What’s in Swiffer wet cloths

Oh the controversy! I had no idea it existed until a few hours ago when I started researching for this post. Is Swiffer harmful to kids and pets? Does it have antifreeze? Should we throw all of our Swiffer products away?

Those of you who have read my previous posts know that I’m trying to figure out what’s in my household cleaners to see if they are environmentally friendly. (To catch up, go here.) I go about this fairly casually. Usually, I start to clean something in my apartment and think “Hmm, I should look up some info about this.” Last night, it was time to mop my kitchen floor. I typically use Swiffer Sweeper wet cloths to do this, so I decided to look up the info about the product this morning.

It was fairly difficult to find the contents of it. I was hopeful that I could go to the manufacturer’s website, find the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the Swiffers and research the individual chemicals listed there. This was not to be. Swiffer products are made by Procter and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble does have MSDSs for their products on their website. However, as I looked at the MSDSs for all Swiffer wet products (not just what I buy), I saw either no ingredients listed or ethanol listed as an ingredient. Ethanol is the same type of alcohol we consume when getting drunk (its corn liquor) so I knew that this couldn’t be the complete list of ingredients.

So I searched again. That’s when I found all of the controversy about Swiffer’s wet products. It seems that this controversy started with a chain e-mail about some anonymous person’s dog dying of liver failure after having contact with a floor cleaned with Swiffer products. The dog’s death supposedly occurred because Swiffer products supposedly contain antifreeze. I love dogs and would be crushed to find out that someone’s dog (or other pet for that matter) died as a result of innocent use of cleaning products. But seriously folks, we haven’t learned not to believe these e-mail chain letters yet?

At any rate, after even more digging, I finally found an MSDS for Swiffer Sweeper wet mopping cloths. This MSDS is one issued by Proctor and Gamble as well, so I feel its reliable. If you’d like to take a look, you can find it here. There are 4 ingredients listed: Water, Propylene Glycol n-Butyl Ether, and the mysterious “minor ingredients” and “preservatives”. Three out of four of these are automatically not up for further research. We all know what water is and the vagueness of the last 2 ingredients makes it impossible to figure out what’s going on there. Which leaves us with Propylene Glycol n-Butyl Ether.

Propylene Glycol n-Butyl Ether is where the controversy about this product comes from. First I’ll clear up the rumors about this chemical and then tell you why it freaks me out. And, of course, I’ll show you why because I don’t want to do anything drastic if its not for a good reason.  This chemical is NOT antifreeze and is NOT “just one step away from antifreeze”.  Propylene Glycol n-Butyl Ether is an ingredient in antifreeze. Therefore, this does not make it antifreeze or just one step away from it. This sort of “reasoning” is faulty logic. Its like looking at water and saying its just one step away from Swiffer wet cloths or Windex household cleaner or the cookies I made yesterday. Just because something is an ingredient of a product does not automatically make it that product.

That said, this chemical freaks me out and I want to stay as far away as possible from it. As always, feel free to disagree and post your comments disagreeing with me. I’m just stating how I feel and why. Looking at information found here and here I found out this: “The substance can be absorbed into the body through the skin, and by ingestion.” Obviously I don’t plan on ingesting this directly, but through the skin?!?!?!  Call me nieve, but it just doesn’t seem fair that companies can put stuff like this in products without telling consumers! The warning on the label speaks of “prolonged exposure to skin” and irritation. The information on this chemical doesn’t state if absorption happens immediately or not. So I looked up even more information and found this Product Safety Assessment by Dow Chemical. Not too far into the product overview, I found this: “Brief skin contact may cause moderate irritation with redness.” My sensitive skin must love me for exposing it to this chemical.

And I found this:  “Prolonged skin contact is not likely to result in absorption of harmful amounts.” Its an interesting statement. It does not say that prolonged exposure will not result in absorption. It doesn’t even say that skin contact for a short amount of time will not result in absorption. And that really scares me. Maybe this chemical is heavily diluted by the large amount of water in Swiffer wet sweepers, but I don’t want to take the chance of anything being absorbed into my body that I wasn’t supposed to be born with.

So I guess I’m done with the Swiffer sweepers, whether wet or dry. Its kinda sad, because these things are great for apartment dwellers with limited space. I guess I can try to figure out a good floor cleaner of my own and find a way to get that cleaner on my own cloths that I can snap on to the little broom/mop thingy. *Sigh* I’m not very creative, so wish me luck.


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