Fast Company

Clorox Reveals Chemicals You've Been Dumping on Your Floors, Counters, Commodes

Cleaning-product companies are notorious for keeping a tight lid on their ingredients. There is no current regulatory requirement that cleaning companies disclose a full list of ingredients, after all, and who wants to stir up consumer worries by revealing the use of potentially toxic compounds? Apparently, Clorox does. In 2009, the company began listing the active ingredients in all of its products, and this week, Clorox revealed all of its preservatives, dyes, and fragrances. Is this corporate transparency at its finest or just a greenwashing stunt?

"The Ingredients Inside program started with Greenworks [Clorox's natural brand] in 2008. When we launched Greenworks, we understood there to be consumer confusion about what natural really meant, so went right out of the gate including ingredients," explains Aileen Zerrudo, Director of Corporate Communications at Clorox. "It made sense as people were asking about our products to apply the same principle to the rest of our cleaning and disinfecting products."

Clorox products

 

It's not as if Clorox is revealing its ingredients because it has nothing to hide. In fact, some of its products contain potentially toxic compounds. SOS Steel Wool Soap Pads, for example, contain sodium nitrite, a compound that is suspected to cause cardiovascular and blood toxicity, as well as titanium dioxide, which is suspected of causing cancer, according to GoodGuide.

Clorox doesn't exactly highlight the toxic nature of these ingredients on its website. Sodium nitrite is described as "a corrosion inhibitor added to aerosol products to protect the can from rusting, or to detergents to protect metal components of washing machines and automatic dishwashers from rusting," while titanium dioxide is a "an inorganic pigment, which can be added to plastic resins to make them opaque and to cleaning products to give them a rich, creamy appearance." More detailed information is available, however, on the company's Material Safety Data Sheets, which are linked to on all product pages.

And now that Clorox has revealed its ingredients, the pressure is on for other cleaning product companies to do the same. By becoming more transparent, Clorox is allowing sites like GoodGuide, which evaluates product ingredients in a way that non-scientists can understand, to provide more accurate information--and that means consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions.

["Intensity" image Flickr user mollystevens]

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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4 Comments

  • Nancy Michelli

    Please don't promote or sanction the "Good Guide" They rate products that are quite toxic as safe.  What good is it that Clorox reveals the chemicals?  There is a long list of chemicals in fragrance at their website.  But the average consumer (see other posts) don't care if they are there or not, leaving the rest of us exposed due to their poor choices.  Hopefully the TSCA 2011 will pass and they will be forced to remove them.  MSDS are useless.  The company themsleves chooses what to list and what not to list.  Sort of like the fox guarding the hen house.

  • Terra Wellington

    I think this is great! A lot of these companies have been afraid to release MSDS in the past. But now, most of these companies have traditional and green lines, and the public pressure and competition is such that they really need to fully disclose. Kudos to Clorox for being honest.

    It is better for all of us to know what we are buying.

    As a positive note -- Full transparency, in the end, will stimulate innovation and product improvements ... because there is so much emphasis right now on making less-toxic products.

  • P Dahlin

    Hazard does not equal risk. This is the downside of Good Guide and others that focus on hazard. While hazard elimination is desirable and should be an ultimate goal in my opinion, there are still some chemicals that can be toxic in higher levels that are essential in smaller quantities. Bottom line, unless you are eating or inhaling steel wool pads, you should be fine. And if you absolutely want a metal wool cleaning pad that doesn't rust and doesn't have corrosion inhibitors, pay some more and get some bronze wool.

  • molten_tofu

    Dude there is sodium nitrite in your bacon and titanium dioxide in your deodarant - couldn't care less if they are in bleach products.