Skip to content
cleaning bottles lined up for ingredients FAQ
In the home

Ingredients FAQ

Read on for simple answers to FAQs about ingredients in cleaning products. For example, 'are phosphates bad?' and 'what are phthalates?' – find out here.

Key Facts:

This article gives you information on some of the most common ingredients you already have in your home, how to pronounce them, and the role they play in the environment after use.

The Internet is a great place for learning, but occasionally that means there’s an excess of information and it’s tricky to separate fact from fiction. Here, we take on some of the most frequently asked questions about the ingredients in your favourite household cleaning products.

Are phosphates bad? 

In short, no! Phosphates are created from phosphorous, a naturally occurring mineral, combining with oxygen. As such, they are safe and usually sustainable. However, when there is a high concentration of phosphates in runoff from farms, lawns, and detergent use, they cause a spike in the levels of phosphate in the water and create an excess of algae growth if not managed with wastewater treatment. This event is the reason many people ask ‘why are phosphates bad?’ instead of simply ‘what are phosphates?’.

Is SLS safe?

The best way to take away the mystery of this acronym is to name it accordingly: sodium lauryl sulphate. SLS and its friend SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulphate) are just technical names for two surfactants. This means they are the reason your cleaning and personal care products have the ability to foam and clean more effectively. The best part about these ingredients is that they are completely safe when used according to the directions and non-threatening to the environment. They are totally biodegradable and, because they have been the focus of many studies to confirm their safety in the use of personal care products, we know that we can enjoy the benefits with minimal impact on the environment.

What are phthalates?

Phthalates (pronounced ‘thah-lates’) are a family of chemicals that are safe for use in plastics. What are phalalates found in when it comes to cleaning products, you ask? Not much: they can be present in the packaging you’ll come across because they simultaneously toughen and soften the plastic containers they often come in, but phalalates are not actually an ingredient used in our products. Because of the product’s proximity to the plastic packaging, trace amounts of phalalates may be found in the product itself, but these levels are well within an acceptably safe range.

There are a variety of different versions of this chemical and each one has a different safety profile, so if you’ve read about phthalates and come away with a bad taste, it’s important to consider that the presence of this chemical in the packaging of your cleaning products is different from the way some other versions of phthalates are used. In addition, the strict safety and environmental regulations applied to the production of cleaning products ensure that any brand name product you use is up to snuff.

What is sodium hypochlorite?

Sodium hypochlorite is the key ingredient in your favourite brand of bleach. It kills microorganisms, fights germs, and removes stains left and right, but many people wonder about sodium hypochlorite hazards; this disinfectant is almost too good to be true! You’ll find it used responsibly in products from Domestos.

Bleach is essential for sterilisation and health all over the world, and thankfully the hazards of sodium hypochlorite are minimal when used according to the label. In fact, the environment has nothing to worry about: it dissolves back into salt and water and poses no long-term threat.

Don’t forget that these chemicals and ingredients come with their own safety precautions, so follow directions and read the product label. Knowing more about the chemical composition of cleaning products and their impact on the planet around us will help you make informed decisions when it comes to keeping your home clean and eco-friendly.

For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.