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The Dirt on Household Cleaning Products

By Jody Villecco, April 4, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jody Villecco

At Whole Foods Market® we believe consumers should be able make informed decisions about the products they buy. That’s why it’s we think it’s unacceptable that when it comes to household cleaning products, there are no government regulations for listing ingredients on packaging. You read that correctly; full-disclosure labeling is not currently required for cleaning products by the government!

Cleaning StandardsOur Clean Sweep

We believe in full disclosure. As a result, we developed our Eco-Scale™ rating system, meaning we evaluate every ingredient for environmental impact, safety, efficacy, source, labeling and animal testing. Based on audits conducted by a 3rd-party audit agency, the products are rated red, orange, yellow or green on our Eco-Scale™.

On April 22, 2012 – Earth Day last year – our new standards went into effect requiring all of the household cleaning products in our stores to list full ingredients (every single ingredient!) on their packaging and be rated and 3rd-party verified. No one else — retailer, government body or trade association — is requiring full-disclosure ingredient listing to that extent. These are not only the first cleaning-products standards of any retailer, but also the most comprehensive standards of any "green cleaners" standards-setting group, with over 500 ingredients reviewed at this point.

Transparency in the Aisles

We asked our suppliers for complete transparency in their labeling practices, and they delivered. Why did we do this? It’s simple. You deserve to know what's in your cleaning supply products so you can make the best choices about what you use to do your laundry, wash your dishes, mop your floors and more.

We feel it’s important to include this information on actual labels (not just on company websites) so that this information is available to you while you're shopping. We also believe this rating system encourages producers to create better products.

Eco-Scale Infographic

The Down and Dirty

Here’s the nitty-gritty:

  • Ingredients are listed in INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients), which is already commonly used for personal care products.
  • Listing ingredients or ingredient blends as “proprietary” or using a trademarked name without an INCI name is not allowed, except for fragrances and enzymes only. (Note that as part of the audit process, all fragrance and enzyme blends will still be reviewed for acceptability to our standards).
  • Cleaning supply products are made from ingredients that most people are not entirely familiar with. If you have questions about any of these ingredients, some of which are multi-syllabic or may seem very “chemically,” let us know. For each ingredient, we have an explanation of why we allowed the ingredient in the appropriate tier, or why it was a better alternative than other available ingredients.
  • It's important to keep in mind that many conventional products do not contain full disclosure ingredient listings, so it is difficult to compare conventional and natural products head to head.
  • At this point, the majority of our products should contain full disclosure ingredient listings on the package. However, there might be smaller, regional brands that are still undergoing the audit process.

Full disclosure ingredient listing is the norm for food, supplements and personal care products. Hopefully some day the same will be true for household cleaning products.

Does full disclosure on your household cleaning product labels matter to you? Talk about it in the comments below.

Visit www.earthlingmonth.com for more Earth Month inspiration, stories, and events.

While you're there we hope you'll show us what makes you an earthling, or just share a tweet or an Instagram photo tagged with #WFMearthling, and you could win a $150 Whole Foods Market gift card.

 

4 Comments

Comments

A big Fan says ...
Nice job, sounds great, I'm a big beleiver in ecoratings. Who is the 3rd party verifier?
04/04/2013 8:09:34 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@A BIG FAN - We currently use Green Seal to verify the products. You can read more about them at http://www.greenseal.org/.
04/10/2013 10:51:14 AM CDT
Laura says ...
I think this is an important step toward people being able to chose safer products to clean their homes. I have only recently become aware of just how toxic household cleaners and other products (such as fabric softener and air fresheners) can be. Thank you, Whole Foods, for "transparency in the aisle" and for helping us to easily know which products are safer to use. I also appreciate the stand your store is taking against GMO foods. Thank you for not waiting for labeling laws to start labeling foods with GM ingredients in your stores!
04/21/2013 5:52:19 AM CDT
Brooke McDonald says ...
Love Whole Food's commitment to full disclosure. Our cleaning company (http://www.goinggreenmaintenance.com/) also uses green-seal certified products. It makes our clients trust and value what we do more, and rest easy knowing that the job being done is safe, non-toxic, and non-corrosive.
09/27/2013 11:39:54 AM CDT