You'll probably get the email hoax sooner or later. I like the product and I'd
like to get the word around that it's a fabrication.
Claim: The Swiffer WetJet poses a general danger to household pets.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
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 antifreeze is one of the
ingredients. (actually he was told it's a compound which is one molecule away
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
Origins: So much about this anonymous message purportedly detailing the
demise of someone's neighbor's dog and that neighbor's housekeeper's two cats
is either wrong or unverifiable that we cannot see how it could reasonably be
considered anything but false:
* The message gives no information about its writer or either of the pet
owners, and thus provides no avenue through which inquiries can be made to
verify its contents. It appears to have been disseminated through its posting
to many different dog-related newsgroups and mailing lists, always by a
second-hand source who had "received it in e-mail."
* The claims that the cleaning agent used with the Swiffer WetJet is
"antifreeze" or "a compound which is one molecule away from" something else are
quite similar to a number of other alarmist scares we've seen (such as one
about margarine) and are indicative of an uninformed writer's making
According to P&G's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), most of the cleaning
fluid used in the Swiffer WetJet system is water (somewhere between 90 and 100
percent), with propylene glycol n-propyl ether and isopropyl alcohol making up
between 1 and 4 percent each, and the remainder of the solution composed of
minor ingredients and preservatives.
Although ethylene glycol is commonly used in antifreeze and deicing solutions
and has been identified as posing a danger to pets, the compound listed in the
WetJet MSDS, propylene glycol, is a distinctly different substance. Propylene
glycol is also sometimes used in antifreeze solutions, but it is much safer
than ethylene glycol — it has been classified by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) as an additive that is "generally recognized as safe" for
use in food, it is found in a variety of medicines and cosmetics, and it is
recommended as a safe alternative to antifreeze for pet owners. Propylene
glycol is also an ingredient used in many, many different brands and types of
household cleaning products, so if it truly posed a significant risk of causing
fatal liver damage in cats and dogs, we should be hearing about many more pet
deaths associated with cleaning products other than the Swiffer WetJet.
Also note that the danger posed to pets by antifreeze (i.e., ethylene glycol)
has to do kidney failure, not destruction of the liver as claimed in the
message quoted above.
* The warning message claims that the anonymous writer found on his
WetJet packaging a warning label which stated that the product "may be harmful
to small children and animals." We examined the warning labels on every Swiffer
WetJet product we could find at our local stores, and none of them bore such
wording. The labelling on all these products (i.e., the Swiffer WetJet Power
Mop with Jet-Action Sprayer, the Wood Floor Cleaner, the Multi-Purpose Cleaner,
and the Cleaning Pad Refill) was identical and read: "AVOID ACCIDENTS: KEEP OUT
OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND PETS. In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with
water. If irritation persists, call a physician." This is the standard
boilerplate warning label found on virtually every household cleaning product
to inform users that cleaning agents are generally caustic and may be harmful
should they come into direct contact with the eye. On Swiffer products, the
first line of the warning (the one referencing children and pets) was presented
in block letters and in darker type that the rest of the message, all of which
was listed in three languages: English, French, and Spanish.
Only the warning carried on the Antibacterial Cleaner solution was different
— after an expanded caution about not getting the product into one's eyes and
the procedure for flushing exposed eyes with water, it concluded, ''Contact a
Poison Control Center or doctor for treatment advice. Have the product
container or label with you when calling the Poison Control Center or doctor or
going for treatment." Nowhere on this label was there mention of children or
pets, and even the part of the warning devoted to Poison Control Centers and
doctors might well have applied only to the preceding passage about getting the
solution into one's eyes. No Swiffer product carried a warning cautioning users
that its toxicity might pose a danger to children or pets, as suggested by the
message quoted above.
On its web site, Procter and Gamble explains its Swiffer WetJet cleaning system
as an all-in-one, ready-to-use mopping system. According to the entry in its
"Swiffer Q&A" section devoted to the question of whether the product is safe to
use around pets:
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.
In direct response to the e-mail's charge, Procter and Gamble has posted a
There is a false Internet rumor circulating rapidly among pet owners alleging
that Swiffer WetJet may contain antifreeze and is harmful to pets. The Wet
cloths and WetJet liquid solution cleaners do not contain antifreeze or any
ingredient similar to it. In fact, all Swiffer products are safe to use around
We evaluated the Swiffer Wet cloths and WetJet cleaners to ensure they're safe
— a fact confirmed by the ASPCA, independent veterinarians and scientists. In
fact, for nearly five years, people in over 38 million U.S. homes have safely
used Swiffer products on everything from the kitchen and living room floors to
tables and ceiling fans.
We have pets too, and their health and well-being is very important to us.
Please help us stop this rumor by sharing the truth with others.
If this warning is as unsubstantiated as it appears to be, then why did someone
write it? One possibility is that most pet owners are of course quite
distraught when beloved, apparently healthy animal companions die for no
obvious reason, and in their grief they understandably try to make sense of the
otherwise unexplainable by finding something to which the deaths can be
attributed. Unfortunately, this emotional reaction often leads people to lay
the blame on agents that may have only a coincidental connection to events. For
example, a pet owner re-carpets his home, and a week later both his dogs
suddenly die. In this circumstance, many people would quite naturally assume
that the new carpeting — which draws attention as the most substantial and
visible change to the household — must have been connected to the death of
the dogs, but much more evidence would be necessary to draw that conclusion.
Quite possibly a factor (or combination of factors) unrelated to carpeting was
the cause, and the timing of the dogs' deaths was completely coincidental. Or
the connection may have been tangential — perhaps after the new carpeting was
installed, the residents took to removing their shoes upon entering the house;
the dogs, now having convenient access to those shoes, began to chew or lick
them, thereby picking up some kind of toxin or illness-causing biological agent
carried in from the outside on those shoes.
Also, given this message's similarity to a different, unfounded e-mail warning
about another Procter & Gamble product, Febreze, we'd have to consider the
possibility that someone with a grudge against Procter & Gamble is maliciously
trying to damage the company by deliberately spreading false information about