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What's in a Name? Ortho EcoSense Bug Killer is Not an Eco-Friendly Option

By July 15, 2009

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I would have a good laugh about all of the not-so-green companies who are trying to appear green lately if I weren't so annoyed at their tactics to mislead their customers. A good example is Ortho EcoSense bug killer. Have you seen this stuff? "EcoSense"---hmm. Sounds like it's a green, maybe even organic product, right?


And this isn't just coming from me, a hippie liberal, granola munching, green, organic, somewhat outspoken proponent of all things "eco-sense." Nope, this is coming directly from Ortho itself. This is one of those cases in which reading the fine print is a good thing. On the EcoSense Outdoor Bug Killer label, there is an asterisk (and we know what those generally mean...) The fine print states:

"Not intended to imply environmental safety either alone or compared to other products."

Um. Yeah. A rose by any other name and all that.

There must be something about this product that would allow Ortho to call it "EcoSense," right? So I did a little looking around. The ingredients list is interesting to say the least.

"Pyrethrins 0.01%

Canola Oil 1.00%

Inert Ingredients 98.99%"

Pyrethrins are a common organic insecticide. They work by affecting nerve impulses to and from the brain, which kills insects very quickly. They are often combined with an oil, in this case, canola oil, to increase their effectiveness. While pyrethrum is organic, it doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing. It is just as fatal to beneficial insects as it is to pests, and should be used with caution around children and pets.

And then, there are those inert ingredients. As we've seen before, those inert materials aren't always as "inert" as they would seem to be. I would be worried about using a product in which almost 99% of the ingredient list is unknown.

In addition to the fact that the ingredients list includes .001% of an organic pesticide, the packaging is made from 25% recycled plastic. Maybe that's the "eco" in EcoSense?

This type of thing makes me angry. It makes me angry because it preys on those people who want to try to do the right thing. They buy a product labeled "EcoSense" and assume (though assumptions are not generally a smart thing to go by...) that this product will be an environmentally responsible way to get rid of pests. The fact of the matter is that Ortho not only makes their disclaimer about environmental safety, but they also list several warnings on the bottle:

  • Do not apply directly to or near water, storm drains, or drainage ditches.
  • To prevent product run-off do not overwater treated areas or apply prior to heavy rainfall.
  • Rinse skin immediately with plenty of water for 15-20 minutes. Call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice.

So what are some eco-friendly ways to get rid of garden pests? Some are simple: hand picking large insects and dropping them into soapy water (or squishing them, if you feel the need), blasting pests off of plants with a strong spray from the hose. You could encourage beneficial insects by ensuring that your garden is full of plants that provide pollen and nectar (and you should also encourage beneficial insects by not spraying chemicals, even the organic ones!) You could use insecticidal soap, or a homemade concoction of your very own. You could decide to forgo perfection in the name of environmental stewardship.

What I know, by now, is that ecosense is unlikely to come in a spray bottle, with a pretty label. Martha Stewart isn't likely to run segments on her television show about it (as she did for the EcoSense line), and you won't see any flashy ads in your favorite garden magazine about it. Eco sense, true eco sense, is about paying attention, using the least harmful methods first, and measuring the damage done to a few plants against the damage done to the ecosystem as a whole. It isn't profitable or all that exciting. But it is a way of living that ensures that you are depending on your own intelligence, and not the word of a company that has been, perhaps, less than eco-friendly in many of its practices.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the EcoSense line. Have you purchased it? And did you read the disclaimers? I can't wait to hear your opinions on this one.


July 21, 2009 at 12:40 am
(1) catlady3 says:

I’m sure glad you’re paying attention. My Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening discussed a. how indiscriminate pyrethrins are, b.that created pyrethrins are worse.

Like you, I’m horrified on the behalf on consumers who are trying to do something right for the environment and who are being hoodwinked.

Today, I made up an old-fashioned remedy of my grandmother’s to use on my vegetables and roses. I used slivers of Octagon soap which is cheap real soap, 2.5 tsps dissolved in a gallon of warm water and I added 3 tsps of Baking Soda for black spot and mildew.

I’ll be interested to see how it works – I used it only on affected plants. I also used it on a fire ant bed in the corner of one of my raised vegetable beds. I don’t care to kill them – I just want to annoy them sufficiently to move.

My thought on the heavy-duty pesticides is how can something with that many warnings be good for anything? I live here and I have no desire to pollute the soil or water with anything malignant.


I have lots of beneficial insects from years of minimal chemical use. I certainly don’t want to accidently kill them.

July 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm
(2) eliz says:
April 27, 2010 at 6:53 pm
(3) CHI says:

The Ecosense MEANS: “Economically sensible pest control alternative”. So, I don’t think that they are trying to say that they are green.

