You’d think household cleaning products would be rigorously tested for safety, while in fact there’s little regulation of what’s in household cleaners. For example quaternary ammonium compounds are permitted which are known to cause asthma, or 2-butoxyethanol which can absorb through the skin and damage red blood cells.
On the flip side many “green” cleaners aren’t as green as they’d like you to think and many just do a terrible job of cleaning. While you can certainly spend lots of time reviewing EWG’s great site, reading reviews of efficacy, and testing things out – here’s what we’ve found works for us.
Laundry Detergent Safest Pick: Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear
Decent cleaning power, hypoallergenic, EWG A score, readily available, and just 11-20¢/load.
Laundry Detergent More Power: Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus
We’ve found this formula gets clothes cleaner and comes in unscented and scented varieties. It isn’t yet EWG rated but the ingredient list checked out well on the EWG database. Retail is 24¢/load but watch for sales – I got it down to 16¢/load with a Target sale.
Dryer Sheets: Seventh Generation Free and Clear and Scented Sheets
I know people swear by vinegar and other things but the simplicity of sheets is so appealing. Seventh Gen sheets are cheap, work great, and get the best safety score of any sheet on EWG – a B.
Kitchen & Bathroom
Disinfecting Spray: Lysol Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaner
I know, you think I lost my mind recommending Lysol, but hear me out. Lysol Power & Free gets a “B” score for safety from EWG, while almost every green brand’s disinfecting products get worse scores. Lysol Power & Free uses safe hydrogen peroxide as the disinfecting agent and the least safe thing about it is the fragrance – while it can cause some irritation for some, I put it in the “not that bad” category. Plus Lysol Power & Free is available at most major retailers and is usually just $2-3 per bottle.
Non-Disinfecting Spray: Method All Purpose (Ginger Yuzu or Bamboo)
Sweethome picked Puracy as their top pick but with a high cost per bottle and limited availability, the runner up Method is generally the better choice. EWG rates Method a B in the Ginger Yuzu and Bamboo varieties, other versions got worse scores.
Scrub: Bon Ami
Yeah, your grandma was a pioneer in green cleaning. Bon Ami will scrub any sink or shower clean, gets an A rating from EWG, is available in any store with cleaning products, and is cheaper than dirt.
Glass: GreenShield Organic Glass Cleaner
Frankly there are a lot of terrible green glass cleaners. Greenshield makes the only one I’ve found that cleans well, doesn’t leave streaks, and gets an A score from EWG. Its a bit hard to find but hit up Thrive Market, Walmart, or Whole Foods.
Dishwasher: Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus
After using lots of green products which don’t work well, we found again found a winner with the Ultra Power Plus line. Available in packs or gel, our dishes consistently get clean and while its not EWG rated, the ingredients checked out well.
Rinse Aid: Ecover Rinse Aid
I know you were expecting Seventh Generation again – but Ecover is less expensive, does a great job, and gets an EWG A score. Its a bit harder to find, but it makes a great Amazon Subscribe and Save item to help keep you at the 15% discount.
Dish Soap: Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid
Planet dishwashing liquid gets a B from EWG, is not too hard to find (its at many groceries), is the Good Housekeeping pick for green dish liquids, and we find it works well.
Wonder why each product is a different brand? Well, no doubt Seventh Gen makes a good dish soap and its readily available, but they got an EWG score of C and I prefer to stick with A and B. While Planet makes a great dish soap, their dishwasher detergent can’t clean a dish to save its life. And as previously mentioned Ecover Rinse Aid is cheaper than Seventh Generation. Hence the cherry picking.
Steam Carpet Cleaner Solution – Earth Friendly Products Concentrated Carpet Shampoo or Biokleen Carpet & Rug Shampoo
We’ve used both in our “steam” cleaner and both have worked well and get an A score from EWG. Unfortunately neither are easy to find, so whichever you run across is a winner.
Hard Floor Cleaner Spray – Earth Friendly Products Floor Cleaner
I can’t say hard floor cleaners face the tough job of laundry or dish soap, so everything seems to work. Earth Friendly Products Floor Cleaner gets a B score from EWG.
Hard Floor Cleaner Concentrate – Babyganics Floor Cleaner Concentrate
For the mopping aficionados babyganics gets the job done with an EWG A score. Amazon is the only place I’ve found it for a reasonable price, unless you’re close to Buy Buy Baby.
I know hand soap isn’t quite in the household cleaners category, but I want to mention one big thing – triclosan. Antibacterial soaps mostly use triclosan which is horrible for the environment and quite unnecessary (even the FDA agrees). The problem is antibacterials aren’t removed well by sewage systems, meaning triclosan ends up in drinking water (killing gut bacteria), in soil, and even in fish. If you only do one thing – throw out your antibacterial soap and switch to regular soap.
Admittedly it seems odd to rail against antibacterial soap but be okay with Lysol disinfectant. The difference is soap works by rinsing off germs, but a countertop isn’t so easy to soap and rinse thoroughly. Plus hydrogen peroxide (in the Lysol Power & Free spray) is rated as a low environmental concern by EWG.