Animal Ingredients in Home Improvement Products

UrsOnMac/stock.xchngTo get serious about having a vegan home, you must look beyond the pantry and the wardrobe. A large number of home improvement products contain animal components -- which, unfortunately, are hard to identify because home improvement products are not generally required to list ingredients.

To avoid animal ingredients, consult the Vegan Society’s Animal Free Shopper directory or look for the “no animal ingredients” label. However, note that there is no independent verification of the “no animal ingredients” label. It may mean different things to different manufacturers, and it does not guarantee an avoidance of animal testing.

Here is a partial list of products that may contain animal components. In many cases, synthetic ingredients or petroleum products have largely replaced the animal ingredients, but these substitutes may be a greater concern for some eco-conscious homeowners.


Many hammers, axes, knives and other carpentry tools still have real leather handles. Even if every hammer and knife you own has a 100-percent plastic handle, tool belt and tool aprons are most often made of leather. Some people also have secondary environmental concerns about the chemicals used in leather tanning and production, and the resulting pollution.

Rubber tool parts may contain animal ingredients as well, including animal fats and casein, a milk protein derivative.


Casein is a common binder in paint, too. It is widely used in natural paints as an alternative to synthetic binders. Some paint colors also include animal ingredients. For example, Golden Paints notes that it uses no animal ingredients, with the exception of bone black pigment, which is derived from ground cattle bones.

Also, many paints and paint ingredients are tested on animals. Even Golden and other companies that avoid animal testing say they cannot guarantee all their suppliers follow the same practice.


Natural paintbrushes have animal-hair bristles. Many are pig hair, but some artists’ brushes and other specialty products contain hair from more unusual animals such as the Siberian weasel.


Shellac is made from the secretions and bodies of a tropical insect, and its uses include: varnish, wood and plaster coating, and electrical insulation.


A small number of lubricants still use oil from fish and marine mammals, such as porpoises. However, most modern lubricants are derived from petroleum or synthetic oils.

Notably, WD-40 is not believed to contain animal ingredients. The all-purpose lubricant is a petroleum-based product despite a widespread urban legend about fish oil being the main ingredient. The WD-40 formula is a closely guarded secret, but the U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet lists mineral spirits, liquefied petroleum gas and mineral oil as making up more than 90 percent of WD-40.


Many fatty acids and other animal fat derivatives are used in soaps, detergents, and household cleaners. The fatty acids may come from cows, sheep and many other animals, including cats and dogs that were euthanized in animal shelters. If ingredients are listed, animal-based fatty acids may be listed as caprylic acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid.  Some of these fatty acids also have plant sources, so you may be able to use products containing them if you can verify the source. 


Of course, many fertilizers use animal waste products, but a cow is unlikely to miss its manure. However, bone meal is also widely utilized in garden and lawn fertilizers, toothpastes, and vitamins, but animal-free alternatives, such as vegetable compost and vegan toothpaste, are widely available.

Laminated wood

Laminated wood and interior doors sometimes contain adhesives made with casein glue, which is derived from a milk protein.


Another animal-based adhesive is blood glue, a slaughterhouse byproduct. It has traditionally been combined with soybean protein to make an adhesive for soft plywood. However, the formula has largely been replaced with a synthetic adhesive.

This is a partial list of home improvement products with animal ingredients. Keep in mind that not every paint or fertilizer contains animal products, but some do, and the animal content may be worth considering in shopping choices.

Steve Graham writes for

Updated March 4, 2018.

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