Photo: Are your home cleaners hiding something?

Do your home cleaners list ingredients? Do you value transparency? (Credit: Billaday via Flickr)

Grab a bottle of one of your home cleaners. Notice anything missing?

Hint: How do you know what's in the stuff?

In Canada, cosmetics and food are the only consumer products that require ingredient lists. Manufacturers of home cleaning products are not legally required to disclose all ingredients (and hazards)!

So why should we ask manufacturers to fully disclose?

For answers, I quizzed Alicia Sokolowski, the founder of Vancouver's AspenClean. (When she couldn't find a cleaning company that was safe and environmentally responsible, she took DIY to a new level!)

Are conventional cleaners harmful to our health?

Yes! Cleaning products aren't required to disclose ingredients. Phthalates, chlorine bleach, ammonia, sodium laureth sulphate, ethoxylated alcohols and fragrance are all commonly found in household cleaners and linked to a range of health issues including asthma, cancer, allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities. Repeated exposure to small amounts of these chemicals can cause long-term health problems. Kids are especially vulnerable.

Aspen Clean employees say they feel better cleaning with the green alternatives. One of our first employees had worked in the cleaning industry for years. She had asthma and was using her inhaler daily. After a few weeks of working for us she reduced her inhaler use to less than once a month.

Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

Why do so many brands use toxic ingredients?

It's cheaper and therefore more profitable. And there is no law that requires companies to submit their products for safety testing or federal approval. Combined with a lack of awareness on the consumer's part due to insufficient labeling laws and the advertising power of major brands, consumers are at a disadvantage.

How do green cleaning products differ from many conventional brands?

Truly green products contain no ingredients that could be harmful to your health or the environment. They're readily biodegradable—in less than 28 days—and contain no phosphates or phthalates. And, they use plant-based, not petroleum-based ingredients.

How can people choose safer home cleaners?

Choose products that voluntarily disclose all of their ingredients on the label and carry an eco-label. AspenClean products have the Ecocert seal of approval. It's the most widely used European organization certifying safe cosmetics and "green" cleaning products.

Will you switch to cleaners that list their ingredients?

Comment on this blog for a chance to win a Whole House Cleaning Kit from Aspen Clean! (Draw date May 7, 2012)

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

April 17, 2012

Read more

Post a comment


Aug 29, 2016
9:35 AM

I have been using Aspen Clean products for a year now. I like the fact that they do not contain any harsh products.

Dec 07, 2012
8:28 AM

I totally agree with this article,I spend my life on this site.

May 12, 2012
4:42 PM

I had no idea that conventional cleaners weren't obliged to list their ingredients, from now on I'll be reading the labels. Thanks for the info! :-)

Apr 29, 2012
4:49 PM

I've switched to green cleaners a while ago. I love them! They work perfectly well, and are much better for us and for the environment.

Apr 25, 2012
10:56 PM

I find that vinegar and baking soda do the trick for almost all our cleaning jobs. My question is, how do you convince others? (I'm lookin' at you, mother-in-law!)

Apr 23, 2012
7:19 PM

I have a couple of green cleaners, and have used, in the past, vinegar and baking soda to clean my bathroom and such. Whenever I'm at my mum's and she's been cleaning, I find the scents of the toxic products nauseating and noxious. I'm currently using a popular brand-name glass cleaner for my windows and mirrors and I feel like I'm inhaling fumes when I spray it. I have to get some more green cleaners. It's so important that we recognize that despite the fact that these better quality cleaners, while they may cost a bit more, our health is well worth that cost.

Apr 22, 2012
9:32 PM

I've been trying to find out more about safer cleaning products for home AND body for a while. It would be nice to have more than one recommendation (I've not heard of Aspen Clean before)… I'm sure there are others. By recommending several, the potential for bias is reduced.

Apr 19, 2012
7:36 PM

I make a point of using good cleaners or natural housegold products whenever possible, especially areas that my young children's skin/hands/mouth touches

Apr 18, 2012
2:58 PM

I try to use natural cleaners whenever possible. I still haven't found a good one with a disinfectant though.

Apr 18, 2012
11:48 AM

I have never tried Aspen Clean products before. I usually just make my own cleaning products, but it is good to know that there are companies out there that actually care!

Apr 18, 2012
8:29 AM

Wow! I always wondered why there was no labeling on household cleaning products? The way out of this isn't easy, comments heard "the green products don't clean as well" (disagree), "too expensive" (disagree), "difficult to find" (agree). As a "point's" collector I am always looking for bargains and non of the major cards have environmentally sustainable cleaning products available. :( It can get confusing in the shops as well because a lot of companies claim to be enviro friendly when they are actually not, how can one be partially green? Your either 100% or your not!

Apr 17, 2012
6:53 PM

I hate that citizens have been brainwashed to think that clean means strong smells such as pine, lemon, or lavender. Clean has NO smell. We are slowly being over-fragranced and over-sanitzed to death. literally. I began cleaning using a vinegar mixture (great for keeping ants away in the spring, too!) my grandma used long ago because I want our home to be safe for 'new additions' soon to be and to also be more friendly to the flora and fauna.

Apr 17, 2012
2:43 PM

I Want to know that what I'm using to clean is completely safe. I think as consumers we have the right to know what we are buying.

Apr 17, 2012
12:40 PM

Thanks for this info — I'm going home and getting rid of my "conventional" household cleaners!

Apr 17, 2012
10:51 AM

We must have laws that require labelling of toxic chemicals for all products.

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »