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Another Impossible Ingredients List

In the past I've posted articles exposing products that have ingredients lists that just don't add up. (See here and here.) Today I've run on to another product that doesn't seem to make sense. It's gaining a lot of attention with popular green bloggers and is marketed beautifully. I'll keep the name of the product to myself so I'm not accused of "shaming and naming" but I couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer about this baffling ingredients list. 

The product claims to be a multi-purpose do-it-all soap. Use it at full-strength for heavy degreasing or dilute it 1: 15 and use it as a shampoo. Use it as a foaming hand soap. Dilute it 1:30 and you'll have a multi-purpose spray cleaner. Reviews of the product have said that they were able to clean an oven with ease. They claim it removes stains and bacteria, all without the use of synthetics. 

This one soap can clean your countertops, dirty laundry, showers, floors, wine stains, puppy accidents, even your spaghetti-splattered ovens.

Sounds like a miracle in a bottle, doesn't it? Let's take a look at the ingredients they list:

Purified water, fatty acids, coconut oil, minerals and enzymes derived from edible and seed-bearing plants.

Miracle indeed. Let's take a look at these ingredients individually.

Purified water--needs no explanation.

Fatty acids--All oils are made up of chains of fatty acids held together by a glycerol group. (Usually in a formation of three fatty acid chains to one glycerol group, called a triglyceride.)  Split the glycerol from the fatty acids and you have glycerin and fatty acids. Common fatty acids in oils include lauric acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, alpha-lipoic acid, oleic acid. Fatty acids are slightly soluble in water, however, the longer the fatty acid chain, the less soluble it is. We aren't sure exactly which fatty acids are in this product--it can be any number of fatty acids. Not a lathering or cleansing agent; fatty acids are typically used as thickeners and emolients. Sometimes they can have some emulsifying properties, but not enough for heavy degreasing or serious cleaning. (Think cream cleanser.) 

Coconut Oil--The ingredient we're familiar with from cooking and skin care. Not soluble in water, also doesn't lather or clean. It can be turned in to soap through saponification (mixing with an alkali) or chemically processed in to a detergent. But on its own, as just coconut oil, it's not a cleansing agent. 

Minerals and enzymes from edible and seed-bearing plants--As with "fatty acids," this is not a full ingredient disclosure. Which minerals? What kind of enzymes? There are no minerals or enzymes that are known to lather or act like a soap. 

Food-grade alcohol--they state on a separate page of their website that alcohol is used as a processing catalyst. However, no reaction between these ingredients would really happen. The fatty acids could react with the alcohol to create fatty alcohols, which could then further be processed in to detergents. Just fatty acids and alcohol wouldn't create soap, however.

They state that their formula contains no synthetics, however, nothing here would lather up and do the cleaning that they say it does. They call it a soap, however it doesn't appear that the oils and fatty acids have gone through the necessary processing to turn them in to a soap (by mixing with an alkali.) Unless perhaps the "minerals" is potash (maybe in the form of ash from burnt plants?) and the fatty acids and coconut oil is reacting with the potash. However, if that's the case, they should be listed as saponified oils or their final chemical name (potassium cocoate, etc). 

This product may very well be totally safe and natural. Maybe these are saponified oils and fatty acids. On the other hand, there may be hidden synthetics giving the product lather. And what about preservatives? If the first ingredient is water and there's no apparent preservative that could be a problem. Especially if they're recommending dilution! Maybe there are special "minerals and enzymes" keeping it preserved, but how can we assess safety without knowing which minerals and enzymes are present? Just because it's plant-derived doesn't mean that it's safe. Like in the instance of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract or Grapefruit Seed Extract. 

I thought...maybe I'm missing something here? The branding and copy on their website seemed so believable, so I asked a group of cosmetic formulators what they thought about it. Here were some of their responses:

Wow, ummmm yea it doesn't add up.


Sniff-sniff... smells fishy!


O_0 this is a very vague ingredients list.


 I think they're dancing a fine line (stretching). 'Minerals' = lye. 'Enzymes' = Plants, okay. But their explanation of how they don't use lye...can't be true. I adore their branding though. Remember, marketing strategies can be outright lyes (see what I did there?:)


So they are saying they are "creating" a soap with the water & plant "something" instead of using lye? Ok...but then fatty acids are an ingredient not a component of another ingredient? So terribly vague..


Wow, visited their web site. All I can say is they must be miracle-workers with some of their claims.


Not to mention their implication that the actual lye they claim they don't use is toxic or irritating when it's not even present in the finished product. And yes, what kind of labeling is this? Seems more misbranding than branding.


The ingredient deck conveniently left out a solubilizer, perhaps a preservative and the proper INCI designation of the other ingredients. On their website they elude to antimicrobial / viral action, but then put up a disclaimer. That's a red flag to the FDA. 


