Cleaning products and air fresheners: emissions and resulting concentrations of glycol ethers and terpenoids

Indoor Air. 2006 Jun;16(3):179-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2005.00414.x.


Experiments were conducted to quantify emissions and concentrations of glycol ethers and terpenoids from cleaning product and air freshener use in a 50-m3 room ventilated at approximately 0.5/h. Five cleaning products were applied full-strength (FS); three were additionally used in dilute solution. FS application of pine-oil cleaner (POC) yielded 1-h concentrations of 10-1300 microg/m3 for individual terpenoids, including alpha-terpinene (90-120), d-limonene (1000-1100), terpinolene (900-1300), and alpha-terpineol (260-700). One-hour concentrations of 2-butoxyethanol and/or d-limonene were 300-6000 microg/m3 after FS use of other products. During FS application including rinsing with sponge and wiping with towels, fractional emissions (mass volatilized/dispensed) of 2-butoxyethanol and d-limonene were 50-100% with towels retained, and approximately 25-50% when towels were removed after cleaning. Lower fractions (2-11%) resulted from dilute use. Fractional emissions of terpenes from FS use of POC were approximately 35-70% with towels retained, and 20-50% with towels removed. During floor cleaning with dilute solution of POC, 7-12% of dispensed terpenes were emitted. Terpene alcohols were emitted at lower fractions: 7-30% (FS, towels retained), 2-9% (FS, towels removed), and 2-5% (dilute). During air-freshener use, d-limonene, dihydromyrcenol, linalool, linalyl acetate, and beta-citronellol) were emitted at 35-180 mg/day over 3 days while air concentrations averaged 30-160 microg/m3.

Practical implications: While effective cleaning can improve the healthfulness of indoor environments, this work shows that use of some consumer cleaning agents can yield high levels of volatile organic compounds, including glycol ethers--which are regulated toxic air contaminants--and terpenes that can react with ozone to form a variety of secondary pollutants including formaldehyde and ultrafine particles. Persons involved in cleaning, especially those who clean occupationally or often, might encounter excessive exposures to these pollutants owing to cleaning product emissions. Mitigation options include screening of product ingredients and increased ventilation during and after cleaning. Certain practices, such as the use of some products in dilute solution vs. full-strength and the prompt removal of cleaning supplies from occupied spaces, can reduce emissions and exposures to 2-butoxyethanol and other volatile constituents. Also, it may be prudent to limit use of products containing ozone-reactive constituents when indoor ozone concentrations are elevated either because of high ambient ozone levels or because of the indoor use of ozone-generating equipment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Detergents
  • Ethers / analysis*
  • Glycols / analysis*
  • Household Products*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Terpenes / analysis*
  • Volatilization


  • Air Pollutants
  • Detergents
  • Ethers
  • Glycols
  • Terpenes
  • Ozone