Better Life

Better Life was first featured on Shark Tank in 2013. I’ve had them on my radar ever since. When my daughter was born we had a house cleaner come to our house twice a month. We would leave all of the windows open and stay out of our house for hours in order to get the strong odor of cleaning products out. It’s not really something I paid attention to before kids, but once I had them I started feeling concerned about the chemicals we were exposing her to and maybe just noticing them for the first time. While I don’t find cleaning products very innovative or exciting, it is something that is essential in our lives and a switch I was determined to make. I’ve also been seeing so many natural and alternative cleaning products out there, I wondered how well they actually worked.

ABOUT THE PRODUCT

Better Life offers a variety of cleaning products including All Purpose Cleaner, All Purpose wipes, Floor Cleaner, Dish Soap, Glass Cleaner, Kitchen and Bath Cleaner, Stain and Odor Eliminator, Dishwasher Gel, Granite and Stone Cleaner, Stainless Steel Polish, Tub and Tile Cleaner, Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Dryer Sheets, Laundry Detergent, Hand and Body Soap, Hand and Body Lotion, Wood Polish, Nursery Cleaner, Produce Wash, and Screen Cleaner.  Wheesh.

Photo Credit: Better Life

They use plant-derived ingredients and natural scents.  They leave out things like bleach, chlorine, ammonia, and petroleum solvent.  What this means is that there aren’t the warnings like you see on major brand cleaning products. I feel more comfortable using them around my kids and even having them help me from time to time. See the comparison of the Formula 409 bottle with the Better Life All Purpose cleaner bottle in the below photos, and notice the ingredient and warning labels.

USING THEM

I’m currently using the Floor Cleaner, All Purpose Cleaner, Stainless Steel Polish, Glass Cleaner, and Kitchen and Bath Scrubber.  I buy them on Amazon, but occasionally I’ve seen them at Target and Sprouts.

The Floor Cleaner is by far my favorite out of all of their products.  It’s really easy to use.  You can squirt it from the bottle onto the floor, mop or wipe it up and move on.  You don’t need to rinse.  Sometimes I use a wet towel on our swiffer and it’s quick and easy.  It dries in minutes and smells nice. I use it on my hardwood and tile floors.

Photo Credit: Better Life

The All Purpose Cleaner is pretty self explanatory.  It replaces Formula 409 for me.  It has a nice, barely noticeable smell and works very nicely.  This one is a big deal for me to swap out because I have two young kids and being able to clean up lots of spills and other messes without worrying about poisoning them is kind of important. We use a water-vinegar mix on our dining table and kitchen counters, and while that’s good on a daily basis this is a great option when we go for a more thorough cleaning.

We only have a few stainless steel surfaces – parts of our stove and some lights in the kitchen, so I only use the Stainless Steel Polish occasionally.  I don’t have any cleaning products to compare this to, but I’m very happy with it.  It shines nicely and leaves no scent. You spray it on, scrub it with a cloth, then turn the cloth over and buff it out. It takes a little longer but it leaves the surfaces nice and shiny and again, no bad or strong smell.

The Glass Cleaner is not my favorite. It doesn’t clean the windows as well as I’d like. My husband has insisted we switch back to Windex for now.

The Kitchen and Bath Scrubber is amazing.  I use this on my bathroom counters, shower and bathtub, and my stove top.  It takes a little more time to use this because you scrub and then rinse, but it leaves them so smooth, shiny and clean.  After they’re done I rub my hands on the tile and go Ooooh! Aaaah!  If I’m pressed for time I’ll just use the All Purpose Cleaner.  Here are before, during and after pictures of my black stove top using the Kitchen and Bath Scrubber and the Stainless Steel Polish.

ECONOMICS

This might be misleading but here is a very rough comparison. It seems they are about twice as much as their non-green alternatives. Green alternatives are much more comparable. I used Target for the alternative and Amazon for Better Life.

Better LifeAlternative
All Purpose Cleaner 32 oz$5Formula 409 AP cleaner 32 oz$3
Floor Cleaner 32oz$9Pine-Sol 48oz$4
Glass Cleaner 32oz$6Windex 26oz$3
Kitchen & Bath Scrub 16oz$7
Stainless Steel Polish 16oz$7Weiman Stainless Steel Clean 22oz$6

ANYTHING ELSE?

After researching on the EWG website, I found that all of the products I’m using from Better Life didn’t rate very highly. The have A’s on their dishwashing products, but I’m surprised and disappointed at these results. Additionally, they don’t have any green products certifications that are commonly used in the green space. I’ve reached out to them for clarification but haven’t heard back yet. If and when I do, I will update this blog post.

  • Floor Cleaner – C
  • All Purpose Cleaner – C
  • Kitchen and Bath Scrubber – C
  • Glass Cleaner – C
  • Stainless Steel Polish – C

On a more positive note, they product their products using solar energy and recyclable packaging. They are also cruelty free.

WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HELP SOLVE?

