning*

Even gas stoves and cooking food also spew unhealthy particles into the air!

All of the above can cause asthma and other health problems when breathed in.

It kind of makes you think twice about everything, doesn’t it? (what’s good for me and what isn’t)? 

And now to the cleaning part – cleaning products whose fragrances contain volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that react with ozone in the air to produce small particles known as aerosols. This is a significant source of indoor air pollution.

One molecule that is of great concern is limonene, which is a chemical found in the peels of citrus fruits and other plants. You know, that citrus scent that smells so good…. (but you definitely shouldn’t be breathing in). 

Now what happens is that when ozone (outdoor pollutant) wafts into buildings, it reacts with the lemon-scented molecule and other similar molecules called monoterpenes, turning them into peroxides, alcohols, and other airborne particles.

These small, airborne particles can lodge deep into the lungs which can irritate cells and, at a high enough exposure, lead to health problems such as asthma, burning of the throat, and even skin irritations. What’s even more concerning, is that exposure to these particles can cause heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable people.

The danger of these cleaning products is certainly not something to just put to the side and forget about.

If your current cleaning company is using citrus-scented cleaning solutions, ask them to stop using them immediately. Not only for the health of you and your employees but also for the cleaners.

What did the study examine and reveal?

The scientific study was designed to reveal, minute by minute, what happens with airborne reactions when mopping a floor.

The study was conducted in a room with an air volume of 50 cubic metres, about half the size of a semi-trailer container. With a terpene-based cleaner (common ingredient: limonene), they mopped a floor for 12-14 minutes and monitored the molecules and particles for over 90 minutes.

Co-author Philip Stevens, an atmospheric chemist at Indiana University, explained, “This is the first study that really looked at the entire chemical process under realistic indoor conditions.”

After the data was collected from the room, the researchers calculated how many particles smaller than half a micron a person would inhale during mopping. What they found was that “an average person would breathe in about 1 billion to 10 billion nanoparticles each minute.”

Whhaaatttt that is such a huge number!

Well, that number is equivalent to standing on a busy street in a typical European or US city. You wouldn’t think that standing indoors where a cleaner is mopping would be the same as standing on a busy road where there are car fumes everywhere!

What these findings suggest is that professional cleaners and possibly even employees who are exposed to the harmful particles are putting themselves at risk.

Not only are scented and chemical-based cleaning products bad for our health, but they’re also bad for the environment. Avoid them at all costs. 

What’s the solution?

It’s not as simple as just opening a window. 


A: ventilation may not be powerful enough to remove the particles 


B: ventilation can serve as a double-edged sword. It can bring in more dangerous ozone from outside 

So what can we do to reduce particle formation? 

The researchers suggest cleaning in the morning or evening, when ozone levels tend to be lower, and avoiding the use of cleaning products that have limonene or other kinds of terpenes. There is no doubt that this is the most effective method to stop exposing cleaners and possibly employees to VOCs and SOAs.  

At In-Tec, we recommend the use of fragrant-free and chemical-free cleaning solutions that are GECA or Green Seal certified/approved. This could include products such as Tersano, eWater, or Enviroplus

If you think about it, the solution is quite easy.

Find a cleaning company that values the health of their cleaners and your employees 

All those scented cleaning products seem like a bad idea now, right?

You want to be sure that your cleaning company isn’t using any harmful cleaning products.

  • Ask them whether they know about the dangers of limonene and ozone
  • If they do know the dangers and are still continuing to use these cleaning products, then it’s time to hire a different cleaning service
  • If they’re using chemical and fragrant free products, then fantastic!

One thing to remember – when your workplace is dusted, vacuumed, mopped, and sprayed, there should be a lack of scent. Clean shouldn’t smell. 

If you want to have a chat with one of our team members about cleaning products and which are best, schedule a call with us – that’s what we’re here for! Let’s talk cleaning!

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