We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
People’s interest is growing around green cleaning products that have less impact on individual health and the environment than conventional ones.
Many companies now create cleaning products that use more natural ingredients, avoiding harmful chemicals.
In many cases, conventional, nongreen cleaning products for the home and workplace are potentially hazardous. Besides the risk of developing a long-term illness, exposure to cleaning products can trigger asthma, leave burns, or be dangerous if someone were to ingest them.
Read on to learn what to look for in green cleaning products, reasons to go green, and recipes to make natural cleaners at home.
Green cleaning products should not contain hazardous chemicals, and so they are likely to pose fewer health risks. They are also, typically, much safer and more suitable for use around people with weakened immune systems or health conditions.
Green cleaning products are less hazardous for the environment, too. They do not contain chemicals that cause significant air or water pollution and are often in recyclable or recycled packaging.
There is a wide range of cleaning products that the manufacturers advertise as being eco-friendly and healthier. It is important to know that some products may claim to be more natural and environmentally friendly than they actually are.
According to Clean Water Action, some aspects to consider in safe green cleaning products include:
- biodegradable or not
- bulk packaging
- recyclable packaging
- packaging from recycled materials
- label with full disclosure of all active and inactive ingredients
- natural fragrances
- free of dyes, hypochlorite, and chlorine
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) are a nonprofit organization that research and report on green cleaning products. Some specific products and categories that the EWG recommend include:
- Poofy Home All-Purpose Cleaner Refill, Medieval Blend
- Earth Friendly Products ECOS Cream Cleanser, Lemon
- Aunt Fannie’s Floor Cleaner Vinegar Wash Concentrate, Eucalyptus
- Seventh Generation Tub & Tile Natural Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Tub And Tile, Lemon Verbena
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Tub And Tile, Lavender
- Attitude Dishwasher Eco-Pouches
- AspenClean Dish Soap, Eucalyptus Rosemary
- biokleen Natural Dish Liquid, Lemon Thyme
- Arm & Hammer Fridge & Freezer Baking Soda
- Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Mist, Lavender Harvest
- Aussan Natural room odor eliminator
It is also important to note that a cleaning product is not necessarily safe for everyone just because people consider it to be green. A person should still take reasonable precautions to store cleaning products in a safe and secure location where children and pets cannot access them easily.
Instead of buying green cleaning products, a person can easily make natural cleaners at home.
There are many recipes for green cleaners that are cheap and versatile. The ingredients are natural and do not cause environmental harm, including not causing indoor air pollution. They are also less likely than nongreen ones to affect a person’s health.
Some natural products that can make good cleaning agents include:
- baking soda
- tea tree oil
- castile soap
The Green Building Alliance have identified a few different recipes to make green cleaning products at home. Some ideas include:
- Disinfectant: Mix 2 cups of water, 1 tbsp of liquid castile soap, and 1 tsp of tea tree oil to create a multipurpose disinfectant that helps remove germs.
- All-purpose cleaner: Combine equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle to create an all-purpose cleaner for many hard surfaces.
- Glass cleaner: Shake 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 2 cups warm water, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch in a spray bottle. The mixture can clean glass surfaces, such as windows or stove tops.
- Drain cleaner: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into a clogged drain and follow this with 1 cup of vinegar. Let the mixture work for about 15 minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain.
- Multipurpose scrub: Combine enough water and baking soda to make a paste. Use the paste with a brush, sponge, or scrubber to clean the surface of sinks, stoves, and other hard surfaces
- Air freshener: Use either dried or fresh flowers, or boil water with vanilla, cinnamon, slices of lemon or oranges, or other spices. To deodorize a refrigerator or carpet, leave baking soda in an open bowl or sprinkle on the carpet. Let it sit on the carpet for a few minutes before vacuuming it up.
- Laundry detergent: Combine 1/2 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of soap flakes, and a 1/2 cup of baking soda. A person can add 1 to 2 tbsp of oxygen bleach if they wish.
Clean Water Action suggest some other green cleaning ideas, as well. For example, they recommend using white vinegar to get pet urine out of carpets. They add that it should help prevent the pet from returning to pee in the same spot.
There are many environmental and health risks that people associate with nongreen products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the risks include:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in regular products can negatively impact the quality of indoor and outdoor air.
- Certain ingredients in regular products can irritate eyes or skin.
- Overexposure to dangerous ingredients, particularly for janitorial and other employees who clean regularly.
- Pollution from disposing of unused chemicals in waterways.
Some common side effects of using nongreen chemicals can include:
- throat irritation
- eye irritation
According to the EWG, some other health risks and potential complications of exposure to common cleaning chemicals may include:
- asthma that certain fumes can induce
- congenital disabilities in children born to women with high exposure
- chemical burns
- some may contain the carcinogens 1,4-dioxane or formaldehyde
Finally, cleaning products do not necessarily list all ingredients. This lacking means a person may not know they are purchasing a product that poses health hazards.
Green cleaning products are typically safer for the environment and people’s health than their nongreen equivalents.
A person who is interested in green cleaning and other household products should look for ones that list all their ingredients and are nontoxic, biodegradable, and free from dyes and fragrances. It is also important to remember that green does not mean it is completely safe, so people should still use precautions when using or storing these products.
If a person is interested, they can try creating green cleaning products at home by using natural ingredients, and by following the recipes this article provides.