Household Cleaners and Dangers To Pets

Why is Choice not cautioning consumers in product reviews that many household cleaners contain ingredients that can indeed have serious hazards and may be dangerous to pets, surely this could be incorporated as a part of household cleaner testing as manufacturers provide ZERO information about these dangers.

It is simply NOT a case of read the label and follow the instructions and be aware of the warnings given on the label.

I am a cautious person and have read all the warnings on products, NEVER EVER have I seen a warning about possible harm to pets.

For example a commonly found antibacterial ingredient in cleaners is Benzalkonium Chloride which unfortunately is found in a great number of domestic cleaners.

In the normal concentrations used this ingredient can cause painful, severe irritation and possible damage to a cats Mouth, Other Mucous Membranes, Gums, Eyes and Skin.

When these harmful effects occur the poor unfortunate feline needs treatment quickly to avoid long term damage.

I’m only recently become aware of the danger this poses to cats and I don’t how badly other animal species are affected. I do strongly suspect the dangers and effects would be quite similar.

How many consumers have cats and other pets develop dermatitis or skin conditions and have been unable to get to the root cause?.

When you go to a vet are you going to be questioned about what you wash your floors with?.

Benzalkonium Chloride is found in many floor cleaners, do manufacturers expect us to sterilize our floors every time we wash them and foster the development of super-bugs?.

I strongly suspect exposure to these type of cleaners is the culprit behind a number of mysterious skin disorders which pet owners can’t get to the source of because we are not in anyway informed about the possible exposure hazards.

Why on earth are product manufacturers allowed to get away with not warning consumers about the dangers of products which can be hazardous or even lethal to pets?

There appears no legal requirements to provide concise information and warnings about animal health effects.

The manufacturers provide warnings about human health hazards.

Why should animals suffer at the hands of unscrupulous manufacturers who don’t seem to care?.

Perhaps Choice should be looking at campaigning to strengthen product warnings to include dangrers to domestic pets.


Lots of things pets shouldn’t have or be exposed to. This includes chocolate, many nuts (macadamia is one), onions, garlic, leeks, grapes, the sweetener Xylitol, paracetamol, chlorine (dogs are extremely sensitive to it, cats not affected), borax. I know many of those items are not cleaners but it was just to show how many things we use that can be very dangerous for pets. Warnings may be useful but with so many varieties of pets the list could be larger than the container of whatever it is they are warning about. I agree some warning may be useful ie “This product may be dangerous to your pet” but the owner should then take the responsibility to research it further.


The point is Choice do extensive testing on household cleaners and have access to far more information than the average consumer.

This is evidenced by your post in which you mentioned various pet hazardous items.

Is it really asking too much of Choice to explicitly note in product reviews that this product contains a pet hazardous ingredient such as: Chlorine, Benzalkonium Chloride, Borax etc. and care should be taken to avoid exposing pets to it.

You would be up in arms and very strongly campaigning if there were no product warnings about the dangers to human health and wellbeing.

I only recently discovered this information as like many others I’m an a Ailurophile(cat lover) with indoor cats and often browse the net for anything cat related.

I’m unsure as to how many vets are of the dangers of this ingredient Benalkonium Chloride. When you go to a vet with a cat suffering from a skin condition, do they ever ask what you clean your household surfaces with?

I strongly agree some warning may be useful ie “This product may be dangerous to your pet”.

The manufacturers seem to find plenty of room on labels to extol the virtues of their wondrous cleaning products AD infinitum.

Animals can be broadly classed into categories: Canines, Felines, Birds, Fish and small mammals/rodents etc. What poses a hazard to one particular breed is mostly likely hazardous for the rest of the animal species.

The Label could very clearly state that If an ingredient posed a risk to a class of animal, please exercise great caution and avoid exposing them to it and contact the manufacturer for more information or research it further for unbiased independent information.

Isn’t this is what Choice is supposed to be all about, providing consumers with independent, unbiased and well researched information on consumer services and products and then putting those products through a very thorough testing protocol


I am not disagreeing with you in regards to some warning being made on the products, I am just not sure how wordy manufacturers would get about it on the product container. Regardless of that I am sure CHOICE will take your concerns on board as many of them and us are pet lovers (whose pets are family members in many ways). Thank you for raising the issue here.


