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Clorox Sued Over Alleged Deficient ‘Splashless’ Bleach Label (1)

Aug. 17, 2020, 2:54 PM; Updated: Aug. 17, 2020, 7:38 PM

Clorox Co. fails to adequately disclose that its “splashless” bleach isn’t suitable for sanitizing or disinfecting, a new would-be class suit in California federal court alleges.

Bleach sales have increased significantly across the U.S. with the growing need to regularly disinfect surfaces during the pandemic, Shana Gudgel alleges in a suit filed Aug. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

But “a critical difference” between Clorox’s regular bleach formula and its splashless solution has gone largely unnoticed by most consumers—splashless Clorox bleach doesn’t disinfect but only “whitens, brightens and deodorizes surfaces and clothes,” she alleges.

Clorox, by adding the ingredients needed to achieve the higher viscosity for its splashless formula, altered the concentration of the active disinfectant ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, to a variable 1% to 5%, which isn’t strong enough to sanitize and disinfect, the suit says.

Sodium hypochlorite is effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi only in concentrations above 5%, according to the suit.

Clorox’s website says the company’s regular bleach, absent the sudsing agent, has a sodium hypochlorite concentration between 5% and 6.5%, the suit says.

Regular and splashless bleach have similar labels.

But while the exact amount of sodium hypochlorite is listed for the regular product, “it is conspicuously missing on the splashless variety,” the suit says.

Only on the back label, in small print, does the company say the splashless product is, “not for sanitization or disinfection.” It also says that, “to sanitize and disinfect, use Clorox regular bleach.”

“Clorox is always formulating and evaluating our bleach products based on consumer needs and feedback. Clorox Splashless bleach was developed to be an easier-to-use laundry product with a thicker formula, providing a more controlled pour for consumers,” the company said in a statement.

“Some of our bleach products are labeled as disinfectants and others are not. All disinfecting products are required by law to be registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prior to being marketed or sold as a disinfectant. Labels for Clorox bleach expressly state whether the product should or should not be used for disinfecting purposes,” the company said.

Causes of Action: California Consumers Legal Remedies Act; California Unfair Competition Law; California False Advertising Law; negligent misrepresentation; unjust enrichment.

Relief: Compensatory and punitive damages; injunction; declaration that defendant has committed the alleged violations; costs and attorneys’ fees.

Potential Class Size: Unknown number of persons in nationwide class who purchased splash-less Clorox during the applicable statute of limitations.

Attorneys: Levinson Stockton LLP and others represent the plaintiff.

The case is Gudgel v. Clorox Co., N.D. Cal., No. 3:20-cv-05712, complaint 8/14/20.

(Updated with company comments in grafs 10, 11)

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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