Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products Parents Can Trust

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

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Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

Updated:

Isn’t it ironic that most cleaning products are anything but ‘clean’? Here are the best green, non-toxic, clean cleaning products for your kitchen, bathroom, and general cleaning.

Look under the sink in most homes and you’ll find at least one cleaning product that is toxic. This is especially problematic for those of us who have toddlers at home who love to play on the floor, cozy up to the countertops, and open cabinets at eye level.

Worryingly, there’s little, if any, regulation over which chemicals are 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.

We can all do better by choosing cleaning products that are safe, non-toxic, and sustainable.

We spent more than 50 hours reviewing and testing the best of the bunch when it comes to green cleaning supplies. Check out our top picks below, including regular household cleaners and two great choices also suitable for workplaces where hospital-grade sanitization is required.

1

AspenClean All Purpose Cleaner, Grapefruit & Lavender

Leaf Score

Highlights: EWG Verified eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner from a well-respected brand. EcoCert certified, vegan, and Cruelty-Free. In recycled plastic you can recycle again.

What we like

  • Just as effective as harsher, conventional cleaning agents
  • EWG verified all-purpose cleaner
  • Pleasant, non-chemical smell
  • EcoCert, Leaping Bunny, and vegan certifeid
  • AspenClean uses its own products for professional cleaning services
  • Recycled plastic bottles that are 100% recyclable

What could be better

  • Too many SKUs and products that all feel similar
  • Lack of refillable option
  • Too much plastic overall

AspenClean’s All Purpose Cleaner is one of just three all-purpose cleaners with 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!

What's in it?

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.

What’s not in AspenClean products? You won’t find any of the following:

  • Artificial colours
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Preservatives
  • Animal ingredients
  • Testing on animals
  • Disposable products
  • Petroleum
  • Phosphates
  • Parabens
  • Ethoxylates and Sulphates (SLS/SLES)
  • Carcinogenic Ingredients (not listed on IARC categories 1, 2A, 2B).

What is coco-glucoside?

Coco-glucoside raises some concern over acute aquatic toxicity, but is one of the better-studied surfactants.

This chemical 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.

Is it sustainable?

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.

AspenClean uses sustainable ingredients, such as organic glycerin, organic essential oils and ingredients derived from sustainably sourced palm oil (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil – RSPO certified).

AspenClean also offers other excellent green cleaning products, including an All-in-One Concentrate (view on AspenClean) which is more eco-friendly because it requires less packaging for more cleaning power overall. The same goes for the AspenClean SuperScrub Powder (view on AspenClean), given that most of the shipping weight of cleaning products is from water.

Our experience with AspenClean

The Leaf Score team has been using AspenClean products for several years, after looking for more effective and non-toxic cleaning products as new parents.

Overall, we trust AspenClean for its cleaning power and safety profile. We do wish there were less plastic, though, with refill options. And it’s a bit confusing to have so many products that all seem quite similar but are marketed differently.

Our advice: Go for the All-Purpose Cleaner, refill with the All-In-One Concentrate as needed, and use the Super Scrub Powder for things like:

  • Pots and pans
  • Stubborn surface stains
  • Ovens and some stovetops
  • Toilet bowls
  • Sinks.

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2

Squeak All PERP All Purpose Cleaner

Leaf Score

Highlights: EWG Verified certified organic all purpose cleaner with refills and eco-friendly packaging

What we like

  • EWG Verified
  • Easy to use
  • Safe for kids and pets
  • A true all-purpose cleaner!
  • Good for both serious grime and minor cleaning
  • Plastic and glass bottle options
  • Refill options and subscriptions
  • Recyclable packaging
  • 1% for the Planet member

What could be better

  • Packaging isn’t all recycled
  • Glass options not available for all (get the refill and use your own glass spray bottle at home)

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.

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
  • Bathrooms
  • Your car
  • Carpets, doors, floors, and windows
  • Gym equipment
  • Door handles
  • Marble, granite, and quartz
  • Toilets
  • 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.

Is it sustainable?

As well as being non-toxic, some Squeak cleaning products are available in glass bottles. The company also offers 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 6 oz bottle over and again.

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, Summah, 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!

Squeak also offers dedicated floor cleaners, a yoga mat cleaning spray, and a non-toxic baking soda and hydrogen peroxide Grit paste to tackle stubborn cleaning jobs.

What's in it?

Ingredients (OG All PERP): 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*

*Denotes Certified Organic:

3

Attitude All Purpose Cleaner

Leaf Score

Highlights: Multi-purpose green cleaner certified by EcoLogo – cruelty-free and packaged in recycled and recyclable plastic

What we like

  • EcoLogo certified non-toxic
  • PETA vegan certified
  • Made in Canada
  • Recycled aluminum or plastic bottles that are recyclable
  • Eco refill box options
  • Company plants trees with every purchase

What could be better

  • Refill boxes are hard to use

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 aluminum bottles or plastic made with recycled HDPE #2 plastic that can be easily recycled in turn. Attitude also offers eco-friendlier 2 liter refill boxes that pack in the equivalent of four bottles of cleaner and are easy to carry.

It is available in:

  • Unscented
  • Citrus Zest
  • Lavender and Rosemary
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Sage and Orange
  • Geranium and Lemongrass.

All of these use natural essential oils for fragrance.

What's in it?

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).

My experience with Attitude products

In my experience, Attitude offers excellent products across a wide range of personal care and cleaning. That said, some contain ingredients you wouldn’t expect in non-toxic wares. So, be sure to check all product labels carefully as I don’t recommend everything from the brand!

