Published May 2012
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.
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 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.”
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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This product guide is part of a Special Report on Cleaning Products. See what's in the rest of the report.
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