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Dirty Secrets

What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?


Click here to see what’s hiding in brand-name cleaners.

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.

In this report, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) commissioned an independent laboratory to test twenty 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. While previous reports by WVE (Household Hazards, 2007 and Disinfectant Overkill, 2009) examined the hazards of harmful chemicals whose presence had been disclosed by manufacturers, this report exposes toxic chemicals that companies are keeping secret from consumers.

What WVE Found

  • Some products contained reproductive toxins such as toluene and phthalates, carcinogens like 1,4-dioxane and chloroform, and a hormone disrupting synthetic musk.
  • Several known allergens were also detected in these products, the highest levels of which appeared in fragranced air fresheners.
  • Allergens were found in products marketed as fragrance-free.
  • None of these chemicals were listed on the product’s label.

This analysis represents a snapshot of the hidden chemicals found in popular cleaning products from five leading manufacturers. The results demonstrate that consumers do not have all of the ingredient information they need to select safe cleaning products. 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 infertility.

This report underscores the need for Congress to pass federal legislation that requires cleaning product manufacturers to disclose all the ingredients they use in their products directly on the product label.

Download the full report

See what’s hiding in brand-name cleaners

Ask your representative to support the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act!
This bill would require companies to list all ingredients on the product label