Avoid Dirty Ingredients
The cleaning aisle of your favorite store is full of dirty tricks. Dangerous ingredients are downplayed—or downright hidden—while many "green" cleaners conceal poisonous contents that can damage red blood cells or cause cancer. A whopping 53 percent of cleaning products destroy lungs, sometimes polluting your indoor air with formaldehyde and chloroform! Of course, it's always best to make your own green cleaners out of nontoxic ingredients like baking soda, washing soda, and vinegar, but for times when you want to grab a brand-name cleaner on the go, we tapped Environmental Working Group's Cleaner Database to choose safer options.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigated labels, company websites, and technical documents, along with published studies on ingredients, to come up with an "A" through "F" grading system for 2,000 cleaning products. One thing to keep in mind? Many brands offered some products that received "A" and "B" grades and others that got "D" and "F" marks. So it's best to shop on a product-by-product, not brand-by-brand, basis.
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Some laundry products with "A" ratings in the EWG report include:
• Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, HE Elite Care, Free & Clear
• Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear
• Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach Powder
• Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap Baby Mild
• Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent.
Avoid: The list of more than 300 products with an "F" grade include Gain Liquid Detergent with Baking Soda, Fresh Water Sparkle; Downy Ultra Fabric Softener, Sun Blossom; and Bounce Dryer Sheets with Febreze, Spring & Renewal.
Read More: 3 Easy, Homemade Laundry Detergents
EWG says dishwashing products with safer ingredients include:
• The Honest Co. Honest Auto Dishwasher Gel, Free & Clear
• Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Powder, Free & Clear
• Whole Foods Market Liquid Dish Soap, Unscented.
Avoid: Dawn Ultra Concentrated Oxi Dishwashing Liquid, Invigorating Berry; Green Works Naturally Derived Dishwashing Liquid, Free & Clear; and Walmart Great Value Dishwasher Gel Detergent, Lemon, were among the 90 products to receive an "F."
Read More: Hand-Washing Vs. Dishwasher
While your safest bet for a homemade, all-purpose cleaner involves adding 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water in a spray bottle, manufactured products with an "A" rating from EWG include:
• Green Shield Organic Biodegradable Surface Wipes, Fresh Scent
• Aussan Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
• Whole Foods Market Glass Cleaner, Unscented.
Avoid: Some of the nearly 200 "F" grades went to Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner; Mr. Clean Multi Surfaces Spray Cleaner; Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner; and Lysol Complete Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner.
Read More: The Best Homemade Cleaner Recipes
Just 3.4 percent of floor cleaners analyzed by EWG fell into the safest "A" category. Some higher-rated products include:
• Simple Green Naturals Carpet and Simple Green Natural Floor Care
• Aussan Natural Floor Cleaner Concentrate
• Martha Stewart Clean Carpet Stain Remover.
Avoid: Murphy Oil Soap Squirt & Mop Wood Floor Cleaner; Swiffer Sweeper Dry Sweeping Cloths; Resolve Professional Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner.
Learn More: Easy Green Solutions for the Entire Home
Your safest bet when it comes to bathroom cleaners? Make your own.
1/2 cup baking soda
Liquid soap (we like Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap or plant-based, unscented detergent)
5 to 10 drops organic pure essential oil of lavender or rosemary, or tea tree oil (optional)
Place baking soda in a bowl; slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring until it looks like frosting. Add optional essential oils. Scoop onto a sponge, scrub, and rinse. You can also try cutting a lemon in half and using that as a scrubber.
Top-rated commercial products that earned an "A" from EWG include:
• Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir
• Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
• CLR Calcium, Lime, Rust Cleaner.
Avoid: Scrubbing Bubbles Daily Shower Soap Scum & Mildew Stain Cleaner; Liquid Plumr Professional Strength Gel; and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath Scrubber all received "F" grades from EWG for hazardous ingredients.
Ones to Avoid Altogether
EWG suggests avoiding the following products altogether because they are unnecessary or don't have safer alternatives:
• Air fresheners: Air fresheners contain secret fragrance mixtures that can trigger allergies and asthma. Open windows, use fans, put out a bowl of white vinegar or baking soda, or burn a beeswax candle in place of using air fresheners.
• Antibacterial products: These products can spur the development of drug-resistant superbugs. Antibacterial chemicals like triclosan have been blamed for causing thyroid and heart damage, as well.
• Fabric softener and dryer sheets: These products often contain lung irritants and can spark asthma or allergy problems. Add _ cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle to reduce wrinkles and static cling.
• Caustic drain and oven cleaners: Harsh ingredients can burn eyes and skin. Instead, use a drain snake or plunger to remove clogs, and opt for a paste of baking soda and water to clean your oven.
Other Must-Know Ingredient Info
• Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is sometimes used as a preservative or may be released by other preservatives in cleaning products. It may form when terpenes, found in citrus and pine oil cleaners and in some essential oils used as scents, react with ozone in the air.
• Chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen, sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach.
• Quaternary ammonium compounds ("quats") like benzalkonium chloride, found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners, can cause asthma.
• Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents or enzyme stabilizers, or for other functions. They can disrupt the hormone system.
• EWG criticized green brands like Earth Friendly Products, Biokleen, and BabyGanics for not properly disclosing ingredients.
Learn More: Easy Green Solutions for the Entire Home