Back to Home

The nasties lurking in your cleaning products and 4 DIY options

By Sascha Camilli 4 min read

Looking to start spring cleaning? While animal testing for beauty (and medical research) has been in the public eye for years, household cleaning products are often overlooked.

Not the most glamorous of subjects—but for most of us, cleaning our house is part of everyday life, so the products we use concern a lot of consumers. While animal testing for beauty (and medical research) has been in the public eye for years, household cleaning products are often overlooked. But if you care about keeping your cosmetics cruelty-free, then you might be interested in removing animal testing from your home, too, which means taking a closer look at your home cleaning products, your fabric detergents and conditioners, and your washing-up liquids.

There is, at the time I write this, a law in place in the European Union that bans cosmetics ingredients from being tested on animals in the EU (though it is not without its difficulties and loopholes). In Australia, a ban has been proposed for several years, but at the time of writing, is delayed and has yet to come into effect. Cosmetics companies are currently not testing on animals in Australia, but some conduct their animal research elsewhere in the world, for the products to then be sold on the Australian market. A bill to ban animal testing for cosmetics was introduced in the United States, but has not yet passed at the time of writing this book.

Unfortunately, there is no similar ban when it comes to household products anywhere in the world, which means that it’s legal to use rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals in toxicity tests, carcinogenicity experiments, skin irritant tests and many other painful experiments. In many of these tests, animals are forced to swallow or inhale large quantities of potentially toxic substances, or have harsh chemicals smeared on their skin.

Alternatives do exist. Researchers have developed methods such as 3D tissue structures made from actual human skin to test on, along with in-vitro technologies like "organ in a chip", which uses human cells grown in a lab to mimic human organs. This is innovative, lifesaving science that one day will take the place of cruel animal testing. Until then, we have to stick to good old-fashioned label reading.

Labels to look for

If you agree that cruelty to animals doesn’t belong in your home, it’s time to take a look at the products you are using to clean it with. Just as with beauty, there are certifications out there that allow you to know more about how your household products were made.

The eco-friendly tip: refill your bottles

The new crop of eco-friendly, zero-waste shops that are popping up in cities all around the world offer a refill service for products like household cleaners, washing-up liquids and fabric detergents (and sometimes shampoo, shower gel and conditioner). So when you’ve run out of your product, there is no need to throw away the bottle. Just take it to your nearest eco shop and get a refill. Most of the time, the products on offer for refilling are cruelty-free and vegan (if you are not sure, always ask and check the label).

This allows you to be kind to animals and the environment at the same time. Plus, you often save money—I initially worried about the price of the refills in my local ethical shop but, once I went in for a refill, I realised that I had been paying more for bottled products all along. This kind of system is bound to become even more prominent in the next few years, as plastic pollution is a catastrophic problem on everyone’s radar, and we increasingly strive to limit our consumption and waste.

Non-vegan ingredients lurking in your home care products

Once you’ve established that the products you are using are cruelty-free, it’s time to take the next step and ensure that they are vegan. (Reminder: a product is cruelty-free if it’s not tested on animals. It is vegan if it doesn’t have any animal-derived ingredients). Just like any other item you are buying, read the ingredients. Learn which ingredients are not vegan and check the label before you buy. Here are some ingredients to watch out for:

Glycerin

Sometimes vegan, sometimes derived from animal fat

Keratin

A protein that comes from ground hooves, horns, feathers and quills

Lanolin

A substance that is found in sheep’s wool

Carmine

A red colouring that comes from crushed beetles (also used in beauty products)

Tallow

A product made from animal fat

Caprylic acid

A substance derived from milk

Oleyl alcohol

Comes from fish

The DIY options

If you are a DIY lover, you will be pleased to find that there is a vast array of options for cleaning your home and everything in it that do not involve animal cruelty—or buying any cleaning products at all. There are items that you are likely to have in your kitchen right now that do the job just fine, such as:

Vinegar

Just plain white vinegar, nothing fancy necessary. Yes, the smell is a bit much, but it will get the job done, whether it’s washing floors or cleaning windows. Just light a scented candle afterwards to get rid of the smell. Alternatively, add some essential oils or lemon to your vinegar for a more pleasant scent.

Lemon

Blend some fresh lemon juice with salt to scrub dishes and clean your kitchen, as well as wash steel utensils. A bonus point is the fresh scent.

Coconut oil

Not for cleaning, but a great option to add shine to your faux-leather furniture—no need for fancy leather polish. Just mix some coconut oil with the aforementioned miracle worker— vinegar—and voila, a perfect polish for your sofas and faux-leather chairs.

Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Mixed with lemon and—you guessed it—vinegar, bicarbonate of soda works wonders as a kitchen cleaner or bathroom scrub. You can even use it as a fabric conditioner in the laundry, as it helps maintain softness and boost cleanliness.

It might feel strange initially to use food products to clean your house, wash your dishes and clean your clothes, but after you’ve been doing it for a while, it will start feeling exactly what it is—natural. If you’re ever faced with using industrial cleaners again, you’ll probably find yourself flinching at their chemical smells and unnatural feel.

For DIY home cleaning and beauty recipes, check out Mandi Makes


Text from Vegan Style by Sascha Camilli. Murdoch Books RRP $35.00. Out now

Sascha Camilli is the founder and editor of Vildamagazine.com, the world's first digital vegan fashion magazine. She is a frequent public speaker on the topic of ethical fashion.