If you are someone who likes to keep your house spotless, you will know that the glass windows and furniture are the most difficult things to keep clean – spots on glass take forever to remove.
The Windex cleaning solution has been a popular choice for this purpose – it leaves your glass surfaces streak-free, shining and squeaky clean. However, there are potential hazards associated with long-term and careless use of Windex that most consumers are unaware of.
In this article, we will take you through the key ingredients and chemical composition of this wildly popular cleaning solution and elaborate on the toxic effects of Windex on your health.
There are also certain misconceptions about the composition of Windex. We have also discussed in detail ingredients found commonly in cleaning solutions and have clarified whether these are present in Windex or not.
Windex is a cleaning solution for glass surfaces composed of a mixture of various chemicals which act as cleaning or wetting agent and coloured dyes. The primary ingredients for Windex are as follows
- Ammonium Hydroxide
- Lauryl Dimethyl Amine Oxide
- Sodium Dodecylbenzene Sulfonate
- Liquitint® Sky Blue Dye
Among these ingredients, the one that poses the highest health risk to you and your family is Ammonium Hydroxide, which is an ammonia solution.
Ammonia has long been used as a key ingredient for cleaning products. However, prolonged use of such products, of which Windex is a famous example, can prove harmful for you. Exposure to Windex solution with ammonia over a long time might lead to irritation of the throat and nose and in severe cases, ammonia vapour can cause serious damage to your respiratory tract.
Further, you should be extremely careful about never using Windex without gloves – contact of the solution with the skin might cause burns, irritation and rashes. It is the ammonia in the solution that is responsible for all of these potential health hazards.
Let’s take a look at other commonly used cleaning ingredients and check if these are present in Windex or not.
Bleach or sodium hypochlorite is a popular chemical compound used for cleaning. Windex does not contain bleach, and it can in fact be hazardous to mix Windex with bleach. The combination of Ammonia and bleach creates a toxic gas that can cause serious health problems.
Bleach itself is quite strong and like the ammonia in Windex can have damaging results to your skin and lungs. However, you can use bleach carefully and in small quantities to get stain-free glass surfaces.
Commercial rubbing alcohol is known to help you achieve stain-free glasses efficiently. Windex, as mentioned in the list of ingredients, contains 2-Hexoxyethanol and Isopropanolamine, which is an alcoholic compound that acts as a cleaning agent. This alcoholic component in Windex allows it to clean and disinfect all impurities effectively and also does not leave behind any streaks.
Something as common as vinegar, present in every household can be used to clean all your glass surfaces smoothly and effectively. The original composition of Windex does not contain vinegar, however, the company also sells a product titled Windex Vinegar, which is specially formulated with vinegar to ensure that no smell of ammonia remains in the solution. You can also mix vinegar with your usual Windex solution to get rid of unwanted smells.
If the name of this chemical compound seems familiar to you, yes it is the same pungent-smelling chemical that is found in nail polish removers. Windex cleaning solution does not contain acetone in its composition. It is also not wise to mix acetone with Windex. You can commercially purchase this solvent and safely use it to make your glass surfaces spotless. However, acetone might leave a residue after evaporation; so do not forget to wipe the glass with a wet cloth after the application of acetone!
Antifreeze is a liquid which is often added to water to reduce the freezing point. The most common use of antifreeze is to keep the water in the radiator of the car at a favourable temperature. Some cleaning solutions which are marketed as wiper fluids contain antifreeze which helps to maintain frost-free car windows. However, Windex does not contain antifreeze and cannot be used in a similar manner.
Chlorine is a chemical that is quite commonly found in surface cleaners. The main purpose of chlorine however is to kill germs and impurities rather than giving you spot-free surfaces. However, Windex does not contain chlorine in its composition. So if you prioritise germ-free surfaces, you can use a chlorine-based glass surface cleaner. Commercial bleach often contains chlorine.
Hydrogen peroxide is a compound that can act as a great cleaning agent, but it has disinfectant properties as well. Windex glass cleaning solution does not contain Hydrogen Peroxide. You should also never mix Windex with hydrogen peroxide – it can cause a toxic reaction.
A common method of cleaning glass is with the help of a special type of wax, commercially known as glass wax. It is a liquefied wax-like substance that can be applied on glass surfaces and once it dries, you can use a wipe to clean it off leaving you with a shiny and stainless glass surface. While many commercial cleaning solutions contain wax, Windex does not. Glass wax in a cleaning solution often leads to streaks on the glass surface after cleaning, and Windex promises a streak-free surface.
What to do if you ingest Windex?
As we have discussed in detail, Windex has many toxic properties. If you or any member of your family ingest Windex, you should act swiftly, without panicking. Children often ingest Windex by accident, since it is a colourful fluid, so always keep the bottle out of reach of small children. Small amounts of ingestion should only cause mild symptoms like throat irritation or an upset stomach. However, it is best to call poison control right away. As a first aid measure, you can ask the affected person to rinse their mouth with water.
The Poison Control helpline in the US is 1-800-222-1222. In the UK, call NHS 111 for non-serious cases, and 999 to call for an ambulance.
Stay calm, note down the components of Windex and inform the medical personnel of the same immediately when they arrive.
What to do if Windex gets in your eyes?
If Windex gets into your eyes while cleaning you will immediately experience burning and irritation in your eyes. A large amount of the fluid can cause permanent damage to your eye. So your first course of action should be to immediately rinse your eyes with water. Please note that the water should be clean. Then, seek medical help and in the meantime keep flushing your eyes with lukewarm water at short intervals. Do not rub your eyes with anything as it might worsen the injury.
What to do if you inhale Windex?
Inhalation of Windex in the form of aerosols may occur during your regular cleaning routine. Small amounts of inhalation generally are not a cause for alarm, you may notice irritation and a burning sensation in your nose and throat. The likelihood of such inhalation affecting your lungs is less. Inhalation of Windex seldom causes coughing or wheezing. However, if you experience serious symptoms, please call your healthcare professional.