Are My Cleaning Products Safe?
How do you know if your cleaning product is safe for you, your family, and/or the environment? We all want products that work well, but are the cleaning benefits worth the health risks?
It occurred to me after I wrote the post about neutral cleaners that I should have included more information about product safety and health implications. While we all know that bleach and ammonia stink and can cause us to have respiratory problems, drain cleaners are caustic and can release deadly fumes, what about the rest of our cleaners – even our body soaps and shampoos?
There may be “an app for that,” but I go to a website dedicated to testing and grading products. They even tell you why they received the grade. It may be an “natural” product and pass in every area but one that is a complete and total failure causing it to get a bad grade. Let me show you.
Free Product Testing
Recently I was sent some products free to test. I should have vetted them before I said yes. They were from well-known brands that I had never tried, so I didn’t think much about it. And they were free, so what could I lose? I’ll tell you what I lost, a LONG history of no asthma attacks. A clean home that possibly had faint odors of the last thing I cooked. Instead I had a home that reeked SO bad of scents that I had migraines and suffered allergy and asthma conditions for over a week. Here’s the data on two of the products I opened and used (and eventually sent back!!).
The first thing I opened was the dish soap. It was Lemon Verbena scented. I usually opt for fragrance-free, but it wasn’t an option and I use lemon verbena essential oils with no problems. The brand was Mrs. Meyer’s. While the scent was pretty, it was strong. Furthermore, anything that was plastic retained the smell. Want a little lemon verbena soap smell with your milk? No? What about your water or smoothie? Surely it’s ok to infuse that smell into your leftovers because the cover of your glass Pyrex storage bowls retained the smell. No? Me either! While the soap worked well, I was getting headaches, a tight chest and couldn’t stomach the smell left on the dishes. I want my food and drinks to smell like they’re supposed to, not like the soap! I packed it up thinking I’d give it away.
Days later after an EPIC fail of the product I’ll describe next, I checked the product out. This is from the Mrs. Meyer’s Site. First the description of the product:
I’ll agree that grease did disappear. It did a GREAT job cleaning my dishes. But the SMELL! But let’s dig a little deeper into the ingredients:
Looking at their description you’d think this product was safe. Let’s go check it at www.ewg.org:
Woa! The company website said 97%, doesn’t that mean safe? If you haven’t heard this before, memorize it: THERE IS NO LEGAL OR GOVERNMENTAL STANDARD FOR THE WORD “NATURAL.” Belladonna is natural, it comes from the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and more but you wouldn’t pick it and rub it on your skin nor would you wouldn’t ingest it. It is deadly. Both the leaves and the berries are extremely toxic. So NEVER think natural means it’s good for you.
So let’s look at the list of ingredients a little more closely. At first glance you are led to believe that the sodium laurel sulfate in this product is natural – implying it is safe – and not the same stuff that we all know we should avoid. But, alas, it’s not. It rates a C. It’s bad for our skin and the environment. So, if you use this product, WEAR GLOVES.
What’s this PEG-5 Cocoate?
Ewe. Asthma, respiratory, skin allergies, developmental & reproductive toxicity, cancer and environmental concerns? I’ll pass.
What about this Methylisothiazolinone? Looks safe according to their description, “safe and effective product preservative.”
What about Polysorbate-20?
Well, at least they didn’t pretend in their description that this was safe and natural, with the implication that it’s good for you.
We’ll check one more, Benzisothiazolinone:
I think you get the picture. I don’t want this stuff in my house. Do you want it in yours? Do you want it around your children? Your pets?
Another thing I like about this site is that they give you options of safer products. I don’t know if you saw it in the initial rating picture. There was a link for better options. When I clicked on it, I got this:
Notice they have rated 238 products. They will list them grouped by grade first (A,B,C…) then alphabetically. I suggest before buying you also check readers’ reviews on a site like Amazon for effectiveness. There’s no use buying an A rated product if it doesn’t work. I find that people will be pretty honest on Amazon, even if they didn’t buy it there.
