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What Can Home Cleaning Learn From Clean Beauty?
Let’s keep this clean.
When it comes to health, the products you clean your house with matter as much as the ones you use on your body. In the past, their formulas tended to be pretty similar to each other, each using the same types of hazardous sulfate-based surfactants. More recently and with the rise of the clean beauty industry, many clean beauty brands have moved away from using those hazardous ingredients. But the cleaning industry overall seems to be lagging behind. Shouldn’t cleaning products — things like your dish soap and surface cleaners in particular — move away from hazardous ingredients too? To get some intel, we talked to Dr. Pete, who has years of experience in both industries. Let’s rundown the ways home cleaning can (and should) mimic clean beauty.
Fatty Soaps & Nonionic Surfactants
Traditionally, laundry detergents and personal cleaning products have used surfactants — aka the ingredients that create bubbles — as their main cleaning agents. Some common surfactants you’ll see in many laundry detergents, skin cleaning products and shampoos are fatty soap, sulfate-based SLES and SDS, and ethoxylated nonionic surfactants like Laureth-7.
Many beauty and skincare brands have done away with SLES and SDS altogether due to their hazardous nature. That’s because, according to Dr. Pete, “One should be very careful about 1, 4-dioxane, a known carcinogen You can read all about it here. 1,4-dioxane often becomes part of the personal care and detergent formulations in trace amounts as a byproduct of SLES, ethoxylated surfactants, and PEG.” Some, but not many, home cleaners have done away with these ingredients too, but you should always check the label just in case.
Clean beauty has made strides when it comes to sulfate-based surfactants such as SLS or carboxylic fatty soap because they are skin irritants — sugar-based alkyl poly-glucosides are a better alternative. Something else to look out for, says Dr. Pete, “for people with known respiratory allergic reactions and sensitive populations such as pregnant women and young children, be careful with the use of fragrances.” He tells us that if you’re not sure, you can use certified (by EPA Safer Choice) fragrance-free home cleaning products. The site lists their certified brands. You’ll still find fragrance in plenty of clean beauty products too — try to select fragrances (including essential oils) that are prop-65 toxin free, and EU-listed allergen free.
Parabens & Synthetic Preservatives
Parabens, or synthetic preservatives, are another story: many big beauty brands and home cleaners used parabens up until the last decade. “In the US, there are a number of state-level regulations and private companies have banned or limited the use of parabens,” says Dr. Pete. They began to see reports of having safety concerns, disrupting human’s endocrine system and hormone activities. Dr. Pete says many synthetic preservatives also carry human safety and/or environmental concerns for other reasons, including the way they biodegrade.