The Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) maintains a list of the top green cleaning products that are safest to use (last update June 2016). They’ve tested and rated 2,000+ popular household cleaning products, rating them from A (very low toxicity) to F (high toxic or little to no ingredient disclosure). This grading is based on the safety of the product’s ingredients as well as the information the manufacturer discloses about the contents of their product. Find out more about their grading practices in the EWG’s FAQ.
But wait! If a product is being sold in grocery stores, it must be safe to use, right? NOPE! Plus, unlike labels for food, drugs, and cosmetics, cleaning product manufacturers are not required to disclose all of the ingredients in their products. Heck, even some of the “green” companies don’t. And that’s a problem. Frighteningly, the EWG estimates that only 7% of the cleaning products being manufactured adequately disclose their contents.
Guide to Healthy Cleaning by the Environmental Working Group
The EWG’s research team spent 14 months reading through company websites, technical documents, governmental databases related to toxicity as well as numerous medical and scientific journals. (Read more about where and how the EWG gathered facts for this study here.)
What the EWG’s study on home cleaning products found is scary:
- About 53% of the cleaning products EWG assessed have ingredients known to harm the lungs. They also found that approximately 22% contain chemicals reported to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
- Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, can sometimes be found in a product where it’s used as a preservative. It may also be released by other preservatives in cleaning products. In fact, it may form when terpenes, found in citrus and pine oil cleaners and some essential oils used as scents can react with ozone in the air.
- The chemical 1,4-dioxane is a common contaminant of widely-used detergent chemicals; it’s a suspected human carcinogen.
- Chloroform – It sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach; it’s a suspected human carcinogen.
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”) like benzalkonium can cause asthma. You’ll find it in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners.
- Borax (also know as Sodium borate) can disrupt the hormone system. It’s found in a plethora of products as an enzyme stabilizer and cleaning agent among other things. It’s also an ingredient in many DIY laundry detergent recipes and marked in error as a “green” ingredient.
The EWG’s study found that many leading “green” brands sell superior products. Among them are the Green Shield Organic and Whole Foods’ Green Mission brand. But don’t be fooled. Not all products marketed as being environmentally conscious or “green” score highly and not all products from the same company have the same green qualities so their products can be rated very differently. Also, some “green brands” like Earth Friendly Products may be great, but since they do not disclose their ingredients adequately, there’s no way for the EWG to rate them, and so they are given an “F” rating.
Additionally, the EWG found some products they believe shouldn’t be used at all because there isn’t a safer alternative for them and they’re unnecessary. They advise avoiding these commonly-used home cleaning products:
- Air fresheners – they contain secret fragrance mixtures that can trigger allergies and asthma. Open windows or use fans. (though they did rate several scented room mists with an A-grade – Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Mist – Eucalyptus Harvest, Lavender Harvest, Peppermint Harvest, Tangerine Grapefruit, and Tea Tree Harvest. The Aura Cacia Electric Aromatherapy Air Freshener (Relaxing Lavender Essential Oil) received a B-rating, but it provides longer lasting air-scenting than the mists.
- Antibacterial products – can spur development of drug-resistant superbugs.
- Fabric softener and dryer sheet – their ingredients can cause allergies or asthma and can irritate the lungs. Try a little vinegar in the rinse cycle or wool dryer balls.
- Caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaner – these can burn eyes and skin. Use a drain snake or plunger in drains. Try a do-it-yourself paste of baking soda and water in the oven.
EWG Top Green Cleaning Products
The Best Environmentally Safe General Cleaners
A-Rated General Cleaners
- Whole Foods Market All-purpose Concentrate – Available Only from Whole Foods
- AspenClean Glass Cleaner with Organic Lime Essential Oil
- AspenClean All Purpose Cleaner with Organic Grapefruit & Lavender Essential Oils
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap, Eucalyptus
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap, Lavender
Additional A-rated general cleaners: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster & Household Cleaner, AspenClean All-in-One Concentrate, AspenClean SuperScrub Powder, Attitude All Purpose Eco Cleaner, Attitude Little Ones Toy & Surface Cleaner – Fragrance Free, Attitude Window & Mirror Eco Cleaner, Bon Ami Powder Cleanser, Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus All Purpose Everyday Cleaner, Fit Organic Cleaner and Degreaser, Heinz Vinegar Distilled White Vinegar, Ology Pure Castile Soap – Peppermint,Planet All Purpose Spray Cleaner, Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner – Lemongrass Citrus, Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care – Rosemary Mint.
