For the last several years, Walmart has been working on its Sustainability Index, a system that eventually will track every item on the retailer’s shelves and give it a rating based on the product’s green qualities. Back in September, the company revealed its Consumables Chemicals initiative, which aims to ensure that cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products sold by Walmart will have the least possible hazards to people or the environment. They have prioritized the reduction and removal of 10 chemicals from all products, and they will continue to evaluate if more chemicals should be prioritized. You can learn more about the retailer’s progress on the sustainability index here.
Given this major commitment and the potential impact it will have on the number and toxicity of chemicals in most consumer products (or at least the ones sold at Walmart), I was incredibly happy to learn that they are taking the charge by producing their own non-toxic products. So when Walmart asked me to use and review some of the products in their new Great Value Naturals line, I was only too happy to oblige.
I received four products to try: Multi-surface cleaner, glass & window cleaner, laundry detergent, and dishwashing detergent. I have tried my fair share of green cleaning products over the years, so I had hight hopes that these would work well, because they have the potential to get into the hands of people who normally wouldn’t even consider switching their cleaning products. My thoughts:
This is what you might call an all-purpose product. The kind you’d keep on hand for everyday cleaning jobs, like the stove and kitchen counters, the bathroom sink and countertops, the dining table, etc. In the past few weeks, we’ve used it for all these jobs and more. It was definitely effective and got the job done. In fact, I had to tell my daughter to use less of it on the dining table because she got a little overzealous. But the toughest challenge I threw at it was cleaning the tubs in both bathrooms. My daughter and I both have curly hair, which often leads to clogs, which in turn lead to the tub getting grimier than I’d like. Which is why there are no before pictures. I sprayed the multi-surface cleaner and let it sit for a minute or two, and I was really impressed by how easily I was able to scrub away the grime.
My only issue here is a matter of preference. For me, cleaning is physical as well as psychological. As Walmart develops this line, I hope they offer some options with fragrance, as I love for my house not just to be clean, but also to smell clean. There are a ton of natural scents that would work well, from lavender to lemon verbena and even basil or pine (real pine — not the artificial fragrance stuff). For this reason, I sprayed a little with my normal cleaning products behind the Great Value cleaner not because it wasn’t effective, but because I wanted the rooms to smell nice. Like I said, definitely a psychological motivation, but one that matters to me.
Glass & window cleaner
We mostly use glass cleaners for the bathroom mirrors and the full-length mirror hanging from my bathroom door. My biggest issue with most of them is that they streak in pretty obvious ways. I used newspaper to clean the mirrors with the Great Value Natural glass and window cleaner, and I was thoroughly impressed. Very clean mirrors with no streaking. It does what it’s supposed to do, and it will be one of the few eco-friendly glass cleaners you can easily find in a retail store without having to order online. That makes it a winner, in my book.
Of all the products, this is the one with which I was least impressed. I admit that I have had trouble finding eco-friendly dishwasher detergents that really work, and I was hoping this one would solve that problem. Sadly, it didn’t. I ran the dishwasher the way I always do — with a full load — several times with varying amounts of dishwasher detergent. When I ran it with the amount I typically use, the dishes didn’t come out full clean. When I ran it with a little more, with a full detergent cup, there was still leftover food residue. Finally, when I ran it with both the detergent cups filled, the dishes came out clean, but with a gritty film on them that was obvious to the touch. After about a week of trial and error, I switched back to my regular detergent.
I did, however, really like the laundry detergent. Our clothes came out clean — even my stepson’s and daughter’s — which notoriously get stained. We almost never use fabric softener, because it’s tough to find an eco-friendly one in person. With some detergents, forgoing softener means that clothes, though clean, will also feel a little crunchy and contain a lot of static. That was not the case here. Even without softener, our clothes were bouncy and fresh after drying.
This is another case where I wish there was a fragrance option. For my laundry just like my everyday cleaning, I love having our clothes come out smelling great. “Clean” typically means no smell, but for me, it also means a little bit of fragrance as well. The same natural fragrances I mentioned above could absolutely apply to laundry detergent as well. Just something to consider for future versions of the product.
As a whole, I really like this product line, but I do have one big caveat. As I mentioned, I received four products to try. Unfortunately, all four of those products came with the exact same list of ingredients. You read that right. All four product had this list on the back label:
While I certainly appreciate the assurance that the products are free of carcinogens, phosphates, chlorine and petrochemicals, it is unlikely that four very different products with four very different uses would use exactly the same ingredients. And because the list of possible carcinogens is vast, I would honestly prefer to know exactly what is in the products, rather than a list of what is not. Many people who buy natural cleaning products do so because of chemical sensitivities, and it is difficult to know if a product will trigger a reaction without a true list of ingredients. You can visit the NaturalPowerClean.com website for more information, but the full ingredients aren’t listed there either.
I understand that many companies do this to protect their proprietary formulas, but as a person who regularly shops for green products for cleaning and personal care use, not knowing exactly what is in a product can be a deal-breaker for me. I’d definitely prefer to have the full list. This is especially true because Walmart’s own sustainability index will require suppliers to provide online public ingredient disclosure beginning in January 2015, so I hope this is something they will consider in the near future for their own products.
DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.