The Effects of Household Chemicals on Household Plants

This topic submitted by Amy Hall, John Wood, Chris Kolososki, Matt Howell at 8:27 pm on 10/22/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, December 18, 2002. Section: Cummins

The Effects of Household Chemicals on Household Plants

Amy Hall
John Wood
Chris Kolososki
Matt Howell


When you need to dispose of household cleaning products, how do you do it? Do you use a special hazardous waste disposal service? Chances are that you will just dump everything down the drain. But what if those chemicals escape into the ecosystem, what damage might result? We shall attempt to prove that household chemicals have a negative impact upon the growth and development of plants.

We are growing new plants in eighty cups in the Boyd greenhouse. One-fourth of those plants are recieving ordinary water, while the rest are recieving one of two household cleaning products, diluted in water. Our experiment is not yet completed, but already it has displayed interesting results. The plants that are recieving chemicals appear to growing at a noticibly slower rate than the control plants, and more of them are dying. We hope that this data will help us to prove our hypothesis.


The purpose of our lab is test the effects of two common house-hold chemicals on the development of young plants. Specifically, we will be using glass cleaner and dish soap. We hypothesize that these chemicals will negatively affect plant growth and development, and result in abnormal coloration and smaller size. We also hypothesize that the ammonia in the glass cleaner will have a stronger effect than the dish soap. Through our studies we plan to see how the chemicals affects the plants.

We decided on this project after much thought and group discussion. We all seemed to agree that we wanted to do an experiment involving plants. We wanted to test how something affected plants, but we couldnŪt decide on a factor to test. Eventually we narrowed it down to pollution, which is a major concern of modern day science. We finally chose to test the effects of toxic substance one would find around the home. Initially we chose to do motor oil and drain cleaner, but instead settled for dish soap and glass cleaner. After settling the matter of the ratio of chemical-to-water dosage to give the test groups of plants, we felt that we had a fairly sound experiment.


This study is relevant because many common, potentially hazardous substance such as these are frequently disposed of by pouring them down drains, or even by dumping them directly into the ecosystem, which could allow these chemicals to seep into the water supply that plants depend on. We will try to find if the improper disposal of household chemicals might have a strong negative effect on plant development. We find this research interesting because we are using chemicals that are used everyday and they are disposed of without any consideration to if they might be harmful to nature.

Our project is closely related to the study —The Effects of a Drought on Water Pollution,‚ by Leslie B, Jackie K, Adam G, David S, Peter K, and Matt W, in Nicholson«s section. Both are focused around water pollution, although our project is concerned more about the effects of pollution in water, not what effects pollution in water.
Unfortunately, we were not able to find a large amount of articles that were directly related to our topic. We did find some articles on pollution. We also found some on-line resources concerning the toxic substances contained in household chemicals.

One article we came across, Application of Diluted Chlorine Dioxide to Radish and Lettuce Nurseries Insignificantly Reduced Plant Development (Angel Carrillo, M.Esther Puente, AND Yoav Bashan, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, pp 35, 57ŗ66, 1996.), described an experiment that actually suggested the conclusion that some diluted toxic substances have little or no effect on plants, which is the opposite of our proposal.

Our research relates to the important issue of pollution«s effect on the ecology of our world. By finding out if plants are vulnerable to a common form of pollution, we hope to emphasize the importance of caring for our environment, and the importance of properly dealing with hazardous materials.

Materials and Methods

The following are materials we will use: Styrofoam beverage cups, soil, seeds, Ajax lemon liquid dish soap, ammonia glass cleaner, and water. The experiment will be conducted in the greenhouse adjacent to Boyd Hall.

We decided that it would be best to grow the plants from seeds. We will purchase a large quantity of seeds, and distribute them among 80 Styrofoam cups. 20 of these cups will contain the control group of plants, which will receive 20 ml of ordinary water. 30 total will receive 20 ml of a solution containing water and dish soap. For 15 of these, the solution will be .5 ml of dish soap and 19.5 ml of water. The other 15 will receive 1 ml of dish soap and 19 ml of water. The remaining 30 cups will receive 20 ml of a solution containing water and glass cleaner. For 15 of these, the solution will be .5 ml of glass cleaner and 19.5 ml of water. The other 15 will receive 1 ml of glass cleaner and 19 ml of water.

The plants will be watered three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. Watering will begin when the seeds to sprout from the soil. We plan on running this experiment beginning the week of 10-3, and through 12-2. We will collect data about the development of the plants each time we water them. For each of the substances the plants recieve we will record the number of plants, the color of the plants, and the length of the leaves on the plants. The data will be placed on a data sheet, and we will compare the data from session to session, to see if any patterns emerge relative to the substances and the dosages given. We feel that we can get an accurate reading of how the plants were developmentally effected in this time span.

Our experimental design was orginally fairly different from its present state, and it has been modified significantly to make it more realistic and statistically sound. Originally, we were only going to do about 20 groups of plants, instead of 80.

We will include the class by having them discuss the possible effects that harmful chemicals in these household cleaners could have on the plants. We will also bring them out to the greenhouse to show them our plants, which would be unlabeled. The class will examine the plants, looking for the same specifications as we do, including number, size, and color. Then the class will have to guess which plants have been watered with what.

Application of Diluted Chlorine Dioxide to Radish and Lettuce Nurseries Insignificantly Reduced Plant Development
(Angel Carrillo, M.Esther Puente, AND Yoav Bashan, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, pp 35, 57ŗ66, 1996.)

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