Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Are Your Cleaning Products Transparent?

We believe in full disclosure. That’s why we are now requiring all cleaning products sold in our stores to list every single ingredient on the label by April 2012. So, if you’ve noticed your favorite laundry soap now has a longer list of ingredients – it may not be a reformulation – it’s most likely because we’re asking our suppliers for complete transparency in their labeling practices. When it comes to cleaning products, there are no government regulations for listing ingredients on packaging. This doesn’t sit well with us. As a result, we developed our Whole Foods Market Eco-Scale™ rating system to help you make the best choices about the cleaning products you use to do laundry, wash dishes, mop floors and more! By Earth Day 2012 – April 22nd – all of the household cleaning products in our stores will list full ingredients on their packaging and be rated and third-party verified based on safety and environmental impact.

With the launch of our new standards, Whole Foods Market is the first to require full disclosure ingredient listing on household cleaning products. No one else — retailer, government body or trade association — is requiring full disclosure ingredient listing to the extent that we are. Here’s a little bit of background: Many people are surprised to hear that full disclosure labeling is not currently required for cleaning products by the government. Almost three out of four adults (73%) falsely believe that the government requires household cleaning products to provide a list of ingredients on the label, according to a Whole Foods Market survey conducted online in April among 2,483 US adults aged 18 and over. Another two-thirds (64%) believe that many household cleaning brands opt to disclose the full list of ingredients on packaging, when, in fact, few provide this information on product labels. Why is this important? One word: Transparency. You deserve to know what's in your cleaning supply products. How can you make good choices if you don't know what you're using to clean your homes on a daily basis? 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. Here’s the nitty-gritty on what you can expect from products sold in our stores:
  • Ingredients must be listed on all products on our shelf by next Earth Day (April 22, 2012). This gives our suppliers time to make the required changes to their labels.
  • Ingredients will be 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).
What does all that mean to you? Well, you may start to see some unfamiliar ingredients listed on your cleaning products. The fact is that cleaning supply products are made from ingredients that most people may not be entirely familiar with. I always say that learning about cleaning supply ingredients is like learning a new language.  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 will be difficult to compare conventional and natural products head to head. Full disclosure ingredient listing is the norm for food, supplements and personal care products. We are hoping that some day the same will be true for household cleaning products. If you’ve got questions about the potentially new ingredients you might be seeing in your favorite household cleaning products, contact us for further information. What do you think? Should ingredient listings on household cleaning products be regulated like the rest? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.