I recently saw a Clorox Green Works commercial on the television and it really caught my attention as I noticed many times before that the natural product companies do not advertise on TV. We always seem to be bombarded by the same giant companies’ commercials over and over again, but not the environmental, natural or healthy ones (for obvious reasons I guess related to funding). But anyhow here it was, this Green Works commercial spewing all these beautiful things about the environment and your health and working as good as any other cleaner.
At first I was pleasantly surprised to see this commercial on TV, and my first thought was finally natural products are being promoted. Then came the end of the commercial and I found out that it was produced by the famous bleach company Clorox. So next a twinge a suspicion came over me, but willing to give them the benefit of the doubt I figured they must see that the future lies in natural products and hence are coming around.
A few days later I came across the following review online “Green Works Vs. Seventh Generation” written by Irene Lynn for the AC People’s Media Company. I was generally pleased with what she said and was really starting to think that perhaps the Clorox company is really trying to embed themselves into the natural product market. After all they did purchase Burt’s Bees back in November of 2007, so maybe this is the new face of Clorox. But still not much was being said about the health effects of these cleaning products.
Well, with a small bit of leftover suspicion I was excited to check this product out for myself and so I visited a local retailer. And what I found was not good news at all. I even snapped a picture as I wanted you to see what I saw on the front label too – look closely at the picture above again…
The Front Label
For starters, bluntly labelled near the bottom, in big letters are the words “Caution/Attention Irritant”. So naturally you start to think, how can a product that claims to be all natural have that warning right on the front – kind of ironic don’t you think?
The Back Label
Next I turned the product over to check the back for the ingredients, and guess what – there were none. All you get is a sentence or two telling you that it contains plant based ingredients. And another label, this one a big box telling you what an irritant it is and first aid measures. There were also 4 bulleted points giving you the positive qualities of this product on how it cleans just as well as any other traditional cleaner and how good it is for the environment as it is biodegradable, etc. However nothing was mentioned about it being safe for your health. I have no idea what the reason can be for not putting the ingredients, aside that they are protected under “trade secrets”. But in this day and age, I am sorry but I do not feel comfortable buying something of whose ingredients I can’t be sure of, and relying on front labels as I told you in another article is out of the question.
The Canadian Journal of Communication did an investigation of the product and in their report they stated the following:
“After we did further research on the company’s website, we found that many of the Green Works product ingredients are actually safe for consumers (Green Works, 2011b); however, several ingredients are synthetically produced, such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), dyes, and a petrochemical preservative (Vasil, 2009). Although there is not enough evidence to indicate that SLS causes cancer, it is a known skin irritant and is associated with skin-related problems (Pierre-Louis, 2012).”
So what about our health?
I was naturally a bit disappointed by discovering this. I thought that finally here is a chance for a leading chemical cleaner company to set the standards for truly natural cleaning products, but I was wrong. Now, at the same time don’t get me wrong, I do applaud Clorox for at least taking a step in the right direction and by all means making a product environmentally friendly is very, very important and good. But a huge problem with all these cleaning products are the health effects they are causing the people who use them regularly or the people who get exposed to them.
I decided to research some reviews on this product from other people, and shockingly what I found was that most people approved this product with flying colors and seem very happy with it. The worst concern people had is that the lemon fragrance it has is overpowering after a bit of cleaning. So I bring this to your attention, what do you think that fragrance is made of and where is it going when you inhale it?
Again I am happy they made progress, but their labeling is still somewhat misleading.
For example on their company web site they have a write up on this entitled “Green Works…It Works Naturally.” There it explains that they are now part of an alliance with the Sierra Club – the most influential environmental grassroots company in the United States. And again all this is wonderful, but they are only focusing on the environment. Secondly what struck my attention in the write up also, was the line where it says that this product is “nonallergenic”. Clearly being and irritant with a caution label and being nonallergenic are two different things for me that just do not go hand in hand. If I am going to purchase a product labeled “natural”, I am expecting to feel safe using it and at this time I am sorry but I just cannot say that about Green Works.
Therefore to address these issues I have written to Clorox to clarify for me the following two things:
- Why the product is not labeled properly with ingredients?
- Why the product is labeled with a warning as an irritant if it is supposed to be all natural and nonallergenic?
I wanted to post an update to this when Clorox got back to me, but they never did.
As an aside, on EWG’s Cosmetic Database, the Clorox Green Works Cleaner scores a grade of D, which means HIGH CONCERN: Likely hazards to health or the environment. May also have poor ingredient disclosure. No surprise there.
In the meantime, as to the performance of this product, I have no doubt that the product works well to clean what it is supposed to and for about $3.00 a bottle is a reasonable buy. But as for me, my health is just as important as the environment, and there is just no way that I can purchase or support this product in any way.
It is good Remember we do have other options from companies like Seventh Generation or even good old vinegar and baking soda. Also, we need to get the idea out of our heads that our homes need some super cleaners, if your house is that dirty then something else is wrong. You can do so much with simple baking soda and vinegar without the need for your house to smell like a chemical forest or chemical lemon, while your respiratory system pays the price!
It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Greenwashing of Environmental Discourses in Advertising — report from the Canadian Journal of Communication
Is it Green? Clorox Green Works — article from InHabitat