Between a dizzying array of governmental regulations and specialized certification programs related to cleaning product labels, figuring out what applies to your products and deciding which voluntary programs to participate in can be a daunting task. In this post, we examine OSHA regulations and requirements for cleaning product labeling and the EPA’s voluntary program which can give customers added confidence when making a purchase decision and using the products at home. We also review the numerous third-party certifications available to add to a product label to alert eco-conscious consumers that your cleaner is a green-certified cleaning product.
What to Include on a Cleaning Product Label
Before diving into the governmental regulations and certification programs for cleaning product labels, let’s look at the basics of what information customers will be looking for on your labels.
- Ingredients — Especially when buying green cleaning products, customers will want to know what ingredients they’re using to clean their homes. When listing your ingredients, you’ll want to start with the highest-percentage ingredient and lead sequentially to the lowest-percentage.
- Directions — Although they are sometimes overlooked, providing directions lets customers know the best way to use your product. Do they spray, mix with water, scrub, or simply wipe? Also, does your product have more cleaning power if left on the surface for a period of time, or should they test it in a small, inconspicuous area first? Share whatever information will help the end user get the most out of your product.
- Caution — The safety of your customer is of utmost importance. Should your product be used in a well-ventilated space, is it dangerous if users get the product in the eye, or are there dangers if the product is swallowed? You’ll want to state all cautions the user should be aware of, even if they seem obvious to you.
- First Aid — After sharing your caution statement, you’ll want to follow it with first aid advice. What action should the user take if they accidentally swallow the product, or if the product gets in their eyes? What if irritation persists? If advisable, note that the user should call poison control immediately.
- Storage — Unless your product is safe for children, be sure to state “keep out of reach of children.” Beyond this warning, think about your container and its contents — is it combustible, are there temperature limits, or does leaving in direct sunlight or puncturing the container increase any risks?
- Disposal — When the user is done with your product, can they simply throw the container in the trash or recycling, or are there any special considerations they should be aware of? If you have a great spray bottle, are there any risks if the users refill it with another product? You may want to suggest rinsing the container or share a warning if it’s unsafe to reuse the container. Also be sure to note if the container is approved for recycling.
- Contact information — Customers want to know who made the product and who is distributing it. Beyond your address, share a phone number for customers to ask questions and comments. You’ll also want to guide users to your website for coupons or cleaning tips if you have a blog.
Governmental oversight for cleaning labels
From the standpoint of governmental regulations, cleaning products fall outside of the jurisdiction of the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are the entities regulating just about everything else you’d expect to find on grocery store shelves. For this reason, oversight responsibilities fall to OSHA and the EPA, with each playing a role in how chemicals in cleaning products are labeled. Let’s take a deeper look into the roles that each of these regulatory agencies plays in the process.
OSHA cleaning label requirements
OSHA’s regulations primarily apply to cleaning solutions that have been removed from their original containers. If your customers are using your products in office buildings, schools, and other locations, buying bulk quantities of cleaning supplies and then dividing them up into applicators and spray bottles for each location, you’ll want to make them aware of these requirements.
Any time a chemical product like a cleaner is moved from its original container, OSHA requires that the person doing so create and affix a new label to the new container. These labeling requirements ensure that users are aware of the chemicals in the cleaner along with any known hazards associated with them. A Hazardous Materials Identification System or HMIS label is used to meet this requirement. You’ll need to provide your customers with each cleaner’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). To assist your customers, share the instructions for creating an HMIS label:
- Section 1: Print the name of the cleaner in the white space under the Product Identifier title.
- Section 2: Check either the Warning or Danger signal word box. Those labeled Danger carry a higher risk of illness or injury if misused.
- Section 3: In the blue health hazard box, write in a number, ranging between 0-4 to indicate the level of health risk if you’re exposed to this product. There’s a secondary menu of pictograms to check, indicating any potential chronic health risks associated with the cleaner. You’ll find all of the above information in the cleaner’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), original label, or by contacting the manufacturer.
- Section 4: In the red flammability box, again write in a number between 0-4, indicating the level of risk of ignition. Again, you’ll know which number to choose by consulting one of the information sources listed above.
- Section 5: In the orange physical hazard box—you guessed it—write in a number ranging between 0-4 to indicate how reactive it is under certain circumstances like mixing with water or if it’s capable of exploding if mishandled. As before, you’ll get the correct number from one of the three information sources listed above.
- Section 6: If the cleaner’s SDS says Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be used while working with the product, check the box titled Personal Protection. In the white box below titled Personal Protection Equipment, check the menu of secondary boxes to indicate which types of PPE should be used. Sometimes the original manufacturer will indicate the type of PPE by letter, ranging from A-K. Each letter represents a type of or combination of PPE equipment. To translate the letter in the pictogram options, use the OSHA Personal Protective Index chart.
Additionally, for cleaners that include hazardous materials, containers must feature prominently-displayed Globally Harmonized Systems (GHS) labels.
EPA cleaning label requirement
The EPA’s requirement for labels on cleaning products is simple and straightforward. Manufacturers have to list the ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful—that’s it. The end result is that many cleaning labels end up looking sparse, leaving the consumer in the dark on just what’s in these products. Thankfully, you have several options to alleviate consumer concerns that come in the form of third-party certifications. The EPA also offers a voluntary certification program for cleaning products, which we share more about below.
Voluntary cleaning label certifications
The lack of governmental regulations on cleaning products has created an opportunity for third-party organizations to create a range of alternate certification standards. The result has been greater transparency on the ingredients used and their impact on human and environmental health. Many of these certifications are related to consumers’ interest in purchasing environmentally-friendly, green cleaning products for their home. We’ve done a roundup of some of the most popular ones below.
- Organic — The highly recognizable USDA organic certification isn’t limited just to foods. In order for cleaning products to earn the organic label, they must meet the same standards for organic product purity as their edible brethren. As an added bonus, organic cleaners will never contain chlorine bleach, ammonia, or other manufactured chemicals.
- Green Seal — The Green Seal certification focuses both on product performance and human and environmental health. In order to place this badge on cleaning products, products must meet rigorous leadership-level, life-cycle-based criteria for sustainability, including low toxicity, limited VOCs, no carcinogens, and contribution to a reduced carbon footprint.
- Safer Choice — This EPA-sponsored program is designed to encourage more transparency and a greater focus on product safety. In order for companies to display the Safer Choice logo on their cleaning labels, they must agree to a list of standards that include meeting toxicity standards for human and environmental health, full ingredient disclosure, and the inspection of manufacturing facilities.
- EcoLogo — Sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories, the EcoLogo certification has very similar requirements to those spelled out in the Green Seal program.
When labeling any cleaners, following government regulations regarding what has to be listed on the label will ensure your cleaning labels meet the standard. For those interested in marketing green cleaning products for the home, pursuing one of a number of eco-conscious, third-party certification programs can help bolster confidence in your product, giving your cleaner a competitive edge. This type of certification gives consumers confidence that you’ve fully listed the chemicals in your cleaning product and that it meets standards for human health and environmental sustainability.
Recommendations for Cleaning Label Materials
Cleaning labels must be tough enough to withstand the environments they’ll be used in. We recommend choosing white vinyl, or white, clear, metallic, or holographic plastic. These materials are made to resist a variety of chemicals and abrasion, as well as withstand extreme temperatures.
When it’s time to print your cleaning product labels, Frontier Label can help. We offer a wide selection of durable label materials ideal for cleaning product packaging that can stand up to daily use. If you’re unsure what materials to choose or what features you need, get in touch — we’re happy to offer experienced advice.