- The Best All-Purpose Green Cleaning Products
- Hospital-grade all-purpose cleaners
- Final thoughts on eco-friendly all-purpose cleaners
Isn’t it ironic (don’t you think) that most cleaning products are anything but ‘clean’? The average household contains cleaning products made with more than 50 toxic chemicals. Even a little exposure a few times a week or month can cause skin and lung irritation, breathing problems, and harm to aquatic life when chemicals are washed down the drain and end up in waterways.
The worrisome thing is that there’s little, if any, regulation over what is allowed in household cleaning products. Pretty much anything goes, which is why you’ll often see stark warning labels on bottles citing potential health hazards and an emergency number for poison control.
Are the risks serious though, or overblown? Well, one Norwegian study concluded that regularly using cleaning sprays had similar negative effects on respiratory health in women as smoking 10-20 cigarettes a day. The study specifically looked at the differences between women who worked as household cleaners and who cleaned their own homes regularly compared to women who did not clean their own homes regularly. No men were included in the study, highlighting how gender and income levels strongly influence who bears the brunt of the health effects of unregulated and unsafe cleaning products.
The Best All-Purpose Green Cleaning Products
So, what can you use as an all-purpose cleaning product for your home, and how can you safeguard people, planet, and pets? Below, I offer my top picks for the best green cleaning products for the eco-friendly home, with two great choices also suitable for workplaces where hospital-grade sanitization is required.
AspenClean’s All Purpose Cleaner is one of just three all-purpose cleaners to currently earn a coveted Verified rating from the Environmental Working Group. AspenClean makes a range of household cleaning products, all of which earn at least an A rating, and most a Verified rating from the EWG. And if you need reassurance that the products work, AspenClean even operates a professional cleaning service using all the company’s cleaning products!
Coco-glucoside raises some concern over acute aquatic toxicity, but is one of the better-studied surfactants and is generally considered low risk to human health and the environment. It is readily biodegradable and relatively easy for municipal water treatment facilities to treat, so as long as your wastewater goes into greywater or municipal treatment waterways, it should be fine. Potassium hydroxide may also pose a small risk of skin irritation, allergies, skin damage, and respiratory effects but, again, the risk is deemed low.
AspenClean comes in bottles made of 100% post-consumer resin plastic to eliminate the use of virgin plastic and the packaging is 100% recyclable. The company’s products, ingredients, and manufacturing processes are certified as sustainable by Ecocert and certified as vegan and cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny. They use sustainable ingredients, such as organic glycerin, organic essential oils and ingredients derived from sustainably sourced palm oil (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil – RSPO certified).
Known Ingredients: Water / Eau, Decyl Glucoside (sustainable Coconut, Palm Kernel Oil derived / Dérivé de noix de coco et d’huile de palmiste durable), Coco Glucoside (sustainable Coconut, Palm, Palm Kernel Oil derived / Dérivé de noix de coco, de palmier et d’huile de palmiste durable), Sodium Citrate, Sodium Carbonate, Propanediol (Corn derived / Dérivé de maïs), Sodium Gluconate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Organic Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Organic Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil (d-Limonene+).
+ Component of botanical oil.
AspenClean also offer these excellent green cleaning products:
AspenClean All-in-One Concentrate (arguably even more eco-friendly as packaging is reduced!)
AspenClean SuperScrub Powder.
Made almost entirely of certified organic essential oils and water, the Tea Tree all-purpose cleaner from Squeak is EWG Verified and a breeze to use (a company spokesperson told me all of the All PERP’s would be EWG Verified if not for the cost of lab testing). Squeak All PERP is safe to use around kids and pets and really is all-purpose as you can use it to clean kitchen counters, your car, carpets, doors, floors, and windows, gym equipment, door handles, marble, granite, and quartz, toilets, and even wood! A quick spray is all you need to wipe down most surfaces, but for tougher grime, let the cleaner work its magic for a minute and then wipe clean.
Squeak offers most of their cleaning products in both plastic and glass bottles and offer eco-friendly refills and a subscription option, so you need never run out of cleaning supplies again. All packaging (shipping boxes included) is recyclable (PET plastic), and they offer 1 oz glass bottle concentrated refills for all 5 All PERPs, so you can reuse the plastic (or glass) 16 oz bottle forever or until it breaks. The company is also a partner with 1% for the Planet.
Squeak All PERP is available in the original and with tea tree, as Mint Tea, Spring Fling and even a Holiday version of their cleaning spray, with rosemary, cinnamon, and orange essential oils. The latter is only available from October to February, so get it while you can!
