Hidden Animal Products in Your Home: A Guide for Vegans

Living a vegan lifestyle involves more than just dietary choices; it encompasses every aspect of daily life, including the products we use at home. Many household items, from furniture to personal care products, can contain hidden animal-derived ingredients. This article aims to shed light on some of these products, helping vegans make more informed decisions.
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Rugs are often made from wool, bedding can be made from silk, furniture can be made from animal skin or fur, and even candle wax can contain animal products. Tune in as you walk through your home about where animal products can be sneaking in where you might not want them to.

Whenever you pick something up at a store, stop and think for a moment. How was this item made? Did it cause harm to others or was it made ethically and with sustainable materials? Just taking a short moment to think before you drop new items into your shopping cart will make you a much more conscious consumer.

Bed and Bedding

Mattresses

Many mattresses are made using materials that are not vegan-friendly. Here are some common animal-derived materials found in mattresses:

  • Wool: Used for its natural fire-resistant properties, wool is commonly found in the padding of mattresses.
  • Down: Sometimes used in mattress toppers and pads for added softness.

Vegan Alternatives: When shopping for a vegan mattress, look for those made from synthetic latex, organic cotton, or other plant-based materials. Brands like Avocado, PlushBeds, and Essentia offer vegan options.

Farmer Nick hugging a cozy pillow on an Avocado vegan mattress with plants in the background.

Pillows and Bedding

Pillows and bedding are another area where animal products can sneak in:

  • Down Feathers: Frequently used in pillows and comforters for their softness and insulation properties.
  • Wool: Used in blankets and mattress pads for its warmth and moisture-wicking abilities.
  • Silk: Found in some high-end bedding for its luxurious feel.

I bought down pillows and comforters in my pre-vegan days without a second thought. I always assumed that these products were filled with feathers that fell off the goose. Feathers she didn’t need anymore. Wasn’t that a natural process, a goose shedding her feathers? And wasn’t that a resourceful way to make use of something that was being naturally discarded in nature?

It wasn’t until I watched a video about how geese have their feathers painfully plucked to fill down pillows, bedding, and coats that my eyes were opened to the disturbing reality of the down industry. It’s heartbreaking and completely unnecessary. There are so many cozy and warm man-made options that exist today.

Vegan Alternatives: Choose bedding made from synthetic fills like polyester, plant-based materials like cotton or bamboo, or brands that specifically market vegan products. Most bedding stores offer down-alternative pillows, comforters, and beyond—and these days, many of them feel just as light and fluffy.

A Cariloha brand vegan mattress.
Photo credit: Cariloha

Couches and Upholstery

Couches and other upholstered furniture can also harbor animal products:

  • Leather: A common material for high-end furniture, leather is an obvious animal product.
  • Wool: Used in some fabric blends for its durability and softness.
  • Down Feathers: Often used in cushions and padding.

Vegan Alternatives: Opt for couches made with synthetic materials like microfiber, faux leather, or cotton. Some companies, such as Joybird and Burrow, offer customizable options that can be tailored to vegan preferences. Check out our full guide to vegan leather for more information.

Household Cleaners

Household cleaners can also contain animal-derived ingredients:

  • Tallow: Rendered animal fat, used in some soaps and detergents.
  • Glycerin: Can be derived from animal fats and is used in many cleaning products as a moisturizing agent.
  • Casein: A milk protein used in some cleaning products for its binding properties.

Vegan Alternatives: Many brands offer vegan and cruelty-free cleaning products. Companies like Grove.co, Method, Seventh Generation, and Ecover provide a range of household cleaners free from animal-derived ingredients. We have a full guide on vegan and cruelty-free cleaning products to take the guesswork out of it for you.

Supplies for cleaning a toilet natural including baking soda, a sponge, a natural toilet brush, and lemon.

Candles

Candles are another common household item that may contain animal products:

  • Beeswax: Frequently used in candles for its slow-burning properties.
  • Stearic Acid: Often derived from animal fats, used to harden candles.

