In less than four years, the Honest Company Inc. surged to a $1.7 billion private valuation thanks to its marketing of cleaning supplies, diapers and other consumer products that it says are safer and more ecologically friendly than other brands.
The company, co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, is challenging giants such as Procter & Gamble Co. PG, -0.82% and Clorox Co. CLX, +0.23% with a guarantee that its offerings don’t contain what it says are harsh chemicals found in many mainstream products.
One of the primary ingredients Honest tells consumers to avoid is a cleaning agent called sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, which can be found in everyday household items from Colgate toothpaste to Tide detergent, and Honest says can irritate skin. The company lists SLS first in the “Honestly free of” label of verboten ingredients it puts on bottles of its laundry detergent, one of Honest’s first and most popular products.
But two independent lab tests commissioned by The Wall Street Journal determined Honest’s liquid laundry detergent contains SLS.
“Our findings support that there is a significant amount of sodium lauryl sulfate” in Honest’s detergent, said Barbara Pavan, a chemist at one of the labs, Impact Analytical. Another lab, Chemir, a division of EAG Inc., said its test for SLS found about the same concentration as Tide, which is made by P&G. “It was not a trace amount,” said Matthew Hynes, a chemist at Chemir who conducted the test.
Honest disputes the labs’ findings and says its own testing found no SLS in its products.
“We do not make our products with sodium lauryl sulfate,” said Kevin Ewell, the company’s research and development manager.