Ingredients (OG All PERP): *Denotes Certified Organic: Purified Water (Aqua), Lavandula Hybrida (Lavandin) Oil*, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil*, Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Peel Oil*, Eugenia Carophyllata (Clove) Stem Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Oil*, Citrus Medica (Lemon) Fruit Oil*, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum (Cinnamon) Leaf Oil*
Attitude make almost exclusively eco-friendly products and is one of PETA’s Cruelty-Free Companies. Attitude’s All Purpose Cleaner is certified by EcoLogo, an independent, third party consultant group, as meeting strict environmental and health requirements, with companies required to allow audits to assure their products are green.
The cleaner is made in Canada and is packaged in plastic bottles made with recycled HDPE #2 plastic that can be easily recycled in turn. It is available in Citrus Zest or Lavender, using natural essential oils for fragrance.
Known ingredients: <5% non-ionic surfactants (caprylyl glucoside, myristyl glucoside). Contains also: water, propanediol, sodium citrate, saponins, terpineol (citrus), decanal (citrus), allyl heptanoate (sweet fruit).
Ingredients Matter make clean cleaning products without synthetic fragrances, synthetic preservatives, dyes, parabens, phosphates, brighteners, or other nasties. The products are biodegradable and cruelty-free, and they use recyclable packaging.
Ingredients Matter cleaner is available scented with natural lavender or lemongrass essential oils. This all-purpose cleaner is PETA Cruelty-Free and Vegan certified and Leaping Bunny certified, with no animal testing. All of the company’s products are rated A and B by the EWG and this product is free from detergents (like sulfates, glucosides, and ethoxylates), synthetic fragrances, synthetic preservatives, dyes, parabens, and phosphates.
One nitpick: Ingredients Matter engage in a bit of unnecessary fearmongering and greenwashing on their website, disparaging some innocuous common ingredients in cleaning products as being petroleum-derived and unsafe when they can be plant-derived and perfectly safe. The company also seems to lack any active Corporate Social Responsibility programs.
Known ingredients: water, sodium gluconate, sodium citrate, potassium cocoate, polyglyceryl-4 caprate, natural fragrance [lavender or lemongrass, presumably], potassium oleate, potassium caprylate/caprate, potassium olivate, glyceryl caprylate/caprate, glycerin, citric acid.
Common Good’s All-Purpose Cleaner is available in Bergamot, Tea Tree, or Lavender scent, made using natural oils. This eco-friendly cleaner is suitable for all non-porous surfaces, including tile floors or walls, countertops and porcelain.
Common Good was founded in 2011 mainly due to motivation to reduce plastic waste with a more eco-friendly refillable product range. The company is also committed to using non-GMO ingredients and responsibly sourced palm oil-derived ingredients, certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Their products are also certified Leaping Bunny cruelty-free and any corn-derived ingredients come from non-GMO sources.
Common Good’s All-Purpose Cleaner comes in a plastic or glass bottle with refill packs available and refill stations an option too. Find a location in the US with this handy store-finder on their website. The refill pouches use 83% less plastic than bottles and hold at least two refills, according to Common Good.
Ingredients: Water, decyl glucoside, potassium carbonate, citric acid, potassium hydroxide, gluconic acid, essential oil.
Eco-Me’s All Purpose Cleaner is available fragrance free and in naturally scented options. It is free from phosphates, chlorine, SLS, SLES, and ALS, harsh preservatives, dyes and colorants, and formaldehyde. This powerful, plant-based cleaner works to remove greasy fingerprints, water spots, crayon, tea, juice and other food-grade stains on hard surfaces without a greasy residue. It is suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, outdoors, and for your car and elsewhere.
Eco-Me was founded in the US in 2006 by a woman whose sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, out of a desire to create less toxic, safer cleaning products. As such, all of Eco Me’s products are free from synthetic fragrances, ethoxylates, parabens, and other common toxic chemcials found in cleaners and toiletries.
Eco-Me is also eco-friendly in that they use bottles made with BPA-free PET#1, which is one of the easiest and most cost-effective plastics to recycle. It can be turned into clothing, yoga mats, carpets, and other household goods. And some Eco-Me bottles are now made with post-consumer PET#1 plastic themselves.
Eco-Me also donates to charities and is otherwise engaged in community initiatives especially in their home state of California. They source supplies locally wherever possible and work with food-grade, plant-based ingredients. Their products are vegan-friendly, PETA and Leaping Bunny certified. They’re also rated highly by EcoScale and the EWG and follow Natural Products Association (NPA) guidelines.
The company also offers a range of professional cleaning products – Eco Me PRO. These are also plant-based and eco-friendly, with formulas for cleaning stainless steel, tile and tubs, floors, granite and marble, and for polishing wood and so forth. The company makes all their products in California using local and US-sourced ingredients. They undertake Natural Products Association 3rd Party Testing and a range of other independent testing for clinical safety, claims validation, competitive efficacy and performance, and microbial and stability testing, with Green Seal Certification in progress and already obtained for some products in the range.
