The Ultimate Guide to Cruelty-Free Cleaning Products

the ultimate guide to cruelty-free cleaning products ecover mrs meyers method

Recently, a reader of The Tree Kisser asked me to post about cruelty-free cleaning products. Until recently, this reader has been living with her parents and wasn’t in charge of household purchases, but she’s hoping to exclusively use cruelty-free cleaning products in her new home! I started to hastily put together a list of the most widely available cruelty-free cleaning products just to answer her question, but I quickly realized the topic required a bit more thorough research.

Why is shopping for cruelty-free cleaning products so confusing?

I don’t know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed and confused when shopping for cruelty-free cleaning products at the grocery store. There are the familiar brands that I know are *mostly good* (basically just that they don’t test on animals), but I can never really remember all the things I want to consider, such as parent companies, ingredient sourcing, whether or not they exclusively make vegan products, and whether they have any extra bonuses like donating to non-profits, manufacturing responsibly, using sustainable packaging, etc.

Aren’t cruelty-free cleaning products always vegan?

Nope! In the household products realm, “cruelty-free” broadly means the product wasn’t tested on animals. While many cruelty-free cleaning products are vegan (made without animal products), some are not. Commonly used animal-derived ingredients used in cleaning products include:

  • Beeswax
  • Whey (sourced from cow milk)
  • Caprylic acid (fat from cow milk)
  • Tallow (rendered beef fat)
  • Glycerol (can be derived from animal fats) *
  • Steric acid (can be derived from animal fats) *
  • Lecithin (waxy nervous tissue)
  • Lauric acid (can be derived from animal fats) *
  • Myristic acid (can be derived from animal fats) *
  • Oleyl alcohols (sourced from fish)

* Signifies an ingredient that can be sourced from plants or animals. Some labels do not differentiate, making shopping even more confusing!

Can’t I just check the label like I do with foods?

Not really. The labeling requirements for cruelty-free cleaning products are a bit different than they are for food. You may not find a list of ingredients, and you probably won’t be able to find information about a potential parent company. You can definitely look for the Leaping Bunny logo (a great start!) and phrases like “no animal ingredients used,” but only if the company volunteers that information.

Because it can be difficult to get some of this information from packaging, I tend to just grab a familiar brand and pat myself on the back for not supporting toxic and/or animal tested products like Tide, Lysol, etc. There’s always a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Hey Jess, don’t you want to double check whether or not that company does anything shady?”, to which I usually respond, “Shut up, voice; I’m a busy lady and I’m doing my best…at least I’m at Whole Foods, right?” Not the best approach, really.

So what should we be looking for?

In an effort to not only help the reader who asked me for this list, but also to help all of us make the most informed choices, I thought I’d reach out to the makers of some mainstream (easy to find in stores) cruelty-free cleaning products and ask these simple
questions (if I couldn’t find the answer on their websites):the ultimate guide to cruelty-free cleaning products ecover mrs meyers method bunnies rabbits animal testing

  • Does your company test on animals?
  • Does your company have a parent company (i.e.: a larger corporation that owns your company), and if so, do they test on animals?
  • Does your company sell products in any countries that require animal testing?
  • Does your company make exclusively vegan products (free from all animal ingredients), or just some?
  • Is there anything else I should know about your sustainability or animal welfare policies?

To be clear, I’m not necessarily of the opinion that it’s wrong to buy products from brands with parent companies that aren’t cruelty-free. I understand how the market factors in consumer demand, and I do believe that buying from those businesses can send a larger signal to the industry that cruelty-free cleaning products are profitable. I also know that small, independent cruelty-free companies sometimes can’t gain wide distribution without a large corporation’s resources. That said, I also understand the desire to boycott any industry that profits from animal exploitation. Regardless of which side of this issue you fall on, you deserve to at least know what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from.

