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."
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]