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Which Cleaning Products Pass the Sensitivity Test? New Database Tells

  [ 8 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • October 17, 2012

Which Cleaning Products Pass the Sensitivity Test? New Database TellsEven products advertised as 'green' or 'natural' or 'safe' use general descriptors on their labels like preservative, color, fragrance, or solvent. What do these words mean? The Environmental Working Group's new Guide to Healthy Cleaning is challenging the status quo.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group has been asked thousands of questions regarding potentially toxic components of cleaning products, reports EWG Senior Scientist Rebecca Sutton, PhD. The EWG is well known for its highly detailed Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (, which offers free detailed data on & ratings of the components of some 75,000 cosmetic and personal care products.

Now the EWG has created a similar, easy to search source of data on more than 2,000 cleaning products – a Guide to Healthy Cleaning ( It grades each product, from 'A' to 'F', and provides info and ratings on laundry detergents, cleansers, dish soaps, furniture and floor care products, even air fresheners, and much more.

The big problem in developing this guide – and one the EWG is actively working with interested manufacturers to address – is labeling that uses essentially meaningless generic words rather than chemical names. [Our own supposedly eco-friendly laundry liquid got a grade of ‘F’ partly for “non-specific ingredients” on the label.]

Following is an excerpt from EWG President Ken Cook’s message to the cleaning industry:


CLEANING INDUSTRY: Simple Steps to Improve Your Grades

"Since we released the new online EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning, with ratings of more than 2,000 different products, many consumers and several companies have asked us why some products get low grades. The answer is different for every product. Our grading system is based on these factors:

• Hazardous ingredients that pose threats to human health

• Little or no specific ingredient information on the label

• Contains ingredients restricted in some states and the European Union

• Products that release volatile chemicals.

Our grading system emphasizes full disclosure of contents right on the label.

We believe consumers should be able to read product ingredients when they are out shopping. They shouldn't have to spend time on the Internet or, worse, call the company.

Some products, including those marketed as 'green' or 'natural' or 'safe' scored poorly because their labels use only generic descriptions such as preservatives, color, fragrance or solvent. What do those terms mean? They indicate the use of any one of numerous possible ingredients, but we don't know exactly which ones. Nobody can say without a detailed list of ingredients.”…. Read more here

By providing your email address & zip code at, you can receive email updates, tips, and alerts from EWG regarding either cosmetic or cleaning product components.

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