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Label Reading 101

Video Guide: How To Find
Ingredients in Cleaning Products

Español: Lectura de Etiquetas 101

Step 1: How to find the ingredients in your cleaning product:

By law, cleaning products sold in California must disclose a list of ingredients both on a website, and on the label. The rules require more disclosure (particularly of fragrance ingredients) on the website than on the label – so the website is where you can find more complete information. Unfortunately, there is no standard for how or where on a website ingredient information must be presented – so it will vary by manufacturer. Furthermore, not all manufacturers make it easy to find this information.

Using SmartLabel:

One central website to find ingredients for lots of brands is the SmartLabel website: http://www.smartlabel.org/products. Cleaning product manufacturers currently participating in Smartlabel include P&G, RB, Clorox, Colgate-Palmolive, and Seventh Generation. The list should continue to grow over time. (Note: Many of these manufacturers also disclose ingredients on their own websites as well.)

Most brands participating in SmartLabel will include a QR code on their physical label which will take you directly to the ingredient listing for that product.

Alternatively, you can go to http://www.smartlabel.org/products where you can search by manufacturer name, brand name or product name to find a product.

  • Once you locate and select your product, SmartLabel will show you a list of ingredients in the product.
  • Clicking on the name of any ingredient will open up more information about that ingredient such as its function in the product (for example: is it a disinfecting chemical, does it provide a scent, etc.) and the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number associated with that ingredient.
  • It may also tell you about potential hazards of the ingredient (for example, if the chemical is included on an authoritative list of chemicals known to cause cancer).

Often “Fragrance” is listed as a single ingredient. Clicking on “Fragrance” should bring up a list of individual fragrance ingredients found in the fragrance. Clicking on the name of any of those ingredients should also link you to more information such as the CAS number.

What’s a CAS number?

The Chemical Abstract Service or CAS number is a unique numerical identifier that has been assigned to each specific chemical. CAS numbers can be useful because some chemicals may have more than one name or synonym. This means different manufacturers may list the same chemical by different names. But the CAS number will be the same – and help ensure that you have identified the chemical you are looking for. For example, the chemical Galaxolide is also referred to as Hexalindanopyran or HHCB – but all these names have the same CAS number: 1222-05-5.

Using Brand Websites:

If the product you want ingredient information for is not listed on SmartLabel, the next best place to start is the brand website.

  • The URL to the brand website should also be printed on the product label.
  • Ingredient information may be available on the webpage specifically for the product – or there may be one centralized page where you can find ingredients for all the products made by the manufacturer.
  • On any manufacturer’s website, a search for “ingredients” should lead you in the right direction.
  • Some brand websites have set up specific disclosure pages just to comply with the regulations. Often these are located near Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). Look for language such as: “CA Ingredient Disclosure” or “CA Cleaning Right to Know Act” to locate these documents, which will include a list of ingredients, their functions and their CAS numbers.

Note: If your product is a local or regional brand not sold in California, then the manufacturer may not disclose ingredients. Similarly, as this is a new law that went into effect in 2020, you will find that some brands are not yet in compliance with disclosure regulations.

  • If you cannot find ingredients for a product, call the 1-800 number on the package, or send an email through the website and ask the manufacturer for a list of ingredients.

Step 2: What to look for once you find your list of ingredients:

The chemicals of concern identified in WVE’s report can be called by several different names, so we have listed the most common synonyms here, as well as their CAS numbers.

Chemical Health Concerns CAS # Common synonyms
Fragrance* Chemicals
Diethyl Phthalate Reproductive Toxicant, Respiratory Toxicant CAS #: 84-66-2 DEP
Ethyl phthalate
Butylphenyl Methylpropional Reproductive Toxicant CAS #: 80-54-6 Lilial
Hexamethylindanopyran Persistent pollutant, Water contaminant, Potential Endocrine Disruptor CAS#: 1222-05-5 Galaxolide
HHCB
Pearlide
Tetramethyl Acetyloctahydronaphthalenes Water contaminants, potential reproductive toxicants CAS #s: Number: 54464-57-2, 68155-67-9, 68155-66-8, 54464-59-4 OTNE
Iso E Super
Ethanone, 1-(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydro-2,3,8,8-tetramethyl-2-naphthalenyl)
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde Potent skin allergen, Banned in EU CAS #:31906-04-4 HICC
Lyral
4-(4-hydroxy-4-methylpentyl)-3-cyclohexene-carboxaldehyde
Non-Fragrance Chemicals
Methylisothiazolinone Potent skin allergen CAS #: 2682-20-4 MI
2-Methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
Methylchloroisothiazolinone Potent skin allergen CAS #: 26172-55-4 MCI
CMIT
5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
Glycol Ethers
2-butoxyethanol Reproductive Toxin CAS #: 111-76-2 Butoxyethanol
EGBE
Butoxydiglycol Reproductive Toxin CAS #:112-34-5 2-(2-butoxyethoxy) ethanol
DEGBE
Ethoxydiglycol Reproductive Toxin CAS #:111-90-0 2-(2-ethoxyethoxy) ethanol
DEGEE

(*Note: Sometimes you need to click on the word “fragrance” first to view the list of individual fragrance ingredients.)

Step 3: Let the manufacturer know what you think

Ingredient disclosure is a very important way for manufacturers to communicate with the people who use their products – and they need feedback from you!

  • Call or email the manufacturer about the ingredients you identified in their products.
  • Ask questions about any information that was vague or unclear.
  • Let them know if you found any ingredients you find unacceptable to be in your products, and ask them to find safer alternatives.
  • You can also let them know how easy or hard it was to locate the ingredient information for their products, and make suggestions on how to improve the navigation.
  • Let us know how manufacturers respond!

For additional studies, resources, and information on chemicals of concern found in cleaning products, view WVE’s report, Beyond the Label: Health Impacts of Harmful Ingredients in Cleaning Products, or our fact sheets.

Additional Resources on Cleaning Products

WVE Reports
Health First: A Cleaning Products Industry Roadmap for Selecting Safer Chemicals
Deep Clean: What the cleaning industry should be doing to protect your health.
Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health
Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products
Household Hazards: Potential Hazards of Home Cleaning Products
Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous to Our Health

Covid-19 Resources
Safe Cleaning Resource and Action Page

Fact Sheets
Cleaning Products and Your Health >>
Galaxolide: Fragrance Found in Cleaning
Products is Contaminating the Great Lakes >>
Asthma and Respiratory Disorders >>
Alternatives to Fragranced Cleaning Products >>
Fragrance: Regulatory Overview & Policy Solutions >>
Institutional Cleaners >>

EXPLORE MORE ISSUES >>

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