Easily the biggest question we get from those new to the idea of Green Cleaning. And it's understandable. We live in a extremely developed country with an organization dedicated to making sure we are safe. But, where is the breakdown?
You might be surprised to learn that there are exactly ZERO federal regulations around disclosing ingredients in cleaning products. Yep, who knows what's in those bottles if there isn't a comprehensive list of ingredients. Don't be fooled by labels that say "Contains". Only a full-blown list of ingredients should be accepted. Both New York and California have recently passed disclosure laws, hopefully more states will follow.
Additionally, there are about 1,500 ingredients that are banned in the EU for safety concerns but are completely allowable here in the US. Yikes.
Toxin-Free vs. Non-Toxic
This is a nuance that you've probably seen without realizing it. Non-Toxic can mean that only 49% of the animals tested on didn't die.
You want to look for Toxin-Free ingredients. Can also be labeled as Chemical Free.
Since there aren't any federal regulations around ingredients you won't be shocked to find out there aren't any about labling products either. You've probably seen labels that say things like "Made with Organic Ingredients" or "Cruelty Free" or "Plant Based" or even "Natural". No one is regulating that. Just about anybody can put these marketing claims on labels without any type of vetting or verification system. This often called "Greenwashing" when a brand makes claims that seem "Green" but really aren't, some of the cleaning products you've used recently might not stand up to the label checklist test, even though you thought they were "Green" and safe for your family.
How "Toxic" are these ingredients anyway?
This is a tough one to answer for several reasons. We look to the EWG for ratings on individual ingredients and don't use anything with a rating higher than a 2. Many of the chemicals in conventional cleaners have labels that rate them as potential carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, irritants for asthma or allergy sufferers or dangerous to aquatic life (because everything you wash down the drain goes somewhere.) How toxic they truly are has been argued in many scientific communities, but we always air on the side of caution. You can't get rid of ALL toxins in your life but reducing them greatly brings down the Toxic Load on your body. Want to know more about Toxic Load? You can read more here.
I know all of this can seem overwhelming. Here's the good news: There are many great companies out there making amazing products that are safe and effective. You don't need the chemicals in your life and even replacing one item at a time you will slowly make great progress in bringing down your Toxic Load.
Want to know how you can do more? Here's some of our favorite resources: