Which Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products Are Must-Haves?

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Switching to eco-friendly cleaning products reduces your environmental impact and helps keep your family safe from harmful chemicals, especially volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

Person wearing a white sleeveless top and green gloves holding a spray bottle with green liquid.

However, many cleaning brands tout the words green, eco-friendly or sustainable on their packaging. So, how do you know which ones truly mean what they say? Let’s look at how you can find true eco-friendly cleaning products, plus nine of my top recommendations!

What Are Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products?

Some brands have joined the green movement and labeled their products with some variation of eco-friendly, even if they aren’t. This is called greenwashing, which uses specific labels to make products seem environmentally friendly without putting these terms into context. Here are a few examples:

  • All natural: Suggests a product is made entirely from natural ingredients, but the term is not regulated and can still include synthetic chemicals.
  • Eco-friendly: Implies the product is good for the environment; however, without certification, this claim can be meaningless.
  • Non-toxic: Vague term not strictly regulated; products can still contain harmful chemicals that cause long-term health issues.
  • Biodegradable: Suggests the product will break down naturally, but the timeline is often unspecified and may require specific conditions.
  • Chemical-free: Misleading because everything is made of chemicals. Look for products free from specific harmful chemicals instead.
  • Green: Very broad and often used without verification. Look for specific details or certifications.

Sure, tons of green products genuinely mean what they say. Sadly, the consumer still has to look deeper into the details.

Luckily, there is some official guidance regarding eco-friendly cleaning products. The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA recommends looking for ecolabel products that pass the EPA’s environmental performance criteria and are considered environmentally preferable.

Assorted bath accessories including a bottle of liquid soap, bar soap, a brush, a wooden bowl, a sponge, a lemon, and bath salts, arranged on a light surface.

What Ingredients Should You Avoid?

When selecting eco-friendly cleaning products, avoid certain ingredients that can be harmful to both your health and the environment. Take a closer look at the ingredient lists and watch out for these common culprits:

Phthalates

Phthalates are often found in fragranced products like air fresheners, dish soap, and even toilet paper. According to this 2021 study on the effect of phthalates on human health, these chemicals are linked to hormone disruption and can affect the reproductive system. Possible consequences may include negative pregnancy outcomes, precocious puberty, thyroid dysfunction and more.

Triclosan

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent found in many products labeled as antibacterial, such as soaps and hand sanitizers. However, the FDA warns that this chemical can contribute to antibiotic resistance and has been shown to disrupt hormone function.

Ammonia

Ammonia is a powerful cleaning agent found in many household cleaners, particularly glass and window cleaners. Due to its potency, the CDC recommends against using high amounts of ammonia since it can irritate or burn the skin, eyes, lungs, mouth and throat. 

Long-term exposure may lead to more serious health problems, such as chronic cough and lung fibrosis. However, this is more common among people who work in industries like mining and petroleum refining.

Chlorine

Chlorine is more than just a pool-cleaning chemical. Commonly found in bleach and other disinfectants, chlorine can release toxic fumes that are harmful when inhaled, according to the CDC. Exposure to high levels of chlorine can lead to coughing, nausea, and a burning sensation in the nose, throat, lungs, eyes and more. 

It is also dangerous when mixed with other cleaning agents. Never mix chlorine with ammonia, acids, or any other cleaning products!

A person gently cleans a smartphone screen with a white cloth against a background of blurred light-colored curtains.

9 Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products for The Whole House

Among the thousands of eco-friendly cleaning products available today, a handful stand out for their quality and value for money. Here are some of my top picks:

Best all-purpose cleaner: Grove Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner

While I’ve always used EPA-certified multi-purpose cleaners, the plastic bottles I run through every few months add up. It wasn’t long before I switched to Grove Co.’s multi-purpose cleaner with concentrate refills. It’s powerful against grease without leaving any residue, and the natural fragrance doesn’t hurt my nose, even though I use a lot of it. 

It’s not just me who is a fan of reducing waste. Tamara from Thriving In Parenting told me, “True eco-friendliness extends beyond natural ingredients — it means no plastic bottles or plastic packaging. Although the cost may be higher, the satisfaction of knowing we’ve significantly reduced our plastic waste is invaluable.”

Want to make your own cleaner at home? I got you. Check out my DIY all-purpose cleaner recipe with 100% natural and cheap ingredients.

Best for laundry: ECOS Laundry Detergent Liquid with Enzymes

Our laundry water will eventually end up in water treatment facilities, but these plants don’t always get rid of all the potentially harmful chemicals from wastewater before they go to local watersheds, rivers or oceans. To reduce your impact, switch to an eco-friendly laundry detergent like ECOS’ paraben-free, phosphate-free and hypoallergenic liquid detergent.

