What’s Lurking in Your Laundry Detergent? Reading Common Household Product Labels

What chemicals lurk under your sink?You may think harsh, toxic, and corrosive chemicals are only found in industrial facilities. But many harmful chemicals are found right under your kitchen or bathroom sink. You can find the worst offenders by noting the amount of warnings on their labels, but it is no easy task to learn what is actually in your laundry detergent, all-purpose spray, or synthetic air freshener.

The government does not require companies to label the ingredients in their cleaning products. Trying to discover what chemicals you’re using to clean your clothes, countertops, or toilet bowl requires a lot of research, and often, there’s no way to get a complete list.

Fortunately for consumers, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has researched and tested many common household products and graded them from A to F. It helps consumers decode cleaning product labels so they can make smart choices for their families.

Read That Label!

“Use as directed.” “Rinse off.” “Wear gloves and goggles.” Cleaning product labels are full of warnings and instructions because coming into contact with their chemicals can harm your eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Read and follow these instructions to avoid injury.

In addition to these instructions and warnings, labels often include ample marketing. Here is what EWG has to say about some of the more popular label claims:

  • Biodegradable: Not a regulated label, so you cannot assume a product that claims to be biodegradable is better for you or the environment. Some products may biodegrade into harmful substances, such as nonylphenol ethoxylate.
  • Bleach alternative: Safe, right? Bleach alternative often means the product contains oxygen bleach rather than chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach is still harmful.
  • Natural/Plant-Based/Organic: Like “biodegradable,” these labels are not regulated, so they can mean anything. If something claims to be organic, look for the USDA Organic label. If it’s missing, don’t be fooled. Notable exceptions are companies that back up these claims by disclosing their ingredients.
  • Active ingredient: Active ingredients are typically antimicrobial pesticides that aren’t necessary to get your surfaces clean. Try to avoid them if you can.

Most Conventional Cleaning Products Earn a D or F

Unfortunately, conventional cleaning products get poor marks from EWG for consumer health and safety. Seventy-five percent of laundry detergents, 75 percent of bathroom cleaners, 66 percent of all-purpose sprays, and nearly 80 percent of air fresheners earn a D or F grade from EWG.

Instead, go for products that can back up their all-natural or plant-based claims. Look for the USDA Organic label, the EcoLogo, Green Seal, and Design for the Environment logo. These will point you in the direction of safer products.

For more information on green cleaning products, contact me today!

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

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