Although I advocate homemade green cleaners, I do get that many people still won’t use them. There are time constraints for sure. Also, in some households, people refuse to take the time to learn how to mix and use homemade cleaners.
That’s okay. For years, my son and I lived alone. We made almost all our own green cleaners. Now I live with other people and homemade cleaners are more problematic, because everyone in the house needs to know how to mix and use them. I can’t force people to use homemade cleaners correctly. This is a longer story, for another time, but to cut to the chase, since I started living with others, we do buy more store-bought green cleaners. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m also not nuts about a filthy house.
In any case, there will always be folks who want to buy, not make household cleaners, so we should take a look at how to actually buy green and safe cleaners.
The number one rule!
Ignore pretty packaging – Pretty waterfalls, little green leaf and flower designs or green colored bottles mean NOTHING. Companies will try to trick you into buying their “green” cleaner by using super awesome green looking packaging, but don’t fall for it. You must read labels to be sure a product is green and safe.
Terms you DO want to see on cleaning product packaging include:
- Ammonia free
- Chlorine free
- Plant based
- Certified organic
- Solvent free
- Phosphate free
- Chemical free
- Fragrance free
- Dye and artificial color free
Obviously, read the entire label. Often, a cleaner will contain one certified organic ingredient or state that it’s fragrance free on the front, but one or two good claims does not a green product make. You need to look at the whole picture.
Terms you DO NOT want to see on cleaning product packaging include:
- “Poison” or “Danger.” Federal law mandates that when a product displays these terms the product has the highest possible level of hazard.
- “Caution” or “Warning” according to law, means the product carries a moderate hazard.
- “Wear gloves when using” or “Only use in a well ventilated area” and other likewise terms are big bads. Honestly, this is common sense. If you must wear gloves to handle a cleaner, obviously there’s a big safety problem.
- No terms at all. If you can’t find ingredients listed on a package, skip it.
- Terms you can’t pronounce or easily understand. “Essential orange oil” or “Vinegar” or “Lemon juice” or “Baking soda” are things you know are mostly safe when used correctly. However, I’d be willing to bet you don’t know what terms like diethylene glycol monobutyl ether, isopropanol or triethanolamine mean and you sure don’t know if they’re safe or not.
Look at the packaging
After sorting out safe vs. non-safe ingredients, check out the product packaging…
- Is the packaging excessive? I.e. plastic bottles in a box, double wrapped in more plastic.
- Is a liquid vs. wipe version available. Those little cleaning wipes, natural or not, add up in the landfill. Stick with liquids and use a reusable cloth not a disposable wipe.
- Is the package recyclable once the product is used up?
- Is the package refillable? Some companies do offer larger refillable cleaning products.
Lastly ask yourself
- Do you already have a cleaning product that will do the same job? For example, you don’t need both a surface cleaner for bathroom counters and kitchen counters. Use one that works for both.
- Can you just use natural soap and water or do you really need this cleaner?
- Are you using cloths not paper towels – just because you use store-bought cleaners, doesn’t mean you should use paper towels. Learn how to green clean correctly with cloth towels vs. paper towels.
Go a step further
Consider homemade green cleaners
You can easily make homemade green cleaner. Bonus, making homemade cleaners can save you $1,600 in five years. If you need help getting started, check out the following: