What Is Green Cleaning?

Lemons and baking soda

CherriesJD / Getty Images

Green cleaning can have a lot of definitions, but the main goal of green cleaning is to use cleaning solutions and methods that keep us and our environment healthy and free of toxins. Exposure to chemicals and toxins can potentially cause irreparable damage to our bodies, water, air, and ecosystem. Green cleaning can fall under the umbrella of using a green cleaning product or cleaning your home in a way that, for example, reduces waste that goes into landfills. 

Fun Fact

If you're looking for a disinfectant, look for green products that contain citric acid, peroxide, and lactic acid, all of which are effective sanitizers (though citric acid is less effective than peroxide).

What Is Green Cleaning?

For some homes, green cleaning means that they only use substances like baking soda, ​vinegar, and lemons to clean the home surfaces. Those are considered to be natural green cleaners. Some households may seek out manufactured green cleaning products that are healthy for the environment (some are green brands). Green cleaning products typically have the following characteristics:

  • No phosphates
  • No chlorine
  • No artificial fragrances
  • No artificial colors
  • Biodegradable or recyclable packaging
  • Organically grown ingredients using sustainable farming practices

Some green cleaning products may certify that their items are fair trade, meaning that the product meets certain environmental and labor standards by those who produced it. Some green cleaning products may not be free of additives or harmful chemicals—but they may donate a portion of their profits to environmental causes.


Consider that a product may be branded green, but it may have already impacted the planet or our health in unseen ways, such as when its raw materials were sourced, or when the product was manufactured, packaged, or distributed.

How "Green" Are Green Cleaners?

To tell if a product is green, read the label. Different labeling programs classify cleaning products. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Design for the Environment program mandates that labels are put on products that meet EPA's criteria for chemicals. These products display the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. Others that are labeled as "low VOC" or "no VOC" means they have a lower concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or none at all.

In recent years, there has been quite a bit of debate about whether or not green cleaning products are as safe as traditional cleaners. When it comes to killing germs and stopping the spread of infection, for example, it is vital to have an effective product. Some people have stopped using green cleaners in those instances and stuck to effective favorites such as bleach. Green cleaning items have also faced a backlash because they can cost more than traditional cleaning products.

The American Cleaning Institute is vocal when it comes to educating people about which chemicals are in cleaning agents―and other groups have come out stating which substances to avoid.

Whatever choices you make about your cleaning supplies and practices, there is a huge variety of environmentally friendly choices for those interested in green cleaning. With a little research, you may be able to green up your household cleaning routine to create a healthier, safer environment for yourself and others.

Article Sources
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  1. https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/why-buy-greener-products

  2. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-labels/dfe-certified-disinfectants#:~:text=The%20Design%20for%20the%20Environment,standard%20for%20DfE%2Dcertified%20products.

  3. Our Future Is Clean: American Cleaning Institute Announces Bold Industry Goals to Shape a Cleaner, Healthier World. The American Cleaning Institute