What is Green Cleaning? Top Ingredients to Avoid

Green cleaning means cleaning without the use of harsh chemicals or toxins. Many people associate green cleaning with homemade cleaners, but many “safer choice” store-bought products exist.

Incorporating green cleaning practices in your home can help reduce the number of toxins your family members are exposed to and cut down on waste. 

The Definition of Green Cleaning

Green cleaning

The definition of green cleaning is to use cleaning products and practices that are safe for the environment and human health. An example includes using steam to disinfect instead of bleach.

Since green cleaning is a broad category, it means different things to different people. For example, some believe that eco-cleaning boils down to only using baking soda, water, vinegar, and essential oils. Others have a more liberal approach, using commercial cleaning products that the EPA has labeled “safer choice.”

The Pros and Cons of Green Cleaning

In most cases, it makes sense to incorporate green cleaning practices into your routine. 

Pros of green cleaning:

  • Reduced exposure to toxins that can cause respiratory issues, congenital disabilities, and cancer
  • Safe for kids and pets
  • Better for the environment
  • Reduced pollution

Cons of green cleaning:

  • Commercial green cleaning products can be expensive
  • Green cleaning disinfectants aren’t as powerful as bleach

Cleaning Chemicals and Ingredients to Avoid 

Because no laws in the United States require companies to list cleaning ingredients, it’s challenging to know which products are safe. Cleaning companies can label their product “eco-friendly” or “non-toxic” without regulation or inspection. 

California is the only state that obligates cleaning product manufacturers to list ingredients. Passed in 2017, California’s Cleaning Product Right to Know Act aims to help residents make more informed decisions, avoiding products that can cause cancer or respiratory issues. 

Below is a list of 34 cleaning product ingredients that cause human health hazards and diseases. One of the best ways to find green cleaners is to look at the product’s label and avoid it if it contains one of these chemicals.

  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • N-Nitrosodimethylamine
  • N-Nitrosodiethylamine
  • 1-(3-chloroallyl)-3,5,7-triaza-1-azoniaadamantane chloride
  • 1,1-Dichloroethane
  • Acrylic acid
  • Benzene
  • Benzidine
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Chloroform
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Nitrilotriacetic acid
  • Propylparaben
  • Formaldehyde
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Glyoxal
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Polyoxymethylene urea
  • Sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate
  • Butyl benzyl phthalate
  • Butyl decyl phthalate
  • Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
  • Diethyl phthalate
  • Diisobutyl phthalate
  • Di(n-octyl) phthalate
  • Diisononyl phthalate
  • Dioctyl phthalate
  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Methylparaben

How to Find Green Cleaners

Aside from looking at a product’s ingredient list and avoiding toxins, you can also find green cleaning products by using an app that allows you to scan cleaners, purchasing products rated “safer choice” by the EPA, or cleaning with simple household ingredients.

Green Cleaning Apps to Find Non-Toxic Cleaners

The easiest way to find non-toxic cleaners when shopping is to download a green cleaning app and scan the product. Depending on the app, it will give you a grade or information about the product’s safety and toxicity.

Here are the most popular non-toxic cleaning apps:

  • EWG Healthy Living App – Use this app to scan a product and review its rating. There are more than 120,000 products of all kinds in its database.
  • Think Dirty App – Scan a product, and the Think Dirty App will give you info and safer alternatives when necessary. Use this app for beauty and household products.
  • Detox Me – Like the others, Detox Me has a product scanner that gives you ratings on products and safer alternatives. 

Green Cleaning Products with a “Safer Choice” EPA Rating

Safer Choice is a pollution prevention program created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Companies must voluntarily join the program, and the EPA then reviews every ingredient, regardless of the amount, to ensure safety for human and environmental health. EPA-certified “Safer Choice” products must also meet stringent guidelines on efficacy, packaging, ph level, and VOC levels.

There are about 1,900 products with this rating. Products will have a clear marking stating they are EPA certified if enrolled in this program.

Using Household Ingredients as Green Cleaners

An easy way to start non-toxic cleaning is to use simple household ingredients like baking soda, white distilled vinegar, and water to tackle your messes. You can use these three household staples to make all-purpose cleaning sprays, window cleaners, shower cleaner, and more.

Consider a steam mop or handheld steam cleaner to disinfect using green cleaning methods.

The Difference Between an Environmentally Friendly vs. Non-Toxic Cleaning Label

If you’re trying to improve your cleaning product stash, you may wonder about the difference between environmentally friendly and non-toxic labels. In general, environmentally friendly means not harmful to the environment – this may mean the cleaner doesn’t pollute the air or the packaging is recyclable. A non-toxic cleaner indicates that the ingredients aren’t toxic to humans or pets.

But, since there are no regulations on cleaning product labels, any company can state their cleaner is environmentally friendly or non-toxic, even if untrue. For a better understanding, scan the product on the EWG Healthy Living app for accurate information.