Study Finds Common Cleaning Products Fail Safety Testing

Before you wash another load of laundry or scrub a pile of dishes, keep reading. Women’s Voices for the Earth launched a new report called “Deep Clean” in which the non-profit organization graded four major cleaning product manufacturers based on several indicators: their commitment to the safety of their products, disclosure of ingredients found in their products, responsiveness to consumer concerns, the company’s toxic chemical screening process, as well as the company’s willingness to remove chemicals of concern from the formulations.

The report examined the following companies:

SC Johnson & Son (the manufacturers of Pledge, Shout, Windex, Glade, and Scrubbing Bubbles)

The Clorox Company (the manufacturers of Clorox, Pine-Sol, S.O.S., Tilex, Liquid-Plumber, Green Works)

RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser) (the manufacturers of Woolite, Lysol, Finish, AirWick, Old English)

Procter & Gamble (the manufacturers of Tide, Cascade, Dawn, Mr. Clean, Dreft Laundry, Febreze, Gain, Cheer)

The study found that not one of the above four companies are completely transparent about the safety standards of ingredients they include in their products. But, perhaps the most critical finding was that Procter & Gamble received a failing grade of “F” for its lack of product disclosure, insufficient toxic chemical screening process, responsiveness to consumer concerns and use of chemicals of concern.

For me, this finding raises alarm bells about the safety of its laundry detergents: Tide, Gain, Cheer and Dreft Laundry, as well as Febreze air “freshener,” Mr. Clean all-purpose cleaner, Cascade dishwashing detergent and Dawn dish soap.

The study found that SC Johnson & Son and Procter & Gamble still use synthetic musks in their products. These musks are artificial chemicals known to disrupt hormones. This finding calls into question the potential safety of the above-mentioned Procter & Gamble products as well as SC Johnson & Son’s Pledge, Shout, Windex, Glade and Scrubbing Bubbles.

Two of the commonly-used synthetic musks, known as polycyclic musks galaxolide and tonalide, build up in the body and don’t break down in the environment either. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that at least one type of musk was found in the bodies of all of the women who participated in the study and 82 percent of the participants had at least two of the musks found in their breast milk. Another study in the same journal found that women who used more fragranced laundry detergent during pregnancy had significantly higher levels of tonalide in their breast milk.

A newly-published study in the journal Indoor Air found that all 150 dwellings contained measurable amounts of the toxins tested, including tonalide. The scientists concluded that: “The high prevalence and the levels of these compounds, with known or suspected respiratory toxicity, should question regulatory agencies to trigger prevention and mitigation actions.” According to the Environmental Working Group, tonalide is toxic to wildlife and the environment as well.

“Deep Clean” also recommends avoiding the chemicals ammonium quaternary compounds and monoethanolamine. Monoethanolamine, or MEA, as well as diethanolamine or DEA, are added to products to make them sudsy or creamy but these chemicals react to form cancer-causing nitrosamines.

The study presented another issue that I’ve discussed in past blogs but warrants repeating: many companies do not disclose the actual ingredients in the single ingredient “fragrance,” not even to government authorities, because they are protected as trade secrets. But shouldn’t the health of humans and the environment be of greater importance than the company’s right to protect its trade secrets? Absolutely.

For more information about common household products that contain toxic ingredients, check out my book Weekend Wonder Detox.

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Aaron F
Past Member 1 years ago a society...are too "clean" for our own good in the first place.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Thanks, I use Mr. Clean but don't like Cascade.

Barb Hansen
Ba H3 years ago


Angela K.
Angela K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

Vikram S.
Vikram S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Jeri Lovell
Jeri Lovell3 years ago

not surprised, thanks for backing up suspicions with more info

Kitiara Richards
Kitiara Richards3 years ago

We can't use anything anymore because it was never safe. We trusted these people who care about one thing.... MONEY. They don't care for your Health or your Family, they care about your wallet.

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.