A Cleaning Product That's NOT For The Dogs?
Date Added: May 4, 2004
Urban legends abound about terrible threats posed to us by the same household products that art supposed to make our lives easier. This one has many common components of a such a legend and fails to stand up to scruitiny.
I recently had a neighbor who had to have their 5-year old German Shepherd dog put down due to liver failure. The dog was completely healthy until a few weeks ago, so they had a necropsy done to see what the cause was. The liver levels were unbelievable, as if the dog had ingested poison of some kind. The dog is kept inside, and when he's outside, someone's with him, so the idea of him getting into something unknown was hard to believe. My neighbor started going through all the items in the house. When he got to the Swiffer Wetjet, he noticed, in very tiny print, a warning which stated "may be harmful to small children and animals." He called the company to ask what the contents of the cleaning agent are and was astounded to find out that anitfreeze is one of the ingredients. (actually he was told it's a compound which is one molecule away from anitfreeze).
Therefore, just by the dog walking on the floor cleaned with the solution, then licking it's own paws, and the dog eating from its dishes which were kept on the kitchen floor cleaned with this product, it ingested enough of the solution to destroy its liver.
Soon after his dog's death, his housekeepers' two cats also died of liver failure. They both used the Swiffer Wetjet for quick cleanups on their floors. Necropsies weren't done on the cats, so they couldn't file a lawsuit, but he asked that we spread the word to as many people as possible so they don't lose their animals.
The chain letter above employs many of the most common elements of an urban legend:
Procter & Gamble, the makers of the Swiffer line of cleaning products, insist that their product is safe for pets in their "Swiffer Q&A."
"Question: Is Swiffer safe for animals? What if my pet licks the floor?
"Answer: Great news for you and your pets! Swiffer Wet and Swiffer WetJet are specially designed to not leave a residue on the floor, so there's no need to rinse. We suggest you make sure the floor is completely dry before letting your pet walk on it, though, because wet floors can be slippery. Since there isn't a residue, there are no problems if your pet licks the floor.
"No more worrying about the owner of those muddy paw prints. You can enjoy the convenience of our Swiffer products without any worries for your pet's safety."
Furthermore, they specifically address this rumor:
"Let us assure you, this rumor is completely false. Our Wet cloths and WetJet liquid solution cleaners do not contain antifreeze or any ingredient similar to it.
"We have pets too and their health is very important to us. All our products have been evaluated by internal and external veterinarians and scientists, and Swiffer WetJet and Swiffer Wet cloths are safe to use around pets.
"We hope you’ll help us put an end to this rumor by letting others know the truth."
It is possible that this rumor is borne out of a mistaken association of two similar, but significantly different chemicals. Ethylene glycol is a common ingredient in antifreeze solutions and is extremely dangerous to pets (and humans). Propylene glycol is an ingredient in the Swiffer cleaning solution (along with water and isopropyl alcohol) and is also used in some antifreeze solutions. The difference is that propylene glycol is safe for pets and humans and is often used in "pet-safe" alternative antifreeze solutions, as well as other products.
In its original form, the letter above contained no signature or attribution. However, as it circulates, especially among animal rescue and breeder circles, it picks up names of folks whose identities lend undue credence to its claims. All of the attributions I have seen so far have proven to be cases of False Attribution Syndrome. Break this chain.
References: Swiffer.com, Snopes.com