Dirty Secrets: Do You Know What’s In Your Cleaning Products?

What do you look for in a household cleaner? Consumers generally look for something that works, smells nice, and isn’t going to kill you. But how many people take that last one for granted? A lot of people probably assume that if a product has been approved for sale, that it is also safe.

That’s not the case, according to a new report by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) called Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding In Your Cleaning Products? According to WVE:

Cleaning product companies tell you that to keep your home clean and smelling fresh, you need to rely on an army of cleaning and air care products. Sprays, wipes, powders, liquids and more are sold with the promise of improving your home and your health by removing dirt and germs. More often than not, these products are also infused with fragrance to add a pleasant sensory experience to your everyday chores and to give your home that “clean” and “fresh” smell of lemon or pine forests.

What companies are not telling you is that cleaning products can contain toxic chemicals that may harm your health. Manufacturers often recommend frequent and repeated use of their products, but this also translates to frequent and repeated exposures to potentially harmful chemicals. You may inhale these chemicals by breathing indoor air and some of them can be absorbed through the skin. Long-term exposures to certain chemicals found in household cleaners have been linked to serious health problems like pregnancy complications, breast cancer, birth defects, asthma and allergic reactions.

The study by WVE looked at a wide range of products from major companies like Clorox, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson and Son, and Sunshine Makers (Simple Green). They found reproductive toxins, carcinogens, and allergens that were not listed on the product label.

Continue reading to find out who is hiding what…

Dirty Secrets Testing Results — Clorox, Tide, Bounce, Lysol and more…

The WVE fact sheet on the testing results provides a breakdown of the chemicals that were detected in each of the products and indicates the corresponding health concern.

The products that included carcinogens (cancer risk), include:

  • Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach
  • Tide Original Scent
  • Tide Free & Gentle (Scent Free)
  • Febreze Air Effects Spring & Renewal
  • Simple Green Naturals Multi-Surface Care Lemon Verbana

The products that were flagged as potentially causing pregnancy complications, reproductive harm, hormone disruption or neurodevelopment problems include:

  • Original Pine-Sol
  • Febreze Air Effects Spring & Renewal
  • Glade Tough Odor Solutions w/Oust Refreshing Citrus Air Sanitizer
  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner Non-Toxic Biodegradable
  • Simple Green Naturals Multi-Surface Care Lemon Verbena

The vast majority of the products tested included undeclared allergens that can cause skin rashes, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, chronic dermatitis, breathing difficulties and asthma.  These products include brands such as Clorox, Green Works, Pine-Sol, Tide, Bounce, Febreze, Lysol, Air Wick, Glade, Pledge, Windex, and Simple Green.

The fact that products pretending to be gentle, green or natural contain these types of chemicals and allergens is particularly disturbing. Not only are these companies hiding what is in their products (by not listing the ingredients), but they are also pretending that their products are especially safe.  The only product tested that did not have any unlisted toxic chemicals or allergens is Pledge Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner Fragrance Free Hypoallergenic.

For a full list of the products tested, chemicals found, and related health concerns, see the Dirty Secrets report.

Keep reading to find out what you can do to protect yourself and your family and to help get rid of these hidden chemicals….

What Can You Do?

Start by protecting yourself and your family. You can get some recipes for making homemade cleaning products from Healthy Child, Healthy World or Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Healthy Child, Healthy World also suggests contacted the companies whose cleaning products you use and like and asking them about some of the ingredients you are concerned about. Ask them to disclose all ingredients and ask them to remove dangerous toxins and allergens.

Share this story and the report with your friends and family, so that they can protect themselves and take action.

Finally, let your political representatives know how you feel. You can contact your representative directly via Women’s Voices for the Earth’s website and you can sign the Care2 petition asking Congress to support the Cleaning Products Right to Know Act.

Related stories

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Canadian Government Taking Critical Look at More Chemical Substances

Big-Brand Clothing Found Laced with Toxic Chemicals

Photo credit: All images provided by Women's Voices for the Earth

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Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R.3 years ago

Thanks for this good information.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago


Janet S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Note: Nellie's washing soda was always in a cardboard box and was the safest product for laundry. Now, Nellie's comes in a "HE" labelled heavy plastic bag, and includes other chemicals to make it qualify for the new front load washers that need "HE" laundry detergents. Arrgghh! Even Nellie!

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon4 years ago

I've used vinegar as long as I've been keeping house, as my mother and grandmother did before me, and a simple biodegradable soap...so no problems here.

Lilithe Magdalene

Vinegar, peroxide and bon ami are my cleaning agents, and scent free biodegradable dish soap and laundry soap from Seventh Generation. I have chemical sensitivities, therefore rid myself of this horrible stuff they advertise as "safe" a loooong time ago. They should be illegal.

William K.
William K.4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Sue H.
Sue H.4 years ago

Although I knew some of this, I thought that by law, companies Had to List All Ingredients....
silly me. I knew about some of the Simple Green products awhile ago, but not about
the Tide "Free and Clear". How do they get away with being deceptive?? :(

Anne H.
Anne H.4 years ago

Yes I do know what is in these nasty concoctions which is why I stopped using them years ago. I also edit my food labels. We need to encourage our government to hold corporations to the truth in all labelling. I do so via writing the FDA and by supporting Center for Science in the Public Interest.