Adding a warning may be warranted but I would prefer it if manufacturers would stop adding biocides to so many cleaning products. In the long run trying to disinfect everything and filling our environment with these substances can only be harmful. There are several ways that this is a problem that I don’t need to go into again.

What is needed is a much broader education campaign so that people stop accepting the dopy idea that their house isn’t clean enough unless it is disinfected and that disinfection is desirable or even possible.

It looks to me like your moggy is collateral damage in a much wider problem.


There are many types of animal and limited space on labels. As consumers, is it realistic to expect everything to be on the label? It’s a risk management issue.

I wasn’t aware that Benzalkonium Chloride poses a risk. My pet is a cat, so I Googled it:


There are many common products which pose health risks to animals, such as chocolate to dogs or aspirin to cats,

If one starts labelling cleaning products with warnings, there could be an exception that any product which may have potential health consequences for any animal is also labelled. Is this reasonable as it would mean labelling carry every warning possible to ensure every risk is covered.

A better option may be for consumers to check risks themselves before using products. Where a chemical is an active ingredient, this can be easily done by reading the MSDS for the particular chemical.

The other point is while risks may exist, often risks occur at particular doses and may be safe through usual use and concentrations.


Still a broad warning may be an appropriate addition to a label so that consumers are aware to check before use. As I mentioned above something like “This product may be harmful to pets, check before use”. Some owners would be unaware unless they were given a heads up.


It almost appears that labelling ‘pet safe’ is the easier, better answer.

How broad a brush is warranted for everything that might affect a pet on a finite label?



How broad should label warnings be?

Imagine how you would fare if there were no product warnings on labels.

If there was something in a cleaner that you were not warned about and exposure by incidental exposure or proper usage harmed you or your child.

Most people would be very upset, especially so if like myself they employ sensible precautions when using most things.

Effective harm minimization can only be practiced when we are properly informed as consumers and pet owners.

How do we avoid harm to pets when we are not given any safety guidelines or information about a product being “Pet Safe” or any cautions using the product with certain broad classes of animals.

I really don’t think adding a warning such as “Usage may be Hazardous to cats or dogs” etc. would take up more than few lines.

This could be supplemented by stating contact your Vet or an authority for more hazardous chemicals information.

Do you really expect every pet owning consumer to pick up a product and then perform a detailed internet information search on each and every ingredient contained within a product.

Nearly every chemical product we introduce to our environment has potential to cause harm. While some of us value a particular pet, we no longer keep domesticated pets. Chemical products used around the home, from simple soaps and air fresheners to various classes of pesticides and herbicides will if we misuse the product, cause harm to at least one form of life we value.

Perhaps it is easier to seek out simple cleaning remedies that use only one or two simple products. Eg vinegar or baking soda. By researching what you choose to use against their known risks to the wildlife that matter to your home, one can make an informed decision. We do, and leave everything else on the store shelf.


Most pet owners are quite well aware that human medications should never be given to a pet.

There is also a lot of good info on pet shows about certain foods which should not be given to pets, a basic and sensible rule of thumb is pet food is for pets, people food for people, I certainly would never want to risk eating any pet food!!!.

I fully admit It’s hard adhering to this when you have a cat heading butting you on the couch while dining and being most persistent in their attempts to sample your dinner.

It is ludicrous to expect people shopping in a busy supermarket to do an internet search to track down the MSDS for a product and review it whilst shopping before purchasing a product

if we are not informed how are consumers to know what the risks are present and what is benign?

In relation to Benalkonium Chloride this is dangerous in the normal concentrations found in many products even when they are diluted according to instructions, the harm still occurs.

This is evidenced by felines who have been harmed by people washing outdoor decks with these products and the unsuspecting cats grooming themselves after incidental exposure.

If I have any product safety concerns I always take a look at the precautions on the label, this only takes a minute or two and if I have any doubts it goes back on the shelf.

Are you seriously advocating we strip all cleaning products of warnings and not be informed about anything at all.

I’m simply stating there is an important consumer need to be informed about serious risks to health of human or animals where it is relevant to the product and it’s proper and safe usage.

This is not asking for every possible risk to be covered, there is a reasonable and sensible case for pet safety warnings to be clearly made where there is a factual medical evidence that exposure could result in harm or fatality.

