Dish soap with triclosan Check your labels. Even though dish soap doesn't need triclosan to be effective, it often does. (Photo: Jack Black's Stunt Double/Flickr)

There are a lot of environmentally dubious household items that you should take a second look at. Some of them, like the subject of today's post, are found in or used as cleaning products themselves. And when I say "take a second look at" I mean you should replace it with a more planet-friendly alternative.

Up to bat today are products containing the ubiquitous and totally purge-worthy chemical, triclosan.

I've talked about triclosan before — most recently in an advice column about natural sponges — and you might already be familiar with it since it's found in a ton of household and personal care products, particularly those labeled as being "antibacterial." In our pandemic-obsessed culture, antibacterial products are insanely popular and provide much relief to both serious germaphobes and those who just want to keep their homes neat, clean and germ-free.

The popularity of antibacterial products extends well outside the home, too. Here in NYC, bottles of antibacterial hand lotion are just as commonplace in handbags as Metrocards and cellphones.

But here's the thing: plain old soap is just as effective at removing germs when washing up. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against using antibacterial soaps at home. One of the best triclosan resources out there is the Environmental Working Group's update on triclosan. The bottom line? Triclosan is everywhere.

Since triclosan is so prevalent, purging your home of anything that's possibly treated with it might be a bit much to ask (not to mention create a lot of waste). After all, I wouldn't want you to part with your favorite pillow shams. But here's what you can do since we're dealing with spring cleaning: if you have any cleaning products that list triclosan as an ingredient, give 'em the heave-ho. Or, use them until they run out and don't replace them. If germ slaughter is a top priority in your home, consider an alternative that doesn't involve the use of toxic pesticides.

Some products that I've had the chance to try out recently are from the new line of natural disinfectants — Disinfecting Wipes, Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner and Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner — from Seventh Generation. Harnessing special, chem-free CleanWell technology, the active ingredient in the line is herb-derived thymol; the essential oils of thyme and lemongrass are also included to naturally deodorize and combat odors. The line is the first EPA-registered line of natural disinfectants approved to claim "kills over 99.99 percent of germs naturally on hard, non-porous surfaces."

I normally don't use disinfecting products unless I'm traveling, but I went to town on my kitchen countertops with the Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes this past week and was quite pleased with the results, especially the smell. In a time when keeping a home clear of both toxic chemicals and disease-spreading germs is a top priority, it looks like this partnership is a helpful start.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Why you don't need triclosan in your house
Eliminating unwanted detritus? Consider chucking products containing triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in an array of household products.