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The truth about natural home care products

Cara Welch, PhD serves as the scientific and regulatory affairs (SRA) Manager at the Natural Products Association (NPA). Dr. Welch has an extensive background in natural products research and an in-depth knowledge of organic chemistry, s...

natural doesn't always mean good

Let’s face it: Green is the new black. Companies introduced 13,000 new "natural" products last year and another 5,000 have hit shelves already this year. Whether it’s the food they eat or the stuff they own, women everywhere are making the choice to go natural. Nowhere is this more evident than in home care products, such as cleaners and detergents, where sales of natural products have more than doubled in the last two years. But are those home care products really as green as they seem? Here’s how to tell.

Woman reading label

"Natural" is relative

When you purchase a "natural" cleaning product, you may not know what you're getting. Consider this: The companies that make these products are the ones who decide whether they can be called natural. If that doesn't inspire much confidence, you aren't alone. A recent poll found that 83 percent of consumers would like to see a set meaning for the word "natural."

Seek out certified home care products

The Natural Products Association (NPA) is trying to help by creating a seal that will help consumers quickly identify what products are truly "natural." Two years ago, the NPA launched the first certification program for personal care products that bill themselves as natural. With the success of the Personal Care Seal – it has already certified nearly 300 products – the NPA has turned its attention to the exploding "natural home care" category.

Natural Home Care Seal

This February, the NPA launched the Natural Home Care Seal to help consumers choose natural products at a single glance. This June, the first certified products – a selection of cleaning products from Clorox Green Works – are hitting store shelves.

How to know if your home care products are truly good for you

The NPA natural standard for home care products is based on natural ingredients, safety, responsibility and sustainability. It has the following criteria:

1Natural

A product labeled "natural" should be made up of only, or almost only, natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes.

2Safety

A product labeled "natural" should avoid any ingredient that has peer-reviewed, scientific research showing it can pose a human health or environmental risk.

3Responsibility

A product labeled "natural" should use no animal testing in its development except where required by law.

4Sustainability

A product labeled "natural" should use biodegradable ingredients and the most environmentally sensitive packaging possible.

Ingredients

A product bearing the Natural Home Care Seal means that the NPA, with the help of an independent third-party certifier, has reviewed its ingredients and manufacturing processes to determine that it meets the organization's rigorous guidelines, including but not limited to these specifications:

  • Made up of at least 95 percent truly natural ingredients or ingredients that are derived from natural sources, excluding water
  • No ingredients with any suspected human health risks
  • No processes that significantly or adversely alter the natural ingredients
  • Ingredients that come from a purposeful, natural source (flora, fauna, mineral)
  • Processes that are minimal and don't use synthetic/harsh chemicals
  • Non-natural ingredients only when no viable natural alternative ingredient is available and only when there are absolutely no suspected potential human health risks
  • Transparency and full disclosure of ingredients

The NPA seal is the first certification system focused exclusively on the verification of natural ingredients and products, providing a system that will help consumers more easily discern which products meet its high standard of "natural." The first Natural Home Care Seal was awarded to Green Works cleaning products -- other products plan to seek certification in the future.

More on green home care products

For more information, visit www.npainfo.org.

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