Green Cleaning

Green Cleaning



1 Household chemicals

2 Know your toxins

3 Nontoxic alternatives

4 What contains what

5 Where to find green and yellow light cleaners

6 How to make your own


1. Household chemicals

A quick glance at the ingredients of any household cleaning product will show a long list of unpronounceable and unidentifiable chemical names. These chemicals may be very effective at removing stains and smells and killing germs, but what effect do they really have on the people who use them everyday?

The truth is, no one really knows for sure, even the companies that produce and sell these products. The small amount of research that has been done has yielded frightening results. The anti-microbial soap you use to wash your children’s toys may cause asthma and birth defects. The fragrance in your air freshener might worsen allergy symptoms and decrease fertility levels in men.

Dangerous chemicals persist in our cleaning products because the industry is poorly regulated by the federal government. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, including buying safer, green cleaning products that contain fewer chemicals or making your own homemade products from all-natural, effective ingredients.

2. Know your toxins

Red Light Chemicals:

Known to cause cancer, asthma, birth defects, infertility and hormone disruption --- Avoid use whenever possible:

  • MEA

  • APEs

  • phthalates

  • glycol ethers

  • chlorine bleach

  • ammonia

  • triclosan/triclocarbon

  • ammonium quaternary compounds

  • nano-silver

(more details)

Yellow Light Chemicals:

Mild to corrosive irritants --- Limit exposure by using them safely (rubber gloves and mask) and in small amounts:

  • sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate

  • d-limonene

  • sodium hydroxide

  • sulfuric acid

  • hydrochloric acid

  • phosphates (negative environmental effect).

(more details)

Green Light Chemicals:

Healthy to use

  • plant oil extracts

  • essential oils

3. Non-toxic alternatives

Once you have learned about the dangerous toxins hidden in the cleaning products we use daily, shopping for soap may feel like a minefield of uncertainty. Never fear! There are many companies that provide safe, non toxic and green alternatives that are available in our local grocery and health food stores.

But be careful: due to loose industry regulations many products that are advertised as all-natural, green or unscented may in fact contain unwanted chemicals. It is important to read labels and keep and eye out for our Red and Yellow light toxins.

One more step to take to insure your safety is to make your own homemade products, guaranteed not to contain any of the chemicals you want to avoid. The recipes for these cleaners contain natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda, and essential oils for non toxic fragrance and antimicrobial effect. They are easy to make and all the components can be purchased in grocery and health food stores.

4. What contains what

Red Light Brand: Contains at least one toxic, red light chemical --- Avoid use whenever possible:

  • CLOROX - TILEX, Formula 409

  • Procter and Gamble - Mr. Clean, Cascade, Swiffer, Ultra Dawn


  • SC Johnson and Son - Scrubbing Bubbles, Drano, Fantastik, Windex

  • Sunshine Maker's, Inc - Simple Green

Yellow Light Brand: Contains at least one harmful, yellow light chemical --- Limit use when possible:

  • Seventh Generation

  • Method

  • Meyers Clean Day

  • Global Balance

  • Ecover

  • Green Works (Clorox brand)

  • Biokleen

  • Modern Mermaids Eco Products

  • Naturally It's Clean Enzyme Fresh Home

Green Light Brand: Contains all- natural ingredients --- Safe to use:

  • Dr. Bronner's

  • Jason

  • Kiss My Face

  • Ecos Earth Friendly Products

  • Better Life

  • Sun and Earth

5. Where to find green and yellow brands

The best places to get green light cleaners locally are the Harvest co-op, Roche Bros. and Whole Foods.

(more details)

6. How to make your own

Tired of reading small print or searching for non existent ingredients lists? Make your own laundry detergent, all purpose cleaning spray, drain cleaner, furniture polish, creamy soft scrub and toilet bowl cleaner. Get your recipes here.


~ Environmental Working Group

– a wealth of legal and scientific information relating to the health of people and the environment

~ The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

– promotes elimination of dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products

~ The Pollution Information Site

– learn about pollution and polluters in your community

~ Women’s Voices for the Earth

– works with consumers, corporations and government to reduce our toxic exposures

Household Products Database

- database of ingredients for household products (not comprehensive)

Consumer Reports: Greener Choices

- Green Buyers Guide to Cleaners. Includes list of common chemicals, the true meaning behind labels, how to shop for green cleaning products and use them safely. Links to recipes for homemade cleaning products

Homemade Cleaners: Supplies

- list of common ingredients in homemade cleaners and where to buy them.

This page was constructed by GreeningRozzie Intern Meredith Gallogly.