If you were to ask us, “What’s the most surprising thing about your industry?,” the first thing that would come to mind is the state of transparency. Did you know the US has no federal requirement for household cleaners to tell you what’s inside them? When it comes to food that we put in our bodies, every brand must list the ingredients. But with cleaners, you can choose to disclose zilch. Zero. Nada.
Obviously, that’s never sat quite right with us, so we’ve always been proactive about sharing what’s inside our products. After all, these are the products that end up on your countertops, your clothes, and plenty of other high-touch places in your home. Luckily, there are people who share our same values, and things have been changing – slowly but surely.
But first, a little history lesson…
Why were harsh chemicals used in the first place?
The 20th century brought a revolution in cleaning products and chemical cleaners. During World War I and again in World War II, there was a shortage of animal fats and vegetable oils that were used to make soap. Chemists had to use other raw materials instead, which were “synthesized” into chemicals with similar properties. Today, we call them “detergents.”
These chemicals ended up being pretty cheap and convenient, so by the 1950s, when WWII was long over, they kept using them in household cleaners. Plus, detergents could be rinsed more easily and didn’t leave a residue like soaps did. To many, it seemed like a win-win.
Man-made chemicals aren’t all inherently bad, but there wasn’t enough research or consideration at the time to determine which ones were safe and which ones were harmful. Luckily, we’ve come a long way, and now we have a much better understanding of how we can achieve similar results with less harmful, more environmentally safe ingredients.
A brighter, cleaner future for us all
The world is slowly changing for the better, and globally there are many examples of banning harmful ingredients – it’s just a matter of bringing that same attitude to the states. There’s a long list of ingredients that have been banned in Europe and Australia but are still allowed in the US due to lax regulations. For example, Europe has banned more than 1,300 chemicals used in cosmetics, while the US has ruled out just 11!
The good news is that in 2017 California passed the Cleaning Product Right To Know Act, which imposes online and on-label ingredient disclosure requirements for any product sold in the state. This is a great step in the right direction and we’d love to see more states adopt their version of the law, or ideally, implement a similar law on the federal level. We believe that everyone should have the information they need to choose safer cleaning products, so whether it’s meeting with lawmakers as a business, voting during elections, or voting with your dollar, there’s plenty that can be done to get the ball rolling.
Until then… Knowledge is power
We say this a lot, but we truly believe that the more you know, the smarter you can be when it comes to what you bring into your home. That’s why we’ve identified over 500 ingredients in cleaning products that have harmful properties and shared them on our site. We call them “The Nasties” and they can be found here. Not only is this list informative, it’s also our promise to you that we’ll never use these ingredients in our products.
Another trick when shopping is to keep an eye out for the “Safer Choice” logo on cleaning labels. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Safer Choice identifies cleaning products like our stainless steel polish and 150+ others by ECOS, that are safer for our health and the environment without sacrificing performance. You can read all about it here.
Overall, green chemistry is an ever-evolving science, and our knowledge is sure to change over time. But the most important thing to remember is that we’ll always share our discoveries and innovations with you along the way. Our hope is that one day everyone in our industry will do the same.
We’ve all been there. That moment you go to look at a bottle’s ingredient label and find a list of words you can’t pronounce, let alone identify. Sometimes it feels like you need a PhD in chemistry just to understand what’s safe or unsafe for your home. While we can’t offer you an advanced degree, we can promise to be as transparent and open as possible about what we put in our ECOS products. Unlike many conventional cleaners, we list all our ingredients. And if that’s not enough, we also list all the ingredients we promise to never use, AKA “The Nasties.”
Whether it’s because they can cause skin irritation, produce carcinogens, or are bad for the environment, there’s a big, bad world of cleaning chemicals that are best to avoid. But that’s no cause for alarm, because there are also very easy, very effective alternatives for each and every one. And to prove it, we want to share our knowledge on three popular “Nasties” and the alternative ingredient we use to achieve an equally effective clean. Get your goggles ready and let’s talk chemistry!
SURFACTANTS: Ethoxylated Surfactant vs. Non-Ethoxylated
First off, what is a surfactant? In cleaning, they’re the chemical compound that does the heavy lifting of soil and stain removal. Surfactants bust through water’s strong surface tension, ensuring that soils can be carried away, making them essential to things like laundry detergent. Surfactants come in many forms – good and bad. We consider ethoxylated surfactants “nasty” because the process in which they are made creates a harmful byproduct known as 1,4-dioxane. 1,4 dioxane is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin. And what’s even sneakier? It’s never listed on labels! Luckily, there are some easy tricks to avoid it. Ethoxylated surfactants usually end in “-eth,” such as laureth-6, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), or ceteareth.
So what’s a good alternative? Plant-powered, non-ethoxylated surfactants such as sodium coco sulfate. Sodium coco sulfate uses coconut oil pressed from the inside meat to create a surfactant with excellent cleaning properties while remaining exceptionally gentle. You’ll find it in many of our products, like our hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
PRESERVATIVES: Parabens vs Safer Choice-Approved Preservatives
Preservatives are necessary for keeping cleaning formulas shelf-stable, but not all are created equal when it comes to safety. For example, parabens are a class of synthetic preservatives found in many commercial products. Studies have shown that parabens mimic estrogen in the body, which can have potentially harmful effects on fertility and increase cancer risks. To avoid them, keep in mind common paraben preservative names like methylparaben, butylparaben and polyparaben.
