How can I know if a cleaning product is sustainable?

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Highlights

  • Keep an eye out for green product certifications
  • Look up the product/chemical in an online database

In this case, a sustainable cleaning product refers to a household cleaning product that is nonharmful to the environment and human health. This may seem like a no-brainer, but commercial cleaning products aren’t guaranteed to be safe. Many ingredients in household cleaning products have been linked to chronic health conditions and damage to the environment (Bondi, 2011).

Fortunately, a lot of research has been done on the safety of chemicals in cleaning products (Basketter et al., 2012; Cowan-Ellsberry et al., 2014). Sorting through all the research is impractical at best, but there are two main ways that you can use this information to inform your purchasing decisions.

First, there are green product certifications. Their exact standards vary, but if you see a product with a certification such as Green Seal, ECOLOGO, or Safer Choice, you know that the product has low toxicity and may even have a reduced carbon footprint (EnvirOx, 2016).

Another easy way to check the sustainability of a product is to look it up in an online database. The most straightforward one is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning which uses an A-F ranking system to evaluate products.

The Consumer Product Information Database supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health U.S. Public Health Service, and  Department of Health & Human Services has more detailed information that  you can look up by brand, product, etc.

Finally, if you want to do a deeper dive, the American Cleaning Institute Cleaning Product Ingredient Safety Initiative lets you look up risk assessments for individual chemicals found in cleaning products.

While there are many factors to consider when trying to buy more sustainably, health and safety is an important one to keep in mind. With these tools, you can make more informed purchasing decisions, selecting products that are less harmful both to you and the planet.

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