How To Read a Cleaning Product Label

Natural cleaning agents
There is an anecdote oft repeated in our family about my granddad who used a face application instead of toothpaste, for brushing his teeth. The tubes were similar in appearance and were stored in the same cabinet. Unfortunately, granddad was visiting and did not bother reading the label on the tube when he grabbed it. While this does sound hilarious, how often does one of us end up doing something similar? How do we know which is which and which cannot or must not be used for another purpose other than intended? Always the product label is the key. The product label provides all information needed by the consumer for its usage. Now, imagine the effects if granddad had used a cleaning product with toxic ingredients, instead? That would not have been funny at all. An essential aspect of all household cleaning products is the cleaning product label. It is essential that you read the product labels before buying or using any cleaning product. Read on to find out the importance of, and the right ways to read a cleaning product label.

Step 1

Contents of a cleaning product label. A typical cleaning product label will contain information as follows:

  • The name of the product or the brand name given by the manufacturer
  • Ingredients which make up the product and the percentage and composition of such ingredients, for example,  isopropanol 10%, ammonia 5mg, etc.
  • Directions for usage and surfaces and areas on which the product can be used or non-use situations
  • Directions for use will list the amount to be used, for the area to be covered, ratio of product to water for diluting, time period for application, protective gear necessary for the user, etc.

Step 2

Warnings and cautionary information. The cleaning product label will contain signal words which indicate the relative acute toxicity which a single exposure can cause, for example, words ‘caution', ‘warning', ‘danger', ‘poison', ‘corrosive', etc.

Step 3

First aid and basic treatment. Also included will be a statement of practical treatments which describe immediate first aid measures to be taken in case of an accidental exposure, so as to curb ill-effects or longer-lasting damage.

Step 4

EPA details. Most cleaning product labels will contain an environment statement and if the product is a disinfectant, it will also list the Environment Protection Agency registration number and details. An "Environment Statement" will give details on safe disposal of the product and/or container, recyclability, etc. This can be inferred from standard eco-terms such as "Certified Biodegradable" or "Photodegradable".

Step 5

Other details. Some of the other details on a cleaning product label include:

  • An emergency telephone number to contact for further information on toxicity control
  • Directions for storage are normally included when there is specific danger posed by a particular means or method of storage. It is generally advised to store the product away from heat source and definitely away from the reach of children.
  • Instructions for disposal will also indicate the manner in which the used container is to be disposed off to prevent any risk, e.g. rinse before disposing

Step 6

Important factors to be considered. Where specific listing is not there, it may be advisable to contact the customer service unit to get the details as some ingredients may trigger allergies.

For laundry and dishwashing products, a ‘plant based' or ‘vegetable based' surfactant should be a preferred ingredient.

A ‘no phosphates' detergent is also preferable for automatic dishwashers.

Reading the cleaning product label beforehand, will tell you the way to get the best possible use from the product. It makes you confident of what you are using and also ensure that you and your dear ones are protected from not just germs but also from the product itself!


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