Best for babies: CleanSmart Nursery & High Chair Cleaner

We all know how sensitive babies can be to chemicals, but there’s also the dilemma of using chemical cleaning products to kill illness-causing germs. This is where CleanSmart’s Nursery & High Chair Cleaner comes in. 

I switched to an all-purpose cleaner designed to be baby-safe for as long as my kids are little. It does the job well and gets rid of viruses like RSV and flu and bacteria like E.coli that can end up on changing tables.

Best cleaning wipes: Zogics ecoPRO Plant-Based Disinfecting Wipes

Disinfecting wipes produce a significant amount of waste each year. Unfortunately, the majority of widely available wipes are made with polypropylene plastic.

It took me a while to find truly biodegradable wipes, but luckily, I stumbled across Zogics online. Their disinfecting wipes are made with a plant-based cloth substrate, which will biodegrade faster and won’t harm the environment as much. This EPA-approved product cuts through all types of dirt or grime I’ve used it on. It’s especially useful for wiping down cooking surfaces and hands after cooking chicken

Best for dishes: Ginger Lily Farms Plant-Based Liquid Dish Soap

I absolutely hate smelling fragrance on my dishes and cookware. With regular dish soap, sometimes the smell gets stuck, making me feel like there’s soap in my food. 

Try Ginger Lily Farm’s fragrance-free plant-based dish soap if you’re in the same boat. It’s made with aloe vera extract, glycerin and other gentle ingredients on the skin, so handwashing is no problem.

Best for bathroom: Ecover Toilet Cleaner & ATTITUDE Bathroom Cleaner

I’m very particular about the cleaning products I use in the bathroom because they have to do their job extremely well to eliminate all the nasty stuff there. Two products do just that.

First is the Ecover Toilet Cleaner. It’s plant-based and septic tank-safe. More importantly, it removes any leftover waste and even tough water stains without the overpowering smell of bleach.

The second one is ATTITUDE’s Bathroom Cleaner, a clean multi-purpose liquid for bathtubs, shower curtains, shower doors, ceramic tiles and countertops. It helps me clean everything in the bathroom without much elbow grease, and the smell is easily tolerable.

Best garbage bags: AYOTEE Compostable Trash Bags

AYOTEE’s Compostable Trash Bags are made with US-certified plastarch material, a renewable plant starch extract. These bags will decompose much faster than regular trash bags, and unlike other renewable bags, they are not brittle and don’t break easily.

The only downside is that you can’t use these for backyard composting. Maybe one day, they will release a product that will work for that, too.

Best carpet cleaner: Biokleen Natural Carpet Cleaner

Biokleen’s Natural Carpet Cleaner is a safer choice than more widely available carpet cleaners and shampoos. I use it with my home carpet cleaner once every four months to remove tough stains and dirt that regular vacuuming cannot.

Take a look at my guide on how often you should clean your carpet to make sure you’re on top of carpet maintenance. 

Best sponges: HOMERHYME Non-Scratch Natural Dish Sponge

I used to go through many kitchen sponges while using those regular yellow ones. As soon as they looked a little worse for wear, I threw them out because I didn’t want bacteria building up and ending up on my dishes.

I still go through a lot of sponges but am less guilty about throwing them out with HOMERHYME’S natural dish sponges. These are eco-friendly, natural sponges made with cellulose and fine sisal fiber, materials that won’t scratch your dishes or cookware. It’s especially useful for cleaning a ceramic crock pot that is prone to scratches with regular sponges.

Transform Your Home Into an Eco-Friendly Haven

Using eco-friendly cleaning products is a small yet significant way to help protect the environment, which we can all do. Switching to these products can also help reduce the amount of toxins lurking in your home and, when you buy in bulk, even help you save money.

FAQs

What makes a cleaning product eco-friendly?

Eco-friendly cleaning products are made from natural, biodegradable ingredients that are non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals. They often use sustainable packaging and are produced by companies committed to green practices.

Are eco-friendly cleaning products effective?

Yes! Many eco-friendly products clean just as well as conventional ones. Thanks to advances in green chemistry, plant-based ingredients can tackle grease and grime effectively, while natural disinfectants can kill bacteria and viruses.

How can I spot genuine eco-friendly products?

Look for certifications from trusted organizations like the EPA, Green Seal, and USDA Organic. Read labels for harmful ingredients and research the company’s environmental practices to avoid vague claims like “all-natural” or “eco-friendly” without specifics.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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