Household cleaners


Ethical shopping guide to household cleaners, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to household cleaners, from Ethical Consumer


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This product guide is part of a Special Report on Cleaning Products.  See what's in the rest of the report.

 

This product guide to Household Cleaners includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 43 popular household cleaners
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • A look at what nasty ingredients lurk within our household cleaning products
  • Microfibre cloths

 

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Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings

 

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The score table shows simple numerical ratings out of 20 for each product. The higher the score, the more ethical the company.

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The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

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Best Buys

as of May/June 2012


As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


Bio-D and Faith in Nature are the clear best buys.

They are followed by Earth Friendly Products, eco2life, Ecoleaf, Ecozone, Lilly’s Eco Clean, Bentley Organics, Sodasan and Sonett.

For making your own, Dri Pak score well on the table.

All these brands are available online or from some health food shops.

The best scoring widely available green brand is Ecover because of their company-wide approach to using green ingredients and they are certified cruelty-free.


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Ethical Consumer makes a small amount of money from your purchase. This goes to fund our research and campaigning. We ethically screen all the sites we link to.
Published May 2012

 

 

Household cleaners
 

Supermarket shelves are full of rows and rows of different cleaners for different household jobs, all seemingly with different formulations specially devised for the job, but in reality, most cleaners contain the same basic ingredients. One all-purpose cleaner will do most of the cleaning jobs around the home.

The score table covers all purpose, kitchen, bathroom, oven, carpet and floor cleaners, disinfectant and bleach brands.

 


Toxic ingredients

 

Chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite) – disinfectant or whitener in cleaners and fabric bleaches. It is a corrosive chemical; toxic if ingested; eye and respiratory irritant, can irritate the lungs and eyes and in waterways can become toxic organochlorines. (1)

Toxic trio - See 'Toxic chemicals'.

Surfactants and perfumes - see the Laundry Detergents buyers' guide.

 

 

Microfibre cloths

 

Microfibre cloths are made from millions of polyester and nylon micro-fibres and clean with just water, no detergents. When dry, the cloths have a natural ‘positive’ charge that attracts dust. They can be used for all cleaning jobs, including washing-up, and work by breaking up and holding dirt, grease and bacteria, even thick grease and dirt.

The most well-known brand is the E-Cloth from EnviroProducts (score 12) but Ecozone, who appear in this report and score 14.5, also make them.

We weren’t able to find any negative reviews about the cleaning performance of E-Cloths. The only downside is that E-Cloth also produce an antibacterial cloth which “incorporates natural nano-silver to kill bacteria caught in the cloth”. (See 'The danger of antimicrobials')

Tested as a window cleaner by Which? in January 2007 they concluded “The E-cloth produced slightly better results than its cheaper rival, requiring little polishing. It’s reusable up to 300 washes, so is good value.”

 

 

 

 

Company profile

 

Reckitt Benckiser own a number of household name brands including Vanish and Dettol. It loses marks across the board. Most relevant to this product guide are the marks lost under the toxics category.

This is mainly due to a study by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) released in November 2011which found that several popular cleaning products produced by Rekitt Benckiser contained hidden toxic chemicals that were not disclosed on the packaging.Tests found that some products contained reproductive toxins such as toluene and phthalates, carcinogens such as 1,4-dioxane and chloroform, and a hormone disrupting synthetic musk. In particular fragrant and non-fragrant air fresheners contained allergens.(2)

From 2004 to last year the company had consistently scored well for its environmental reporting. This year however for the first time in 6 years it scores worst in this category. The report no-longer has two future targets and is not independently verified.

Over the past five years the company has consistently scored badly for its supply chain policy and now also in our new supply chain management category.

The company is also marked down for its use of tax havens (the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg), poor animal testing policy and excessive directors’ pay.


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If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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This product guide is part of a Special Report on Cleaning Products.  See what's in the rest of the report.


 

References
1 What’s in this stuff? Pat Thomas, 2006
2 Disinfectant overkill – Women’s Voices for the Earth, November 2009 39 ActionAid: FTSE 100 tax haven tracker 40www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Business-News/Unilever-ceo-s-executive-greed-slammed-as-Unite-strike. Last viewed12/3/2012 41SOMO - Unilever - overview of controversial business practices 2010

 


 

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