Going Chemical-Free

Getting into green cleaning? Here’s what to look for
By Adam Swenson

As our perceptions of cleaning gradually change from “we must kill all germs everywhere” to “can it really be healthy to spread these chemicals on every surface in the house?” consumers have rightly shifted their attentions to green cleaning products.

With that has come a flood of companies wanting to rush something to market to jump on the trend. They can slide in under umbrella terms like “all natural,” but that phrase is often deceptive. This practice is called “greenwashing.”

According to Cindy Rimer of Biokleen, “Greenwashing can be difficult to spot. If a product calls out a ‘natural fragrance’ on the front or uses names such as ‘Natural Spring Breeze’ but does not list the ingredients or contains known toxins, this would be an example of greenwashing, since it’s a tactic used to confuse the consumers into thinking they are buying a natural product.”

So how can you know what you’re really getting? Looking for a reliable third party certification (like Whole Foods’ Eco-Scale Certification) is one way. Another is to check out the Environ­mental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (ewg.org/guides/cleaners) or the EPA’s Design for the Environment program (epa.gov/dfe). This may all seem labor intensive, but once you figure out a brand you like you can just stick with it.

Green cleaning mogul Deidre Imus shares a few helpful hints of what to look for, no matter the brand or labeling.

• Full ingredient disclosure

• Plant and mineral-based ingredients

• Nothing petroleum derived

• Any fragrance should be naturally derived

• All ingredients must be biodegradable

• No animal testing, no animal-derived  ingredients

• No corrosive properties

• Must not contribute to greenhouse gas

• Must be free of carcinogens, mutagens, and the like

It’s not always easy to find truly green cleaning products, but it is worth the effort—and once you find a brand you like, it becomes an automatic decision.