Thousands on website and marketing. Big bucks supporting this.


I wonder if this is soap nut based? They just left out the INCI?


Crazy. How can they NOT list the exact ingredients in descending order in INCI format???


They can list this BS this way because they can. Until they get their ass handed to them by the FDA. They're selling what some people want, the way they want it. No different than the MLM EO companies. Giving their products holy water claims, medical claims, bad to worse labels, no preservatives. Don't use the product if you were considering it. 


Could it be soapwort as a foaming agent? But how terribly irresponsible to leave out the preservative and emulsifying ingredients. What if someone has a terrible allergic reaction because of their inaccurate labeling?


The labeling issue never fails to amaze me. It's really not that hard to comply, and if you need to hide your ingredients, then... you're doing something wrong. It's disrespectful to the customer.

Reader Comments (19)

oh no...I use "this soap" all of the time. Guess I never really stopped to think that they weren't listing all of their ingredients.

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Are you saying that grapefruit seed extract isn't safe?

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Thank you for the info. I'm pretty sure I know which product you have referenced because it is one I've seen advertised by healthy bloggers I follow. Very disappointed because I read labels and would have bought a product with those ingredients as listed, not realizing it wasn't what it was advertised to be.

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermaira

Hi Stephanie, your blog is so amazing. I was wondering what you think of Acure's product line. Their ingredients seem too good to be true with the first ingredient being fruit. Love their products though and yours!

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

Thanks for everyone's kind words! :D

Suzanne--Check out my article here about the topic.

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

@Sandra--regarding Acure, it's hit or miss. Some products are clean, others not so much. Let me know if you have a particular product you're wondering about and I'll be happy to help! :D

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Phew! For a second I thought this might be about the venerable Dr. Bronner's, in which I douse myself daily.

Fortunately, Googling "Minerals and enzymes from edible and seed-bearing plants" revealed the culprit.

That being said, any concerns about the wizened Dr. B?


Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGrasshopper

Oh no!! I've got 3 1/2 gallons left of this stuff in my house right now and bought right into the branding! I did find it odd that the ingredients listed were vague but how could those trustworthy looking moms mislead telling us you can bathe your babies in it? Yikes! I'm so grateful for your blogs Stephanie! Keep up the outstanding work!

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

So.. What is safe to clean your home? I'm pretty sure I know what brand this and I use it frequently. Is it a good rule of thumb to our have anything that ranks a 1 on the ewg?

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBre

@Grassopper--Nope. No issues with Dr. B. :)

@Brenda--thanks for your kind words! I'm sorry to hear it! Perhaps this will get them to start fully disclosing their ingredients.

@Bre--Yes, there are a lot of great options. You can find my picks here

Tue, January 27, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thanks Steph! Glad to hear that Dr. B is in the clear.

And thank you for continuing to captain this life raft in the sea of toxicity!

Wed, January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGrasshopper

I was just looking into this company and planning on buying! I so wanted this to be legitimate. Guess I will be looking somewhere else for my cleaning needs.

I have been using your deodorant for years. As do my sixteen and fourteen year old. We all love it! I would love to buy your hair care items too but am allergic to guar gum. Anyway you could leave it out? Here's to hoping.

Wed, January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

I sent this company a message asking for details about their ingredients. As expected, I got an equally vague response, they want to keep their ingredients a secret! In case competitors copy them. I replied to that message pointing out that "competitors" typically list all of THEIR ingredients. Have heard nothing further.

Fri, January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

great post! stephanie, have you heard of this company:

Rocky Mountain Soap Co? they claim all their products are all 100% natural and safe. just wondering if you've ever seen their products? they aren't usda organic certified. they just say they use organic ingredients.

they have this mint shampoo, what do you think of their ingredient list?

Aqua, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycerin, Pinus Banksiana (Pine) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Blechnum Spicant (Fern) Leaf Extract, Urtica Dioca (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Leaf Extract, Acetic Acid (Apple Cider Vinegar), Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil -

thank you for always keeping us informed! love b&b products!! ;)

Sun, February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSally

I love this product. Since I stopped using all other cleaners, toxic and non-toxic, my migraines are gone! I have been using this in my home (nothing else) for four years and will NEVER turn back. It's so good, I can see why they don't want their competitors knowing their plant blend...IT'S THAT AWESOME!!!

Mon, February 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

Wow. I must say I find your articles very informative so thanks but really its off putting to read a critique of a brand without knowing the brand. I mean how am I supposed to know what products to avoid? How am I supposed to know if I'm already using the unnamed product? Just saying. Anyway please keep informing the public and thank you for the research you do on the publics behalf.

