11 Everyday Household Items You Aren't Buying Organic—But Should

You buy organic food, but what about the rest of the house?

June 30, 2016
hipster living room

Organic isn’t just for your produce. Chemicals may be lurking in your medicine cabinet, living room, and even your bed. Reduce your exposure and environmental impact by purchasing organic versions of these potentially harmful products whenever you can. 

cotton balls
Cotton Balls

While cotton might be snowy white, it's one of the dirtiest textiles. Cotton is heavily treated with chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, defoliants, bleaching, and chemical fertilizers. Conventional cotton is responsible for 18% of all of the pesticides used worldwide.

Even worse, most cotton balls aren’t even made of cotton, but rather, they're made from polyester, which is made frompotentially skin-irritating petroleum. Protect your skin from possible chemical residues with organic cotton balls, swabs, and pads. 

pet food
Dmytro Zinkevych/shutterstock
Pet Food

Pet food is often a terrifying mix of ingredients that can’t be sold for human consumption. Dog meat, slaughterhouse leftovers like hide and digestive tissue, and whole carcasses of diseased animals have all found their way into dog food. But you won’t find any of these horrifying ingredients listed on the label.

There are no federal standards or rules for what can go into pet food, unless you buy organic. All certified organic pet food and treats must follow the USDA’s organic ingredient and manufacturing regulations. For extra piece of mind, The Humane Society recommends frequently checking the FDA’s list of recalled pet food to ensure that your furry friend is eating safe food.

Related: 5 Terrible Ingredients In Pet Food


Your jeans may fit like a dream, but they're a nightmare for the environment. Denim uses 50,000 tons of synthetic indigo dye every year. Dyeing the fabric uses exorbitant amounts of water and pollutes waterways around the world with harmful chemicals, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. If you’ve ever been left with blue legs after wearing a new pair of jeans or discolored clothes from the wash, you know that the dye used on your jeans easily comes off.

Look instead for organic cotton jeans responsibly dyed with non-toxic colors (like these!). Wash them as infrequently as you can, and be sure to use cold water and line dry when you do to help them last longer and reduce their environmental impact. 

baby toys
Teethers + Toys

Plastic toys may be indestructible, but they can also leach phthalates and other possible hormone-disrupting chemicals. While 6 specific types of phthalates are banned in the United States for children’s toys, many other phthalates continue to be used. Skip toys and teethers made from plastic or petroleum-based products like polyester and opt for organic, natural fibers like cotton or hemp instead.


In addition to the chemicals used in growing the crops, some spices are treated with pesticides after harvest. You can’t wash your spices before using them, which means that any pesticide or insecticide on them go straight into your food. While organic spices are often quite a bit more expensive, they are worth the piece of mind. They're also likely to have more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts. Avoid additives and other mystery ingredients by buying spices that list only the main spice on the label like “organic black pepper.”

Related: 7 Things You Never Knew Pepper Could Do

family playing on bed
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Flame retardants and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often emitted as gas from mattresses. While you sleep, you're breathing in VOCs from the polyurethane foam, formaldehyde from the glue, and flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers. In addition to respiratory problems and skin irritation, many of these chemicals could potentially cause cancer and nervous system disorders.

These chemicals are especially harmful for children and infants. Many flame retardants have been banned for causing developmental problems, hyperactivity, and hormone disruption, but many more have taken their place.

Sleep easy on an organic cotton or wool mattress. No matter what, check the tag on any mattress or cover to see if it has been treated with flame retardants. If the tag says it is compliant with TB 117, stay away—the mattress likely has flame retardant chemicals. Avoid water proof mattress covers, especially for crib mattress, that are made out of vinyl or polyurethane. Opt instead for organic wool, which naturally repels moisture.

bottle of perfume
Perfume + Air Fresheners

You may smell like roses, but your perfume is likely full of parbens, phthalates, and other potential endocrine disrupting chemicals. Companies don’t have to tell you what’s in their perfume or air fresheners. Many of these products are full of chemicals that are linked to birth defects, hormonal abnormalities, and reproductive problems like sperm damage. In addition to absorbing these chemicals through your skin, you're breathing them in repeatedly. They can make their way into fat tissue and even breast milk.

Opt for organic perfume made without parabens or phthalates. You can diffuse organic essential oils to naturally freshen your air. 

Related: Surprisingly Easy Ways To Freshen Your Home

couple on bed
Markevich Maria/shutterstock

The bedroom is no place for toxic chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and “fragrance.” Vaginal and anal tissues are highly effective at absorbing fluids and pulling them into the blood stream. While this is great for administering many medications, it makes some lubes potentially dangerous. These chemicals can also irritate the cells and alter the balance of good bacteria and yeast in the vagina. Many organic lubes are paraben-, phthalate-, and fragrance-free. Even better, these lubes can be safely paired with non-toxic condoms.

GoodMood Photo/shutterstock

Much like your mattress, your couch may be full of harmful flame retardants. Unfortunately, the use of chemicals like flame retardants in furniture is minimally regulated. Manufacturers do not have to prove that the chemicals they use are safe before they use them.

One of the most commonly used types of flame retardants, chlorinated Tris, or TDCPP, has been banned from use in children’s pajamas for its carcinogenic affects, and yet is still being stuffed into sofas.

Worried about your current sofa? You can send a small sample of the foam it's made out of to researchers at Duke University, and they will test it for flame retardants for free. The data from your couch can help keep these chemicals out of everyone’s furniture in the future.

If you are buying new, look for furniture made with natural latex or organic cotton or wool that is not treated with chemical flame retardants. 

feminine hygiene
Yulia Grigoryeva/shutterstock
Tampons + Pads

Tampons are typically made of rayon, conventional cotton, or blends of both. Rayon has been linked to increased risk of toxic shock syndrome, and conventional cotton may have pesticide or bleaching chemical residue. Some of these residues include dioxin, which is leftover from the bleaching process. While the FDA has stated that the trace amounts of dioxin are below the legal limit, this does not take into consideration that women use an estimated 12,000 tampons in a lifetime. The accumulated exposure may be harmful, and it adds to body’s exposure from dioxin-contaminated food and water.

Many tampons and pads are also coated in chemical fragrances that have not been fully studied for their safety. Most pads are made with plastic liners and adhesives that may off-gas or leach, and they have been found to emit chemicals that have been indentified as reproductive toxins, carcinogens, and developmental toxins by the U.S. Department of Health and other government groups. Worst of all, not a single one of these chemicals or ingredients needs to be disclosed on the package.

Detox your period. Look for unbleached, fragrance-free, organic cotton tampons and pads. These products are easier on your body and the environment. Better yet, go zero waste with reusable pads made from organic cotton or other reusable products like a menstrual cup. Consider these 3 Organic Tampons Worth Trying.

boy and dog playing in grass
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Lawn Fertilzer

You wouldn’t eat anything grown with chemical fertilizers, so why would you spread them in your yard? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that people apply 10 times more pesticides than farmers per acre. When you water or it rains, these chemical pesticides and fertilizers run off and end up contaminating local waterways.

Related: 6 Steps To A Healthy Organic Lawn

These chemicals can also be tracked into your house. Keep your yard safe for your family and pets and reduce runoff with organic fertilizers. Local, organic compost or compost tea is a great option for safe, nutrient-dense fertilizer.