As consumers we have the right to be informed about risks.

Pets can’t speak out for themselves. As Jackson Galaxy states we should think of ourselves not as pet owners but as being “Cat/Pet Guardians”.

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Our approach, and the visiting domestic animals, and those less well trained agree is to never wash our verandahs. They do see the occasional wetting from storms. We simply vacuum with an industrial wet and dry, or use a stiff broom as needed. The Australian native hardwoods have taken on their natural 140+ year old platinum patina. Something waxed lyrical about on Grand Designs for the latest architecture using sustainable bespoke natural timber cladding in the UK!

Elimination is always a better solution than substitution!

This text has some enlightening information of common household chemicals (inc Benzalkonium/ alkyldimethylbenzylammonium Chloride) and affects on animals.

Page 17 is the section which relates to this particular chemical. The text states that ‘No Fatal cases have been reported’ and that primary affects of the chemical are due to its ‘irritancy’.

It also suggests that cases of Benzalkonium Chloride consumption have been reported an have been due to cats walking over treated surfaces (maybe wet causing wetting of their fur) and subsequent consumption through grooming or through driking quantities of a Benzalkonium Chloride solution.

It is worth noting that the warning for a well known disinfectant states "Keep out of reach of children. Do not swallow. Avoid contact with eyes and skin. Dispose of empty container with household rubbish.

If these instructions are followed (including for pets), then there should be no issue with the use of the product in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

It is also worth noting that the above linked text has other chemical compounds and products (such as batteries) which pose a risk to the health of pet cats and dogs. Some of these compounds are can be organic (e.g. borax), commonly used in homes instead of pesticides and pose a risk to pets if consumed.

This comment was more about a lost tablet or dropped tablet which could be easily consumed by a pet. In the case of aspirin/paracetamol, one dropped tablet may be enough to kill a small pet…unlike Benalkonium Chloride which is more likely at domestic concentrations to be an irritant than result in mortality.

The text and Victorian Government website also has many other household products which are known to cause health impact in pets such as cats and dogs.

If products containing Benalkonium Chloride are to be specifically labelled as being a potential irritant to pets (even though the labelling currently warns of minimising contact with skin), then all households products which may also have health impacts on pets should also be labelled as there is a slight risk (like Benalkonium Chloride), that a pet may consume or come in contact with such products.


Have you actually dug a little deeper and seen actual case photos of cats exposed to this stuff?.

I have seen photos of them suffering painful ruby red oral gums and eyes.

It is really obvious they are in a lot of pain and discomfort.

If this is not treated promptly I’m sure they could possibly suffer lasting damage to those delicate tissues.

You believe this would result in products carrying warnings about every conceivable danger.

No that doesn’t convince me in anyway either, cats with ruby red eyes and oral gums are in serious pain and with delicate tissues in areas such as the eyes and mouth there is the potential for permanent damage.

Following the guidelines as most sensible consumers do would NOT prevent the feline cases seen to date as they have occured via incidental exposure and would not be prevented by warnings such as “Keep out of reach of children. Do not swallow. Avoid contact with eyes and skin. Dispose of empty container with household rubbish.”

You have repeatedly tried very hard to downplay the dangers.

I am deeply offended by your callous and unsympathetic attitudes displayed in your posts to date.

I don’t think anybody wishes you or your cat anything bad. The problem is that it isn’t practical to label every substance in the supermarket with every warning about every possible misuse of it in regard to every person or companion animal. I know, you are just talking about cats but how does one choose? Whose pet gets excluded? Whose sensitivity or allergy is ignored?

There are plenty of venues where your problem would cause a dogpile where many readers would validate your feelings by saying “ain’t ut terrible”, followed by “aorta do something”. If the reception you got here was a little more dispassionate please don’t think it is because the members are callous, looking back through history over many issues will show you they are not.


This is the point I was trying to make…there was to intention to be callous. There are also hundreds of products which can also impact on a pet’s health. The chemical outlined above is just one.

The existing label for this particular chemical provides warnings which applies to any animal (it is not limited to children)…which is avoid contact with the solution…either neat or diluted and don’t swallow it.

If one thinks that the warnings don’t apply to non-human animals, then there will be risks as exposure is likely and there would be a higher probability that a reaction due to contact will occur.