I’m also not suggesting that you have to exclusively buy from 100% vegan companies, for the same supply & demand reasons as I mentioned above. For me, I mostly want to know whether or not their product lines are fully vegan so I can know how closely I have to scrutinize individual ingredients lists. If the company makes only vegan products, it saves me (and you) valuable shopping time!

Mostly, I’m putting this list together to help us all make informed choices without having to stand in the aisle at the supermarket Googling eight different articles about cruelty-free cleaning products. I’m starting with the most mainstream brands (from my perspective), but I’ll be adding more later on. Feel free to leave suggestions or questions in the comments section!


PS: This article does include affiliate links, many of which are from Grove Collaborative, an amazing subscription service that delivers cruelty-free, eco-friendly products right to your door at a big discount! They’re currently offering a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s gift set ($25 value!) and two free kitchen towels with your first order over $20. Go check it out here!

guide to cruelty-free cleaning products

(Grove Collaborative had zero input on the contents of this post)


Mrs. Meyer’s

cruelty-free cleaning producs guide vegan mrs. meyer's

Mrs. Meyer’s, named after the founder’s mother, is one of the most popular cruelty-free cleaning products on the market. Known as much for their chic, modern design as they are for their herbal scented formulas, Mrs. Meyer’s products can be easily found at many mainstream grocery stores.

Relevant facts about Mrs. Meyer’s:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • Parent company is SC Johnson (a company that does test other products on animals)
  • Planet-Friendly Bonuses: Mrs. Meyer’s packaging is recyclable and uses at least 25% post-consumer plastic in their bottles. The company donates time, money, and product to gardening initiatives around the country (more info here).

Buy Mrs. Meyer’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Grove Collaborative!


Method

cruelty-free cleaning producs guide vegan method

 

Founded by two former roommates, Method has been focusing on non-toxic, cruelty-free cleaning products since 2001. Their stance against animal testing even won them a PETA “Person of the Year” award in 2006!

Relevant facts about Method:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • Parent company is SC Johnson (a company that does test other products on animals)
  • Planet-Friendly Bonuses: Method’s bottle are made with either 100% or 50% recycled plastic, and almost all Method bottles are in plastic recycling categories 1 or 2 (meaning they’re most easily recycled). Their website also bas a “Benefit Blueprint”, which outlines their plans for increasing sustainability in coming years.

Buy Method’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Grove Collaborative!


Ecover

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan ecover

Ecover was been pioneering eco-friendly cleaning products since before it was cool! Since 1979, to be specific. They’re most well known for their laundry and dish cruelty-free cleaning products, but they offer solutions for bathroom, floor, and surface as well.

Relevant facts about Ecover:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • Parent company is SC Johnson (a company that does test other products on animals)
  • Planet-Friendly Bonuses: All Ecover bottles are made with 75% Plantplastic®, Ecover’s proprietary material made with sustainably harvested sugarcane. Because Ecover is partnered with Method, they share in Method’s “Benefit Blueprint”, which outlines their plans for increasing sustainability in coming years.

Buy Ecover’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Grove Collaborative!


Seventh Generation

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Seventh Generation is one of the most recognizable suppliers of cruelty-free cleaning products, as they’ve been distributing a wide variety of items for 28 years! In addition to their liquid cleaning solutions, they also manufacture eco-friendly paper supplies and feminine hygiene products.

Relevant facts about Seventh Generation:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • Parent company is Unilever (a company that does test other products on animals)
  • Planet-Friendly Bonuses: Seventh Generation runs their own foundation, an organization that “make(s) grants to non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations that promote and improve environmental conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, and human health and social welfare.” They also actively lobby for sustainability transparency laws, and request that their employees volunteer 20 hours each year in their local communities!

Buy Seventh Generation’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Grove Collaborative!


Greenshield Organics aka “go”

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan greenshield organics

GreenShield Organic, recently rebranded with a logo featuring their initials, “go,” created the first USDA Certified Organic household cleaners in the United States! Their products include laundry detergents, surface cleaners, pet stain removers, and more.