I’m again surprised to learn that our regulation of household cleaning products are not as robust as I assumed. According to the EWG, manufacturers do not need to list ingredients on their labels, and the agencies charged with oversight and regulation are inadequate and focusing on packaging and new chemicals versus the existing chemicals already in use. In fact, providing products for testing to the FDA is voluntary.

WINDEX ingredients. The list says “Water, Carriers, Cleaning Agents, Wetting Agents, Fragrance, Dye, SCJ Formula #35*14153”. I’m not sure it could be more vague unless it just said “window cleaner”. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

” According to the EPA, of the nearly three thousand top selling chemicals in the U.S., only 7 percent have a full set of basic toxicity information.” Today, Excerpted from “Green Goes With Everything.”

Of real concern with the use of major household cleaning products is asthma, cancer, reproductive and development issues, allergies and skin and lung irritants. Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical that has been found in Comet, Pine-sol and Simple Green (which is used daily in my daughters kindergarten classroom – so I will be doing a bit more research on this one). There have been studies done, but more research needs to be conducted in order to confirm direct links. Borax has been linked to reproductive problems, poisoning and other health problems. It’s sometimes used in slime but very little of it, if ingested by small kids, can be fatal. Products that contain Borax do not need to have a warning label in the United States. Below is a list of ingredients I pulled from an article on Today referencing Sloan Barnett’s book “Green Goes With Everything”, many of which are considered ‘hazardous waste’, to avoid. To read more about these ingredients or where to find them, check here. The products called out are examples of brands that contain these ingredients, but it’s not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Ammonia: Fatal if swallowed; skin, lung, throat irritant; can cause blindness (Windex)
  • Butyl Cellosolve: Irritation and tissue damage from inhalation
  • Formaldehyde: Known carcinogen (Ajax, Palmolive, Fab)
  • Hydrochloric Acid: Fatal if swallowed; concentrated fumes harmful (Gain, Downey)
  • Naphtha: Depresses the central nervous system
  • Perchloroethylene: Damages liver, kidney, nervous system
  • Petroleum Distillates: Highly flammable; can damage lung tissue and nerve cells
  • Phenols: Extremely dangerous; suspected carcinogen
  • Propylene Glycol: Ingestion can damage kidneys, lungs, heart, and nervous system (Amway, Tide, Resolve, Spray n’ Wash, Pledge, Glade, OxiClean, Purex, Arm & Hammer, Gain, Method, Cheer, Windex…)
  • Sodium Hydroxide: Highly caustic. Contact can cause severe damage to eyes, skin, mouth, and throat; can cause liver and kidney damage (Ajax, Arm & Hammer, Cheer, Palmolive, OxiClean, 7th Generation, Dawn, Resolve, Clorox…)
  • Sodium Hypochlorite: Contact can cause severe damage to eyes, skin, mouth, and throat; can cause liver and kidney damage; causes more poisoning exposures than any household chemical (chlorine bleach) (Comet, Clorox, Lysol, Tilex, Palmolive…)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Skin irritant (Lysol, Method, 7th Generation, Simple Green, Clorox, Resolve, Formula 409…)
  • Sulfuric Acid: Dangerous. Can burn skin. Exposure to concentrated fumes can be carcinogenic (Tide, Arm & Hammer, Ajax, OxiClean, Palmolive, Gain, Resolve…)
  • Trichloroethane: Damages liver and kidney

Additionally there is the concern with added ‘Fragrance’. As with cosmetics (see my review of W3LL People), many cleaning products contain added scents or fragrance which are not regulated and can contain hundreds of potentially bad and dangerous chemicals.

Better Life has a chart comparing their ingredients to those of the leading green cleaners. Taking it with a grain of salt because this is their chart, they claim to get this information off the competitors websites.

Photo Credit: Better Life

With all of that said, I am still someone who believes in science and our process. And just because ingredients are natural doesn’t make them any safer. Despite all of this I still have a need for bleach, ammonia and other nasty chemicals in our house. However, it is smart to do our research and realize that just because products are available to us doesn’t mean they are safe. The big concern I think many people have is scientists really can’t say whether the cumulative affect of exposure to these chemicals can cause damage, even if studies show in isolation they are okay. I was just at Target today and looking at these products on the shelf in their shiny and colorful bottles, thinking these items could possibly kill us. That seems so crazy.

DO I RECOMMEND THEM?

I am really conflicted about this one. I am committed to publishing one review each month and I’ve waited until the last possible minute for this one so I’m releasing it now. I really like the All Purpose Cleaner, Floor Cleaner, Stainless Steel Polish, and Kitchen and Bath Scrubber. The Glass Cleaner I can pass on. There are tons of reviews and when I read about them I feel very comfortable with them. However, I would really like to hear back on their position on the EWG website before saying definitively. I have tried to provide as much information as I can in the time I have had to work on this, and hope you can make your own decision. I’ll update this if I hear more.

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