B-Rated General Household Cleaners
- GrabGreen Garbage Disposal Freshener & Cleaner Pods (Red Pear with Magnolia Scent)
- GrabGreen Garbage Disposal Freshener & Cleaner Pods, Thyme with Fig Leaf
- Caldrea Lavender Pine Power Scrub – Caldrea products are available online and from caldrea.com
- KisClean Glass Cleaner – KisCleanproducts are only available at http://www.kisclean.com/
Curious which popular all-purpose cleaning products are rated F? Here’s just a few from this category which I’ve chosen randomly and by name recognition:
- X-14 Mildew Stain Remover, Deep Clean
- Walmart Great Value All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach
- Windex Foaming Glass Cleaner
- Windex Original Glass Wipes
- Windex Outdoor All-in-One
- Tilex Mold & Mildew Remover
- Tilex Mold Stain & Mildew Stain Remover, Refreshing Breeze
- Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Cedarwood & Sage
- SOS Heavy Duty Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Lemon
- SOS Heavy Duty Multi-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach
- Spic and Span Multi-Surface & Floor Cleaner, Citrus Fresh
- Swiffer Dusters with Febreze, Lavender Vanilla & Comfort
- The Laundress Home Cleaning Glass & Mirror Cleaner, No 247
- Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, Lemon
- Simple Green All-Purpose Wipes
- Soft Scrub with Bleach Cleanser for Bath & Kitchen
- Soft Scrub with Bleach Cleanser for Bath and Kitchen, Mountain Breeze
Top Rated Green All-Purpose Cleaning Products
Top Green Bathroom Cleaners
A-Rated Bathroom Cleaners
- Earth Friendly Products Toilet Cleaner, Natural Cedar Scent
- Green Shield Organic Bathroom Cleaner, Fresh
- Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner – available at Walmart
- MamaSuds Toilet Bombs – available directly from her website.
Additional A-rated top bathroom cleaners: AspenClean Bathroom Cleaner, BuggyLOVE Organic Multi-Surface Bathroom Cleaner, Clementine Scent, CLR Calcium Lime & Rust Cleaner, Fit Organic Lime Calcium & Rust Remover, & Seventh Generation Tub & Tile Natural Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir(new formula – 2016)
B-Rated Bathroom Cleaners
- Ecover Limescale Remover, Bathroom and Shower
- Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Pine Fresh
- Eco-Me Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Phil
- LYSOL Professional Disinfectant Basin Tub & Tile Cleaner
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Bathroom Cleaner
Popular Bathroom Cleaners with an F rating (chosen randomly and by name recognition):
- 2000 Flushes Bleach and Blue Plus Bleach
- Amway Bio Drain Free Cleaner
- Arm & Hammer Clean Shower Daily Shower Cleaner – Fresh Scent and Mountain Rain
- Arm & Hammer Scrub Free Bath Cleaner Plus Oxi Clean – Lemon Scent
- Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Bleach & Blue Rain
- Clorox Bleach Foamer for the Bathroom
- Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
- Clorox ToiletWand System
- Comet Soft Cleanser with Bleach
- Drano Clog Remover, Drano Dual Force Foam, Drano Professional Strength Kitchen Crystals Clog Remover (and many more)
- Earthworm Family-Safe Drain Cleaner and Earthworm Household Odor Eliminator
- GreenWorks Naturally Derived Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Kaboom Bowl Blaster Foaming Toilet Cleaner, Foam-Tastic (and more)
- Liquid Plumr Clog Remover, Foaming Pipe Snack, Industrial Strength Gel, & more.
- LYSOL Action Gel Toilet Bowl Cleaner (Country & Spring Waterfall), LYSON Aerosol Bathroom Cleaner (Regular, Summer Fresh, Sunshine Fresh, & Island Breeze). LYSOL Bathroom Cleaner Spray (Fresh Apple, Island Breeze, Spring Waterfall, and Sunshine Fresh). LYSON CLING Toilet Bowl Cleaner (Citrus, Spring Waterfall, Country, Lavender), & many more.
