How to Prevent Headaches From Cleaning Products

Exploring the link between cleaning and headaches

When we talk about cleaning headaches, we’re not just talking about those stubborn stains that won’t come out. Common household cleaning supplies can be a trigger for many migraine sufferers, and finding ways to keep your home clean without exposing yourself to the offending substances can be a different kind of headache altogether.

Let's learn more about how cleaning supplies cause headaches and what you can do to prevent them.

Colorful luxury cleaning household products
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How Do Cleaning Supplies Cause Headaches?

Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs) are gases released from a wide variety of solids or liquids. They are often toxic and can trigger migraine headaches in some people. Besides causing headaches in many individuals, VOCs can be toxic or carcinogenic in some cases. There are thousands of organic chemicals that emit VOCs, notably cleaning and disinfecting products, degreasers, and cosmetics.

Other symptoms that may occur as a result of cleaning chemical exposures include itchy skin and eye irritation.

How Can I Prevent a Headache From Cleaning Supplies?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named a few things you can do to reduce your exposure to these toxic compounds.

  • Use household products according to manufacturer's directions.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
  • Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

Fragrances or other scents added to many household cleaning products can also be migraine triggers. Pay special attention to specific cleaners that seem to cause problems for you. Be sure to include them in your migraine diary.

Finally, limiting the total number of cleaning products you use may also improve your headache health.

What Else Can I Do?

Another step in preventing migraines due to VOCs or other cleaning products is to find suitable replacements. If you need to use a commercial cleaning product, adhere to the above guidelines for safe use, being especially careful to work in well-ventilated areas.​

Above all, notify your physician if you should develop any troubling symptoms, such as confusion, excessive fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, or anything out of the ordinary for your “typical” migraines.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kocsis AB. The Complete Guide To Eco-Friendly House Cleaning Everything You Need To Know Explained Simply. Ocala, FL: Atlantic Publishing Group. 2010.

  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Volatile organic compounds' impact on indoor air quality.

  3. Silva-néto RP, Peres MF, Valença MM. Odorant substances that trigger headaches in migraine patients. Cephalalgia. 2014;34(1):14-21. doi:10.1177/0333102413495969

Additional Reading
  • ”An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Organic Gases (Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs).” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.