FAQs for NPA’s Natural Standard for Home Care Products

Q: What is the Natural Standard?
A: To help you identify truly natural products and maximize your well-being, the Natural Products Association (NPA) and other leading companies that are committed to natural home care have developed The Natural Standard for Home Care Products. The standard is a set of guidelines that identifies ingredients and processes that can and cannot be considered natural and ultimately, whether a product can be deemed truly “natural.” Under the standard, any product labeled “natural” must meet the following four criteria:

  1. Natural: A product labeled “natural” should be made up of natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes to maintain ingredient purity.
  2. Safety: A product labeled “natural” should avoid any ingredient that has peer-reviewed, scientific research showing human health or environmental risk.
  3. Responsibility: A product labeled “natural” should use no animal testing in its development.
  4. Sustainability: A product labeled “natural” should use (bio)degradable ingredients and the most environmentally sensitive packaging.

Ultimately, The Natural Standard for Home Care Products aims to clearly define what a “natural” home care product is and what it is not. The standard encompasses all home care products including laundry detergents, dish detergents, and concentrated and ready-to-use hard surface cleaners. The standard currently does not include air fresheners.

Q: How does the NPA define natural for the Natural Standard for Home Care Products?
A: The Natural Standard for Home Care Products states that all home care products labeled or branded “natural” must be made with at least 95% all-natural ingredients, not including water. The standard also requires that companies:

Q: How can you spot truly natural products?
A: Look for the NPA Natural Seal. Helping you to clearly understand and identify truly natural products is a key element of The Natural Standard for Home Care Products. You can rest assured that products carrying the Natural Seal truly are natural.

Q: Are NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products 100% natural?
A: Our threshold for natural certification is at least 95%, not including water, of ingredients must be natural. While 100% is not always possible, the 95% level sets a meaningful and rigorous standard that recognizes a commitment to meet the consumer demand for natural products. Any synthetic ingredients used in NPA products have no suspected human or environmental health risks.

Q: What does the NPA consider "natural" ingredients, and what ingredients are prohibited under the NPA’s Certification for Home Care Products?
A: All natural ingredients must come from a resource found in nature (Flora, Fauna, Mineral), with absolutely no petroleum products. Ingredients with some non-natural contribution are allowed as long as the non-natural contribution is less than 5% of the total formula (not including water) and abide by allowed processes. Many ingredients are not permitted, including:

Q: Have NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products been tested on animals?
A: No. NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products are NOT permitted to be tested on animals.

Q: What ingredients are required to be revealed?
A: Per CSPA Voluntary Ingredient Communications Program, all NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products support transparency and full disclosure of ingredients. Ingredient labeling for Natural Home Care Products follow personal care conventions (INCI) for labeling.

Q: Does the NPA natural certification contain requirements for recyclable packaging?
The current standard for NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products encourages, but does not require, member companies to maximize their use of recyclable and PCR materials in packaging.

 Q: What processes are ingredients allowed to undergo?
A: NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products are minimally processed. An illustrative list of allowable processes is as follows:

Q: Are any synthetic ingredients allowed in NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products?
A: Synthetic materials are allowed only when:

Q: Are synthetic colors/fragrances allowed in NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products?
A: Temporarily. Completely natural fragrances and colorants will be required within two years from launch of the standard. Synthetic fragrance and colors without suspected human health or environmental risk will be allowed for a maximum of two years after the launch of the standard

Q: Are any preservatives allowed in NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products?
A: The safety of consumers is of utmost importance to the NPA and its member consortium. Delivering natural products, free from microbial contamination, is paramount to ensuring consumer safety. At present, every effort is made to formulate products that do not require the use of preservatives. For some products, however, that is not possible; in these cases, a choice has been made to use the most environmentally friendly and safest preservatives in the smallest concentration possible to be effective.

Q: Are NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products hypo-allergenic?
A: No. There is no defined methodology to test for allergic reactions in home care products, nor does the FDA regulate use of the term "hypoallergenic." Consequently, the NPA does not position NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products as hypoallergenic. These products contain safe and effective ingredients and do not contain petroleum-synthesized fillers that may irritate the skin. A list of ingredients for each NPA-certified Natural Home Care Product is available on individual product labels.

Q: Are NPA-certified Natural Home Care Products safe for pets?
A: Although NPA-certified products are never tested on animals, the products are made from natural ingredients that are safe for both humans and pets, when used as directed. Home care products are not meant for consumption. Contact your veterinarian if you have concerns about using a product around your pet or if you have a pet that has ingested a product.

