As I shared yesterday, last week I got on a plane and flew to Minneapolis to tour the Mrs. Meyer's headquarters and meet the fabulous 79-year-old Mrs. Meyer in person. While there I also toured the company lab (which is right on the main office floor) and spoke with the VP of Research and Development, Pam Helms, about the product ingredients and chemicals, the process of development, and about that sticky situation that came up a few months ago when an independent study found 1,4 Dioxane in the Mrs. Meyer's dish soap. Check out what I learned below:
On Product Formulations
Wherever possible, Ms. Helms told me, Mrs. Meyer's and Caldrea obtain materials for their products from renewable plant resources like olive, coconut, soy and sugar. All of the products are biodegradable, contain no ammonia, chlorine, phosphates, or formaldehyde, and do not undergo animal testing. Their products do contain some preservatives made from synthetic ingredients, but they make up less than 1% of the total formulation and are strictly monitored for safety. Why do they use preservatives at all, when so many other products have gone preservative-free? As Ms. Helms says, it's important to remember that "natural" biological organisms can be very dangerous as well, and they're more concerned with the "danger of an errant microorganism" than small amounts of a carefully-monitored synthetic preservative. The presence of these preservatives give all Mrs. Meyer's and Caldrea products a shelf-life of 2 years. All products undergo a 3 month testing period for stability, safety, and efficacy. Also, a full ingredients disclosure is available for every one of their products on the website.
On Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
All of the Mrs. Meyer's essential oils come from aromatic raw materials (think fruits, trees, bark, and roots). A few of the recognizable oils found in their fragrance blends include lavender, orange, clove, eucalyptus, patchouli, pepper, geranium, and clary sage oil. But in order to broaden their fragrance palette, the chemists use a combination of these natural essential oils and a few synthetic ingredients that are formulated in compliance with the International Fragrance Association and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (IFRA and RIFM, respectively). The synthetic ingredients do not contain any glycol solvents or phthalates.
Though some people love Mrs. Meyer's fragrances, others (including me sometimes) find the scents too overpowering. Mrs. Meyer's does not make unscented cleaners. When I asked them about it, they said that they're known for their fragrances and the one time they did try an unscented line (a few years ago), it just didn't fly with the consumer.
What about 1,4 Dioxane?
You may have heard of this study done from the Organic Consumer's Association performed in March 2008 that looked at the levels of the petrochemical carcinogen 1,4-dioxane among sixteen major personal care and household cleaning product brands, including Mrs. Meyer's. According to the study, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day dish soap was found to have the highest levels of the carcinogen at 204 ppm (parts per million). So what gives?
I asked Ms. Helms about this, and she told me that residual 1,4 dioxane can sometimes be a byproduct of a process called ethoxylation, which enlarges molecules and changes solubility parameters and foaming properties in certain ingredients. All of Mrs. Meyer's raw materials suppliers are under strict regulation to eliminate 1,4 dioxane from their products prior to arriving at the company labs, but at the time the study was done, there was a hole in one of their supply chains which they immediately moved to correct. They've since severed ties with that supplier and tightened their procedural safety measures, so 1,4 dioxane is no longer found in any of their products, in any amount.
Making My Own Countertop Spray
In case there was ever a doubt as to how safe/dangerous the cleaning products are, that was pretty much put to rest when they announced we'd be making our own countertop spray with the very same recipe they use to make the countertop spray you can buy in stores. I chose to make the Geranium spray and, with the exception of a pair of goggles, no extra equipment, ventilation, or precautions were needed! Just an exacting scale, a patented recipe, and a steady hand.
We ended the day eating Mrs. Thelma Meyer's homemade peach kuchen. And yes, it was very tasty!