Last Updated on January 21, 2023 by The Filtery


We’ve been covering a lot of the “big green” personal care and home cleaning brands lately: Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, 9 Elements, Everspring… and now Method.

In all honesty, these deep dives are getting a little, well… boring! Although the specifics may vary a little bit from brand the brand, these companies are generally the same in terms of how “non-toxic” they are. Most of them are better than their more conventional counterparts and free from some of the most concerning ingredients (like phthalates), but they’re not the best options either, since they still contain some irritating ingredients and lack transparency in some ways.

Not surprisingly, Method is pretty much the same.

But if you want to learn more, this article will go through the pros and cons of the brand so you can decide whether you want to use Method products in your home. (We’ll also give the lowdown on that class action lawsuit Method was involved in a few years back.)

IN A NUTSHELL

  • Method is a consumer brand that’s owned by S.C. Johnson and offers colorful cleaning and personal care products.
  • Method is free from a few types of toxic ingredients, such as parabens and phthalates. However, they contain some other “not-great” ingredients such as FD&C dyes and irritants, and they lack transparency about their fragrance ingredients.
  • Method has a few sustainability-focused initiatives, such as refill bottles and aluminum soap dispensers. However, their packaging still uses quite a bit of plastic and most of their formulations are only partially plant-based and/or biodegradable.
  • In 2021, Method settled a class action lawsuit in which they were accused of mislabeling their products as “non-toxic” and “natural” when in fact they contained ingredients that may not be. As a result of the settlement, Method agreed to pay out $2.25 million to consumers and stop using this type of wording on their branding.

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A Quick Overview of the Method Brand

Method is a home cleaning and personal care brand that was founded in 2001 by two entrepreneurs—Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry—and then acquired by S.C. Johnson in 2017. (In addition to conventional brands like Windex and Glade, S.C. Johnson also owns other “green” brands like Ecover, Mrs. Meyer’s, and Babyganics.)

They carry a variety of colorfully-branded products, like:

  • Hand wash (gel and foaming)
  • Body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cleaning sprays (all-purpose, bathroom, antibacterial, glass, granite, wood, etc.)
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Floor cleaner
  • and more

A Closer Look at Method’s Ingredients (Are They Toxic?)

Method’s products are explicitly free from at least a couple of the most concerning classes of chemicals, including phthalates and parabens (both of which are endocrine disruptors). That’s good news!

Free From Certain Harmful Ingredients

Method states that their products are free from phthalates and parabens (both of which are endocrine disruptors). This is definitely a good thing!

However, these are really the only two groups of chemicals the brand calls out, so we’ll have to dig deeper if we want to find out more about what else is in their formulations… Let’s start with the “fragrance.”

Fragrance

“Fragrance” (or “parfum”) is one of the categories of ingredients that causes the most problems for conscious consumers who want to reduce the environmental toxicants in their home.

Although legislation is finally (yet slowly) starting to change, companies are still in large part not required to list the full ingredients used for their “fragrance.” In fact, brands can include about 4,000 different chemicals in their products under “fragrance” without actually listing what those ingredients are. This is what’s called the “fragrance loophole,” and you can read more about it here.

Of course, not all of those ~4,000 ingredients are harmful. Many are perfectly safe while others include endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and allergens. The problem is that it becomes practically impossible for consumers to know for sure and therefore they’re not able to make decisions for themselves about whether or not they want to use that product.

We believe transparency is a crucial part of consumer empowerment and agency, and is necessary in order to hold brands responsible for the ingredients they use. As a society, we are used to this idea when it comes to food: companies are required to tell consumers what’s in their food products. Why should it be any different for the personal care and cleaning products that we bring into our home and put onto our skin?

It’s not all bad news on the fragrance front, though. One of the toxic ingredient categories that is often hidden under the “fragrance” loophole is phthalates… And as mentioned previously, Method says that all of their products are phthalate-free—so that’s good! However, it’s not clear what else is in Method’s “fragrance” ingredients, which is not ideal.

Irritants

Like many of the other big eco-friendly brands, Method’s products do contain more than a few ingredients that are considered irritants. Although many of these ingredients may not be problematic for those without pre-existing issues, they may be exacerbating for those with eczema, sensitive skin, allergies, asthma, multiple chemical sensitivity, or similar conditions.

Let’s look at a few of those ingredients:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): This is used as a surfactant that helps in the cleaning process. It’s an irritant that should not usually cause problems when used in proper concentrations and washed off after use. However, SLS still can be irritating to some. You can read more about it here.
  • Isothiazolinone Preservatives: Synthetic preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone are sensitizers that can cause allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Allergens: Sometimes even naturally-derived ingredients (like limonene or hexyl cinnamal) can cause problems for those with allergies. These ingredients are found in lots of cleaning and personal care products, even ones that are otherwise considered natural and non-toxic. Although Method does offer laundry detergent and dishwasher packs that are completely free from fragrances, their unscented options stop there. So those who want or need to avoid fragrances for things like all-purpose cleaner or hand soap will have to go with a different brand (like Branch Basics).

FD&C Dyes

Colors are a big part of Method’s brand, so a lot of their products contain dyes like “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “D&C Yellow No. 10.”

The specific concerns with dyes like these vary depending on the specific dye and how much research has been done on it. However, many studies that have been done so far have linked them to hyperactivity and/or hypersensitivity in children and cancer/tumor growth (from DNA damage and cell mutation). There is also concern about carcinogenic contamination.

While it may be quite difficult to completely avoid these dyes, many conscious consumers will want to at least avoid them when it’s possible… And considering that there are plenty of personal care and cleaning products that are free from them, this is a relatively easy category to avoid them.

Ethoxylated Ingredients

This is another group of chemicals that is very commonly used in personal and home care products of all kinds. It’s definitely not the most concerning kind of ingredient, but it’s still worth noting.