We have 26 products in the A rating to choose from. There are also products that they have not tested. I looked for a couple brands and couldn’t find them. Since they are a non-profit, I don’t know if sending them a donation with a request would get your favorite product tested. In any case, it’s worth the donation to keep a site like this one informing us on the truth of products.
Where do I start with this one? Again, I wasn’t given an option for a fragrance-free. I chose Ginger-Mango, both scents that I can normally handle in essential oils. The brand was Method. Here’s the information on the manufacturer’s website:
When I tried to read the ingredients listing on their site, you could see the ingredients, but to get to the descriptions and safety concerns, that was more difficult. I’m sure they are banking on you not looking that deep. Had I been able to read even their descriptions, I would have never brought the product in my home.
I SO wish I had checked this one out. Here’s the report:
I wish I could show you the entire report. Just click on the picture if you want to see it. This product was SO bad that I had to evacuate my house for the rest of the day! I did go into a full-blown asthma attack with this one. I had a sore throat, migraines and tightness of my chest for over a week. And I can’t get the smell out of my clothes, even with repeated washings. I tried washing them with my old detergent 3 times, even soaking them in vinegar water overnight. Yet the stench remained.
I finally reached out to the company. When they wrote back they suggest soaking in vinegar again, but following with a baking soda rinse. My clothes were already showing signs of pilling and fraying from the repeated washings and soakings. That was the last thing I wanted to do, but I need to do it. The bad thing was I had washed my dresses and nicer clothes first. I smelled them, did a second rinse with vinegar and thought they were ok. So I proceeded to a second load with my sheets and a blanket. I had already poured in the soap for the third load when I realized how bad the first load was after drying it. I immediately tried to fill, then empty the washer, but the damage was done, it was in the third load, too. The third load was my everyday clothes. By now my entire house reeked from the smell, a smell that would linger for a week in the house, even using ventilation to get it out.
If you don’t go look at the long list of ingredients and the poor ratings, at least look at this one:
Do you really want that in your house? Near you? Your Children? Your grandchildren? Your pets?
There are some out there that don’t have the allergic reactions that I have to scents or the chemicals. Some parts of me say, be thankful, but on the other hand I’m thankful that my body DOES react to these bad products so I don’t even have them in my house. My daughter doesn’t have them in her house, either, thankfully.
The rest of my “Freebies” package
The rest of my freebies package was not even opened. I returned the entire shipment. I didn’t even want it in my house. And I surely didn’t want to pass any of it along to anybody I knew.
While I am concerned about our environment – and I truly am – I am more concerned about the developing bodies, respiratory systems, neurological system and brains of our children. I am concerned about the elderly who have weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to respiratory problems. I’m concerned about our pets who are so tiny in comparison to us, making the products all the more potent and dangerous. They cannot even tell us they hurt. And I’m also concerned about people like me who react so badly to these chemicals. Some people are even worse. I work to build my immune system. I know natural things to do to combat these things, so I don’t end up in the hospital anymore. But there are people who can DIE from acute respiratory distress (I know one lady who did die from an asthma related reaction). For you and all the people I mentioned I’m begging you to stop using these products.
How to Check Your Favorite Products
The site I was using for the analysis pictures above was www.ewg.org. It’s a little tricky getting to the part of the site where you can type in the product names. Then you get what looks like a blank page. The analysis is actually below the line of site, at least on my widescreen computer. Here are some direct links that may help you:
The consumer products division: http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides#.WW0OXYhuL4Y
Ratings for cleaning products: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
Ratings for over 80,000 cosmetics: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep
Ratings for Sunscreens: http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/
Foodscore Ratings: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores
The Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in foods: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
There are lots more. The first link will have links to other pages in their site, some of which I listed.
And if you want to donate to their worthy cause, here’s that link: http://www.ewg.org/support-our-work/ways-to-donate
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Happy healthy cleaning!