Relevant facts about Greenshield Organics:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • No parent company (independently owned and operated)
  • Planet-Friendly Bonuses: It’s a huge deal that Greenshield is fully organic- this makes a positive impact on consumers, on pollinators, and on our planet! They also just switched up their packaging and are now using sustainable sugarcane bottles. And my personal favorite detail is the fact that they encourage meatless meals as a tool for sustainability!

Buy Greenshield Organic’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Thrive Market!


CleanWell

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan cleanwell

Born out of a need to protect the founders’ son Connor, who was born with an immune system disorder, CleanWell makes non-toxic, cruelty-free cleaning products that are strong enough to combat dangerous bacteria. Their products harness the power of thyme oil to fight germs without chemicals.

Relevant facts about CleanWell:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • No parent company (independently owned and operated)

Buy CleanWell’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Thrive Market!


BioKleen

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan biokleen

BioKleen makes their animal-friendly status very clear on their website’s FAQ page, saying, “NO WAY! We have never ever tested a single Biokleen product on an animal, nor have we used animal ingredients in any formulation. In fact, our cleaners are specifically created with the littlest and lovingest among us in mind.” That’s enough for me to get excited!

Relevant facts about BioKleen:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • No parent company (independently owned and operated)
  • Planet-friendly bonuses: Biokleen offsets 100% of the energy used in their offices and manufacturing as part of their mission to support renewable technologies. For each kilowatt used, Biokleen purchases blocks of wind power that support green energy projects.

Buy BioKleen’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save (and get free goodies!) with Thrive Market!


ECOS (Earth Friendly Products)

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan ecos

ECOS is a sub brand of Earth Friendly Products, a company that has been manufacturing a wide variety of cruelty-free cleaning products since 1967! Earth Friendly Products is entirely family owned and operated, with an emphasis on creating items that are not just eco-friendly, but also affordable.

Relevant facts about ECOS:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • 100% vegan (no animal-derived ingredients)
  • No parent company (independently owned and operated)
  • Planet-friendly and humanitarian bonuses: Earth Friendly Products’ facilities are carbon neutral, water neutral and Zero Waste Platinum certified. They also boast an employee minimum wage of $17/hour, one of the highest in the United States! Employees also enjoy “exceptional health care, paid leave, and green initiative bonuses.”

Buy ECOS’ cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save at Thrive Market!


Dr. Bronner’s

cruelty-free cleaning products guide vegan dr. bronner's

Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a third- generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family. After his parents were killed in the Holocaust, Dr. Bronner eventually made his way to the United States, where he launched the “pro-peace” soap line that still has mainstream popularity today! That was a much abbreviated version of their family history, which you should totally read on their website.

Relevant facts about Dr. Bronner’s:

  • No animal testing (and not animal tested for compliance in other countries)
  • Mostly vegan (no animal-derived ingredients), exceptions being their Organic Lip Balms and Organic Body Balms, which contain organic beeswax.
  • No parent company (family owned and operated)
  • Planet-friendly bonuses: The company actively campaigns in favor of GMO-labeling. Dr. Bronner’s exclusively uses 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles for their liquid and pump soaps. In 2014, they committed to building a zero waste facility. They also advocate for farm animals, so I basically love them.

Buy Dr. Bronner’s cruelty-free cleaning products at Amazon or subscribe & save at Thrive Market!


I’m still waiting on clarifying information via email from Better Life and 365 (Whole Foods’ in house brand) so I can provide accurate details. Check back soon!


 

 

6 thoughts

  1. Thank you for this guide! It is super helpful from the consumer’s perspective. I now have more confidence that my choices aren’t hurting animals or the environment.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I’m always standing in the soap/cleaning aisle for WAY too long and end up just picking one of the brands above, hoping that I’m choosing the right one. This was super educational and so so helpful!

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