The Best “Green” Cleaning Products You Can Buy

During April, the month of Earth Day, many homeowners think about what steps they can take to help save the planet. Some decide to forego commercial cleaning products in favor of home remedies, such as white vinegar or baking soda. But if you find that you prefer store-bought cleaning solutions, you can still make a difference by choosing to buy products that are more eco-friendly.

Good Housekeeping recently tested a number of store-bought cleaners and came up with a list of “green” products they liked best in the most common cleaning categories. The magazine didn’t use any specific criteria for judging a product to be “green,” but they noted that, “most that make the claim are biodegradable, phosphate and chlorine free, and derive their ingredients from plants like coconut or palm (renewable sources) rather than petrochemicals like crude oil or natural gas (which are not renewable).” It’s important to note that reading the label is critical to purchasing a true eco-friendly cleaner, and that these products should still be kept safe from children or pets.

Below is a list of Good Housekeeping’s “Winning” Green Products, all of which can be found in local stores or online:

Laundry Detergents

The new eco-friendly product from Arm & Hammer, Essentials 2X Concentrated, was rated best. Good Housekeeping notes that the product “was particularly effective at washing in cold water, with top scores for removing ink, mascara, wine, gravy, and grape juice stains. Purex Natural Elements worked almost as well, and was less expensive.

Dishwashing Liquids

The magazine tested seven soaps and liked Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid the best. “It zapped dried-on grease and food particles, and cleaned the most plates per use.”

All-Purpose Cleaners

Of the ready-to-use products tested by Good Housekeeping, Sun & Earth All Purpose Spray Cleaner cut through grease best, especially on countertops. Green Works Natural All-Purpose Cleaner from Clorox was a close second at a lower price.

Super Strength Cleaners

Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is a highly popular “green” cleaning product, and the testers found that it can handle heavier jobs (such as dirty barbecue grills) better than most all-purpose cleaners. One of the great things about this product is that it is concentrated, enabling you to dilute it as necessary for different levels of cleaning jobs.

If you prefer to purchase products from a single brand or company, the Daily Green has come out with a list of favorite “green” product brands. The list includes:

  • Vermont-based Seventh Generation, which has been a leader in the green market for some time.
  • Ecover, a Belgian company that has been in business since 1980 and claims to be the world's largest supplier of green cleaning products.
  • Method, a brand that was launched in Target stores. 
  • Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, which feature fresh floral scents and are based on the concepts of aromatherapy.
  • The Green Works line of green cleaners launched by Clorox. Although this brand initially generated some skepticism from environmentalists, the Daily Green notes that these products have gotten positive reviews.
  • Nature's Source a line of green cleaners produced by S.C. Johnson. This brand does not test its products on animals, and the products are not antibacterial, so they don't contribute to resistance. They are said to be at least "99% natural," but it’s uncertain what ingredients make up the other 1%.

Because regulation of the claim is sketchy at best, companies such as Method and Seventh Generation get as specific as possible about their definition of “green” by declaring that they exclude chemicals with known or suspected toxicities. Method has created what they call a "dirty list" of chemicals that the company refuses to use in its products. Seventh Generation restricts many of the same products but only specifically bans phosphates and chlorine. Seventh Generation’s guidelines specify that “ingredients in their products cannot be toxic to the user either immediately or when used over time and that they cannot contribute to environmental problems such as global warming, ozone layer depletion, aquatic toxicity or air pollution.” Both companies also list all the ingredients they use on their labels.

Buying eco-friendly cleaning products is just one thing you can do to take part in the global effort to protect our environment. In honor of earth day, we’ll be blogging about more eco-friendly home cleaning ideas throughout the month.

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