Is Pine-Sol Toxic? Our In-Depth Analysis

7 min reading time

Pine-Sol is a household name when it comes to all-purpose cleaners. Walk down any cleaning aisle, and you’ll likely spot the familiar pine tree logo on the classic green liquid cleanser and lemon and lavender-scented varieties.

However, recent concerns have been raised over the safety of Pine Sol products.

In 2022, The Clorox Company, owners of Pine-Sol, recalled nearly 37 million bottles of the product over concerns that they might contain a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

This prompted deeper questions—what exactly is in Pine Sol that makes it such a powerful cleaner, and should we be worried about having these strong chemicals in our homes?

We investigated the ingredients and health impacts of Pine Sol to find out how risky the popular cleaner is and get to the bottom of how safe it is to use around our families.

Ingredients in Pine-Sol

There are a large number of products in the Pine-Sol lineup, so we will focus on the ingredients in the classic version.

PEG/PPG Propylheptyl Ether

PEG/PPG propylheptyl ether helps dissolve grease and allows water and oils to mix. This helps with cleaning and removing microbes.

It’s safe for use in cosmetics when formulated to be non-irritating. It doesn’t appear to be highly toxic on its own, but there are some concerns regarding contaminants and impurities.

As an ethoxylated ingredient, it can potentially be contaminated with ethylene oxide during manufacturing. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen.

The manufacturing process of PEGs can also lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, another potentially hazardous impurity.

1,4-dioxane is a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients. It is not an intentional ingredient but a trace contaminant.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified 1,4-dioxane as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

C10-12 Alcohol Ethoxylates

C10-12 alcohol ethoxylates are another one of the surfactants in Pine-Sol.

Like the earlier ingredients, they are not considered toxic on their own. The concerns are more about the risk of contamination with impurities like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is used as an antibacterial agent in cleaning products like Pine-Sol. It can remove discoloration, soap scum, and mineral scale deposits left by hard water on toilets, bathtubs, and sinks.

Glycolic acid is considered to have low toxicity, especially at the concentrations found in cleaning products.

The toxicity of glycolic acid was investigated in rats through an acute and 28-day repeated inhalation toxicity study.

The study found that high concentrations of glycolic acid may cause respiratory diseases. But the levels causing harm were much higher than in cleaning products.

Sodium Secondary C13-18 Alkyl Sulfonate

Sodium secondary C13-18 alkyl sulfonate is an active cleaning ingredient in Pine-Sol. It works to help make grease soluble, allow thorough cleaning, and provide a foaming effect consumers associate with cleaning ability.

It poses no significant health or environmental toxicity hazard. It is considered safe when used properly in recommended product formulations.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a natural carbohydrate (complex sugar) used as a thickener in cleaning products to achieve the right thickness and consistency for an effective all-purpose cleaning product.

It is readily biodegradable, making it an environmentally friendly additive.

Xanthan gum in cleaning products is not toxic. No known hazards or health impacts are associated with exposure during use.


Pine-Sol is known for its iconic pine scent gracing households nationwide. Over time, their product line expanded to include other scents like lavender and lemon. The fragrances mask harsh chemical odors while conjuring a pleasant aroma.

Yet behind the vague “fragrance” listings on labels lies a mixture of undisclosed synthetic chemicals.

Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers aren’t required to disclose specific ingredients, so they largely remain a mystery – this makes it difficult to assess safety.

Fragrance can contain various potentially harmful chemicals, including known allergens and endocrine disruptors. Certain fragrances contain phthalates, compounds linked to hormonal imbalances that can affect reproductive system development, and are even classified as possible human carcinogens at high levels.

In one study, 19.7% reported health problems from being in a room after it was cleaned with scented:

  • 9.6%, respiratory problems
  • 7.3% mucosal symptoms
  • 6.6% migraine headaches
  • 4.1% neurological problems
  • 4.0% asthma attacks
  • 4.0 % skin problems


Limonene works in many ways in Pine-Sol products – it’s a stain remover, a solvent, and a fragrance ingredient.

