Posted by Anthony Zumpano on September 17, 2009 03:36 PM
Are there actual lemons in lemon-scented Pledge? You may soon find out.
The strength of brands employed for household cleaning and polishing used to be measured by how clean and polished they rendered your home, but as environmental awareness goes further mainstream, even people who aren’t seeking “green” products want to know whether that bottle of Windex will create or exacerbate an illness or condition.
Lawmakers, an industry group, and environmentalists are wrangling—and are actually in agreement, mostly—over how and how many ingredients should be disclosed for each product. A major issue for the Procter & Gambles and Colgate-Palmolives is the fear that certain trade secrets (e.g., that lemon smell) will be revealed: Imagine the threat to McDonald’s if it had to list its “special sauce” ingredients on every Big Mac wrapper. (On the other hand, Coke is able to list ingredients without revealing its storied secret formula.)
Besides the threat of knockoff products, listing the ingredients in cleaners that homeowners have used for years probably won’t threaten these brands. After all, knowing that modified cellulose, locust bean gum, and polysorbate 80 are in my Good Humor Chocolate Eclairs won’t stop me from eating them. But if this leads to large tobacco-style warnings about side effects including asthma and birth defects, the debate will be far more contentious. (Probably not, since household cleansers are, tragically, less addictive than Marlboro.)
And if consumers are still afraid of household cleaners, even the green ones, they can always skip the lemon-scented products and just squeeze out some of the real thing.