Greening Your Cleaning

Eco-friendly household cleaning products

Eco-friendly household cleaning products

If you’re trying to stay on top of warnings about various household toxins, you may sometimes get a mild case of green exhaustion. It’s tempting to tune it all out for a while and bask in denial. But you know that’s not the healthiest choice for you, your family or the planet.

Another option is to think incremental and choose one small area of your life to tackle today — putting off all the others, Scarlett O’Hara-style, for another day. An easy place to start is with your household cleaning products.

Getting a Green Clean

There are two ways to go about switching to healthier, more eco-friendly cleaners: buy them or make your own. While buying what you need seems like the quicker, easier choice, it can actually take some effort to wade through all the green-washing (unavoidable pun) in this product category. Since you’ll rarely find ingredients listed on cleaning products, you may not be able to make a wise consumer choice on your own.

Fortunately, someone’s done the heavy lifting for us. Scientists at the Environmental Working Group,, have tested dozens of cleaning products for a wide range of potential hazards. To find the truly green cleaners you need for everything from windows to stainless steel to granite, just take these steps.

1. Go to

2. Under “More Research,” click “EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning Rates Household Cleaners A to F.”

3. Search by type of product (dishwashing, bathroom,etc.) or for a specific product.

4. Peruse the products that earned an A (or a B if something you really need isn’t on the A-list). For each product, you’ll find a breakdown of how its various ingredients ranked and what, if any, concerns it may pose.

5. Buy green and local. While you may have to purchase most of these items online, do try calling local businesses to ask if they carry the products you want or similar choices.

Making Green Cleaners

If you’re trying to live more self-sufficiently, buying less and making more of what you need, you probably already stock your home with plenty of baking soda and distilled white vinegar. These two old-fashioned and very inexpensive ingredients can serve as the basis for a wide range of cleaners. Here are just a few:

1. Glass cleaner: Distilled white vinegar diluted in water with a splash of liquid dish soap.

2. Anyplace you would otherwise use Comet or Ajax: Baking soda mixed into a paste with water. (Note that EWG gives the incredibly inexpensive Bon Ami a high rating.)

3. Wood polish: Olive oil diluted a bit with distilled white vinegar or lemon juice.

4. Oven cleaner: Baking soda mixed into a paste with water and a splash of liquid dish soap.

Cleaning the house may not be a sexy topic or a whole lof of fun. But there’s some satisfaction in knowing that you are tackling this necessity with products that won’t harm your health or end up leaching toxic chemicals into landfill.