In the last half-century, close to 75,000 chemicals have been introduced into consumer products. Astonishingly, only about five percent are tested for potential side effects and health risks. Not surprising then, that in 1989, the EPA estimated that fumes from common household cleaners were three times more likely than other air pollutants to cause cancer, and another study found that exposure to cleaning products accounts for 15 percent of all asthma cases.
Clearly the case for switching to green cleaners has been made. And green cleaning products are quickly becoming a staple at supermarkets everywhere, with an increasing variety of brands and products for all types of cleaning. The challenge is to weed out the truly green products from the wannabes, since the terms all-natural and bio-degradable are overused and often misnomers.
Designations that carry real weight in the green world include DfE, the EPA’s Design for the Environment stamp, and GreenSeal. Consumers can also read the ingredient list and look for soap-based formulas rather than chemical-based ones and choose products scented with essential oils over artificial fragrances.
Best eco-friendly cleaning products
We’ve done some legwork and chosen a few of the best and brightest in the world of green cleaning, selecting award-winning top brands that stand out from the rest with their effective cleaning ability and non-toxic, breathe-easy ingredients.
Ecover has been making phosphate-free cleaning products derived from plant-based materials for over 30 years, way before it was cool to go green. And as a company that is consistently rated high on the list of effective green cleaners by Consumer Reports, this brand is a great choice.Their vast product line includes everything from dish detergent and non-chlorine bleach to car cleaning sprays and hand soap. The company recently began offering their products online, offering a greater selection, free shipping and product discounts, making it an eco-conscious way to buy supplies.
“Sparkling clean dishes and friendly to fishes” is the way Method describes their dish detergent, and friendly it is. Method uses products that are environmentally friendly in all of their cleaning products – but don’t take their word on it. The Method website has a handy chart on each product page called ‘what’s in it?’ that lists each ingredient and explains what it is along with a brief health and environmental summary.Although green laundry products have scored a bit lower in effectiveness than traditional cleaners, Method’s Squeaky Green is one of just a few that ranked high on Consumer Report’s list. They also carry a Baby and Kids’ line with hair and body wash and special nursery and playroom cleaners.
Seventh Generation, established in 1988 in Vermont, is considered a leader in cleaning products that help to protect the environment and human health. In addition to using earth and people-friendly ingredients in their product line, the company constantly strives to reduce their carbon footprint and improve efficiency. In 2009, for example, they implemented distribution changes that resulted in a 32 percent GHG emissions reduction per case of product.The honesty and openness of Seventh Generation is particularly refreshing in a world where large corporations often hide their mistakes. The 2009 corporate consciousness report highlight’s page boasts of a new botanical product line, and in the next paragraph, seems to apologize for new baby wipe packaging that represented a step backward in sustainability and cost-consciousness.Perhaps this practice of transparency explains the tremendous success of the company and the popularity of their product offerings, which include botanical disinfectants, recycled trash bags and paper towels and the Free and Clear laundry detergent line.
Green Works by Clorox is yet another popular, readily available and affordable brand of green cleaners that is effective and safe. They offer multi-purpose cleaning sprays, wipes, bath cleaners, dish and laundry detergents and stain removers without harsh chemical fumes or residues.
Sun & Earth was formulated with the goal of proving that non-toxic cleaners could clean as well as or better than traditional brands. Their products are developed using the latest technology to create cleaning solutions from plant, fruit and vegetable oils. The result is a line of cleaners that are effective in removing dirt and bacteria, and leave a fresh citrusy scent instead of a noxious chemical smell. All Sun & Earth products are free of petroleum based cleaners, chlorine, phosphates, dyes and perfumes that are harmful to people, pets and the planet.