What to Look for When Shopping for Household Cleaning Products

Going green is as much about renouncing your old ways and habits as it is about choosing green products and services to fit your lifestyle. If natural cleaning products are the way you want to go, then it’s high time you let go of the brands that you might have been loyal to for years. If you are like most people, you are probably wondering which brands are worth investigating as you attempt to shift to your new green lifestyle.

photo by rubbergloveloverTake stock of your household cleaning products
Take stock of your household cleaning products

There are plenty of resources out there that help consumer to weed through the sea of commercial products that claim to be green. GoodGuide is one service that might actually help you fulfill your quest. The guide helps consumers make safe, healthy and green choices by allowing them to search or browse over 70,000 food, toys, personal care, and household cleaning products to quickly learn the impacts of their purchases. GoodGuide scientifically rates products, brands, and companies on their health, social and environmental performance.

GoodGuide works with The Find, a leading search site to help shoppers access GoodGuide ratings for over 1,000 common household brands directly alongside relevant product results on TheFind.com.  Over 1 million green products from organic and environmentally-friendly brands, and stores can be found through this partnership.

Another tool to consider is IMShopping.  This is an online service that allows consumers to ask shopping related questions to live shopping assistants.  The site has several green living experts assigned to answer shopping and lifestyle questions related to green living.

About eco-friendly brands

The one brand that always come to mind before others, is Seventh Generation. This company offers much sought-after biodegradable laundry and dishwashing products. The products are made from natural, non-toxic ingredients like vegetable-based surfactants and essential oils. They get a dirty job done without petroleum-derived chemicals and synthetic additives like dyes, fragrances, and optical brighteners so people can get their clothes and their dishes clean even as they keep their environment green.

But there are plenty of other brands such as Method on the market too. As you do your research on natural household cleaning products, here is what you need to consider…..

  • Instead of all purpose cleaners with ammonia (e.g. Windex, 409, Fantastic), try soap-based cleaners such as Soapworks.
  • Instead of anti-bacterial soaps, try ordinary bar soap with warm water (e.g. Ivory or Dove).
  • Instead of dish-washing detergents that are petroleum based (e.g. Dawn and Joy), try vegetable based soaps such as Seventh Generation.
  • Instead of drain cleaners with hydrochloric acid or lye (e.g. Drano), try old-fashioned drain baskets and a plunger.
  • Instead of laundry detergents with phosphates, bleaches or synthetic whiteners, try phosphate free, soap-based detergents with borax (e.g. Soapworks).
  • Instead of cleaners or detergents with artificial fragrances, try citrus fragrances or unscented products.
  • Instead of scouring powders with bleach (e.g. Ajax and Comet), try chlorine free powders with baking soda or borax (e.g. Bon Ami).
  • Instead of chlorine bleach (e.g. Clorox), try powdered non-chlorine bleach, with borax instead of chlorine.

Or, consider making your own……

Since most of the ingredients in natural cleaning products are…well…natural, then you might want to consider making these yourself.  It is more than likely that you will have the ingredients for most of these DIY products in your kitchen or pantry.

  • Scouring powder: Use some dry baking soda or table salt on a wet sponge.
  • All purpose cleaner: Mix 1 tsp. liquid soap, warm water, vinegar and lemon juice in a spray bottle.
  • Glass cleaner: The first time you a re cleaning the glass, you can apply a little rubbing alcohol to remove wax buildup. After that mix vinegar and water in a 50/50 solution in a spray bottle. Wipe with a newspaper to avoid streaks.
  • Dishwashing liquids: Mix a cup of plain liquid soap, water and a few slices of lemon for scent.
  • Laundry detergents: Mix a handful of natural soap flakes with washing soda or borax.
  • Drain cleaners: Mix a handful of baking soda with 1/2 a cup of vinegar. Pour this down the drain and cover for one minute.  Then rinse with hot water.

About the Author

  • I appreciate the advice in the column, but I’m not sure how fair it is to include Method without a disclaimer. Method still uses synthetic fragrances, albeit no phthalates. So the products aren’t quite as friendly as lots of others . . . although they are readily available and are a great deal greener than conventional products.

  • Agree with Jennifer – I think there’s got to be a distinction between “greener” and a product that’s really “green.” I’m all for using anything that’s more eco friendly than the traditional product, and prefer to see people choose the better alternative, but with so much green washing going on by manufacturers looking to increase their bottom line, it’s hard for the average consumer to really know what’s real and what’s not.

    I’ve switched to making almost all of my own cleaning products and while I know that isn’t for everyone, I find they clean better, save me a good amount of money, and I feel good about using them.

  • We make most of our own cleaning products and I keep a vinegar and water solution spray bottle in our bathroom. However, I still haven’t ventured to make laundry soap–thanks for the inspiration!

  • LisaPaul

    Great tips there. I recently discovered the IMshopping.com the tool you mentioned here – that’s leaning more towards the twitter platform. I tried the service and liked the concept.

  • Although store bought “green cleaners” work great..i like to use vinegar and baking soda for the majority of my cleaning. Its truly all natural and disinfects just as well as it cleans. Vinegar can replace almost all of your house hold cleaners and it a lot cheaper than commercial brands.

  • Amazon sells some of these household cleaners and I have them on my site but I was surprised at how much they cost . It seems a better more cost effective way would be to use one of your recipes. I hope to see a drop in prices on these natural cleaning agents i cant imagine what some of them do when they get in to the water system .

  • Kara

    Using non-toxic natural products is such an important part of keeping a green home. I found some great products at http://www.carribeanmist.com
    They sell high-quality environmentally friendly products that are natural, safe, effective AND affordable!

  • I always prefer the natural cleaners like baking soda, vinegar, and non toxic products. They’re cheaper and good for environment. So I am happy to Shop for natural household cleaning products.

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