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. 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. 

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 natural green cleaners. Some households may seek out manufactured green cleaning products that are healthy for the environment (some are green brands). When you use a green cleaning product, you may want to avoid phosphates, chlorine, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors. Many cleaners on the market now are also marketed as being biodegradable. Other cleaners have ingredients that are grown organically or produced 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. Green cleaning products may not be free of additives or harmful chemicals—perhaps they use recycled packaging or donate a portion of their profits to environmental causes. Those are all examples of green cleaning products. 

How "Green" Can Green Cleaning Get?

To tell if a product is green, there are different labeling programs that classify cleaning products. The United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Design for the Environment program labels 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 has stayed rather 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.

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