Cleaning your house can make a mess of everything else, including the air in your own home. Many household cleaning supplies contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may be harmful to your health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Exposure to some VOCs may cause eye and respiratory irritation, headaches and dizziness. Some VOCs are suspected or known to cause cancer.

VOCs are a major element in smog, and concentrations of many VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.

Use of some household cleaning products also contributes to water pollution. Ingredients such as phosphorus or nitrogen add excess nutrients that lower water quality in rivers and lakes downstream from wastewater treatment plants. A common ingredient in cleaners called alkylphenol ethoxylates causes reproductive problems in wildlife exposed to polluted waters, according to the EPA.

Happily, there is a growing number of green cleaning products that are safer for you and kinder to Mother Nature. But how do you tell the difference between a genuinely earth-friendly cleaning product and a poser that simply says it’s a green cleaning product?

There are a couple of third-party sources offering guidance for consumers searching for green cleaning products.

Green Seal, a nonprofit organization established in 1989, certifies a variety of consumer products. Household cleaning products with the Green Seal are nontoxic, bio-degradable and contain no carcinogens, reproductive toxins or mutagens. More information on the program, and a list of Green Seal products, is found at www.greenseal.org.

The EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program has evaluated more than 1,500 products to determine that each ingredient is among the safest and greenest among all chemicals in its class. Some manufacturers changed a product's formulation to earn the right to stamp the household cleaner with the Design for the Environment mark. More information on the EPA's Design for the Environment program — including a list of approved household cleaning products — is found at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/dfe/index.htm.

Among the products certified by one of the two organizations:

General-purpose cleaners

Solar Brand Go-Green All Purpose Cleaner

Earth Choice All Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser

Earth Choice Hard Surface Cleaner

Earth Choice Orange All-Purpose Cleaner

The Greenway Store All-Purpose Cleaner

Simple Green Naturals Bathroom Cleaner

Simple Green Naturals Dilutable Concentrated Cleaner

Simple Green Simple Green Naturals Floor Care     

Fabuloso Lavender

Fabuloso Ocean Cool

Green line All Purpose Concentrate Dilutable Cleaner

Green Line All Purpose Concentrate Dilutable Cleaner Free & Clear

Nature's Source - All Purpose Cleaner

Green Works™ All Purpose Cleaner - Simply Tangerine

Green Works™ Natural Biodegradable Cleaning Wipes

Martha Stewart Clean All Purpose Cleaner

Spic and Span Citrus Fresh

Spic and Span Sun Fresh

Green Scene All Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser

Tub and tile cleaners

Earth Choice Organic Acid Bathroom Cleaner

Earth Choice Organic Acid Toilet Bowl Cleaner      

Ajax Scouring Cream – Lemon

Green Things Toilet Bowl Cleaner Lemon    

Nature's Source - Bathroom Cleaner

Scrubbing Bubbles® Soap Scum Remover with Orange Action™

Shower Shine® by Scrubbing Bubbles®

Martha Stewart Clean Bathroom Cleaner

Green Works™ Natural Bathroom Cleaner

Window and glass cleaners

Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care

Solar Brand Go-Green Glass and Surface Cleaner

Green Essentials Window Cleaner Concentrated Streak-Free Formula

Green Works™ Natural Glass Cleaner – Original

Martha Stewart Clean Glass & Mirror Cleaner

Sustainable Earth By Staples Glass Cleaner

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