Vegan Alternatives: Opt for candles made from soy wax, coconut wax, or other plant-based materials. Brands like P.F. Candle Co. and Good Light offer vegan candle options.

two vegan scented candles burning in glass jars

Bath, Body, and Beauty Products

You never know what’s in those pretty bottles unless you read the labels! Many hygiene and beauty products contain tallow and gelatin, fatty acids that are extracted from the bone fat of pigs and other animals. These substances are used in shampoos and conditioners, and can also be found in body lotions, lip balm, deodorant, soap, mascara, facial creams, and beyond.

  • Lanolin: Derived from sheep’s wool, lanolin is a common moisturizing agent.
  • Beeswax: Used in lip balms, mascaras, and lotions for its emulsifying properties.
  • Carmine: A red dye made from crushed cochineal insects, used in lipsticks and blushes.
  • Ambergris: A rare and expensive ingredient derived from whale vomit, used in high-end perfumes.
  • Keratin: Sourced from animal hooves, horns, and feathers, used in hair care products for its strengthening properties.
  • Collagen: Derived from animal connective tissues, found in many anti-aging products.
  • Elastin: Another protein from animal connective tissues, used in skincare products.
  • Squalene: Can be derived from shark liver oil, used in moisturizers and cosmetics.

Vegan Alternatives: Look for vegan and cruelty-free certifications on vegan cosmetics and personal care products. Brands like The Body Shop, Lush, and Dr. Bronner’s offer a wide range of vegan personal care items.

Food Additives

Even food items marketed as plant-based can contain animal-derived additives:

  • Gelatin: Made from animal bones and skin, used in gummy candies, marshmallows, and some supplements.
  • Isinglass: A fish-derived product used in the clarification of some beers and wines.
  • Shellac: A resin secreted by the lac bug, used as a coating on some candies and fruits.
  • Rennet: An enzyme derived from the stomachs of calves, used in cheese-making.

Vegan Alternatives: Read labels carefully and look for products that specifically state they are vegan. Many companies now produce vegan-friendly versions of traditionally non-vegan items, such as gummy candies, marshmallows, and cheeses.

Paints and Adhesives

Paints and adhesives can also contain animal products:

  • Casein: Used as a binder in some paints.
  • Shellac: Used as a finish or adhesive, derived from lac bug secretions.
  • Gelatin: Used in some glue products.

Vegan Alternatives: Look for paints and adhesives that are labeled as vegan or free from animal products. Brands like ECOS Paints and EarthSafe Finishes offer vegan-friendly options.

What Should I Do With All The Animal Products In My Home?

This may feel overwhelming if you’re just learning about the cruelty involved in the down industry and the animal experimentation and animal ingredients that go into so many beauty and household products. Especially if you’ve already built your home, which you’re just now realizing is filled with animal products. So what should you do?

As tempting as it may be, please don’t feel like you need to throw everything away and start from scratch. If you really want to do that, you can donate your old products and go shopping for new, kinder alternatives. But most people aren’t in a financial position to do that; and in that case, it’s perfectly wonderful to make the decision right now that going forward, you’ll be more conscious about the products you buy for and bring into your home. You can make the decision that from now on you’ll shop cruelty-free.

How to Shop Cruelty-Free

Living a vegan lifestyle requires vigilance and awareness of the hidden animal products in everyday items. By choosing products labeled as vegan and cruelty-free, you can ensure that your home aligns with your ethical values. Always research brands and read labels carefully to avoid inadvertently supporting industries that exploit animals. With more companies offering vegan alternatives, it has never been easier to make compassionate choices in every aspect of your life.

It’s easier today than ever before to shop for cruelty-free products that don’t cause harm. There are entirely vegan companies for cosmetics, home cleaning products, bedding, and beyond. Plus, many brands have cruelty-free, down-free, animal-friendly lines if you just take the time to ask.

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