Better Life cleaning products company, of ABC’s Shark Tank fame, claims that their products “revolutionize” the cleaning product market with “incomparable” effectiveness and safety. “How safe?” asks one of the founders, in his business pitch for the American entrepreneurial reality show. To demonstrate the answer, he opens his mouth and spritzes in a mouthful of the company’s all-purpose cleaner. If these guys are for real, the reality of their claims is jaw-dropping.
If you’ve read our reviews of Better Life’s laundry detergent, unscented all-purpose cleaner, and dishwasher gel, you’ll know that their brand is very transparent about ingredients. The founders, two dads inspired by their active young children, are proud to formulate their products with plant-derived ingredients that they aim to make safe for kids and pets.
We put Better Life’s Tub & Tile Cleaner to the test to see if its performance and formulation are truly up to snuff for discerning consumers like yourself.
Better Life’s branding is cute. The cartoon bathroom on the label, complete with a rubber ducky, fits a family-centric aesthetic (“Better Life is family owned (and super proud of it)”). The claims on the handy spray bottle promise no “harsh” fumes and plant-derived cleaning agents. The spray is Leaping Bunny certified, which means it meets strict international cruelty-free standards.
The dye-free mixture is clear in color and it has a fresh, eerily familiar lemon-lime scent…Possibly that lemon soda-drink that is not quite lemonade? It’s not a bad scent at all.
Does it stand up against shower sludge?
Yes—and very well.
To test it out, I picked the scummiest portion of my shower (that’s right—bearing my soap scum to the Internet to give you an honest review of this product), and cleaned the right half of it with Better Life’s cleaner and the left half with a chemical-based cleaner. I typically leave the spray on for about 20 minutes before wiping it off, although now I’m thinking of reconsidering this based on the possible potential for VOCs… On the left you’ll see the original photo before cleaning. In the right photo, I’ve scrubbed the soap scum clean with Better Life Tub & Tile Cleaner on the right side.
To be honest, I barely had to scrub with the Better Life spray. There were a few parts that required a little elbow grease, but I was very impressed with how it cleaned.
Next, I did the same thing on the left side of the dirty area with the more standard, chemical-based cleaner. The results are shown below. I had a lot more difficulty scrubbing off the side that was sprayed with the chemical cleaner compared the Better Life spray side.
It’s safe, and quite surprising, to say that Better Life won the cleaning contest.
Does Better Life’s tub spray use gentle, eco-friendly cleansers?
If you want to look deeper into the ingredients of your cleaning products (which of course you do – you’re reading this!), Better Life’s website provides a table for each product that lists each ingredient, its source, and its purpose. According to the site, the cleaning agents and surfactants (dirt trappers) used in this cleaner are decyl glucoside, cocopolyglucoside, lactic acid, sodium citrate, and coco betaine (coconut oil), with an honorable mention given to tea tree oil for its “cleaning properties”.
Decyl glucoside and coco glucoside are alkyl polyglucosides, a family of surfactants found by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) to be generally safe in the amounts and purposes used in consumer products. Although allergic reactions to alkyl glucosides are rare, they have occurred in rinse-off products like shampoos. These ingredients are not an environmental threat, according to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization.
Lactic acid, a substance found in plants and produced in the human body through exercise, is non-volatile and breaks down easily in the environment. Take note–although the founders of the company may be comfortable squirting the products in their mouths, it’s important to note that ingesting large amounts of lactic acid has been associated with stomach ulcers, as well as diarrhea and weight loss when given to healthy infants orally. Lactic acid is also known to be an eye irritant, especially if direct contact is made. For these reasons, a good rule of thumb is to keep the spray bottle away from kids and pets.
Coco betaine is a cleanser derived from coconut oil and is considered gentle and even moisturizing to most, although allergic reactions in some can lead to contact dermatitis.
Tee trea oil: nature’s cure-all, or fool’s gold?
Tea tree oil has been shown to have antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it is a volatile compound (it evaporates easily) that can contribute to fine-particle pollution from the release of secondary organic aerosols (SOAs). The health impacts of SOAs are still unclear but they seem to have the potential to cause lung and heart problems.
When ingested, tea tree oil has led to nonfatal poisoning in adults and children. Undiluted, the essential oil is a skin irritant, but it does not cause sensitivity in well-formulated solutions containing large amounts of water and other ingredients, such as this cleanser.
As EWG puts it, when it comes to tea tree oil, “the science is still evolving and safety can’t be assumed”. It’s even a suspected endocrine disruptor, but not in these doses.
The word natural does not necessarily imply safe.
This tub scrub uses safe and effective cleaners, but I the tea tree oil out does feel a little cosmetic.
What about the other “natural scents”?
In addition to tea tree oil, Better Life’s Tub & Tile Spray contains eucalyptus leaf, peppermint, lime and lemongrass oils. Although naturally derived, not all essential oils are beneficial and safe. Eucalyptus leaf extract is considered generally safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products, but was shown in one study to release VOCs into ambient household air when burned as incense with a candle.
Peppermint oil has been used for hundreds of years for health purposes, including orally for IBS symptoms and topically for headaches. Yet, direct inhalation of the menthol in peppermint oil can be dangerous to infants and young children when it’s applied to the chest or face.
Currently, there is not enough research to prove or disprove the safety of essential oils used in cleaning products. Some are volatile in nature, which may pose an environmental risk to ambient household air, especially when formulas are sprayed into the air.
As with all fragrances, proper ventilation while cleaning might help to mitigate potential risks.
Better Life’s website says that citric acid is used in the bathtub spray for pH balance. It can also kill mold, mildew, and bacteria and makes a good preservative. The EPA considers citric acid to be generally recognized as safe (“GRAS”). It’s found naturally in fruits and degrades in the environment easily.
Sodium gluconate is used as a water softener. It is deemed safe for human health and the environment.
Potassium sorbate, the preservative used in the spray, is generally safe, although some people may be allergic and should avoid the ingredient.
Should I use this product or not?
Better Life Tub & Tile Spray had an outstanding cleaning performance. The smell is mild and pleasant compared to other bathroom cleaning products. Most of the ingredients are effective and safe for the general public, excluding those with specific allergies.
I do want to give this product a solid 5, but the use of essential oils used for fragrances will be of concern for some.
An outstanding product.