Last Updated on November 19, 2022 by The Filtery
Mrs. Meyer’s is one of those “green” brands that has managed to break through to the mainstream. I see it in people’s bathrooms all the time. It’s stocked throughout the home cleaning aisles at big box stores like Target and Walmart. Grove Collaborative is pretty much always giving away free Mrs. Meyer’s bundles when you sign up for a membership (you know what I mean—you’ve probably gotten a referral code from a friend or family member at some point!).
The brand is appealing to a lot of people, probably at least in part because it’s recognizable and it makes people at least feel like they’re making a better choice for their home, their family, and the earth.
But unfortunately, a lot of these well-known “eco-friendly” and “natural” brands are guilty of greenwashing. And many of them (Mrs. Meyer’s included) are owned by huge corporations that can’t always be trusted when it comes to things like ingredient sourcing and transparency.
So in this article, we’re diving deep to find out: is Mrs. Meyer’s actually a “clean” brand?
We’ll look at things like ingredient transparency, their use of safe (or unsafe) ingredients, and the pros and cons of the brand as a whole. Then we’ll answer some of your most commonly asked questions about Mrs. Meyer’s at the end. (P.S. If you want to skip the deep dive and get right to the TL;DR—just click here.)
A Brief Overview of the Mrs. Meyer’s Brand
Founded all the way back in 2001, Mrs. Meyer’s (whose full brand name is actually “Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day”) is a household cleaning company that carries products like:
- All-purpose cleaners
- Dish soap
- Hand soap
- Body wash
- Laundry detergent
- Car air fresheners
They offer a wide variety of scents, from classics like Lavender and Lemon Verbena to more unique smells like Honeysuckle and Compassion Flower. In general, they stick to more “nature-y” scents (since everything is inspired by the founder’s mother’s ‘Midwestern backyard garden’). They regularly release seasonal and special edition scents as well.
Do Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Products Actually Work?
I have used Mrs. Meyer’s products in the past, and I can say that, yes, they are just as effective as other cleaners (both conventional and non-toxic) when it comes to getting the job done. They cut through grease, remove stuck-on grime, and generally do what they need to do. (But as I’ll explain later, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be using them moving forward…)
Is Mrs. Meyer’s Guilty of Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is essentially when a company markets something as “eco-friendly,” “natural,” “sustainable,” or “non-toxic” when it’s actually not.
As sustainable and natural living has become more important to consumers in recent decades, greenwashing has become a real problem, and it’s something consumers should be mindful of when they’re shopping.
I suggest you always take claims made by a brand with a grain of salt. It may not be that a brand is lying or trying to deceive you, but they may not be telling the whole story, either.
Let’s take a look at some of the eco-friendly phrases we found on Mrs. Meyer’s website and products with a bit of a critical eye:
“Garden-Inspired Scents” >> While that may be true, it doesn’t actually mean anything. Just because something is “inspired” by nature doesn’t actually mean it comes from nature or is good for nature.
“Made with Essential Oils & Other Thoughtfully Chosen / Plant-Derived Ingredients” >> Even though it’s made with essential oils, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other (potentially problematic) ingredients added.
“Aromatherapeutic Home Keeping” >> Same thing as the essential oils claim above.
“Made without parabens & phthalates, MEA & DEA, or artificial colors.” >> Here again, we have the same idea. Although I’m definitely glad to see that Mrs. Meyer’s products are made without certain toxic ingredients, it still leaves me wondering what they may have left off that list. (We’ll answer that question in a minute!)
“Recyclable Packaging* (less pumps & caps)” >> I’m personally not too impressed by recyclability anymore. Only a small fraction of plastics get recycled anyway (even if the consumer actually puts it in the proper bin in the right way). Additionally, whether or not something is truly recyclable often depends on where it’s being recycled and what that city’s capabilities are, so putting a blanket “recyclable” statement over something isn’t really that helpful.
Not only that, but saying something is recyclable is often just a thing companies do to push responsibility off on the consumer without doing anything to actually deal with their role in our global plastics crisis.
Lastly, what does that *asterisk* next to the ‘Recyclable Packaging’ mean? I can’t find anything on their website that gives further explanation as to why it’s there.
I will say that many of Ms. Meyer’s bottles say they’re “Made with at least 30% post-consumer plastic.” And while that’s certainly better than nothing when it comes to reducing the amount of virgin plastic being generated, there are many other things Mrs. Meyer’s could do to decrease the amount of plastic in their products (like offer refill or concentrate options, employ compostable paper parts, etc).
