The Truth About What’s In Your Cleaning Products

The Safest Cleaning Products Shopping List

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You buy cleaning products labeled as “green” or “all natural” because you feel confident that these products are safer for you and the environment. You also closely read the ingredients trying to avoid the nastier stuff.

Unfortunately, neither approach works. Why? Because claims of “green” or “all natural” are simply unregulated marketing terms and because the ingredients are not required to be fully disclosed on the label.

It doesn’t seem right, does it?

Here are the facts that will help explain the truth behind what’s in your cleaning products:

    • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates laundry and cleaning products, air fresheners, and soap.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates personal care products excluding soap.
    • The CPSC and FDA regulations are different. In this article, the focus is on laundry and cleaning products, so the CPSC regulations are relevant.
    • Regulations allow manufacturers a great deal of leeway on the ingredient list; they can list all, none or some of the ingredients.It’s a troubling thought that the ingredients listed are incomplete, isn’t it?
    • For fragrance formulations, if the manufacturer chooses to disclose fragrance as an ingredient, the general term “fragrance” can be used rather than listing the specific chemicals.
    • You may think that purchasing unscented products means a safer product. Unfortunately, many unscented products have fragrances to make the product smell unscented. Fragrances can be any one of 3000+ ingredients – many synthetic, petroleum-based and toxic.Kinda frustrating, right? You go to the trouble of finding an unscented product, but it might still have a scent?
    • Even the material safety data sheets (MSDS) do NOT need to list all product ingredients or list fragrance chemicals.
    • If the manufacturer deems the ingredient to be non-hazardous, then the ingredient does NOT need to be reported on an MSDS.
    • Some of the ingredients may be listed in general terms like “cleaning agents” or “softeners”, so you have no way of knowing what’s in it.Admit it. You’d like better disclosure, so you know what you’re using, right?

So the truth is, for the most part you simply don’t know what’s in your cleaning products. So what should you do?

Your Options for Safe Cleaning Products

If you truly want the safest, non-toxic cleaning products, you should make them yourself. Vinegar, salt, baking soda, lemon and tea tree oil in the right formulas can work amazingly well.

If you are recoiling at the notion of creating your own, you have other options.

Get The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List. You’ll love it.

Pure Living Space compiled the safest cleaning products including all purpose, dishwashing, laundry, bathroom and kitchen cleaners. Simply print and take it with you shopping for the easiest way to find the right products.

Whole Foods has created an Eco-Scale rating system that requires all cleaning product ingredients be disclosed except proprietary fragrance and enzymes. This helps but still falls short of full disclosure. The Green and Yellow ratings mean that the product has no ingredients with “moderate” environmental or safety concerns. The ratings are supported by third party testing which is a good thing.

All products from Green Mission™ and GreenShield Organics have Green ratings while Earth Friendly Products, Ecover, Seventh Generation and Whole Foods Market Brand have a combination of Orange, Yellow and Green ratings so look for the Green and Yellow rated products. Clearly, if you can make your own, it’s better for you but these are good alternatives.

Perhaps starting with one home-created cleaning product would be a good way to ease into it. You could start by using vinegar and water (equal parts) to clean shower mildew or counter tops (except marble).

Then, move on to a great tile and grout cleaner. The ingredients are below. Tape the ingredients to the bottle so when it’s time to replenish, you don’t have to look up the recipe again.

  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Apply and let sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing a bit

The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List

Get The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List.

Three Myths About Indoor Air Busted

Three Indoor Air Myths Busted

Check out these three common beliefs about indoor air quality and get the surprising facts.

#1:  Indoor air is much cleaner than outdoor air.

Sadly, this isn’t true for the vast majority of us in the US. A recent survey found that most people believe their indoor air is cleaner than outdoor air. While it’s hard to believe, indoor air has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air. For the most part, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are to blame. These VOCs come from many sources many of which you simply wouldn’t expect like cleaning products, carpets, perfumes, air fresheners, upholstered furniture, pesticides, pressed wood furniture, paint and more. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.

See a room by room view of air contaminants to understand the sources. Learn more about the five ways to improve your indoor air quality (some are really easy). Understand which cleaning products and paints will create fewer indoor air problems for you. Sign up for The Zen of Pure Living 12 week email series on creating a healthier home the Zen Master’s way.

#2:  Dusting isn’t really that important.

I was actually pretty upset when I discovered that this isn’t true because it’s always been at the bottom of my list. Well, it may be time to pay more attention to dusting especially if you live with young children. Here’s why. Chemical flame retardants escape from many products and settle into household dust. The products with flame retardants include electronic devices (computers, TVs) and anything made with polyurethane foam (sofa cushions, mattresses, pillows, car seats), among many others. To think that all this time my cleaning has been focused on eradicating germs when I probably should have devoted just a bit more time to cleaning up toxic dust.

The flame retardant dust can be inhaled or even ingested mostly by small children who put everything into their mouths. Neither is good. The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and decaBDE are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.” Enough said.

Learn how to reduce the levels of dust without dusting (yes, it’s true, there is a way). And try to dust more often. I’m trying…really.

#3:  Cleaning products labeled as Green or All Natural are healthier and better for the environment.

Unfortunately, Green and All Natural are simply marketing terms, and no regulation exists around the use of these terms. In a 2010 study of consumer products (shampoo, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, laundry detergent, and more), 25 products were evaluated and 11 made some claim of “green” such as “organic”, “non-toxic”, or “natural” on their labeling.

Each of the “green” products emitted at least two VOCs classified as toxic or hazardous and four emitted at least one carcinogen. When the 11 so-called green products were compared to the 14 other products, no statistically significant difference was found between the number of chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous, or the number of carcinogens. Sigh.

Read more about why you cannot rely on the cleaning and laundry product labels regulated by the CPSC. Learn how to find safer, less toxic products.

Source:

Steinemann AC, et al., Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted, Environ Impact Asses Rev (2010), doi:10:1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002.