May 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm
(4) josh says:

I purchased a bottle of this while at the local Walmart looking for an organic insecticide to control hornworms. After reading this it will be returned asap without application. To “chi”, I would like to point out that the label also says” for organic gardening” on the back. It also states that it can be used on vegetables even on the day of harvest. This seems to be a bit of a contradiction to the statement about it being hazardous to humans but that is just my opinion. Anyway, thanx for the article and pointing out the BS that Ortho put into their advertising. In fact, I had the impression that the label said “ecologically sensible”, not “economically sensible” which does not seem to fit a product with the name “Ecosense”. people are usually in a hurry in the store and attempt to trust that products are not completely misrepresenting their products.

June 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm
(5) William says:

Ortho EcoSense is manufactured by Neudorff which also sells the same product under other “more” organic brands.

June 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm
(6) Fiora says:

Does anyone know what is actually IN the Ecosense slug bait? It is manufactured to look exactly like Sluggo–which readily lists all it’s ingredients. Sluggo is 99% corn starch sugars, which is what attracts the slugs/snails in the first place to eat it, and 1% iron phosphate, a completely non-problematic ingredient for any human.
So I picked up some Ecosense at Home Depot one day cause I was out of Sluggo, and because at first glance it appeared to be the same thing. Then I read the box, and there is NOTHING to tell you what the “99% inert ingredients” are. If it’s all corn starch–which is cheap and easy, so one might assume Ortho would use that–it’s fine. If it’s not…well, I’m not putting the stuff on my organic garden no matter WHAT Ortho says is “safe”.

What does everyone here think?

June 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm
(7) Manuel says:

OMG, I’m so upset. I went to Home Depot looking for an organic spray to put on my garden. One of the men working there showed me the ecosenze and recommended it. It looked good and I bought it and used it on my “not anymore” organic vegetable garden. After my application I looked at the bottle more closely, as I should have done at first. I noticed that what I had orginally thought were the ingredients wwas actually only 1%!!!!!!! Alarmed i noticed the the othe 99% was juster listed as that “other ingredients.” I was shocked how could I not have noticed? Then I took an even closer look, ORTHO. I was trusting the salesman at H.D. but I should have know a company like Ortho would never make a “true” organic product. They got me, I wanted a sloution so badly that I was willing to ignore what was right in front of me. Now my garden has been tainted and I am pretty sad and mad. I guess I’ve learned my lesson, from now on I’m making my own perticides at home from my own organic ingredients. For now, I guess I have to eat a little poison.

August 3, 2010 at 12:48 pm
(8) care says:

Let’s face it, any company will hop on the bandwagon of a trend to sell a product, and furtunately going green is a big trend right now. So when a new product hits the market making great claims, such as it is more “eco-freindly” than others, it is the consumers job to read the fine print to ensure that the product lives up to the claim. I have purchased and used Ortho Eco-sence and have no problems with the labeling or the statements made on the bottle. In bold, clear letters, right on the front of the bottle, appear the words “not intended to apply environmental safety….” Does’t sound to me like they are trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Secondly, there is not, Not, a warning about the risks to humans. I don’t know where some of the other commenters seeing the scary warnings such as to wash your hands for 20-30 minutes after contact and the like. There is a warning to keep the product away from children, but duh, all products, unless intentionally made for children, should be kept out of their reach. And yeah, I guess if you are an aquatic invertebrate you’re screwed. But as I am not, I will continue to use this product feeling better about eating the vegetables treated with it than I do about eating the produce from the grocery store. It seems to me that the small print, which appears in the same size font as the rest of the print, is to cover the makers butt from crazy law suits than to ” hoodwink” anyone.

September 25, 2010 at 7:43 pm
(9) April says:

I used the EcoSense for indoor use, which does say it is safe for use around kids and pets. It declares it’s active ingredient is soybean oil.

I have a very small apartment and the fumes filled it, forcing me to leave. It took over a week for the air to clear despite using 5 fans and 2 HEPA filters and washing the area repeatedly.

June 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm
(10) justkillme says:

RE. Ortho EcoSense Indoor Insect Killer: Aside from the infuriating misleading marketing, this product also destroys interior flat wall paint. You are spraying your home with SALAD OIL. (Contains soybean oil & wax – aka. GREASE.) I stupidly used this product without questioning the consequences of doing so. My living room walls, above the baseboards, are now streaked with dark runs, drips and spatters that do not fade or wipe off. (Partially my fault for spraying too hard (?); partially the nozzle – little difference between “Spray” and “Stream”.) My bathroom is also a disaster – freshly painted ceiling, walls and a custom made shower curtain, ruined. (I live in GA. Palmetto roaches enter thru ceiling vents and drains.) It also smells like vomit; my house reeks. I also sprayed the floor by the back door then nearly slipped and broke my neck the next day because the product does not evaporate. What idiot chemist at Ortho created this stuff? Did they not test it on home interiors? The rush to market eco-friendly, politically correct products continues to lead to consumer trickery, headaches, and a complete loss of common sense and logic on the part of manufacturers. (Probably due to exposure to all those brain killing chemicals.) Who allows these people to release these garbage products on the public…?

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