Natural, Non-Toxic & Green—How to Read Labels for Cleaning Products

We've all picked up a product at the store or online because it said natural, non-toxic or eco-friendly on the label. It sounds good! But have you stopped to think about what those words actually mean?

If you said no, you’re in good company. A Consumer Reports survey found nearly two-thirds of consumers thought “natural” meant more than it does, and nearly 50% incorrectly believed natural claims had been independently verified.

It’s important to understand natural claims and the ingredients behind them; being informed helps you make the best decision for you and your home. Read on to learn what makes a product natural and get tips to take action and start making more informed decisions.

Natural Labels

Surprisingly, there isn’t one definition of “natural” regulated by the FDA; it’s up to consumers to read the label and understand its ingredients. The Natural Products Association (NPA) states a product labeled as “natural” should be made up of only, or at least almost only, natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes. It should also avoid any ingredient that has peer-reviewed, scientific research showing human health or environmental risk.

In Short: When you see “natural” on a product check the ingredients. Our 3 Harmful Chemicals to Avoid in Natural Cleaners post can give you some easy red flags to identify.

Non-toxic Claims

Non-toxic implies that a product, substance or chemical will not cause adverse health effects, either immediately or over the long term. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates toxic chemicals, but there isn’t a regulatory body that specifically oversees the use of non-toxic on labels. The claim simply indicates an absence of recognized toxic ingredients.

In Short: Again, you’ll want to check the label. Check for initial red flags or search for the ingredients on EWG’s Unacceptable List to make sure it’s safe.

Eco-friendly / Environmentally friendly / Earth friendly / Green

At a minimum, these products need to be non-toxic. Ideally, they should not be harmful, or should at least reduce harm to the environment in comparison to similar products. The EPA offers additional guidance on these terms, since many are overused and often misrepresented.

In Short: Don’t be enticed by greenwashing! These phrases or close variations usually don’t mean much, and you’re better off just looking at the ingredients to determine for yourself.

BONUS - Disinfectant / Kills 99.9% of Bacteria

To make this claim, products must contain antimicrobial agents that kill 99.9% of microorganisms living on surfaces. These claims are backed up by lab testing and regulated by both the EPA and FDA.

In Short: This product probably contains harsher ingredients but will sanitize the surface you’d like to clean, and you can trust that this claim is accurate, straightforward and honest.

The Bottom Line: Always Read the Label!

If you want to make sure you’re using natural, safe products, it’s really up to you. The good news? You’re in control of how informed you are and which products you bring into your household. Just remember to read the label, check the ingredients and run a quick search online if you notice something unfamiliar.

All Capri Essentials cleaning products are plant-based, all natural and 100% biodegradable so, you never have to worry about harsh chemicals in your home.