I do like Attitude’s shampoo, but I’ve found the refill bottles incredibly hard to use. I’ve not used the cleaner, so this may be easier as it’s less viscous.

With the Attitude shampoo refill packs, there’s an incredibly stiff spigot that you need two hands to use (one to hold the box, one to turn the tap). That means you have to carefully balance the box over whatever bottle you’re decanting the refill into. With the shampoo at least, this makes for a lot of mess, unless you use a funnel and a careful set-up. It’s definitely put me off buying the shampoo refill boxes, sadly.

Free eBook: Simple Steps to a Greener Home

Concerned about climate change? Learn actionable tips for making each room in your home greener.

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4

Common Good All-Purpose Cleaner

Leaf Score

Highlights: Eco-friendly cleaner available in eco-friendly packaging, with refill stations across the US!

What we like

  • Non-toxic, non-GMO, and Cruelty-Free
  • Scented with natural oils
  • Great all-purpose cleaner for all non-porous surfaces
  • Focus on less plastic waste, with refills and refill stations!

What could be better

  • Refill stations may not be available where you live (but you can buy online)

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
  • Porcelain. 

Common Good was founded in 2011 with the goal of reducing plastic waste with an eco-friendly refillable product range. The company uses non-GMO ingredients and responsibly sourced palm oil-derived ingredients, certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Its 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 its website. The refill pouches use 83% less plastic than bottles and hold at least two refills, according to Common Good.

What's in it?

Ingredients: Water, decyl glucoside, potassium carbonate, citric acid, potassium hydroxide, gluconic acid, essential oil.

5

Eco-Me All Purpose Cleaner

Leaf Score

Highlights: Vinegar-based all-purpose cleaner that’s tough on grime but kind to people, pets, and the planet, and from a great company! (Eco-Me also offers an impressive range of eco-friendly professional cleaning products.)

What we like

  • Very effective all-purpose cleaner
  • EWG, EcoScale, PETA, and Leaping Bunny approved
  • Company offers professional grade cleaning products
  • Comes in partially recycled and fully recyclable packaging
  • Woman-owned company
  • Sources ingredients locally where possible

What could be better

  • Plastic bottles feel a little flimsy

Eco-Me’s All Purpose Cleaner is a powerful, plant-based cleaner that works to remove:

  • Greasy fingerprints
  • Water spots
  • Crayon (the bane of all parents of little ones!)
  • Tea, juice and other food-grade stains on hard surfaces.

It doesn’t leave a greasy residue and is suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, outdoors, and for your car and elsewhere.

These 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.

Is it non-toxic?

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 chemicals found in cleaners and toiletries.

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
  • Formaldehyde.

Not the best spray nozzle

Eco-Me is a great product but my advice is to buy the refill bottles outright and use your own glass bottle with reusable spray nozzle. The Eco-Me bottles don’t come with a very effective spray nozzle and will probably frustrate you. And the refills are more cost effective and eco-friendly anyway.

Is it sustainable?

Eco-Me is somewhat eco-friendly in that it comes in 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 its home state of California. It sources supplies locally wherever possible and works with food-grade, plant-based ingredients.

The company makes all its products in California using local and US-sourced ingredients. It also undertakes 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.

What's in it?

Known ingredients: Water, acetic acid (vinegar), caprylyl capryl glucoside (plant-derived solubilizer), natural plant essential oils.

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Bonus: Hospital-grade all-purpose cleaner

Benefect

Leaf Score

Highlights: EPA-approved, eco-friendly, biodegradable, ultra-concentrated cleaner suitable for medical, workplace, and household use where chemically-sensitive people are present.

What we like

  • EPA approved cleaner with no hazardous chemicals
  • Biodegradable ingredients
  • Safe for children, pets, and food surfaces
  • Suitable for chemically sensitive folks and those with sthma
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Great choice for businesses and home
  • Available in bulk

What could be better

  • Comes in plastic packaging
  • Not widely available
  • Lacking full disclosure of proprietary formula

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 and suitable for chemically sensitive individuals, including anyone with asthma.

Benefect MPC works for cleaning:

  • Glass and mirrors
  • Brass and stainless steel appliances
  • Vinyl seating in boats or vehicles
  • Counters
  • Walls
  • Sinks, tubs, and showers
  • All postconstruction surfaces.

It’s also a great non-toxic cleaning product for mold remediation, carpet deodorizing and anywhere else that is not visibly clean.

Benefect 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.

Is it non-toxic?

Yes. Benefect is not harmful to people or planet, which is why 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 contains no:

  • Petrochemicals
  • Phosphates
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Dyes
  • EDTA, NTA or other unnecessary ingredients.

It is also cruelty-free and has not been tested on animals.

Benefect® MPC is certified by Environment Canada to surpass the environmental standards of CCD-146 (formerly PRC-097).

What's in it?

Great question!

Unfortunately, Benefect doesn’t fully disclose its ingredients, though it repeatedly states that its products are made only with plant-derived biodegradable ingredients. It also says that “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 Benefect 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

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 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.

Free eBook: Simple Steps to a Greener Home

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  1. I like this website. Great tips. But as for cleaning products our family (including dogs and cats) uses only food-grade solutions that I mix myself. Once you break the habit of purchasing chemicals, that section of the grocery store will make your stomach turn. I buy vinegar (in glass bottles), baking soda, salt, etc. It’s easy to find food-grade cleaning solution formulas online. I put the solutions into Perrier or wine bottles and screw on a spray top. It looks cool, they are easy to hold, and no plastic bottles. “Cleaning” chemical products are unnecessary, unhealthy, and horrible for the environment. Food-grade solutions work great, are better for your health, and are better for the planet!

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