Test: All-purpose cleaning products may contain highly allergenic preservatives

10. jun 2020

Universal cleaning products may contain allergenic preservation. Do you want to reduce the risk of allergies? Then choose a detergent without unwanted chemicals.

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Test: All-purpose cleaning products may contain highly allergenic preservatives
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

Universal cleaning: Many products are good choices

In the test of all-purpose cleaning products, the Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals has checked 27 household cleaning products. The ingredient listst of the detergents have been checked for substances of concern.

The test shows that there are several good chemical choices. These cleaners get the best chemical rating (A)

Cleaning products with the best rating are without chemicals that are allergens, suspected to be endocrine disruptors or are problematic for the environment.

See the test with product pictures (In Danish)

Allergy: Pay attention to perfume and preservation

The test showed that 20 cleaning products contained perfume, which can cause allergy. Perfume allergy will last for the rest of your life once you get the allergy.

In several cases, household cleaning products also contain unwanted preservatives.

6 of the cleaners contained allergenic preservatives such as the highly allergenic substance MI (methylisothiazolinone) or related substances (benzisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone).

Allergenic preservatives must be declared on the product to inform you of the content.

See all tests from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Environment and health: Choose products with eco-labels and The Blue Label

You find environmentally friendly cleaning products by looking for eco-labels such as the Swan Label or the EU Flower. These products take particular account of the environmental impact.

You can also look for the allergy brand The Blue Label. Cleaning products with The Blue Label are not allowed to contain perfume or other allergenic substances.

If you choose products with both eco-label and allergy label, you are sure that good consideration has been given to the environment as well as health.

About the test

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has visited various stores and bought various all-purpose cleaning products.

The cleaning products have been chosen based on the criterion to cover the market broadly.

The test is a declaration test.

The ingredients of the products have been reviewed. The test manager has visited the websites listed on the products to download the products' full ingredient lists.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has contacted manufacturers to make sure that the information is correct.

The products have not been analyzed for the quantities in which the substances are contained.

We have found that

Of the 27 cleaning products in the test the products had this distribution:

• 7 cleaning products as good choices without problematic ingredients. They get best chemical rating (A)• 14 is free of a number of problematic ingredients. However, they contain perfume/plant extracts that can cause allergies. These get a medium chemical rating (B).

• 6 contain allergenic preservatives and/or fragrances suspected of being endocrine disruptors. They get the lowest chemical rating (C).

Allergenic preservatives

• Methylisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone are found in 4 products

• Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone are found in 1 product

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is the most controversial of the allergenic preservatives found by the test, and it is highly allergenic.

That is why the legislation has been tightened up. For example, products should be hazard marked if they contain 0.0015 percent (15 ppm) or more of the preservative MI.

Methylisothiazolinone can also be problematic for the environment.

Benzisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone are also allergens, and they are related substances to MI. For example, if you are allergic to MI, you can also react to the other isothiazolinones.

Suspected endocrine disruptor perfumer

Butylphenyl methylpropional is a perfume substance, that is also suspected of being an endocrine disruptor. The substance is found in 2 cleaning products.

LAS

4 cleaning products contain so-called "LAS", linear alkylbenzene sulfonates. It is in the form of sodium C10-13 alkyl benzenesulfonate (1 product) and sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate (3 products).

LAS can be problematic for the environment as the substances do not decompose in oxygen-poor conditions.

It can be difficult to find mandatory information about ingredients

Where is the list of ingredients?

There is no requirement for all ingredients to be on the labels of detergents.

However, both perfumes and preservatives must be indicated directly on the product - this also applies to the allergenic preservatives (methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone).

Complete list of ingredients should be available on the website listed on the detergent's label, so that you can go online and see all the ingredients in the product.

However, the test shows that it can be difficult to find the ingredients online.

For 10 out of 27 products, it was initially not possible to find an ingredient list on the website.

Of these, 5 were missing data sheets, 2 were wrong, 2 were unavailable. A single product had not listed a website on the label.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals encourages companies to make it simple for you to find the information on the website.

6 tips on cleaning products

1. Choose cleaning products that have both an eco-label and an allergy label

Buying a product with an eco-label in the form of the Swan or the EU Flower as well as an allergy label, you are ensured that requirements have been made for the product's environmental impact and it is free of perfume and other substances that can cause allergies.

Perfumes, for example, may be used in eco-labelled products. But they are not allowed in products with the allergy label The Blue Label.

2. The Blue Label informs about all ingredients – otherwise you have to go online and download the list of ingredients

Do you want to know all the ingredients in your cleaning products? Then go for a product with the Blue Label. With the Blue Label, you are ensured that all information about the contents appears on the label.

Cleaning products usually only list selected substances on the packaging itself. A link to a website should be available enabling you to find a list of all ingredients.

3. Check the products' ingredient list for allergenic preservation

If the product contains Methylisothiazolinone (MI), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) or benzisothiazolinone (BIT) it should be mentioned in the ingredient list on the product.

These preservatives are allergenic.

You can also read on the label if there is perfume in the cleaner.

4. Danger marks shall apply to the concentrated detergent

Some all-purpose cleaners have hazard labels, such as an exclamation point or corrosive symbol.

This is because the detergents in undiluted form can irritate the skin or damage the eyes. Diluted in water, as in normal use, it is not similarly corrosive etc.

If you have delicate skin, you can use gloves when cleaning to avoid irritating the skin.

5. Follow the instructions on the label

Read and follow the instructions.

If you dose according to the instructions, you will save the environment unnecessary detergent.

Follow the safety instructions on the label to protect yourself.

6. Place cleaning products out of reach for children

Children should not have access to cleaning products. Accidents have happened when children have been drinking cleaning products.

Place the cleaning products and other household chemicals high up or in a locked cupboard. Then small children cannot reach them.