The thing with these claims is that they’re not necessarily outright lies. They’re just not exactly the whole truth. And when added together with all of the nature imagery on the website and other ‘plant-derived’ ingredient claims on their bottles, it adds up to a clear message to consumers: ‘our products are safe, natural, and eco-friendly.’
But of course, in order to find out if this is actually true (and therefore if Mrs. Meyer’s is guilty of greenwashing), we have to dig deeper into the actual ingredients and decide for ourselves…
Are Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Products Actually Non-Toxic?
Upon our investigation into Mrs. Meyer’s ingredients, we came to four main conclusions you might want to know about:
1. The Brand Provides (Semi) Transparent Ingredient Lists
First, it’s worth noting that Mrs. Meyer’s is actually pretty transparent when it comes to its ingredients. (This can’t be said for many other personal care and cleaning brands, especially the larger and more conventional ones.) They list the ingredients on the bottle, on their website products pages, and in an Ingredient Glossary on their website.
Transparency is really important, so I’ll give Mrs. Meyer’s at least some credit for this. However, there’s also a huge caveat to this: Mrs. Meyer’s still uses “fragrance” as an ingredient in all of their products, leading to a big deduction in their “transparency points.” We’ll talk about this more in a minute.
2. Mrs. Meyer’s Products Are Free From Some of the “Worst” Ingredients
On their website, Mrs. Meyer’s states that “Our products never contain ammonia, chlorine, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial colorants, phosphates or petroleum distillates.”
Even though I’m fully conscious of the fact that these sort of “made without…” claims do not automatically mean a product is totally non-toxic, I’m still generally glad to see them. This usually means that the product is at least better than many of the more ‘conventional’ products out there, even if it’s not the best option.
3. But The Ingredient Lists are Long & Hard to Decipher
Even though Mrs. Meyer’s provides ingredient lists to its customers (with the exception of full fragrance disclosure), it doesn’t really mean all that much in the real world because of the fact that so many of the ingredient lists are very long and filled with complicated and hard-to-decipher chemicals.
I mean, look at this ingredient list for their Honeysuckle Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner… How many normal working people can actually figure out what these mean much less if they’re safe for their family!?
Water; Decyl Glucoside; Fragrance; Butylphenyl Methylpropional; Cinnamyl Alcohol; Citronellol; Geraniol; Hexyl Cinnamal; Limonene; Linalool; Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil ; Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Flower Oil ; ethylene brassylate; linalool; gamma-undecalactone; geraniol; cinnamyl alcohol; 3a,4,5,6,7,7a-hexahydro-4,7-methanoinden-6-yl acetate; hexyl acetate; benzyl acetate; phenethyl alcohol; cyclamen aldehyde; butylphenyl methylpropional; phenethyl salicylate; amyl salicylate; 2-t-butylcyclohexyl acetate; methyldihydrojasmonate; allyl heptanoate; hexyl cinnamal; citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil; 2-phenoxyethyl isobutyrate; dipropylene glycol; Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract; Lauryl Glucoside; Sodium Citrate; Sodium Methyl 2-Sulfolaurate; Citric Acid; Capryleth-4; Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate; Methylisothiazolinone; Benzisothiazolinone
Of course, a long and complicated ingredient list doesn’t automatically something is “bad,” but it can add to the frustration many consumers feel when trying to reduce the amount of toxins in their homes.
4. Mrs. Meyer’s Still Contains Some Problematic Ingredients
So we know that Mrs. Meyer’s formulations are free from some of the most notorious toxins like phthalates, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Here are the primary ingredient groups that might be problematic to conscious consumers like yourself:
All of Mrs. Meyer’s products contain “fragrance” on their ingredients lists. As briefly mentioned above, companies are legally allowed to hide almost 4,000 different ingredients under the single label of “fragrance” (or “parfum”). Some of these ingredients are perfectly safe, while others include allergens, carcinogens, and more. (There are also things like phthalates and parabens on the fragrance list, but Mrs. Meyer’s has already said they don’t use those, so at least we can cross those off.)
If you dive into the various product labels, you’ll find that Mrs. Meyer’s discloses some of their fragrance ingredients, while continuing to hide others. As you can see from their Ingredient Glossary (from where we pulled the screenshot below), they don’t include all of the relevant CAS numbers (which are chemical identifiers) because it’s considered “proprietary” information. This is probably the most common excuse companies give for not disclosing ingredient information to their customers.