It has relatively low toxicity. When applied at high concentrations, it may cause skin irritation and sensitization.

According to the US EPA, exposure to limonene products caused adverse reactions in a small percentage of animals, especially kittens and young cats.


Acetophenone is a fragrance component. It serves no cleaning or disinfecting function. It has the potential to cause toxicity.

Some short-term health effects after exposure include skin irritation, possible eye damage, coughing and wheezing, headache, nausea, and loss of coordination.

Long-term exposure to very high levels may affect the nervous system and cause an acne-like skin rash.

Potential Toxic Effects of Pine-Sol

The Clorox Company hosts an official USA-SDS document detailing some of the potential toxic effects of Pine-Sol.

These include:

  • Inhalation – respiratory tract irritation
  • Eye contact – temporary eye irritation
  • Ingestion – stomach distress, nausea or vomiting

The 2022 Recall of Over 37 Million Bottles of Pine-Sol

In October 2022, Clorox voluntarily recalled about 37 million bottles of scented Pine-Sol products due to the potential presence of bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

People with compromised immune systems or external medical devices exposed to the bacteria are at risk of severe infection. The bacteria can enter the body through the eyes, a break in the skin, or inhalation. 

The recalled Pine-Sol products include:

  • Pine-Sol Scented Multi-Surface Cleaners (Lavender Clean, Sparkling Wave, and Lemon Fresh)
  • CloroxPro Pine-Sol All-Purpose Cleaners (Lavender Clean, Sparkling Wave, Lemon Fresh, and Orange Energy)
  • Clorox Professional Pine-Sol Lemon Fresh Cleaners

No illnesses or injuries have been reported concerning the recalled products. However, the bacteria detected can pose a health risk, so it’s something to watch out for.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common type of bacteria that can cause infections in humans, specifically in the blood, lungs (pneumonia), or other body parts after surgery.

These bacteria constantly find new ways to resist antibiotics, making eradicating them challenging.

In 2017, the bacteria caused an estimated 32,600 cases in hospitalized patients and 2,700 deaths in the United States.

Death Due to Accidental Ingestion

A case report on a death caused by accidental Pine-Sol ingestion was presented in 1997.

An 89-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease drank approximately 100 mL of Pine-Sol. After an entire day, the woman’s daughter found her vomiting and having difficulty breathing. The daughter contacted emergency medical assistance, and upon arrival, they found the woman in cardiac arrest. They performed CPR but were unsuccessful. Death was pronounced at 1:40 a.m.

At the time, pine oil was one of the active ingredients in Pine-Sol. The major terpene alcohol in pine oil, accounting for approximately 50% of the mixture, is 1-α-terpineol.

It’s important to note that death due to pine oil ingestion is rare. It usually results from complications from the secondary care of chemical pneumonitis. In this case, the deceased drank approximately 100 mL of Pine-Sol, equivalent to 20 mL of pine oil.

The Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death to be an acute intoxication of 1-α-terpineol due to accidental ingestion of Pine-Sol, presumably as a result of confusion related to Alzheimer’s disease.

So, Pine-Sol Toxic?

Based on our findings, yes, Pine-Sol is toxic. Here at Better Goods, we never recommend products that could potentially have synthetic fragrances.

Non-Toxic Alternatives to Pine-Sol

While Pine-Sol is an effective cleaning product, it does contain chemicals that can be harmful to pets and potentially to humans if misused. It’s crucial to exercise caution when using it.

Additionally, when it comes to fragranced cleaning products, it’s hard to assess safety when we know so little about the exact formulations and ingredients used. People deserve to know what’s in the products brought into their homes.

Not to worry – there are safer and non-toxic alternatives out there that offer comparable cleaning power without the same degree of risks.

  • Vinegar-based cleaners. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of essential oils like lemon or lavender for scent. Safe for most surfaces. If you have pets, check first which essential oils are safe.
  • Baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on surfaces, spray vinegar, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  • Switch to fragrance-free products.
Download our free swap guide.
A cheatsheet of 50+ clean alternatives for your whole house. 
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