Written by Tenley Haraldson.

Whether poking their head into a dishwasher or chewing on an errant plastic bottle, puppies and kittens always seem to be getting into mischief. Unfortunately, even a label that reads “pet-safe” doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is truly safe for our furry, feathery, and scaly friends.

We can do our best to keep our toilet lids closed and keep cleaning supplies locked up, but it’s possible that certain cleaning products – even those deemed “pet safe” – might actually expose our animals to toxic substances.

What Are the Most Harmful Cleaning Ingredients for Dogs and Cats?

harmful cleaning ingredients
The following products are harmful to humans, so be sure to keep them away from pets: 

Specific Ingredients to Avoid in Cleaning Products

While you’d never knowingly expose your four-legged friend to harmful substances, thousands of pet-specific products reveal an alarming trend of harmful – even deadly – ingredients. With vague FDA guidelines for pet products, it’s best to look out for the following: 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Aerosol sprays, disinfectants, and air fresheners emit gas and can have both short- and long-term health effects on humans. In fact, a study carried out on cleaning crews (who regularly used VOCs) revealed higher rates of asthma and other respiratory issues.

According to the EPA, VOCs can “release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.” That means that just having them in your home can expose your pet to unwanted doses – even if they’re not in use.

are VOCs toxic


Manufacturers know that no one would knowingly buy a bottle of pet shampoo with “formaldehyde” listed as an ingredient. Unfortunately, derivatives can be known by a variety of other names, like:

  • Formalin
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea 
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
According to Cancer.org, even when formaldehyde isn’t used in certain cosmetic and cleaning products, “substances that release formaldehyde” could be. 

Mineral Oil

While cosmetic-grade mineral oil is considered “safe” by the FDA, manufacturers don’t necessarily follow the same stringent standards for petcare products. It’s better to choose brands that use natural, safe, plant-based moisturizers like avocado, castor, and virgin coconut oil. 


Used to prevent bacterial growth in cosmetics, parabens are known to disrupt endocrine production, which can affect neurological, reproductive, and developmental systems. A 2004 breast cancer study also revealed that parabens were able to accumulate and remain in the human body, so it’s safe to assume the same thing for smaller animals. 

Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs)

Prized for their anti-caking and binding capabilities, PEGs are petroleum-derived compounds that are used in a huge range of dermatological products. Though previous studies have determined that a variety of PEGs are “relatively safe” for topical use, they’ve been known to cause irritation and system toxicity when used on broken skin. 

Common byproducts of PEGs include ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen that causes nervous system damage, as well as 1,4-dioxane, a substance that’s “anticipated to be a carcinogen” by the FDA. The California EPA also calls it a toxicant that “may interfere with human development.”

Cosmetics containing PEGs should never be used on broken skin. Puracy believes that these ingredients shouldn’t be used at all. 

Get the best tips from the cleaning obsessed.

Puracy crafts cleaning & care items that work really well. Our obsession with natural cleaning performance is our profession, and we're here to share it with you.

Synthetic Fragrances

phthalates in fragrances

It’s extremely difficult to identify and determine the source of synthetic fragrances used in countless body sprays, perfumes, and soaps. Many of these fragrances are derived from petroleum products. Phthalates (like diethyl phthalate) are known to disrupt hormone production and have been linked to sperm damage. Synthetic toluene has been linked to fatigue, headaches, and nausea in both short- and long-term exposure. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, manufacturers are not required to provide a list of fragrance ingredients used, even if there are possible health risks. By contrast, Puracy pet products utilize natural, plant-derived fragrances like mint, cucumber, orange, and aloe.

We strongly believe that every ingredient needs to be accounted for. Visit our “No BS” page to learn more.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)

MI, also known as Kathon CG, is a known skin irritant. MI and MCI tend to be used together in cosmetics like body creams and lotions. Primarily used as a preservative in rinse-off products, the FDA considers MCI a chemical allergen that can cause chemical burns and skin irritation.

You may see MI and MCI listed as the following: 

  • 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one
  • 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one hydrochloride
  • 5-chloro-2-methylisothiazolin-3-one
  • 5-chloro-N-methylisothiazolone
  • Kathon CG 5243

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Many foaming/lathering pet products (like shampoo and soap) use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and their derivatives. SLS side effects can include redness, dryness, and irritation on human and animal skin, so it’s better to avoid them entirely.

SLS side effects
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is another synthetic surfactant. And though it’s not considered a carcinogen, this substance is known to irritate skin and eyes, making it a poor choice for pet-based shampoos and soaps. 

Switch to Puracy’s Eco-Friendly, Pet-Safe Products 

Puracy strives to be a leader in products that are safe for the whole family and good for the environment. We recently extended that goal to the pet market. And after launching our natural pet stain & odor remover and our natural pet shampoo to rave reviews, we knew we had something great on our hands. 

Puracy Pet Shampoo

puracy pet shampoo
Our 2-in-1 pet shampoo and conditioner removes “dog smell” by thoroughly cleansing, moisturizing, and deodorizing your dog’s coat. And unlike most competitors, we use lauryl glucoside (an essential fatty acid derived from coconut) to work up a lather. The FDA states that this substance is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and is not known to be a skin irritant.  
In addition to the natural, plant-based ingredients in our regular cleansers, we also added shine-inducing biotin, which helps support healthy fur and skin, as well as aloe and oatmeal moisturizers. 

Puracy Stain & Odor Remover

puracy pet shampoo
Whether it’s drool, urine, mud, or you-name-it, pets can take a massive toll on home surfaces. Just like our best-selling natural stain remover, our goal was to create the most effective pet stain remover on the market – without the nasty chemicals. 
To determine our product’s efficacy, we tested new and old pet stains on a wide variety of surfaces (from rugs to upholstery to thick carpets). Not only did our 5 enzyme-based formula remove marks from carpet, but it also obliterated unwanted odors. 

Choose Puracy Products – Safe for the Whole Family

Just like Puracy’s natural cleaning and personal care products, we developed our entire line of natural pet products with your furry friends’ safety and health in mind. Backed by our 100% satisfaction guarantee, there’s no reason not to see what the fuss is all about.