Traditionally, household cleaners have not been required to disclose ingredients on-package. But now that California has passed the California Cleaning Products Right to Know Act, all cleaning products sold in the state of California, which is currently most of the market, must disclose ingredients on-package and digitally. As a result, consumers are not as familiar with these ingredients, leading to confusion and apprehension as some household cleaning products have unrecognizable and often intimidating chemical names.
As a consumer myself, I became obsessed with knowing what ingredients were in my household cleaning products. I didn’t feel like I could trust these manufacturers to make products that were safe for myself and my family, especially if they were unwilling to be transparent about their formulations. At Label Insight, after the California Cleaning Products Right to Know Act was passed, I was asked to leverage my degree in chemistry and my passion for research to understand these regulations, how they affect the industry, and how SmartLabel can help manufacturers comply.
Throughout my research, I’ve realized that I am not the only consumer with questions and concerns. If taken out of context, an ingredient may seem more dangerous or alarming than it actually is. It’s important to consider how the ingredient is being used and at what concentration. While brands have an innate responsibility to disclose this information, I want to help dispel some ingredient misconceptions.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) With even its intimidating name, MIT is the 4th most common ingredient in household cleaners according to the Label Insight database after water, fragrance and citric acid. It is used as a preservative in a large variety of cleaners to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus as many of these products tend to sit on a shelf or in a cabinet for months after purchase.
Methylisothiazolinone is a known dermal sensitizer, which means that it can cause an allergic reaction on the skin of some consumers after repeated exposure. However, The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel has concluded that MIT in cosmetics and personal care products is safe for use in rinse-off and leave-on cosmetics products when they are formulated to be non-sensitizing.
Overall, Methylisothiazolinone fits the EPA’s definition of a “Safer Choice” chemical and is considered best-in-class for its particular function.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is one of those ingredients that has been vilified online. But simply put, SLS is a surfactant, which means it’s a compound with two distinct ends, one end is hydrophilic or water-loving and one end is lipophilic or oil-loving. This gives surfactants the ability to effectively lift dirt and oil residue and rinse it away with water. This is important in household cleaners because oil and water typically repel each other.
Consumers are most concerned that SLS may dry out or irritate the skin. Although, when used correctly, household cleaning products do not have extended contact with the skin and are rinsed away, making the risk of skin irritation very low to begin with. Products with SLS, when formulated properly using a cosurfactant, have proven to be both safe and effective. SLS is another EPA Safer Choice approved chemical.
From an environmental standpoint, SLS is 100% biobased and easily biodegradable, making it a very sustainable ingredient.
Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) Sodium Hydroxide is used as a processing aid in soaps and detergents or to remove built-up dirt and grease in oven and drain cleaners. Concentrated Lye is highly corrosive. If you have ever gotten oven cleaner on your skin and suffered chemical burns they were likely caused by high levels of Lye. It is critically important to follow proper usage instructions when dealing with corrosive chemicals, which make them safer to use.
When Lye is used as a processing aid however, it is a different story. As a strong basic chemical, it’s sometimes added to products to help neutralize acid. Once Lye has been processed in this way, it’s no longer corrosive or unsafe.
Lye is also used to make soap in a process called saponification, contributing to its popular use in household cleaners. Lye and fat or oil are mixed to create soap and glycerol, once again neutralizing the original sodium hydroxide and eliminating it’s corrosive nature. Overall, sodium hydroxide is an EPA Safer Choice chemical when used as a processing aid.
How Label Insight Can Help
Although there are many sources of information out there to help consumers understand the truth behind the chemicals they use, there is still a great deal of misinformation in the industry, and brands have a responsibility to disclose the ingredients they are using. Smartlabel is an efficient solution to make this data more easily accessible and understood, allowing brands to provide consumers with greater transparency into their products beyond the label.
Label Insight’s SmartLabel solution, LabelSync, meets increasing consumer demand for comprehensive product information by unifying disparate data sources to provide an accurate, flexible and up-to-date source of truth for product data. This level of transparency establishes trust and encourages engagement amongst consumers, leading to increased sales and loyalty.
If you are interested in learning more about how to dispel any myths surrounding ingredients in your products and leverage this information for your e-commerce strategy, reach out to our Subject Matter Experts here.
About Anna Thibaut
Anna Thibaut is the Sr. Solutions Consultant for Product Data Management at Label Insight and a former production chemist with a BS Chemistry from University of Missouri. Anna is a Licensed Cosmetologist and Esthetician with 8 years of experience as a beauty advisor in a retail cosmetics environment.