I do not like when the wool is pulled over my eyes.
I really don’t like being lied to or feeling like someone kind of sort of told a lie, but tried to make it look honorable.
And when I share that untruth or half-truth with the world before finding out that I’m wrong, too? Then I start smoking from the top of my head.
I was feeling that way last week when an astute reader did what I should have when I reviewed Charlie’s Soap last year. I was even questioned at the time because instead of doing thorough research into butylcelosolv, the active ingredient the company told me was in their all-purpose cleaner, I accepted their explanation of its safety. I still didn’t look into it further. Big mistake.
Luckily, a reader named Michelle popped in with a new comment and some much better Google searches. She shared the following:
I found this when I googled “charlies soap ingredients”
http://www.charliesoap.com/pdf/Charlie%27s%20Soap%20All%20Purpose%20MSDS.pdf [The document is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that the federal government requires for all chemicals. It lists one of two active ingredients as "2-BUTOXYETHANOL".]
I have yet to find any blog or lettter from the president stating anything about that ingredient.
I love their soap, but after reading this I no longer trust Charlie Soap.
Now I Finally Research
A year too late, here are my findings on this new name, since the one given me by the company was very difficult to Google search for:
Their active ingredient that they called butylcelosolv is Czech for 2-Butoxyethanol acetate, also known as Butyl Cellosolve. According to the Skin Deep Database, which rates it a 6 (moderate hazard), butoxyethanol has ties to cancer, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and more. (source) It’s used in hundreds of cleaning products, even as an oil spill dispersant, and “provides cleaning power and the characteristic odor of Windex and other glass cleaners. It is the main ingredient of many home, commercial and industrial cleaning solutions.” (source) It may not be a major environmental contaminant, but it certainly doesn’t sound safe!
Here’s a must-read from the Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project:
2-Butoxy Ethanol is one of the most toxic of the glycol ethers.
You should use products containing butoxyethanol with extreme care. It is a poison that can easily absorb through your skin to harm you. When working with it, always wear gloves and goggles and be sure the you have enough ventilation.
Check out that site for more scary stuff. The Australian Government also seems skeptical about butoxyethanol, recommending quite a number of labeling requirements for it.
The New Jersey Department of Health prepared this helpful hazardous substance fact sheet, including:
2-Butoxy Ethanol may be a CARCINOGEN in humans.
There may be no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen, so
all contact should be reduced to the lowest possible level.
What do You Think? Can We Trust Charlie’s Soap?
I’m glad I didn’t use this stuff often or for long. It should be labeled as toxic AND disclose the active ingredient on the packaging, as well as make it very, very clear that the spray bottle is a concentrate!
I’m very upset that I feel like the company was not straightforward in their claims, and the company tagline “safe, non-toxic, biodegradable soap” seems like an awful stretch after reading all this.
I am not yet sure what is in their laundry soap, which so many people trust and love for cloth diapers in particular. When I mentioned the updates to the old post last week on Facebook and Twitter, people were quick to ask about the laundry soap. UPDATE: Readers in the comments inquired, “What do we use for laundry then?” My personal recommendation, which I tested at the same time as Charlie’s and liked it better then, too, is soap nuts. They are truly natural, hands down. Here’s my soap nuts review and where I purchase mine.
My thinking? If a company fibs their way through one product and uses Czech so it’s harder to research the active ingredient, I simply can’t trust anything they make. What do you think?
A Response from the Company
Without any contact from me to him, I received an email from the president of the company a week or so after I publicized the update to the original post:
“I’m really sorry you had the issue with the biodegradable solvent. You might like our new Kitchen & Bath cleaner, though. That’s coming out tomorrow. We cut the amount of solvent in half and made it ready for spray-on/wipe-off application for daily use. With less of the solvent, it’s even that much safer and biodegradable, and better still, it doesn’t smell as much like a cleaner.”
Did he miss the point entirely? I’m pretty sure I’m pointedly upset about the ingredient itself, period, being used, not the quantity in which it’s measured out.
SafER is not what I’m looking for. Give me SAFE.
I think I’m sticking with my vinegar.
What do you think? Should I respond to the president of the company? Has anyone discovered anything about the laundry soap?
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate with NaturOli soap nuts, for good reason. I like to work with companies that make good products. I’m so glad Charlie’s Soap never ended up advertising with me; I’d feel even worse about all this! See my full disclosure statement here.