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April 29, 2011

Q&A: Cruelty-Free Spring Clean

Humane Society International

  • Shopping cruelty-free helps prevent needless pain. Przemyslaw Rzeszutko/istock

Q: What is Cruelty-Free Spring Clean all about?

A: Cruelty-Free Spring Clean is an HSI initiative to raise awareness about the suffering involved in animal testing for household cleaning products, and the cruelty-free options available. Products approved by the international Leaping Bunny program are guaranteed to have been made without animal testing, and using traditional cleaning methods can also avoid toxic chemicals that are more likely to have been animal-tested.

Q: Is animal testing required for household cleaning products?

A: In most countries, household cleaning products are rarely subject to specific animal testing requirements. Legislation may stipulate that products are proven safe for use, but won’t necessarily stipulate that animal tests must be used. However, if a cleaning product is formulated using "new" ingredients or makes "germ-killing" or "anti-bacterial" claims, animal testing is virtually guaranteed. Ultimately, whether or not a product is animal-tested is largely the choice of the manufacturer. A company producing household cleaning products can choose to formulate its products using ingredients already established as safe that don’t require any further testing. Such ingredients are also generally non-toxic and Earth-friendly, so cruelty-free can also be better for people and the planet.

Q: What animal tests are carried out on household products?

A: Raw ingredients in household products may be subject to the same sorts of tests as any other chemicals. This can include skin and eye irritation tests, studies in chemically-poisoned animals and their offspring, and even the widely condemned “lethal dose” tests, in which animals are forced to swallow or inhale massive amounts of a test substance to determine the dose that causes death. Pain relief is not normally provided.

Q: Is animal testing reliable?

A: No, most animal tests have never been properly validated to demonstrate their relevance to humans, and as a result may under- or over-estimate real-world hazards to people. Physiological and biochemical differences between humans and other animals means that other species can react very differently to chemical exposure. There can even be a marked difference in response between different species, strain or gender of rodents, so using these animals to predict what might occur in human animals can be very difficult indeed. By contrast, companies that have sworn off animal testing produce cruelty-free household cleaning products by using some of the estimated 8,000 ingredients that have already been established as safe, and utilising available non-animal test methods, many of which are far more relevant to humans.

Q: How does the Leaping Bunny help me to clean without cruelty?

A: Taking the leap to shopping cruelty-free can make a big difference to animals. By purchasing only household products from companies that do not test on animals, you’ll be standing up for animals one product at a time. HSI supports the Leaping Bunny scheme, the only internationally recognized standard that guarantees products are cruelty-free—get your own global Leaping Bunny shopping guide here [PDF]. In many countries, Leaping Bunny-approved household cleaning products are available in supermarkets and health-food stores, but many more are also available to order on the Internet.

Q: How can my kitchen cupboard help me avoid animal suffering?

A: As well as using Leaping Bunny-approved products, you can also clean your home using everyday products you’ll find in your kitchen cupboard such as lemon juice and vinegar. Because these are age-old ingredients that have been used for many decades, they won’t involve new animal testing. Here are some handy hints to get you started:

  • Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)—traditionally used for baking, but it also has multiple uses as a cleaning agent. Mix it with warm water to make a multi-surface cleaning paste. You can also use it to unblock your sink: pour some bicarbonate of soda and then clear vinegar down the sink and watch it fizz away the blockage. It can also be used to sanitize toilets: sprinkle the soda in the bowl and leave overnight. Sprinkle the soda on carpets and leave overnight for vacuuming the following day to give you fresh-smelling carpets.
  • Soda water—can be an effective stain remover when dabbed on the stain with a paper towel.
  • Clear vinegar—a great limescale remover; soak kitchen cloth in vinegar and wrap around taps or use to clean showers. To clean windows, mix 25 percent vinegar with 75 percent warm water and apply with a cloth. Buff up the window using scrunched up newspaper and see them sparkle.
  • Borax and lemon juice—to clean your toilet bowl, make a paste using borax and lemon juice and apply directly to the bowl and leave for a few hours. Afterwards, simple sponge away and flush.
  • Wet cloth—dusting with just a damp cloth avoids using chemical sprays and clears dust quickly and effectively.

Q: What is HSI doing to spare animals from product testing?

A: HSI is committed to ending animal testing—forever. We’re hard at work lobbying politicians around the world for animal testing to be scrapped and replaced with modern non-animal methods. We’re also building unprecedented partnerships with scientists from universities, private companies and government agencies worldwide to support and push for a totally new “21st century” approach to safety testing that combines ultra-fast cell tests and sophisticated computer models to deliver results in hours instead of months or even years for some animal tests. In Brussels, we’re lobbying European Union decision-makers to enforce the EU’s 2013 ban on selling animal-tested cosmetics, which is under threat of delay. We’re also working to convince other countries to follow the EU’s lead with sales bans of their own.

Q: How can I help?

A: Help us spread the Cruelty-Free Spring Clean message by posting a link to this Q&A to friends and family and spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, etc. And don’t forget to check out our campaign page for more ways you can help end animal testing!