Many brands provide a semi-solution to this problem by offering unscented and fragrance-free options, but Mrs. Meyer’s is not one of them. At this time, Mrs. Meyer’s does not offer any fragrance-free products.
- Isothiazolinone Preservatives
The next group of problematic ingredients includes Benzisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone, which are used as preservatives. The problem with these ingredients is that they are well-established allergens and sensitizers (which means they can make you even more likely to develop an allergic reaction over time, even if you don’t initially).
This means those with eczema or other skin sensitivities should probably stay away from Mrs. Meyer’s products.
Some isothiazolinone preservatives are also suspected to be endocrine disrupting as well. Although not ALL of Mrs. Meyer’s products contain these ingredients (their Lavender hand soap, for example, does not), a lot of them unfortunately do.
There are also some other ingredients found in Mrs. Meyer’s products (such as benzyl benzoate and benzyl salicylate) that come with these same concerns of allergic reaction and sensitization.
- Ethoxylated Ingredients
The next group of not-great ingredients includes ethoxylated ones. There are a LOT of ethoxylated ingredients out there, and they’re practically impossible to avoid completely (even some of the non-toxic brands we recommend on this site use them at times). Ingredients like polyethylene glycol (PEG), and many more ingredients with “eth” in the name fall under this category.
Ethoxylation is a part of the manufacturing process. The problem with these ingredients doesn’t come from the actual ingredients themselves, but rather two chemicals used in making them.
Ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane are both used to make ethoxylated ingredients. Ethylene oxide is an irritant that’s known to cause multiple types of cancer and infertility. And 1,4 dioxane is also a known carcinogen. The problem here is one of contamination. These ingredients aren’t added intentionally (and therefore won’t be found on any ingredient labels, no matter how transparent), but they’ve been found in personal care products and cosmetics more than a few times. In fact, Mrs. Meyer’s actually got sued back in 2009 because the level of 1,4 dioxane in their dish soap exceeded what was permissible by California’s Prop 65 limits (more on that below).
Again, it’s really hard to avoid these ingredients completely, but it can be a good idea to try and minimize exposure to them when you can.
- Ingredients That Lack Safety Data
Once you start looking at Mrs. Meyer’s ingredients one by one, you’ll also notice that many of them are seriously lacking the data department. So even though they might not be unsafe, they also can’t be said to be safe either.
This is a problem because when it comes to environmental toxins (especially man-made ones), our society has a pattern of putting chemicals out into the world without testing or verifying that they’re safe, and then only decades later figuring out that they’re toxic and trying to take them off the market (and by that time, there’s usually a huge mess in our soil, water, and air that can’t even begin to be cleaned up). This has been the case with everything from tobacco to PFAS, pesticides to pharmaceuticals, and more.
Many environmental experts suggest taking a more ‘precautionary’ approach by requiring ingredients to be rigorously tested for safety before they hit the market.
- What About Essential Oils?
You’ll also notice that Mrs. Meyer’s uses a lot of essential oils in their products. This is common, of course, both for conventional and non-toxic brands.
But it’s important to remember that plant-based ingredients can also be allergens for some people. So if you’re looking for cleaning products without any of these oils, we recommend Branch Basics (for an all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, & hand soap) and/or Force of Nature (for all-purpose cleaner or air freshener).
TL; DR: Is Mrs. Meyer’s Really a “Clean” Brand?
Although Mrs. Meyer’s has a few things going for it (such as being phthalate-free), it’s not completely non-toxic.
It’s not totally transparent about its “fragrance” ingredients, it contains several different known allergens & irritants, and many of the ingredients are lacking sufficient safety data.
Not to mention, most of its ingredient lists are really long and difficult for the average consumer to decipher.
On the whole, Mrs. Meyer’s might be better than more ‘conventional’ cleaning products, but we can’t recommend it as 100% non-toxic.
When it comes to certain products (like outdoor furniture, for example), there aren’t a lot of great products on the market that are perfectly non-toxic (and also aesthetically pleasing, effective, and budget-friendly). Sometimes, on your low-tox journey, you may need to choose the lesser of the evils or make some compromises here and there.
But there’s simply no reason to do that when it comes to household cleaning products. There are simply too many truly non-toxic and effective brands on the market. (See below for our suggestions!)
