Ingredient Glossary

Pick a category
to learn more

What are surfactants? Why do we use them?
Surfactants are chemicals that reduce the surface tension in water to help loosen soils, allowing them to be easily rinsed away. Our surfactants are made from a blend of vegetable oils, including coconut oil.
What are water softeners? Why do we use them?
Water softeners or chelators are chemicals that bind to metal ions; they improve cleaning performance by removing any metallic scale on the target surface. Water softeners also improve the stability of formulas by sequestering metal ions that could degrade color, scent or clarity. The addition of a water softener will also help reduce hard-water buildup on surfaces.

Sodium Citrate- A salt of citric acid, a plant-derived compound that acts as a water softener by sequestering calcium ions but also acts as an acidity regulator and preservative.

Sodium Gluconate- A salt of gluconic acid, which is derived from glucose, that binds to many different metal ions and is often used to stabilize formulas. Sodium gluconate is readily biodegradable yet highly effective and often used in foods.

Tetrasodium glutamate diacetate- A plant-derived, effective yet gentle, readily biodegradable chelator that boosts preservative efficacy and is GMO-free and non-sensitizing.

What are solvents? Why do we use them?
Solvents are chemicals that allow a substance to dissolve in a liquid, like our oil-based surfactants in our water-based formulas. We use solvents like those listed below to create a clear, uniform finished product.

Propanediol – A plant-derived, readily biodegradable solvent. Propanediol can act as both a humectant and an enzyme stabilizer or can be added to formulas like glass and surface cleaners to reduce streaking. Propanediol also boosts the activity of some preservatives, which allow us to reduce the total concentration of those preservatives while maintaining the freshness of our formulas.

Ethanol – Our ethanol is corn-derived and readily biodegradable. Ethanol is great at dissolving oils and increases the volatility of our liquid formulas, allowing them to evaporate off hard surfaces more easily. Ethanol can also act as a viscosity modifier by thinning viscous products.

Limonene – Derived from the peels of citrus fruits, limonene is a naturally derived, renewable and effective solvent. We’re able to harness the power of limonene’s oil-dissolving power in our surface cleaners and degreasers.

What are pH adjusters? Why do we use them?
We adjust the pH of our products because we want our products to be pH balanced. Because of the differences in pH of our raw materials, at times we add a pH adjuster to shift the pH of the final product to a desirable range. For example, the pH of skin is around 5.5. This help keep the skin moist and germs at bay. Our hand soap is at pH 7.25, which is slightly higher than the skin to clean away oils and dirt but will not dry out skin. In some cases, we adjust the pH of our products so our preservatives will work more effectively. Many of our sprayer formulas use a food-grade preservative from tree bark called potassium sorbate, which works best when the pH is below 5.5. We can also keep microbes at bay using just high or low pH levels.

Citric acid – Citric acid is a naturally occurring, readily biodegradable pH adjuster derived from the peels of citrus fruits. Using citric acid is a great way to reduce the pH of our products without traditional harsh, synthetic acids.

Gluconic Acid- Gluconic acid is a naturally occurring compound found in many fruits. It’s used as an additive in food to both add flavor and lower pH. Gluconic acid has chelating effects as well, and we use it as an effective way to improve the efficacy of our cleaners and reach our target pH.

White Vinegar- The active ingredient in white vinegar that acts to adjust pH is acetic acid. Vinegar has been used as a household cleaner for ages, and it’s great for streak-free glass and surface cleaners. Vinegar also exhibits helpful antimicrobial properties.

Sodium Hydroxide- Commonly known as lye, sodium hydroxide is a strong base that is used to increase the pH of our products. Sodium hydroxide has been used in soapmaking since soap has been around. It’s commonly used to saponify oils (turn oils into soap) and is found in many of our raw materials. Adding sodium hydroxide can elevate the pH of our products to the desired range.

Sodium Metasillicate Pentahydrate- This material is not only highly effective at both raising the pH of our products, but it contributes to water softening and the removal of hard water buildup as well. We use sodium metasilicate in products that are used on surfaces that are prone to hard-water buildup, like bathroom sinks.

What are preservatives? Why do we use them?
Preservatives are raw materials used in formulas to ensure that they stay fresh and free of bacteria. Because our formulations are largely composed of naturally derived ingredients and all are water-based, they are susceptible to microbial contamination. Even small levels of bacteria can have harmful health effects, potentially resulting in conditions ranging from skin irritation to more serious conditions such as bacterial meningitis. Bacterial growth can also shorten the life of the product and decrease its effectiveness, thereby decreasing its overall value. All our preservatives are recognized by the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice program, which certifies that these ingredients are among the safest commercially available ingredients in their class.

Phenoxyethanol- A Safer Choice-recognized preservative, phenoxyethanol is synthetically produced. Phenoxyethanol is a widely used, highly effective preservative. It’s stable and effective in a wide variety of product bases and in a broad-spectrum pH range. It also has secondary benefits and acts as a solvent in our products. We us phenoxyethanol at very low concentrations in our formulas.

Methylisothiazolinone- A Safer Choice-recognized preservative, methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is synthetically produced. It is a broad-spectrum, formaldehyde-free, non-paraben preservative. MIT has been used in both cleaning and personal care products for many years and has been proven effective. Although MIT is used at low levels, we’re currently working on removing MIT from all our formulas in favor of more modern chemistries.

Potassium Sorbate- A food-grade, GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) preservative. Potassium sorbate is a salt of sorbic acid, which is found throughout nature.

Ethylhexylglycerin- A mild preservative used mostly in skincare, it’s formaldehyde-free and not a paraben. This preservative is so mild it’s often used to treat eczema. We’re raising industry safety standards by being the first company to have a Safer Choice-certified formulation using this preservative.

Other actives

Xanthan Gum- Xanthan gum is a processed polysaccharide from bacteria that is used as a thickener in a wide array of products ranging from ketchup to ECOS Wave Dishwasher Gel. We use food-grade, gluten-free xanthan gum to increase the viscosity of some of our products.

Enzymes- Enzymes are made of macromolecules called proteins and give our formulas targeted stain-fighting and soil-removal action, depending on what type of enzyme we use. Below are the three types of enzymes that we currently use in our ECOS products.

Lipase- Lipases are enzymes that break down fat-based (lipid) stains. The addition of a lipase can increase the efficacy of laundry detergents by assisting in the removal of body oils and oil-based soils or boosting the cleansing power of dishwashing detergents.

Protease- Many colored stains are protein-based. Proteases break down these protein-based stains into smaller bits, which make it easier for our detergents to rinse away. The addition of a protease is very useful in stain and odor removers and laundry detergents.

Amylase- Alpha-amylase is the enzyme added to our laundry and dish formulations to break down starch-based stains and soils. Adding it allows us to improve the efficacy of our product while decreasing the concentration of surfactants, allowing us to leave out more harsh stain-fighting chemicals.

Tocopherol- Also known as vitamin E, it’s an antioxidant used in our hand soap and pet shampoo that has powerful beneficial properties for your skin and throughout your body. Adding antioxidants to our products also improves their stability and shelf life.

Glycerin – Glycerin is a powerful humectant, which means it helps lock in the natural moisture in your skin, which is why we add it to our hand soap. Glycerin also helps get and keep essential oils in solution and can be used as a viscosity modifier in viscous products.