I would imagine that one would prevent a child from contacting the chemical…either neat in the bottle, the dilluted solution in a bucket or when a floor is wet after mopping…so I can’t understand why anyone would treat pets differently. I would isolate a pet until the area is dry and also all risks of contacting the solution is removed. One would do this for a child after reading the label, so why wouldn’t one do the same for a pet.

Adding any more warnings is unlikely to change the behaviour of those who don’t read existing warnings and chose not to follow these warnings.

This thread however hopefully makes others aware that the warning labels on products not only apply to humans, but pets or other animals. This could be a positve outcome from the information provided and also make the reader aware of other common household which pose similar risks to pets.


@jputting thanks for raising the issue, we appreciate the feedback. Thanks also to everyone for the discussion so far.

In some cases, we get feedback about including too much info in our tables, and for others they would prefer more info or different angles. While we can’t always please everyone, I’ll be sure to share this with our content producers to see what ideas/solutions they can come up with.


If you own a pet then it is your responsibility to ensure its safety. There are many many household cleaners and other products that are harmful to humans, stands to reason then that they may also be harmful to any pet not just cats and dogs.

You know you cannot blame everyone else for everything. Don’t you lock these products away from children? Then do the same for pets; or if a product makes you cough and your eyes stram why are you using it? Take personal responsibility for yourself, your household and your pets.

There are already natural products out there that are widely available that get the job done and harm no-one or no thing. You have the choice to buy them or not. Personally I don’t need a tiny warning on a bottle to keep it away for a pet!!



This is not as simple as using common sense precautions such as keep cleansers locked up and out of reach of children

Even if you avoid exposing pets to products during usage and securely locking products away afterwards the hazards are still present.

For example people have used floor cleansers containing Benzalkonium Chloride on outdoor decking, after the decking has dried unsuspecting neighbourhood cats have come into contact with the washed decking and suffered quite nasty effects due to incidental exposure.

Show me indisputable evidence that so called “Natural Products” are 100% harmless, take a long hard look at the ingredients list on many so called “Organic” or “Natural” products and you will see a quite long list of chemical ingredients.

Anything apart from well designed rigorous scientific studies independently performed to specifically assess issues regarding toxicity, safety and potential hazards is what is designated as “Anecdotal Evidence”.

Anectdotal evidence is basically an unproven claim made by an individual or group with ZERO scientific evidence to prove it’s an undisputed fact proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Independent Choice testing on so called “Natural” or “Organic” products and homemade preparations has repeatedly and consistently shown that they perform poorly and require more effort in usage compared to reputable brand name products.

Manufacturers often exploit the popular and quite erroneous belief that “Natural or Organic” is good that many people have been duped into believing.

Every product you buy as a consumer has an impact on the environment.

This is due to sourcing of materials "Natural’ or “Organic” or synthetically manufactured.

Then there is the energy used for making the product packaging, manufacturing process, packing, storing and transporting the products to the retailers and to our homes.

Then of course there are the waste issues and disposal of used products and the energy used in recycling containers.

The basic simple fact is that NO product we use is 100% benign and harmless to the environment, everything we use has an a environmental impact when you take a look at product for the full life-cycle of the product from begining to end in its fullness.

There is absolutely ZERO evidence to support the belief that because something is “Natural” or “Organic” it is benign.

Do you realize there are countless natural plants which can poison you or are lethal to pets?

There are also many natural occurring chemical elements that have been around since the universe was created and are also dangerous or toxic to people and animals.

Without being properly informed it is absolutely ludicrous to expect consumers to thoroughly research the safety of
all ingredients in every product they use.

Are you honesty trying to state that consumers have NO RIGHT to be informed or perhaps you believe that there should be no warnings or proper precautions listed on lables.

As a consumer I very strongly believe that we have the right to be informed about the hazards regarding a products usage.

It’s up to consumers to read the labels and follow proper precautions or ignore them at their own peril.

For the record I wish to categorically state that I am not blaming everyone else for this.

I do take full responsibility as a “Cat Guardian” for my pets safety and I do everything I can to protect them from harm.

I also wish to make it very clearly that I do take the precaution of reading the product warnings and exercise proper care in using all consumer products and ensure they are securely stored away from pets and children.

But if information is not provided we can not do this effectively.