Is Murphy Oil Soap Safe Enough for my Family?

If there’s one smell that transports me to my past, it’s Murphy Oil Soap. One sniff and I’m back helping my mom scrub the house with the warm, soapy water during summer vacations. Then the longer I smell it, the more I realize it also reminds me of college. Every year I moved in to a new dorm room, my mom would wash out all the dresser drawers and woodwork with Murphy Oil Soap and water. For some reason, the smell lingered for a few days, and now it’s my scent of anticipating new beginnings.

Is Murphy Oil Soap Safe Enough for my Family? {Accidentally Green} When Prince Charming and I unearthed all the finished hardwood floors in our new upstairs, instantly I went to my old stand-by. As I washed our bedroom floors a couple times with Murphy Oil Soap and water, I started wondering … is the soap safe to use?

My research

After a bit of researching, I found Colgate-Palmolive Company’s material safety data sheet on Murphy Oil Soap Liquid. They fully disclose the cleaner’s ingredients, including potassium hydroxide, a strong alkaline chemical that’s on the Hazardous Substance List in several states.

Even though potassium hydroxide is considered a hazardous substance, it’s also known as lye – something commonly found in soaps, including castile soaps and the homemade soap recipe Kristy shared earlier this year. Potassium hydroxide is a typical ingredient in cleaning products, and it’s also used medically to diagnose fungal infections.

The lowdown

So … is it safe? Yes! Murphy Oil Soap is a LOT safer than many cleaners sold today. (It’s received a C in the Environmental Working Group Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which surprisingly is a safer ranking than most cleaners on store shelves.) It’s biodegradable and free of phosphates, ammonia, and bleach. Plus, it’s made with naturally-derived ingredients. If you have stringent safety standards, though, and want to avoid lye you’ll have to stick to natural staples like vinegar, baking soda, and lemons.

Interestingly, many floor care professionals say that Murphy Oil Soap should not be used to clean hardwood floors. Instead, a mixture of a gallon of warm water and a half cup of white vinegar is the best cleaner. Who knew that something so simple and cheap is really the most effective?

While I’ll start washing my hardwood floors with vinegar and water, I’m definitely keeping my bottle of Murphy Oil Soap for other cleaning jobs. I enjoy reminiscing while cleaning … but most importantly, I think it’s safe enough for my family and home.

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Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist. She writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green. Short and sweet - like her writing - Hilary is the author of several healthy living eBooks.

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Lovely comments so far...

  1. I LOVE Murphy Oil Soap too !One of the big reason we bought our house is it has beautiful original woodwork in pristine condition . And hardwood flooring. I’m so happy its safe to use , I was afraid to read this post this morning. lol !

  2. Stacia Smilek says:

    Yay…I was so relieved to read this! When I saw the headline, I instantly thought I was never going to have clean floors again!

  3. Murphy’s oil soap contains:

    tetrasodium edta – a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. (see how) It is also a penetration enhancer, meaning it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, going right into your bloodstream. Many companies trying to be “natural” will use Tetrasodium EDTA instead of parabens to preserve their products

    • Hello, I know this is an old comment, but I thought I’d add my two cents. First, it would be helpful to learn of the source of the information that you shared. The comment appears to be a cut & paste from some unknown website (which is why the random “see how” comment links to nothing). Second, I would say that just because something is *made from* two toxic or otherwise unsafe components does not mean that the end product is. For example, if you combine hydrochloric acid (a strong acid similar to stomach acid) and sodium hydroxide (a strong base–like the kind you find in drain cleaners) you get NaCl and H20–that’s salt and water. I am not saying that tetrasodium EDTA is OK, just that a little more background would be helpful. In fact, at least one quick search I did seems to indicate that EDTA salts are safe to use in cosmetics: http://ijt.sagepub.com/content/21/2_suppl/95

  4. I’m confused about hardwood floors. Some places I’ve read say to use vinegar solution, some say never use vinegar on unsealed floors. (Ours are unsealed.) Someone recommended using strong black tea to clean our unsealed oak floors, as the tannin in the tea actually feeds the wood. That’s what I’ve been using. We really ought to sand and seal our floors, but that’s another chemical dilemma…

    Thanks for the good news about Murphy’s, though. I only use it to clean our painted wood, and it works beautifully. For the rest, we’re using lemon, vinegar, baking soda…

  5. West Coast Cleaning says:

    Couldn’t figure out how “share” it so copy and pasted it to my page… Thanks for sharing this! Glad to know it’s not harmful! Murphys reminds me of so many memories, such a wonderful fresh smell!

  6. How can one be relieved to find out that just for cleaning his wood floor he exposes himself, his family and his visitors to a substance that contains chemicals known to promote cancer and respiratory problems, among others.
    Relief just because there is even worse out there?
    Silly!

    • @Glib: I am confused by your comment. I read the material safety data sheet (MSDS) posted at top of the article, and it clearly states that there are no carcinogenic compounds in this product, nor are there any expected adverse affects from inhalation. The MSDS only says that eye/skin irritation can occur due to direct/prolonged contact, and that ingestion of large quantities might be harmful. Personally, I try to go green all the time, and I clean mostly with things like vinegar and baking soda, but I do use Murphy, as well. What is the basis for your belief that Murphy promotes cancer and respiratory problems?

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