PROS & CONS of Mrs. Meyer’s Summed Up
Mrs. Meyer’s PROS:
- Accessible (available at places like Target, Walmart, & Grove)
- (Semi) transparent ingredients (they don’t disclose all fragrance ingredients)
- Free from common toxicants like ammonia, chlorine, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial colorants, and petroleum distillates
- At least some of their cleaning products are biodegradable (it’s unclear if they all are or not)
Mrs. Meyer’s CONS:
- Contains several types of problematic ingredients, including “fragrance,” isothiazolinone preservatives, ethoxylated ingredients, and lots of ingredients that lack safety data
- Ingredient lists are long and most ingredients are difficult for the average consumer to identify or understand
- Their “nature-inspired” copy and imagery can be misleading to customers
- No third-party certifications (with the exception of Leaping Bunny cruelty-free)
- Owned by S. C. Johnson, a corporation with a not-to-eco-friendly track record with its other products
What to Buy Instead
If you have a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s soap sitting next to your sink, don’t freak out. If you or your loved ones don’t have any skin conditions or other chronic health concerns that may be exacerbated by allergens or irritants, you might consider using up what you have and then buying something better next time. Here are some links to other brands and guides to help you find non-toxic and effective alternatives to Mrs. Meyer’s:
- Branch Basics is a great (unscented) brand we love for hand soap, laundry detergent, and all-purpose cleaner. (And/or you can find even more suggestions for non-toxic all-purpose cleaners here.)
- For the good-smelling stuff, ATTITUDE carries everything Mrs. Meyer’s does (and more!), from laundry detergent to all-purpose cleaners to air fresheners. (And you can find even more safe laundry detergent brands here.)
- For more of our picks for non-toxic dish soap, click here.
- Here are our favorite non-toxic body wash brands.
- And for safer candle suggestions, click here!
More FAQs About Mrs. Meyer’s
Here are some more commonly asked questions about the Mrs. Meyer’s brand and products:
Does Mrs. Meyer’s Kill Germs?
Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products are soaps, not disinfectants. This means they do not kill germs, but rather, lower the number of germs by wiping them away (along with other bacteria, dirt, etc.). Remember that killing germs is not always necessary, though. While there is certainly a time and place for disinfecting, the CDC says that (at least when it comes to hand washing), washing away germs is just as effective in preventing the spread of disease as killing germs.
Is Mrs. Meyer’s Safe for Pets?
Even though we often lack solid data, we generally play on the safe side and assume that if something isn’t great for humans, it’s probably not great for dogs, cats, or other animals either.
For one, their bodies are smaller and therefore may have a smaller “toxic burden” capacity compared to humans.
Second, most pet owners know that certain natural and essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. Even though the concentrations found in Mrs. Meyer’s products shouldn’t be a problem, you should always check with your vet and/or stop using something if you notice your pet having some sort of reaction.
For these reasons, we don’t recommend Mrs. Meyer’s products as completely safe for your pets.
Is Mrs. Meyer’s Vegan and/or Cruelty-Free?
Yes, Mrs. Meyer’s products are certified Leaping Bunny cruelty-free and vegan. Their website states: “We never, ever test our products on animals, nor are our products made with animal-derived ingredients.”
Who Owns Mrs. Meyer’s?
Mrs. Meyer’s currently operates under The Caldrea Company, which is owned by S. C. Johnson. S.C. Johnson acquired The Caldrea Company and Mrs. Meyer’s in 2008.
Whenever we see a non-toxic or natural company get acquired by a large corporation, we usually take an even more skeptical eye. Even if a brand was originally founded at least in part by a desire to create safer and more natural products, once it’s under the umbrella of a corporation, there’s one thing and one thing only that matters: profit. How can we trust they aren’t going to make concessions to ingredient safety or sourcing to get a bigger bottom line?
S.C. Johnson as well as several of the brands it owns has gotten in trouble in the past for things like toxic ingredients in its products, testing on animals, and greenwashing.
What’s the Deal with the Mrs. Meyer’s Lawsuit?
Back in 2009, Caldrea (who makes Mrs. Meyer’s) got sued for violating the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65). Their dish soap contained more than 10 ppm of 1,4 dioxane, which is a carcinogen. In the end, Mrs. Meyer’s had to pay $50,000 and bring the levels of 1,4 dioxane in their dish soap to below that limit.
Interested in a breakdown for a specific brand? Just comment below and we’ll consider adding it to our list of upcoming deep dives!