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Cleaning Product Comparison
Why Simple Green is the Safer Choice
March 25, 2019

Many cleaning products still contain harsh chemicals that, even through normal usage, could endanger your health and that of your family, or cause environmental damage. For example, citrus and pine oil terpenes (commonly used in cleaning products) have been found to contribute to indoor air pollution levels of formaldehyde1. Protect yourself, your family and your environment with Simple Green.

AMMONIA: Other Brands? Yes // Simple Green? No

Classified as dangerous for the environment, even at dilute concentrations (typically 5-10% by weight,) ammonia is highly toxic in the aquatic environment. Ammoniated products should never contact or be mixed with chlorinated products. The release of toxic fumes can result from this contact, causing reactions from sore throat and burning eyes, to unconsciousness, and even death. Ammonia solutions are irritating to eyes and mucous membranes (respiratory and digestive tracts,) and, to a lesser extent, to skin. Even at levels too low to cause discomfort, the combination of ammonia and chlorine can form toxic and carcinogenic compounds such as chloramine, hydrazine, and chlorine gas.2

BLEACH: Other Brands? Yes // Simple Green? No

To bleach something is to remove or lighten its color, sometimes as a preliminary step in the process of dyeing: a bleach is a chemical that produces these effects often via oxidation. Common chemical bleaches include "chlorine bleach," a water and sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) solution that is typically anywhere from 2.5% to 6% bleach, and "oxygen bleach," which contains hydrogen peroxide or a peroxide-releasing compound such as sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate. Bleaching powder is calcium hypochlorite.

One of the problems with chlorine is that it reacts with organic material to form trihalomethanes like chloroform. There has been a long-term debate among health, safety and environmental scientists over whether the risk of exposure to chloroform in chlorinated drinking water is worth the benefits of using chlorine as a water disinfectant.3

Chlorine bleach reacts with some other chemicals to release toxic vapors. We have already discussed the dangers of mixing ammonia and bleach, but other chemicals to avoid contacting or mixing with chlorine are acetone, alcohol, vinegar, and other acids. The combination of chlorine and ammonia, even the ammonia and uric acids contained in animal or human urine, can create chloramine fumes and seriously damage health or cause death.

CITRUS OIL / PINE OIL / TERPENES: Other Brands? Yes // Simple Green? No

In this segment, we are discussing products that utilize citrus and pine oils as cleaning agents – not just tiny fractions for fragrance. d-Limonene is the major component of the oil extracted from citrus rind. This oil is pressed from the rind and distilled to recover certain solvents and compounds used for flavors and fragrances – mainly terpenes. Pine oil is extracted from the wood and bark and results in pinene – also used as a solvent and fragrance ingredient.

In the past decade, the use of d-Limonene expanded tremendously. Much of this terpene goes to making paint solids, to imparting an orange or lemon fragrance to products, and used as a secondary coolant fluid. However, the largest growth segment for d-Limonene has been in cleaning products. This has occurred in both industrial uses and in household/institutional products. d-Limonene can be used as either a solitary solvent, or incorporated into water-dilutable products.4 d-Limonene is one of a diverse group of hydrocarbons that has been shown to induce a unique syndrome of nephropathy (kidney damage and failure) in male rats following chronic or sub chronic exposure. (U.S. EPA 1991)

d-Limonene is an occupational skin-sensitizer. Repeated or prolonged skin contact can cause an allergic skin response (redness, swelling, itching). The allergic response is caused by oxidation products of d-Limonene, formed upon exposure to air. Five of 67 people who had an allergic skin response to turpentine (composed mainly of alpha- and beta-pinenes) tested positive to 1% d-Limonene. d-Limonene was a mild to moderate irritant in animal tests. Limonene (isomer not specified) was absorbed through the skin at 100 times the rate of water.5

PETROLEUM DISTILLATES: Other Brands? Yes // Simple Green? No

Petroleum distillates (aka petrochemicals) are resulting chemicals from processing of fossil fuels such as crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Distillate products include gasoline, kerosene, solvent naphtha, jet fuel, diesel oil, light fuel oil, lubricating oils, motor oils, heavy fuel oils, tars, and asphalt.6 Other common distillates are mineral oils, lamp oils, and paint thinners. Other chemicals are also derived from the building blocks of petrochemicals, but are not true distillates. Some examples of this are plastics, polymers, alcohols, synthetic rubber, nylon and more. Toxic exposure to petroleum distillates can sometimes result in "hydrocarbon poisoning".