Sun, November 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRedteddy

@Redteddy--feel free to contact us privately and we'll be happy to help. :)

Sun, November 29, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I have started using the product you are reviewing since I got Multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). I love this product. It was called "the solution". I used it for over a decade. Now the website is out of business. I then found another product with the same ingredients by googling the ingredients. It is called Enviro one. There is another product called branch basics with the same ingredients. I personally think these products are all made in the same place and different labels are slapped on them. (just my opinion)

I tried many products after I got sick. I was so sick I could not enter stores or others homes due to cleaning chemicals, perfumes, scented personal care products, cigarette smoke and pesticides, etc.

All bar soaps made me get rashes. I found Dakota Free in MCS newsletter. It is made by a person that has MCS. She told me no one is allowed to wear perfume or other scented products while working in the safe room where the product is made. It is a family business. She believes many natural products make folks sick cause of being contaminated with personal care and cleaning chemicals used where the soaps is made.

I got rashes from every shampoo that I tried and I did look for as natural as products that I could find. I found Granny's shampoo and conditioner, I think from a MCS website. For a lot of sensitive folks, this was the only shampoo that they could use. I think it was not completely natural but sometimes synthetic stuff is less toxic than natural. But then, a horrible thing happened. This product became unavailable, for unknown reasons. I asked Dakota Free if they could make a shampoo. She suggested the bar soap, which she used. I did, but my hair became dry. Then I found " the solution". This product (same ingredients that you are talking about) did not give me a rash, did not make me fall to the floor, or gasp for breath. It was a life saver. I have always wondered about the ingredients, but it was sold by a company which sold only products tested for safety. I never felt dizzy or felt nauseous using it. It has no scent. Maybe the ingredients sound vague but there is something good about it. It was that only thing I cleaned with. I diluted it to clean the mirrors and windows. I washed my clothes in it and still am doing so. I use it to clean the counters and baseboards. It cleans everything. It does kill ants, which always kinda bugged me.

After 8 years, I no longer have MCS and can now go shopping and enter doctor's offices. My body was a good tester to see if a product was toxic or not. I got over MCS by having months of glutathione IV's. It was a miracle.

A doctor suggested a shampoo called tates, but there is much controversy over their ingredients on amazon comments. I stopped using it not because of that but because the company called me every 3 days trying to sell me more products, despite asking them to stop. Then I found a shampoo in a pet store called earth bath. It is a dog shampoo but sounded safe to me. But some ingredients sound vague.

Both tates and earth both lather. I just read anything that lathers has a chemical that makes it lather, so I now wash my hair with Raw honey. 1 teaspoon honey and 3 teaspoons of water. I make it daily since water makes honey mold. The seed bearing plants type product mentioned does not lather. So it and honey diluted is not as fun to wash the hair with. Honey is making my hair so soft and no conditioner is needed.

I guess the point is that this product may not be as bad as you think. I wish all products listed honestly all their ingredients. When they do not, it makes it very difficult to select a natural product.

I bought a book called less toxic alternatives. The products in there either made me ill or did not work or were no longer available. I found most products in MCS newsletters and websites and online comments like on this site. It is terrible it takes so much work to find safer products. I think, like you, the only way to be sure is to make your own. Second best, buy from those that make their own, not big corporations.

You said you could help out with telling us if products are safe. Here is what I use.

dakota free bar soap
himalyan sea salt
Bon ami scoring powder (i have read in one place it has a detergent not listed on label)
Baking soda to clean grimy dishes, sinks, and ovens
Eco me Laundry soap for stains
Bio Keen laundry and Oxygen bleach plus (hubby uses - give me a rash)
Squiggle toothpaste
Twist sponges
Omega unscented coconut oil. (I list this I wonder if descenting it does something to it, the company says it is safe)
peelu gum

The following I might replace for below reasons:

Earth bath dog wipes - unsure about since the shampoo lathers

Calben dish soap the calben dish soap has vague ingredients. they list functions of reasons not source. They would not respond to what these ingredients are made from.

calben shampoo for my husband (company won't respond)

Ecover Dishwasher powder and rinse aid (A site says this is a green washed product - not honest)

Borax - toilets site gives this product an F

Soy lube - to oil hinges (I am allergic to soy) I may just use jojoba oil instead

Citrus magic air freshener - I think they leave out ingredients? I usually light a match in bathroom if it umm smells. I don't know why I bought it

I use ecover cause of this site that rated natural products

Here is a site I trust for safer products

She seems very honest. She does not like Ecover and talks about.

My website listed above describes my healing journey and lists safer products and has home make cleaning recipes.

Fri, March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMar y O

Since I have posted the previous overly long post, I have read more on your site and am convinced there is something synthetic in the liquid soap like product. The article about branch basics convinced me.

I will be hunting down a replacement, mostly for moral reasons. They are not honest. Maybe you have something on your site, I can use. I will take a look.

If anything is on my list of products that I use are toxic, or are not totally non synthetic, please let me know especially if you know right off the top of your head without the research.

Tue, March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMary O

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