Q: Which member companies comprise the NPA steering committee that developed the Natural Standard for Home Care Products?
A: Green Works, Seventh Generation, JR Watkins, Cognis, Trilogy Fragrances, Aubrey Organics, PCC Natural Markets, Green Mountain, EcoMe, and Sun & Earth.

Q: The US government certifies products as ‘organic’ with its USDA Organic standard. Doesn’t the US government have a similar accreditation for ‘natural?’
A: No. The US government does not have a standard certification for “natural” products. Because consumers want to know what products are truly natural, the NPA has developed the Natural Standard for Home Care Product (similar to the Natural Standard for Personal Care Products that it launched in 2008) in order to help consumers identify which home care products are truly natural.

Q: What is the process to have my products certified as natural through the Natural Certification Program for Home Care Products?
A: Review the Natural Standard Website and related program materials including the information about the certification steps. This includes reviewing the NPA Natural Standard and Allowed List of Processes and Ingredients to determine if your products fit the criteria established in the Natural Standard. The next step would be to assemble the required company and product documentation (see the application packet) and program templates and submit your materials per the instructions in the application packet. Details available at www.TheNaturalSeal.org

Q: How long does the certification process take?
Depending on the completeness of the materials submitted, generally the certification process will take between two to four weeks—once the association has received ALL necessary company, product line, product and ingredient information necessary for the third-party review audit. Providing additional details, such as International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) nomenclature and/or Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) numbers for your ingredients, will help facilitate the audit review and may shorten the time necessary to complete the certification.

Q: The program says that to qualify for natural certification, a company’s home care product line must offer at least 60 percent natural products. Can you please explain this requirement?
A: The 60 percent requirement pertains to your natural home care product line. Sixty percent of all of your company’s natural home care line must meet the criteria for natural certification, even if you are seeking natural certification for less than 60 percent of this product line. We require that firms submit information regarding their eligible products with their application. Usually, this takes the form of product labels and/or spreadsheets with ingredient declarations for the products that are not applying for certification.

Q: All my home care products are natural. Can I get my company certified or do I still need to have each product certified?
A: The association’s certification for home care products is a product certification program, not a company certification program. Therefore, the program certifies products only and you must submit appropriate documentation for each home care product you want to be certified as natural.

Q: What information do I have to submit for each product that I want to be certified?
A: The program application packet specifies what company, product and ingredient information must be submitted for certification. Company-specific information, such as the executive summary of the company's organizational structure and the site quality summary only needs to be submitted once. Product-specific information, however, such as product labels, quantitative formulas, master batch and manufacturing records, ingredient specifications and COAs, must be submitted with each product. Sample spec/tech sheets and matrices can be viewed here.

Q: If I use the same formula for several products, that is, spray cleaner that are different colors or scents, do I still have to pay a certification fee for each certified product?

Q: What if I use the same SKU for more than one product? Do I pay the certification fee for each certified product?
A: Yes.

Q: If I have the same product in several different sizes, do I still have to pay a certification fee for each SKU of that product?
No, however you do need to submit documents on the different sizes to ensure that they are indeed the same formulation.

Q: My operation is very small and the fees are too high, but my products would qualify for certification. Do you have a sliding or cheaper rate for small companies?
There is no quantity discount for the certification of multiple products through the program. The program fees cover both the cost of the third-party review audit and licensing for the use of the logo for each product certified for two years. Keep in mind the value the natural certification would bring your company. You would have the opportunity to put the Natural Seal on your certified products as well as having your certified products listed on the Natural Products Association Web site. There has been tremendous consumer outreach for this program, resulting in high consumer and retailer recognition of the program seal and confidence that a product bearing the association’s Natural Seal is in fact natural. There is, however, a sliding scale regarding association membership.

Q: How do I know what raw materials and processes I can use?
A: Become familiar with the Natural Standard [link] and Allowed List of Processes and Ingredients [link] to determine what ingredients and processes are allowed or prohibited.

Q: What if I have a question about a specific ingredient? What if my product has a natural ingredient in it that isn’t on the “Illustrative Positive” list?
A: If you have a question about a specific ingredient that is not on the Illustrative “Allowed” list or in the Natural Standard under the “Prohibited” section, please contact the Natural Products Association at dfabricant@naturalproductsassoc.org

Q: Do you have a separate list of “Allowed Synthetics?”
Not at present, but it is currently in development.

Q: I am not a U.S.-based business. Can I get my products certified?
A: Yes. If your company’s products meet the criteria for natural certification we will certify your products for the NPA Natural Seal in the United States.