"Hydrocarbon poisoning" is sickness from swallowing or breathing in fumes from hydrocarbon products. Symptoms of hydrocarbon poisoning can be: coughing, choking, fast breathing, a burning sensation in the stomach, blue skin due to low oxygen levels in the blood), sleepiness, trouble breathing (it can take several hours for this to happen), poor coordination (clumsiness), seizures (when your body moves or jerks out of your control), coma (when you're unconscious and can't be woken up).7

TOXIC: Other Brands? Often, Yes // Simple Green? No

Toxicity is a measure of the degree to which something is poisonous or has a damaging effect on the body. Toxicology is the study of poisons. Toxicity can refer to the effect on the whole organism, such as a human or a bacterium or a plant, etc. or to a substructure such as a cell (cytotoxicity) or an organ (organotoxicity –or specific to the liver as in hepatoxicity). In the science of toxicology, the impact of an external substance or condition and its deleterious effects on living things: organisms, organ systems, individual organs, tissues, cells, subcellular units, is the subject of study. A central concept of toxicology is that effects are dose-dependent: even water –generally considered non-toxic- can lead to intoxication when taken in large enough doses, whereas for even a very toxic substance such as snake venom, there is a dose below which there is no detectable toxic effect.

BIODEGRADABLE: Other Brands? Sometimes // Simple Green? Yes

Prior to the Federal Trade Commission's 2012 update to their Guide to Environmental Marketing (known as the "Green Guide"8) biodegradability was defined according to OECD test methods that outlined levels at which a substance was broken down by biological organisms over time. The FTC polled average citizens and learned that most people define "biodegradable" as meaning "breaks down into natural components within a reasonable period of time." The FTC also determined that a label carrying the term Biodegradable should qualify that claim to specify exactly what is biodegradable … the package? the label? the product inside? The FTC guide is not enforced by the federal government, but often serves as the basis for state's laws on the subject of truth in advertising. Most states decided that "a reasonable period of time" means one year. Simple Green carries a label that specifies that the formula is biodegradable, and has tested the Simple Green formula to show that it reaches 100% biodegradability within 56 days.

NONFLAMMABLE: Other Brands? Often, No // Simple Green? Yes

A nonflammable substance cannot be ignited (although the term is sometimes also used to indicate a material which, while it can be ignited with difficulty, burns only very slowly.) Simple Green is non-flammable.

NONABRASIVE: Other Brands? Often, No // Simple Green? Yes

Nonabrasive cleaners do not remove portions or layers of the surface being cleaned. They do not wear, grind, or exfoliate the surface. Simple Green leaves the surfaces it cleans intact. This means that you don't need to repair a surface after cleaning with Simple Green. Scouring powders and melamine sponges, while popular with some people for specialized cleaning tasks, can damage typical household surfaces such as painted and/or sealed walls, furniture, cabinets and trimwork, cultured marble and other engineered stone, resin surfaces, some plastics, laminated surfaces, and more.


Thankfully, recycling is growing in the United States, but we have a long way to go. Recycling is the reprocessing of used materials into new products. Recycling prevents the waste of useful material resources, reduces the consumption of finite raw materials and reduces greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the lifecycle of virgin materials. Recycling is a key component of modern waste management and is the third component of the waste hierarchy: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Simple Green is packaged in recyclable PET (#1) plastic spray bottles and recyclable HDPE (#2) plastic gallon bottles and larger bulk pails and drums. Many of our plastic containers have some post-consumer recycled content and we are well on our way to utilizing 100% post-consumer content in our corrugated cardboard packaging. All materials in Simple Green packaging are recyclable. Simple Green was the first cleaning product manufacturer to offer a cleaning product in an all-PET bottle with a grip-handle (2007).

  1. California EPA Air Resources Board Fact Sheet, October 2008 Cleaning Products and Indoor Air Quality
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Drinking Water and Health National Research Council (US) Safe Drinking Water Committee 1980
  4. Wikipedia
  5. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) "Cheminfo" database
  6. Applied Toxicology of the Petroleum Hydrocarbons, Princeton Scientific Publishers, 1984
  7. Merck Manual, Consumer Version
  8. FTC Green Guide
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