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The Truth behind the Dirty Dozen Household Products

So nobody likes doing the housework, but the worst part isn’t scrubbing the loo, or giving up a Saturday afternoon to blitz the house - the really nasty part is the truth behind the products we use to clean our homes.  

Because behind the glossy labels, sparkly claims and fresh citrus scents of the bestselling household products in the UK, are some pretty unpleasant, far less fragrant truths. 

Consider this list of popular household cleaning products – 

1.    Dettol (Reckitt Benckiser)
2.    Flash (Procter & Gamble)
3.    Mr Muscle (SC Johnson)
4.    Vanish (Reckitt Benckiser)
5.    Cif (Unilever)
6.    Cillit Bang (Reckitt Benckiser)
7.    Comfort (Unilever)
8.    Duck (SC Johnson)
9.    Fairy (Procter & Gamble)
10.    Harpic (Reckitt Benckiser)
11.    Febreze (Procter & Gamble)
12.    Finish (Reckitt Benckiser)

It is also a list of the top 12 Household Products made by non-cruelty free companies. All the parent companies (in brackets) routinely test on animals.

Preparing to write this article I asked my other half – a very ‘average’ shopper – if he ever thought about the issue of animal testing when buying this kind of thing. He said no not really, and added he thought things probably used to be tested but aren’t there stricter laws these days?

My heart sank because he is so wrong.  And he’s not an uneducated or uncaring man – he just doesn’t realise. He looks at the labels, looks for the “trusted” brands, looks for the special offers on the shelf…  and the reality of the animal testing just doesn’t come into his mind.  

So I don’t want to write a sensationalist, shock-horror article.  I just want to tell the truth – so you can make an informed choice, because I think most of us (just like my other half) don’t really think about it. 

So take a couple of minutes and read this article – and maybe think about it next time you’re shopping for household products. And I’m hoping you just might make a different choice – an easy but far more compassionate choice. 

Animal Testing on Household Products

In March 2013 an EU wide ban came into force preventing the sale of cosmetic products that have developed using animal testing. No such legislation exists for household products. So while it is now illegal for companies to sell soap or body wash that has been tested on animals, it is still perfectly legal and prevalent for animals to be used in testing products to clean and beautify your home. 

And yet, owing to the very nature of household cleaning products, the tests that take place are often even more harmful and intrusive to the animals involved.

EU legislation requires the testing of new chemicals and re-testing of some substances including those produced in bulk quantities. These substances include Optical Brightening Agents (OBA’s) and enzymes in laundry products; anti-microbial cleaning products and air fresheners to name a few. There are various ways to perform these tests – animal testing is just one option – but sadly it remains the option of choice for many manufacturers.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats and fish are routinely used to test acute toxicity, chronic system toxicity, skin irritation, sensitisation, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reprotoxicity and teratology. 

Products and ingredients are administered to animals via force-feeding, forced inhalation, injection and / or absorption through the skin. 

This happens. Thousands of animals are suffering in laboratories during the development of new household products that are simply duplicating similar products that are already in the marketplace and effective for the purpose intended.  Do you think this is acceptable because I don’t! 

And in buying the brands listed above, you are indirectly supporting these cruel and unnecessary procedures.

Help Stop Animal Testing on Household Products 

The companies making those top 12 bestsellers listed above are primarily concerned with increasing their profit (that’s okay, that’s what commerce is about) - so if you want to make a difference and help end animal testing, simply hit them where it hurts and spend your £1 elsewhere. 

It’s that easy.  Don’t buy products tested on animals. Simply leave the bottle of Cif on the shelf and pick up Co-op’s own brand cream cleaner instead.

Obviously the brands that do test on animals don’t flaunt the fact, so you will need to do a little bit of research….

As a starting point avoid the companies listed in the Top 12 above – check the labels on the back of most big brand cleaning products and you’ll find the same few parent companies… avoid Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser,  SC Johnson, Procter & Gamble. 

Don’t be fooled by cosy, soothing sounding brand names – “Comfort” is an ironic one isn’t it?

And to help you get started right now it might help you to know that all own-label household products made by the following supermarkets are cruelty free! 

Marks & Spencer

See - ethical, cruelty free shopping does not have to be inconvenient! 

Go a little bit further and order our Compassionate Shopping Guide– it’s a slim little guide to the companies that do and don’t test on animals.  Keep it in your handbag or glove compartment and take it shopping with you – or have it handy when you’re making your shopping list.  It’s only £4 and it will help you navigate your way to cruelty free shopping (on all kinds of things, not just Household Products!) 

Or for the really committed among you, you may even want to delve into the world of making your own household cleaning products (but I have to admit, this is beyond me at the moment!)

So next time you are stocking up on cleaners and bleach - getting ready for that fun Saturday afternoon blitzing the house - do three things:

STOP – don’t just grab the brand you always buy

THINK – remember the sad, nasty truth of animal testing – then remember that YOU can make a difference!

CHOOSE CRUELTY FREE – there’s almost certain to be a cruelty free option there on the shelf. Pick that one. Make a difference. 

by Charlotte Evans 

Cruelty free shopper & owner of Cottontails Baby- a little toy shop she runs with the help of her rabbit, Rudolph.