Testing Reveals Secret Toxic Chemicals in Brand-name Household Cleaners

Guest Post by Cassidy Randall, Women’s Voices for the Earth

Have you ever wondered why, when you look at the back of your favorite laundry detergent or all-purpose cleaner, you only find a few ingredients on the label? That’s because cleaning product companies are legally allowed to keep chemicals a secret from you, even the toxic ones—and they do.

At Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), we believe you have a right to know what chemicals you’re being exposed to when you clean your home, which is why we tested 20 top brand-name cleaners for undercover ingredients. Guess what? We found secret toxic chemicals in every product we tested.

Here’s the dirt:

  • Tide Free & Gentle® and Bounce Free & Sensitive® contained 1,4-dioxane, a known cancer-causing chemical. These products are marketed to moms for their infants’ laundry!
  • Simple Green Naturals® also contained 1,4-dioxane as well as phthalates, linked to reproductive harm. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner® contained toluene, linked to pregnancy complications. Simple Green advertises their products as “non-toxic,” by the way.
  • Glade Tough Odor Solutions® contained phthalates, even though the company said they removed them a couple years ago, and galaxolide, linked to hormone disruption.
  • Clorox Clean-Up® contained chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, both linked to cancer. Clorox advertises that you should use this cleaner on multiple surfaces throughout the day – so you can get an even bigger dose of these chemicals!
  • High levels of allergens appeared in fragranced air fresheners, but there were no warning labels. Allergens were also found in products marketed as “fragrance-free.”
  • None of these chemicals are listed on the product’s label, so you have no way of knowing they’re in there, let alone avoiding them.

You’ll be shocked at what else we found. Read the report Dirty Secrets to find out.

Here’s the good news. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act has been introduced in Congress and will require companies to list all ingredients on the product label – right where they should be, so that you can make your own decisions about which chemicals you want to avoid. Ask your Representative to support this bill so that companies can’t keep toxic chemicals a secret from you!

So, you’re asking, what am I supposed to use to clean my home? Until you know what’s in products you buy off the shelf, you can mix your own cleaners with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. This is a non-toxic, economical (and fun!) way to make sure you’re not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals hiding out in cleaners.

But the bottom line is that companies should be telling you what’s in their products, and cleaning products shouldn’t contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. Join me in demanding no more dirty secrets from cleaning product companies.

Women's Voices for the Earth


WVE seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate environmental pollutants that cause health problems for women, their families, and communities. To this end, WVE creates opportunities for women to influence environmental decision-making.


Looking for safe cleaning supplies?
  1. Please go to http://www.ecostoreusa.com and try our products. If you don’t like them then certainly look at other companies that offer full ingredient disclosure…there are many out there that do not care about only the bottom line but their children first and foremost.

  2. Better Life (available at Whole Foods) puts complete list of ingredients right on the label.  Ingredient list for each of their products is also on their website at http://www.cleanhappens.com     There is even a youtube video of their chemist spraying the cleaner in his mouth.  All safe, all pure, all made in USA and they REALLY work!

  3. We really like Better Life cleaning products too and really appreciate the transparency of the company.  In fact, we were just reading over their ingredients list and were going to talk with them further about what preservative is used.

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