Known ingredients: Water, acetic acid (vinegar), caprylyl capryl glucoside (plant-derived solubilizer), natural plant essential oils.
Hospital-grade all-purpose cleaners
Dr. Brite is a woman-owned and founded B Corporation making cruelty-free, non-GMO, powerful and safe cleaning products and oral care products. These are all made in an FDA registered facility in the US.
Dr. Brite Multi-Purpose Cleaning Spray offers powerful, effective cleaning and is suitable for everyday cleaning or seriously sticky situations. It leaves no greasy residue, just clean, streak-free sparkle with no need to worry about nasty chemical ingredients.
The formula features 70% isopropyl alcohol infused with essential oils, meaning it meets the US Centers for Disease Control recommendations for sanitizers. It is always methanol free, with strict sourcing and testing protocols in place.
Dr. Brite was founded by two sisters, both doctors, and their products are hospital grade and FDA registered to kill all labeled pathogens. The FDA cleared products also have an 18-month shelf-life (sealed; 6-months opened) and they offer next day shipping.
These products are free from gluten, parabens, phthalates, and fluoride. They don’t contain any soy or soy derivatives and are tree nut-free, though they do contain ingredients derived from coconuts. Their packaging is BPA-free too, and all of their packaging is recyclable, with most of their cardboard packaging made from recycled content. They also try to source all packaging materials locally and all their boxes are printed in the US.
Dr. Brite offer their Multi-Purpose cleaner unscented and in a variety of natural scents. There are spray bottles, bulk buys, and 1 gallon jugs of the cleaner, meaning you can kit out your home and business and keep topping up the bottles as needed.
Dr. Brite also offer alcohol wipes for on-the-go cleaning, hand sanitizers with no nasty ingredients,
EPA-approved Benefect Multi Purpose Cleaner (MPC) is made from 100% botanical, biodegradable ingredients. It is safe for children, pets, and food surfaces and is free from hazardous chemicals. Suitable for chemically sensitive individuals, including anyone with asthma, Benefect contains no petrochemicals, phosphates, fragrances, dyes, EDTA, NTA or other unnecessary ingredients. It is also cruelty-free and has not been tested on animals.
Because it’s not harmful to people or planet, Benefect® MPC requires no label warnings or precautionary statements for use or disposal. Unlike with bleach or other heavy duty chemical cleaners, you can use Benefect without need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), making it a great choice for home and business owners and your employees.
Benefect MPC works for cleaning glass, mirrors, brass, stainless steel appliances, vinyl seating in boats or vehicles, counters, walls, sinks, tubs, showers, all postconstruction surfaces, mold remediation, carpet deodorizing and anywhere else that is not visibly clean. It doesn’t contribute to indoor air pollution and is suitable for nursing homes, hospitals, schools, universities, health clubs, kennels, sports equipment, food preparation facilities, or any other residential commercial or medical application.
Benefect® MPC is certified by Environment Canada to surpass the environmental standards of CCD-146 (formerly PRC-097). Unfortunately, Benefect don’t fully disclose their ingredients, though they repeatedly state that their products are made only with plant-derived biodegradable ingredients and that “at the core of Benefect’s® Botanical Disinfectants are pure essential oils such as; thyme, oregano and lemon varietals.” It’s because of this lack of transparency that I’ve docked them a leaf. Thyme oil seems to be the main active ingredient in Benefect, however.
Known ingredients: [not fully disclosed] D-Glucopyranose, oligomeric, C10-16-alkyl glycosides (non-ionic surfactants derived from sugars and fatty alcohols).
Final thoughts on eco-friendly all-purpose cleaners
There’s certainly no lack of ‘green’ cleaning products out there, but a green product label and some fancy marketing does not always mean that what’s inside is safe for you, your family, the people making the products, or for the environment. There are also several all-purpose cleaners with an A rating from EWG that contain chemicals with dubious safety records.
For example, one of EWG’s highly rated cleaners contains ‘Fragrance’ – which could mean anything as it’s a catch-all term – as well as alcohol ethoxylates (C9-11), which pose concerns for acute aquatic toxicity and significant concerns to human health from ethylene dioxide and 1,4-dioxane exposure.
Your best bet if you’re looking for a truly ‘clean’ cleaner is to go for one of the ones I’ve recommended above, or get in touch with companies directly to ask for their full ingredients list, safety data sheets (SDS) and certifications and approvals (by the EPA, FDA, Health Canada, etc.) if relevant.