Are Cleaning Sprays More Dangerous Than Smoking? Can They Really Cause Cancer?

Recently, online publications and TV news have caught on to a sensational bit of information that will leave you scared of cleaning your house. According to these articles, you can end up increasing your chance of having cancer by using household cleaning sprays than if you were to smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

Cleaning Sprays May Cause Lung Health Problems

Surprising, right? Well, it is true that the chemicals in these cleaning sprays are harmful to the respiratory functions, especially for those with Asthma. However, how much do we know of these chemicals and their effects on our risk of being diagnosed with cancer?

To find out if cleaning sprays cause cancer more than smoking, our researchers did some digging and found out the facts that will help you get a better picture of this whole scenario.

The Published Report On The Relationship Between Cleaning And Lung Function:

A few days ago on February 16, 2018, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published a research paper titled Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction.

This report was written by Øistein Svanes from the University of Bergen in Norway which used data that was collected over 20 years with 6230 participants from a multi-center population in the two stages of ECRHS (European Community Respiratory Health Survey). This study aimed to find if there are any long-term effects of regularly using cleaning sprays on the lung health and function.

The Findings From The Research Conducted:

The data that was used by the researchers from ECRHS I and ECRHS II analyzed lung function of patients from 22 study centers. The findings of the research were calculated by observing the FEV1, and FVC values between participants who performed cleaning activities frequently to those who didn’t frequently clean with household cleaning sprays.


FEV1 is a standard unit of measurement which measures the maximum amount of air that you can forcefully blow out of your lungs in a single second, measured by a spirometer. This test helps doctors assess your lung capacity and better understand the severity of COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) if you have it.

FVC stands for Forced vital capacity which is also measured by a spirometer like with FEV1. The difference is that FVC measures the total amount of air that you can forcefully blow out of your lungs while FEV1 only counts the air exhaled in the first second. FVC can help doctors access your lung health and capacity while also assessing your decline in lung capacity due to aging or unhealthy habits like smoking.

According to the recently published research paper by Svanes, these were the results between those who cleaned regularly with cleaning sprays and those who didn’t:

Tabulated Results Of The Long-Term Effects Of Cleaning On Lung Health

Change In FEV1Change In FVC
Women Not Engaged In Cleaning At Home-18.5 ml/year8.8 ml/year
Women Responsible For Cleaning At Home-22.1 ml/year (p=0.01)-13.1 ml/year (p=0.02)
Occupational Cleaners-22.4 ml/year (p=0.03)-15.9 ml/year (p=0.002)

When the researchers analyzed if cleaning sprays were more harmful to lung capacity than other cleaning agents, there was no significant difference with cleaning sprays showing a change in FEV1 of -22 ml/year (p=-0.04) and other cleaning agents showing a change of -22.9 ml/year (p=-0.004).

For those who are confused with the negative values in the change in FEV1 and FVC, it is because a negative value means a decline in lung capacity and health.

The conclusion of the study mentions that women who cleaned at home or worked as occupational cleaners had an accelerated decline in lung health, capacity, and function. This suggests that cleaning sprays may be increasing the risk of being diagnosed with long-term respiratory health problems.

The Relationship Between Smoking And Cancer:

As it can be seen from this research, it is clear that women experience a decline in lung capacity when they use cleaning sprays regularly. However, what about the claims that it causes cancer? Our digging into this claim found no mention of the disease in the published report or any other credible information online that could be used to show a link between cleaning sprays and risk of cancer.

Effects Of Smoking On FEV

Smoking, however, has been found to increase the risk of cancer by a significant margin in both men and women. Passive smoking is also a culprit in causing cancer in many due to the chemicals that are used in the average cigarette. Smoking has also shown to negatively affect not just the lungs, but also the other organs while the chemical particles in cleaning sprays primarily affect the airways and lungs only.

What About The Men Who Clean?

A very concerning fact about the results of the research paper by Svanes is that the conclusion only took account of women who interacted with cleaning sprays and other cleaning agents. When the same analysis was conducted with male participants of the ECRHS who cleaned using cleaning sprays and those who didn’t, the researchers didn’t find a difference in FEV1 and FVC values between the two.

This forced the researchers to state that “Cleaning was not significantly associated with lung function decline in men or with chronic airway obstruction” in the research paper.

These results have caused many critics to point out that the research methodology seems to be flawed as the effects of the cleaning chemicals in the sprays should show similar effects on both men and women.

Do Cleaning Sprays Really Cause Cancer More Than Smoking?

What this means is that it is highly unlikely that cleaning sprays, which are used in households around the world, are more harmful than smoking cigarettes. The claims that cleaning sprays cause a rise in the risk of cancer when compared to cigarettes also seems like a big leap and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Clean With Water And Microfiber Cloth Instead

However, long-term use of cleaning sprays has shown to negatively affect the lung capacity and health. According to the experts, you are better off using a microfiber cloth and water to clean your house while reducing your exposure to chemicals that could cause you harm in the long run.


Michelle is the senior most expert who writes for this website. After completing her graduation and 10+ years of practice, Michelle has been involved and known for a lot of her philanthropy work. Michelle loves spending time researching and writing her papers. She occasionally writes for us and we are extremely proud to have her as one of our editors.

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