November 17th, 2011

Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?

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Not so green cleaning supplies

This information in this post was provided by Women’s Voices for the Earth and Healthy Child Healthy World. Today they co-released a report about hidden chemicals in your cleaners.

Cleaning product companies aren’t required to tell us the chemicals they use in their products, and what they’re keeping secret from you could be hazardous to your health. Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) commissioned an independent lab to test 20 popular cleaning products for hidden toxic chemicals from five top companies: Clorox, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson and Son, and Sunshine Makers (Simple Green). Products tested included all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectant sprays, and furniture polish.

What WVE found:

Simple Green not so green

Simple Green not so green

Hidden toxic chemicals were found in ALL products tested. They included carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, and allergens.

  • Tide Free & Gentle, a detergent marketed to and used by moms for infants’ laundry, contained 1,4-dioxane, a known cancer-causing chemical, as did Bounce Free & Sensitive.
  • 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.
  • Glade Touch Odor contained phthalates, linked to reproductive harm, and galaxolide, linked to hormone disruption.
  • Clorox Clean-Up contained chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, both linked to cancer.
  • High levels of allergens appeared in fragranced air fresheners, yet there were no warning labels.  Allergens were also found in products marketed as fragrance-free.
  • None of these chemicals were listed on the product’s label.

Consumers deserve to know what chemicals they are being exposed to, so that they can easily avoid products that may cause allergic reactions or serious long-term health impacts like cancer, birth defects, or pregnancy complications. WVE is calling on Congress to pass new federal legislation that requires cleaning product manufacturers to disclose all the ingredients they use in their products directly on the product label.

Cleaning Products Right to Know Act has been introduced in Congress and will require household cleaning products to bear a label including a full list of product ingredients. This is the first step in pressuring companies to creating safer cleaning products. Go to to ask your legislators to support the Cleaning Products Right to Know Act!

What You Can Do in the Meantime:

  • Make your own cleaning products! Until we know what’s in the products we buy off the shelf, we can mix our own with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. Visit for recipes and tips.
  • If you are concerned about a cleaning product that you currently use (and like), call the company’s toll-free number and inquire about the problem ingredients discussed in this report.  Ask the manufacturer to disclose all of their fragrance ingredients and any contaminants, and ask them to remove any phthalates, musks and toxic contaminants from their products.

Do you make your own cleaning products?

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27 Responses to “Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?”

  1. I use vinegar for most of my cleaning but I am going to check out the website you recommended for some other cleaning product recipes. I think the Mrs. Meyer’s I use is okay. But the Febreze I sprayed last night is not. I have a stash of cleaning products in the basement that have not been used in a long time but I am not sure how to dispose of them.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Lori! Interesting that even a “green” product is on the hit list. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually trust the products we buy in the store? This is why we need the Safe Chemicals Act!

  3. Marsha-most cities and towns have a toxic waste site where you can bring your hazardous cleaning supplies and they will be disposed of properly (we hope!). There are also usually days that cities and towns will collect toxic waste. I would check in with your local department of public works. is also a great site. Just plug in your zip code and what you want to recycle and the site will let you know where the closest facility is located.

  4. Hi Micaela-this is exactly why we need the Safe Chemicals Act! Pretty scary that a so-called “green” product had so many toxins. There needs to be regulation. Thanks for all your hard work on this.

  5. I use vinegar, water, lemon and baking soda! that’s all! Do not buy cleaning products anymore.

  6. Hi Stephanie-it really is simple to make your own cleaning products. That’s the only way you will know what is going into them! Your suggestions of vinegar, water, lemon and baking soda are perfect.

  7. Thanks for this, Lori. Sad, isn’t it? So many people are unknowingly spreading nasty chemicals all over their homes, and they probably believe that these products are safe! This is so unacceptable.

  8. Yikes!! This is scary. I am guilty of having the cheap shelf cleaning products. As of now I am selling all my stuff to go travel but when I get back I will make sure that I replenish with these eco-friendly products. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Very good post! I have recommended for years that chemicals be investigated before using them. Just as important though, the directions for proper use need to be read and followed. Most cleaning chemicals are not used properly, thus making them ineffective and dangerous. I would also caution against making your own cleaners as there are dangers in amature chemistry too. Best be is always try water first and experiment with procedures. It’s surprising how effective water can be, if used properly.

  10. Hi Brent-It’s amazing how much water can do! The cleaning supplies I usually use to make my own cleaners are vinegar, baking soda, water, castille soap and a few essential oils. They are all pretty safe. The vinegar and baking soda fizz a little when mixed together, but other than that there’s really not a risk of explosion :)

  11. Hi Meg! So nice to hear from you. I didn’t realize you were selling all your belongings. When you come back try making your own cleaning products-it’s the least expensive way to go! Can’t wait to hear about your adventure.

  12. Hi Andrea-it really incredible that the marketing of these products (using words like ‘natural’ and ‘dye-free’ ) leads people to believe that the products are safe. There needs to be regulation surrounding the labeling and what can get on the shelves. We, as consumers, have a right to know.

  13. I live in Asia and I’m quite sure the problem is the same here, if not worse. The awareness about toxic chemicals in everything is much lower in this part of the world, though thankfully that’s slowly changing. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve to look at the recipes on how to replace the cleaning products in my home. Cheers!

  14. So nice to hear from you! It’s time these companies were held accountable for what goes into their products-in the US and around the world. I hopefully have a few recipes coming soon. I use vinegar for EVERYTHING (except granite and marble).

  15. […] Livin for a while you’ll remember that Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) released a report , Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?, which revealed high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane hiding out in Tide® and […]

  16. […] friends at Women’s Voices for the Earth are once again releasing an important report today, Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public […]

  17. LOVE this post. You are amazing; such great info Lori. Miss you and hope you are well.

  18. Thanks so much Amie. Miss you too!

  19. […] An unexpected number of toxic chemicals can be found right under your kitchen sink. Looking at the ingredient list is a good place to start when determining whether or not a cleaning product is safe. It’s important to know that cleaning product manufacturers aren’t required to tell us what they’re using in their products and many of these ingredients could be hazardous to your health. […]

  20. […] the report released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? The same report that sparked my Tide Petition asking Tide to remove a cancer causing […]

  21. […] recently took out a contaminant linked to cancer due to public pressure and leadership from blogger Lori Alper. Pantene Pro-V uses toxic chemicals in their products including chemicals to help create […]

  22. […] Free & Gentle® isn’t so gentle. A report recently released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in the detergent. 1,4-dioxane […]

  23. […] about products we use to keep our home clean. A report released by Women’s Voices for Earth, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products? found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane in Tide Free & Gentle®.  Please […]

  24. […] Replace toxic cleaning products with natural ones. Making your own cleaning products is the way to go if you have the time. I also have a favorite cleaning products that I like to suggest as alternatives to conventional cleaning supplies. […]

  25. […] Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals […]

  26. The more I read labels the more I realize that the most effective way to a reliable green cleaning product is to make my own. There are a few really good brands, but DIY comes up cheaper.

  27. […] Tide Free & Gentle®," Alper said. "Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) released a report, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?, which revealed high levels of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane hiding out in Tide® and […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

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