The problem with ethoxylated ingredients comes from potential contamination from the manufacturing process. There are two main chemicals of concern that are used to process ethoxylated ingredients: 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. 

Ethylene oxide is an irritant that’s known to cause multiple types of cancer and infertility. 1,4 dioxane is also a known carcinogen. These ingredients aren’t added intentionally (and therefore won’t be found on any ingredient labels), but they’ve been found as contaminants in personal care products and cosmetics that use ethoxylated ingredients.

Again, these types of ingredients are basically impossible to avoid 100%. But many consumers still want to be aware of them and avoid them when possible. There are certainly cleaning products on the market that don’t use them (like Branch Basics and Force of Nature).

What About Sustainability?

Now that we’ve taken a look at Method’s ingredients, let’s look at their other sustainability initiatives so you can decide if you think Method is really an “eco-friendly” brand…

Method’s website boasts “future-friendly cleaning” while advertising their various kinds of packaging. They offer refill bottles for several of their products, including the hand wash and all-purpose cleaner. A lot of these refills still come in plastic bottles, but they are made from fully or partially recycled plastic and can refill a hand soap bottle three times.

They also have aluminum soap dispensers now, which are better because (unlike plastic) aluminum is infinitely recyclable (and also less toxic).

While these initiatives reduce plastic use, they’re hardly revolutionary or zero-waste. It’s better than nothing, but there are plenty of cleaning companies that offer solutions that are even more low-waste.

Other initiatives include their limited edition products that promote social causes—like their Fifty Nine Parks collection, which contributes to national parks access, their Creative Growth collection, which supports adults with disabilities, and their Eating Rainbows collection, which celebrates LGBTQ+ causes.

What Happened With the Method Lawsuit?

Now, you may have heard at some point that Method was sued for greenwashing, so here’s the lowdown on that…

In 2021, Method settled a class action lawsuit, agreeing to pay $2.25 million to consumers for mislabeling their products as “non-toxic” and “natural” when in fact ‘the products have the capacity to harm humans or the environment’ (as argued by the plaintiffs).

As part of the settlement, S.C. Johnson/Method also agreed to stop using the word “non-toxic” to describe the brand and its products.

Some of the specific ingredients called out by the lawsuit include tocopheryl acetate and propylene glycol. Even though these ingredients aren’t necessarily that “bad,” they are also not natural. So the argument was that Method shouldn’t be advertising their products as “natural” or “naturally-derived” when in fact they contain a lot of synthetic ingredients.

(Keep in mind that since this lawsuit reached a settlement, it was decided by the court in favor of either party, and that by settling, Method was not admitting guilt.)

These types of lawsuits are common, and sometimes they might be perceived as cash grabs by plaintiffs or the lawyers representing them. And while I have no idea about the motivations behind the individuals involved, I do think it’s important that companies accountable for the claims they make. This is especially true as environmental concerns have become more mainstream and greenwashing runs rampant across the consumer goods sector.

After all, words like “non-toxic” and “natural” and “plant-based” don’t really mean anything specific. Brands aren’t required to meet any specific set of standards in order to slap these labels on their products, and this can cause a lot of confusion for consumers. For this reason, lawsuits like this can play an effective role in increasing transparency, awareness, and accountability between consumers and brands.

So, Is Method Greenwashing?

Because of this lawsuit settlement, one could argue that Method is actually doing less greenwashing than it used to be. They’re no longer advertising their products as “non-toxic” or “natural,” but rather using more specific language such as “made without parabens or phthalates.” One could definitely argue that this can still be misleading for consumers since it’s still making a non-toxic implication, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

In terms of greenwashing on the sustainability front… Although Method does have a few eco-conscious initiatives, they still use a lot of plastic, and most of their formulations are only partially plant-based and/or biodegradable.

PROS:

  • Free from some concerning ingredients such as phthalates and parabens
  • Laundry and dishwasher detergents are available in Free + Clear option
  • Some refill and aluminum options are available to reduce plastic packaging

CONS:

  • Still a lot of “not-great” ingredients used, including irritants, dyes, and ethoxylated ingredients
  • Lacks ingredient transparency for fragrances
  • Most products do not have a Free + Clear option
  • Still use a lot of plastic packaging

More FAQs About Method

Are Method’s Products All-Natural?

No. While Method does use some plant-based and/or naturally-derived ingredients in their formulations, they also use a variety of synthetic and semi-synthetic ingredients as well.

Is Method Cruelty Free and/or Vegan?

Yes. Method’s products are certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny and Cruelty Free International. Method also states that their products are vegan because they don’t contain animal ingredients or by-products. (They do not, however, have a third party vegan certification.)

Who Owns Method?

Method Products was acquired by S. C. Johnson & Son in late 2017. S.C. Johnson also owns other familiar brands like Glade, Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Windex.

Is Method Antibacterial?

While many of Method’s products are not antibacterial, they do offer a few antibacterial cleaning sprays.

Is Method A Target Brand?

While Method is available for purchase at Target, it is not owned by Target the way Everspring is. Method’s parent company is S. C. Johnson & Son.

Is Method Cleaner Safe for Granite?

Method’s All-Purpose cleaners are generally safe for granite, but just make sure to do a patch test in an inconspicuous spot before using for the first time. Additionally, Method offers several cleaners that are specifically formulated for use on granite.

Is Method Cleaner Safe for Wood?

Again, Method’s All-Purpose cleaners are safe for most finished wood surfaces, but you should still do a patch test before using. Method also offers an all-purpose wood cleaner spray and a wood floor cleaner.


Are there any more brands you’d like us to break down for you? Just let us know in the comments below. And if you’d like to get a weekly email with updates, tips & tricks, news and more, sign up for Filtered Friday.