- Method Le Scrub Abrasive Bathroom Cleaner (Eucalyptus Mint); Method Tub & Tile Flushable Wipes (Eucalyptus Mint)
- Poo-Pourri Bathroom Spray; Poo-Pourri Jr. Little Stinker Soiled Diaper Odor Eliminator; Poo-Pourri Loo-Pourri; Poo-Pourri Nature’s Call; and Poo-Pourri trap-A-Crap Before-You-Go Bathroom Spray.
- Scrubbing Bubbles Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner (Fresh Clean); Automatic Shower Cleaner (Fresh Clean and Refreshing Spa); Color Power Bathroom Cleaner; Daily Shower Soap Scum & Mildew Stain Cleaner; Fresh Brush Flushables T9ilet Cleaning System (citrus action)
- And many….many…many….more
Top Rated Green Bathroom Cleaning Products
Top Dishwashing Soaps and Detergents
A-Rated Dishwasher and Dishwashing Soap
- Attitude Little One’s Baby Bottle & Dishwashing Liquid, Sweet Lullaby
- bio Kleen Natural Dish Liquid, Citrus Essence
- Green Shield Organic Squeeze Automatic Dishwasher Liquid Detergent, Lemongrass
- MamaSuds Automatic Dishwasher Powder – available directly from the MamaSuds website
- Fit Organic Dishwasher Gel, Free and Clear
Additional A-rated Dishwasher and Dish Soaps: Better Life Dishwasher Gel, Fit Organic Dishwasher Gel -Fresh Citrus, Nature Clean Automatic Dishwasher Pacs, Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Packs -Lemon, AspenClean Dish Soap, Attitude Dishwashing Liquid – Pink Grapefruit, Attitude Little Ones Baby Bottle & Dishwashing Liquid – Fragrance-Free, Attitude Little Ones Baby Bottle & Dishwashing Liquid – Pear Nectar, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap – Baby Mild Unscented, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap – Eucalyptus, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap – Lavender, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap – Tea Tree, Ecover Zero Dish Soap – Fragrance Free, Fit Organic Dish Liquid – Free and Clear, Sun & Earth Liquid Dishwashing – Fresh Lavender, The Honest Co. Honest Dish Soap – Lemon Verbena, & The Honest Co. Honest Dish Soap – White Grapefruit (new formula 2016).
B-rated Dishwasher and Dish Soap
- bio Kleen Natural Dish Liquid, Lemon-Thyme
- GrabGreen Dish Soap, Tangerine with Lemongrass
- Safeway Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Powder Packs, Citrus Scent – available only at Safeway
Popular Dishwasher & Dishwashing Soap Rated F (random & by name recognition):
- Babyganics Dishwasher Detergent, Fragrance-Free
- Cascade Complete ActionPacs with Dawn, Fresh & Lemon Burst Scent; Cascade Complete ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent, Thai Dragon Fruit & Lemon, plus many more.
- FINISH Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Powder (Lemon) & FINISH Powerball Tabs (orange)
- Palmolive Eco+ Gel Dishwasher Detergent (Lavender Splash, Lemon Splash, & Citrus Apple Splash)
- Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel, Lemon
- Walmart Great Value Ultra Concentrated Dishwasher Liquid Detergent
- Ajax All in One Dish Liquid (Clean Citrus Blast & Fresh Berry Burst); Ajax Antibacterial Dishwashing Liquid (Orange); Ajax Bleach Alternative Dish Liquid (Grapefruit, Ruby Red Grapefruit, & Lime)
- & more
Top Rated Green Dishwashing & Dish Washer Products
These findings were presented on EWG.org on Apr. 8, 2016. They want to remind users that all cleaning products by their very nature can present hazards under certain conditions of use so always read and heed the directions included with the product. However, the products they’ve chosen and posted as the top-rated green cleaning products have all received the EWG’s highest marks based on the criteria developed by EWG’s research team. The team’s goal is to encourage companies to embrace full transparency of the ingredients they use and to avoid chemicals that have been deemed to have potential safety and health concerns to humans and then environment.
Take a moment and let manufacturers and your legislators know that having the ingredients listed on products you use in your home and around your family should be required. Putting hard-to-find PDF files on their website isn’t enough.
Visit the EWG’s website to find out more about the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning study and how to get involved. Plus look up some of the products you’re using in your home and see how they rate.
Note: BabytoBoomer.com & the EWG makes no representations or warranties about the products rated here and the ratings may change at any time.