Is Pine-Sol Safe or Poisonous? Complete Overview

Pine Sol toxicity

Today’s cleaning spree has you scrubbing the house from top to bottom. But are you worried that Pine-Sol could be more poisonous than the germs on your countertop? 

Fret not. Pine-Sol is not poisonous when used in recommended, moderate amounts. Unless you’re planning to chug down or inhale an entire bottle, you should be just fine. 

Recent studies have shown that household cleaners like Pine-Sol do contain carcinogenic ingredients. These chemicals may lead to failed pregnancies or kidney problems. But the only such chemical in Pine-Sol is toluene. 

In addition, the exact concentration or toxicity hasn’t been established. The rest of the product formulation is safe. As of now, Pine-Sol is not dangerous. It is used safely by families across the country.

This article will give you an idea of the different components of Pine-Sol. It will also help you keep yourself and your home safe while using it.

Pine-Sol ingredients

  • PEG/PPG ether

This is a glycol ether, used as an additional solvent. It can cut through oil, grease, soil, etc. This allows the dirt to collect into an easily disposable form. 

  • C10-12 Alcohol Ethoxylates 

These are used as a wetting agent so that the cleaner can bind to the surface better. 

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfates

This is a surfactant used to suspend accumulated grime in the cleaning liquid. It also helps in easy application and lathering. Alternatively, sodium alkyl sulfonates may be used. They also have detergent properties.  

  • Sodium Carbonate

This is a water softening agent which removes hard metals and minerals. This makes the cleaning process easier because less detergent is needed to clean effectively. 

  • Hydroxyethyl cellulose

This is a plant-derived compound that is used to regulate the thickness of the cleaning liquid. It also keeps the solutions stable by preventing chemical interactions. It is also an emulsifier that dissolves the dirt in the liquid cleaner.

In addition, different dyes and fragrances are added. The original Pine-Sol also has a chemical called caramel, which turns blue. This is used as a visible sign that the cleaner is working e.g. around the rim of toilet bowls.

Is Pine-Sol a disinfectant?

Yes, but only the original Pine-Sol has disinfectant properties. The other scented varieties are designed to clean but not disinfect. The original Pine-Sol kills germs on any surface e.g. toilet seats, tiles, etc.

It can easily eliminate most viruses, bacteria, and fungi (99.9% as reported). You need to leave it on the surface for at least 10 minutes. 

The Pine-Sol original cleaner has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use during COVID. It has proven to be effective in killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

Is Pine-Sol oil-based or water-based? 

Pine-Sol is water-based. Sometimes alcohols like isopropanol are also used as an additional solvent. This is for chemicals that are insoluble in water. Pine oil is only added in the original Pine-Sol variety.

It comprises only about 8-12% of the total solution. It has solvent properties but it is mainly used for fragrance. It also has cleaning properties because it can break down grease. The other scented Pine-Sol varieties don’t even contain pine oil. 

Is Pine-Sol toxic to breathe?

No, Pine-Sol isn’t toxic. It is not poisonous. But it can cause mild irritations. These can include stinging or ache in the nose and throat. It can obstruct breathing as the fumes can block your airway temporarily. 

This is caused by the pungent smells from the fragrances. If it exceeds a limit you may fall unconscious. If you do lose consciousness, you may require medical help. So make sure that when you are cleaning, the space is well-ventilated. 

Is Pine-Sol toxic if swallowed?

Yes. Ingesting Pine-Sol can have varying toxicity depending on how much was swallowed. At the lower end, you could experience vomiting, burning sensations, and dizziness. 

But if you swallow a large amount, your lungs, nervous system and other organs can be badly impacted. You could have seizures, pneumonia, or even go into a coma, although this is very rare.

This is not just an effect of the pine oil, but also of the alcohols and other chemicals. When consumed at these concentrations they can be very dangerous. 

Is Pine-Sol toxic to babies?

Yes, Pine-Sol can be toxic to babies if ingested or inhaled. The fumes from chemicals like glycol ethers can’t be detected. But if your baby inhales them, it could cause breathing problems and lung irritation. 

The surfactants and fragrances can cause skin reactions/allergies. Obviously, swallowing the cleaner can be very harmful. It should be kept away from the reach of babies and kids. 

Let the Pine-Sol dry after cleaning. You can also wipe over the area again with warm water and soap. Then it will be safe for your baby to crawl around. It also keeps them safe, if they tend to lick or put things in their mouth.  

Is Pine-Sol toxic to cats and dogs? 

