Quality Standards for Household Cleaning Products Glossary of Terms

Animal Testing

As per our pre-existing standard at Whole Foods Market®, animal testing is not allowed for individual cleaning supply products.


Ingredients that sequester metal ions to prevent discoloration of household cleaning and personal care products. We do not allow synthetic chelators in any of the tiers because there is environmental data showing that chelators do not readily biodegrade. Chelators include disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA.

Chlorine Bleach

When used in household cleaning products, chlorine (as sodium hypochlorite) is a disinfectant that can be toxic to the environment and also can be of questionable safety for humans. Chlorine bleach is not allowed in any of the tiers.


A class of surfactants that may contain harmful impurities due to the manufacturing process for these ingredients. Ethanolamines are not allowed in the yellow and green tiers. Ethanolamines include DEA-, TEA- and MEA-containing ingredients.

Formaldehyde-Donor Preservatives

Under certain circumstances of formulation and storage, these ingredients have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts. Because there are higher quality preservatives available, we do not allow these ingredients in any of the tiers. Includes diazolidinyl urea, dmdm hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.

Full-Disclosure Ingredient Listing

Is not currently required on cleaning supply products due to current government regulations. In crafting the Quality Standards for Household Cleaning Products, we felt it was critical to require full disclosure ingredient listing so that informed buying decisions can be made. Ingredients must be listed on product labels by April 2012 using INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).

International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI)

This is the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients. INCI is currently required by law on labeling for personal care products. Since INCI nomenclature is customary on personal care labels, and since there is much overlap between the types of ingredients allowed in personal care and cleaning supply products, this is an appropriate nomenclature to also use for cleaning supply labels.

Petroleum-derived Thickeners

Include sodium polyacrylate and carbomer. These viscosity (thickening) agents are petroleum-derived and highly processed, and it is not a clean process to manufacture these ingredients. We will not allow these ingredients in the yellow and green tiers.


Phosphate-containing ingredients are eutrophic agents which can create algal blooms in bodies of water when released into the environment. This decreases oxygen levels in the water, which negatively affects aquatic life. Phosphate-containing ingredients are not allowed in any tier.


The likely source of phthalates in household cleaning products is synthetic fragrance, where phthalates are often found as an undisclosed ingredient. We do not allow phthalates in any tier.


When it comes to preservatives, keep in mind that none are truly benign, since the main purpose of a preservative is to prevent growth of microorganisms (i.e., kill bacteria and mold) in order to keep the product fresh over the course of its shelf-life. However, preservative systems are a necessary component of cleaning products, in particular water-based ones with a neutral pH.


Also known as surface active agents, surfactants are necessary for the lathering, cleaning and degreasing effects of many household cleaning products.

Synthetic Colors

Synthetic colors are not necessary for a cleaning supply product to function, and there is an environmental cost to manufacture them.

Synthetic Fragrance

Only natural essential oils and components of natural essential oils will be allowed as fragrances in our yellow and green tiers. Synthetic fragrances can be highly irritating to sensitive individuals and are also a potential source of questionable sub-ingredients such as phthalates.

Third Party Audit

All of our cleaning supply products undergo a third-party audit to ensure that all ingredients meet our Quality Standards, that all label claims are truthful and not misleading and that they comply with applicable regulations by April 2012.


An antimicrobial compound that does not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance. This ingredient is not allowed in any tier.