Reading Cleaning Labels for Toxicity

  • Do Not Buy
    • If the label says Poison, Warning or Danger. Avoid products with these words & you need not read further.
  • Caution means use your common sense.
    • Remember: Federal law does not require all toxic ingredients to be listed.
  • Avoid Products with these words on the label:
    • Toxic or Solvent- in glass cleaners
    • Surfactant- in synthetic detergents
    • Optical Brighteners- in detergents
    • Inert – unnamed on label, but frequently more toxic than active ingredients
    • Synthetic Dye/Fragrance- in room fresheners and scented candles
    • Dispersal Agent
    • Volatile Organic Compounds- (VOC) vapors are toxic at room temperature
  • Avoid Products with these partial wordings on the label
    • Ene or ol- benzene, xylene benzol, toluol
    • Phenol- in pine disinfectants
    • Chlor- in bleaches and disinfectants
    • Naptha- in toilet and carpet cleaners
    • Phth (Phthalates)- in soft flexible plastics, vinyl products, children's toys, polymer clay
    • Perfluoro (pfc, pfoa) - in Teflon, Stainmaster, Scotchgard, Silverstone (persists forever)
  • Avoid Products that relate concerns about:
  • Combustibility, flammability, air quality, open flame, or skin irritation
  • Biodegradability (must say "readily" biodegradable)
  • Antibacterial soaps -- EPA defines them as pesticides. If TRICLOSAN is the active ingredient, it is even more toxic. 

Source: Hollender, Davis, Hollender, Naturally Clean Use of antibacterial soaps contributes to growth of drug resistant bacteria. Source:

Safer Brands & Where to Buy Them

List compiled by Peggy McGrath and Published in her “Healthier Families -- A Guide to Safer Products

  • Seventh Generation:
  • Jewel, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Green Home Experts, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Whole Foods 
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Soap :
  • Bed Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, Green Home Experts, Target
  • Ecover:
  • Whole Foods, Green Home Experts
  • Bon Ami:
  • Jewel, Whole Foods, Target, Lowe’s
  • Earth Friendly Products:
  • Jewel, Bed Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, Green Home Experts
  • Method:
  • Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, Whole Foods (avoid their antibacterial products)
  • Products from recycled paper:
  • Staples, Green Home Experts, Jewel, Whole Foods
  • Diaper alternatives:
  • Green Home Experts, Babies R Us
  • Microfiber cloths:
  • Home Depot, Green Home Experts
  • Kitchen garbage bags – Biodegradable:
  • Green Home Experts
  • Bona Wood floor cleaner:
  • Ace Hardware and more


The Village Greener - Household Cleaning

Beyond Pesticides

Green America

Environmental Working Group

Seventh Generation

Healthy Child Healthy World

Organic Consumers Association

Partnership for Children's Health and the Environment

The National Children's Study

Kids and Chemicals (DVD) with Bill Moyers at - Films for the Humanities & Sciences