Pine-Sol could be toxic if your pet ingests it. Pine oil can be very toxic even in the smallest amounts. When ingested, it can cause skin irritations, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy, etc. 

Once dried, it isn’t a hazard. It is also not dangerous if your pet inhales it while you are cleaning. But if your cat/dog has stepped in the Pine-Sol then you should wash it off their paws. You may also bathe them so that they don’t lick it off themselves.  

Is Pine-Sol toxic to birds?

Yes, Pine-Sol is toxic for birds. It contains chemicals and a strong odor. These are harsh on birds’ respiratory systems. Birds are more delicate. Their systems are more sensitive to these fumes. Even if the cleaner is dry, the fumes persist for at least 24 hours. 

It could linger for up to two days at the most. So move the birds out of the room for at least 48 hours before you bring them back in.

Is Pine-Sol toxic to plants? 

Yes, Pine-Sol is toxic to plants. It contains chemical compounds that are noxious. These include alcohol ethoxylates and sodium carbonate. These chemicals break down the outer protective layers of leaves, grass, flowers, etc.

It can also cause an imbalance in soil pH. Acidic soil causes wilting, stunted growth, or death. The original Pine-Sol which contains pine oil is also dangerous. The pine oil destroys weeds and harms plants as well. It prevents the absorption of nutrition. 

Is Pine-Sol safe on skin?

Yes, Pine-Sol is safe on the skin. It usually doesn’t affect the skin in any major way when it comes into contact with it. But for those with sensitive skin, some of the chemicals may induce some irritation, redness, or rashes. 

In such cases, you can use protective gloves while cleaning. You can also rinse off any residue immediately after. If the itching or rash persists, you may have an allergy to some ingredients. A doctor can help you address this. 

Is Pine-Sol safe for septic systems?

Yes, Pine-Sol is septic-safe if it is used according to the instructions given. It doesn’t contain compounds that kill essential bacteria. These bacteria are crucial to decompose waste in the septic tank. While pine oil can destroy these bacteria, the amount used is minimal. 

It is only found in one Pine-Sol variety, and that too mainly for fragrance. Ensure that you follow the tips on dilution and cleaning techniques. If you do so, your septic tank should also stay protected.

Is Pine-Sol safe for laminate floors? 

Yes, Pine-Sol is perfectly safe. First, prepare the area by sweeping/vacuuming to remove the visible dirt. Then Pine-Sol can be applied with a damp mop. After cleaning, the same area should be wiped again with a fresh, rinsed mop.

Make sure the mop is not soaking wet- it should just be moist. To make sure you don’t damage the lamination, test the cleaner on a small area first. If there is no discoloration or haze, then you can continue using it.

Is Pine-Sol safe for wood floors? What about hardwood floors? 

Yes, Pine-Sol is absolutely safe for all types of wood floors .e.g. laminate, hardwood, or engineered wood. The wood should have some kind of protective coating e.g. waterproof or varnish layer. Unfinished, exposed, waxed and oiled wood can be ruined, if the cleaner is applied.

The cleaner can sink into the wood layers and cause residue, decay, etc. Usually, the cleaner is diluted before use. But for stubborn stains like oil or ink, the concentrate can be used straight from the bottle. 

Is Pine-Sol safe for vinyl floors? 

It depends. The Pine-Sol multi-purpose cleaner is often used on vinyl/vinyl plank floors. But it is not recommended. Sometimes, it does cause blemishes and wears down the coating. 

There is a misconception that any cleaner that works for linoleum, is also suitable for vinyl.  But the surface of vinyl can be damaged easily, whereas linoleum is more durable.  

If you are using Pine-Sol, dilute it well to avoid any residue. Or better yet, use a homemade mild solution of warm water and soap/vinegar.

Is Pine-Sol safe on granite?

Yes, Pine-Sol is absolutely safe to use on granite surfaces. Use soft cleaning tools like sponges, microfiber cloth, etc. You should avoid abrasive tools like steel sponges. These can scratch or break down the sealant on the granite.

On an unsealed or worn-out granite surface, you can see deep-set stains/residues. Don’t use Pine-Sol in this case until the surface has been re-sealed. When properly sealed, Pine-Sol actually reinforces the strength and shine of the coating. 

Is Pine-Sol safe on ceramic tiles?

Yes, Pine-Sol is safe for use on ceramic tiles. These tiles are non-absorbent. So using a slightly acidic cleaner like Pine-Sol is not only safe but also effective. It may be a better alternative to a homemade vinegar solution.