For our formulas, we do our best to use Safer Choice-Approved preservatives, like Potassium Sorbate. So what is Safer Choice? It’s a seal of approval created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help consumers find cleaning products that are safer for their health and the environment without sacrificing performance. We have over 150 Safer Choice products (more than any other company!). You can read more about Safer Choice here.
EXTRA CLEAN: Optical Brighteners vs Oxobrite
Optical brighteners are an example of a product being “over-engineered.” They are equivalent to a fluorescent dye. And while they may make your clothes look “fresher” or brighter, they actually do nothing when it comes to cleaning your clothing. In fact, they often leave behind residue that can irritate skin in order to achieve a “brighter” look, not to mention they’re not biodegradable and will bioaccumulate. You can avoid optical brighteners by looking for laundry detergents that are clear and do not have any iridescence or fluorescence. And if you’re still interested in giving your clothing a clean boost, we recommend our Oxobrite, made with stain-lifting minerals. It’s an earth-friendly bleach-alternative that you can use around the house without worrying about nasty, hidden chemicals.
Alright, feel free to remove those goggles now. We’re done talking chemistry. But if you want to do a little extra homework, you can always take a look at our clean chemistry page. That’s where you’ll find some of our favorite ingredients (both naturally-derived and lab-made) as well as our extensive list of “Nasties.” And if you’d like to know more about cleaning ingredients on a public policy level, take a look at our blog post, Legally speaking, what’s the deal with cleaning? Without further ado, class dismissed!
This year, we are proud to partner with Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen or disabled veterans. The 501(c)(3) was established in 2007 after Lt. Col. Rooney, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, saw the grieving family of a fallen U.S. Army Corporal meeting their loved one’s coffin on an airport tarmac. Folds of Honor scholarships support private education tuition, tutoring and educational summer camps for children K-12 and higher education tuition assistance. To date, they have awarded more than 24,500 scholarships totaling $130 million to military spouses and children.
ECOS® is made in the USA (using thoughtfully sourced global ingredients), and as a primary manufacturer, we support local communities across the country by giving back to organizations that care for vulnerable populations, including military veterans and their families. Our partnership with Folds of Honor means for every bottle of 100oz, 110oz, and 128oz Laundry Detergent sold during the months of May, June, July, and August in 2022, we’ll donate $1 to Folds of Honor (up to $50.,000) to invest in scholarships for families of fallen and disabled soldiers.
“We are incredibly proud to give back to the families of those who serve our country,” said Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, president and CEO of ECOS. “We’re honored to give shoppers this opportunity to help support U.S. military families in such a tangible and meaningful way.”
Starting January 1st, 2020, millions of consumers and workers in California now have the information they need to protect their health.
The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act requires an online listing of all intentionally added ingredients in cleaning products sold in California by January 1, 2020, and on-package disclosure by January 1, 2021. In addition, the label must indicate the presence of allergens in the product.
Illnesses such as asthma, eczema, and allergies are on the rise. That’s why our products are made with many plant-powered ingredients, and it’s why we’re fighting for ingredient disclosure on all cleaning products. We believe that everyone has the right to know what chemicals they’re bringing into their home, school, and workplace.
Many people don’t realize that, unlike packaged food, no federal requirements exist for disclosing ingredients in cleaning products. That’s why this law is so important – it sets the standard for cleaning product ingredient disclosure, not just in California but across the nation.
We are incredibly proud to have played an important role in the coalition that helped pass California’s “Cleaning Product Right to Know” Act in 2017, and we’re hoping it will become a model for the rest of the county.
Pull quote: ECOS has been a pioneer in safer cleaning products and ingredient transparency. Founded in 1967, we have over 200 environmentally friendly cleaning products and have disclosed ingredients on our packaging and website for almost a decade.
It’s exciting times, and we will continue to fight for federal legislation to require ingredient transparency for cleaning products so that all people in every state can clearly understand what’s in the cleaning products they bring into their homes.
Learn more about the ingredients we promise to never use by browsing our Never Ever list:
Family owned and operated since 1967, ECOS has been making plant-powered cleaners in the U.S. for over 50 years. ECOS™ laundry detergent and the collection of over 200 other green cleaners, are proudly made in four facilities across the country.. We are dedicated to growing the U.S. green economy, reducing its environmental footprint, and creating safer products for families to enjoy across the country.
Located in California, Washington, Illinois and New Jersey, each facility ships products locally throughout its designated region. When you see ECOS™ in your local grocery store, you can feel confident in knowing that product came from a nearby facility. In addition to our four facilities we have team members across the country bringing ECOS™ to your local community. Our region-based distribution also reduces our environmental impact.
By decreasing shipping and transportation distance, we are able to reduce our carbon emissions for the benefit of the entire community.
By manufacturing in the U.S., we have added over 350 green jobs to the U.S. economy and that number continues to grow. As a leader in corporate and social responsibility, we believe in providing a living wage and wellness benefits for all employees. Employees are paid one of the highest minimum wages in the country, $17/hr, to make sure they can support their families and feel confident in the work that they do.
When you buy ECOS™ products, you are doing more than just choosing to buy better, safer cleaning products; you’re also supporting local economies and communities across the U.S. Aaron Miller, our Washington-based product manager, notes,
“People in Washington have pride in our state and like to support companies doing business here.”
Though each of our facilities across the country has its own unique feel, the sentiment of local pride in the communities we’re a part of is the same.
We are passionate advocates for supporting the communities we operate in with local jobs, and creating a greener future through quality products and sustainable manufacturing. Find where our products are available in your local community here.