Because vinegar is highly acidic, it may break down the grout between the tiles. It could also corrode the varnish/coating. Pine-Sol could help to keep these problems at bay. It is less corrosive, has a higher pH, and cleans equally well. 

Is Pine-Sol safe on quartz?

No, Pine-Sol is not safe for use on your quartz countertops, cabinets, and similar surfaces. Quartz is quite a non-porous stone. It resists a lot of staining and dirt accumulation. But at the same time, a strong cleaner with an acidic pH can ruin the stone. The same goes for strong alkaline cleaners.

It is best to use a mild soap/detergent which has a neutral pH.  You can disinfect the quartz surfaces using just isopropyl alcohol spray, with no additives. 

Is Pine-Sol safe on leather?

This question remains unresolved. Pine-Sol diluted in sufficient water is often used as a mild cleaner. But there are fears that its acidity can cause cracks in the leather. Pine-Sol can be used for clothing, fabric, carpets, and upholstery. 

But there is no clarity on whether these fabrics include leather. Since leather reacts differently, you can use a watered-down, weak version of Pine-Sol solution. Or you can use soap and water to avoid any mishaps. 

Does Pine-Sol contain ammonia/quaternary ammonia?

No. Pine-Sol does not have either ammonia or quaternary ammonium compounds. Quaternary ammonia (quats) release formaldehyde in trace amounts. This can cause health problems like asthma. It is also suspected to be carcinogenic. 

If ingested/inhaled they can cause mild burns to the eyes and throat. Instead of the ammonia and related quats, Pine-Sol uses an alternative active ingredient. Glycolic acid is used instead, which is milder. It is safer than ammonia which releases toxic fumes.

Does Pine-Sol contain phenol?

Only one variety of Pine-Sol contains phenol. The earlier formulation of Pine-Sol did contain a fair amount of pine oil and phenols. The phenols functioned as an antiseptic to remove mold and sanitize.

But now only the original Pine-Sol still has pine oil. The other varieties do not report the presence of any phenols. As a consequence, they also do not have any disinfecting properties. This is good news, considering phenols can cause illnesses, especially lung damage. 

Does Pine-Sol contain toluene?

Yes, a recent study has shown that Pine-Sol does contain toluene. Toluene is used as a solvent in many cleaners and cosmetics. But it has been withdrawn from several uses because of its harmful health effects.

But Pine-Sol still contains toluene, although not as an active ingredient. Maybe it is a by-product of some other chemical compound e.g. petroleum. Toluene is a neurotoxin that can damage organs, and cause reproductive failure. It can also impair your nervous system. 

Does Pine-Sol contain turpentine? 

Yes, Pine-Sol does contain some categories/forms of turpentine. Constituent blocks of turpentine called terpenes are used. Turpentine is made up of these chemicals. The fragrances used in the Pine-Sol e.g. D-Limonene are part of this category. 

In addition, the original Pine-Sol contains compounds called alpha and beta-pinene. These are derived from wood-based turpentine. Pinenes are terpenes that are used for cleaning. Other terpenes like linalool, citral, etc. are mainly used to add fragrances to cleaning products.

Does Pine-Sol contain vinegar or bleach?

No, Pine-Sol does not contain vinegar or bleach. You can add a little vinegar to a diluted solution of Pine-Sol. This combination will clean more effectively. The vinegar also adds an extra shine to the surfaces. 

But never add bleach to Pine-Sol cleaner. The bleach will interact with the chemicals to form very strong chlorine gas. If you inhale these fumes, you could have trouble breathing. It can also cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat. 

Does Pine-Sol contain TCE, enzymes or formaldehyde? 

Pine-Sol does not contain TCE- Trichloroethylene. This is a solvent that cuts through grease. It is largely banned in several states, but some industries continue to use it. TCE is a carcinogen and can cause serious imbalances in body functions. 

Pine-Sol is not an enzyme-based cleaner. It does have certain biodegradable agents in its composition. But it does not contain enzymes that can clean and disinfect animal urine, feces, blood, etc.

Pine-Sol does not contain the main source of formaldehyde i.e. quaternary ammonia compounds. Formaldehyde is not listed as an ingredient in the published list. But it may be a hidden poison in the fragrances or preservatives. 

Does Pine-Sol have an EPA or DIN number?

Yes, Pine-Sol was allotted an EPA number, once it was approved for fighting the COVID virus. EPA Number is a unique number given by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. It is allotted to companies that produce, handle and dispose of 1 kg or more of hazardous waste per month.

This is in the course of their normal business processes. For example, the Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner has been labeled with the following EPA number- 5813-101-67619.


Anand Srinivasan
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