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The 8 best natural cleaning products we tested for every room in your house

Natural cleaner FAQS

Jenny McGrath/Insider

What constitutes a natural cleaning product?

Natural and green cleaners can mean different things to different people. Some only consider lemon, baking soda, and other naturally occurring items as truly qualifying for the label. Others accept cleaners with plant-derived ingredients as natural as well. Overall, the types of products many consider natural or green are lower in harmful or toxic chemicals than many traditional cleaners. 

What are the main certifications and do they matter? 

So many companies put out cleaning products that they label as natural or eco-friendly that it can be difficult to differentiate between legitimately less-toxic options and green-washed versions that can still pollute the environment. The EPA’s Safer Choice Certification, the Green Seal Certification, and UL Ecologo Certification all have clearly defined criteria for ingredients that include efficacy, human health, and environmental standards. You can read more about them below.

Why buy natural cleaning products? 

Many traditional cleaning products release VOCs, pollute the air and water, and can injure eyes or the skin, according to the EPA. Cleaning products that are truly greener try to reduce or eliminate all those effects. Natural cleaning products are also great for those with allergies or skin sensitivities, pregnant people, pet owners, and people with kids or who are pregnant. 

What is the EPA’s Safer Choice Certification?

Products with Safer Choice Certification meet the EPA’s Safer Choice Standard. The ingredients meet health and environmental safety criteria, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, toxicity to aquatic life, and persistence in the environment. The products must also pass performance standards. There are over 2,000 products in the database

What is Green Seal Certification? 

A Green Seal-certified product meets standards around human health (including toxicity, carcinogenicity, skin sensitization, and flammability), environmental effects (including acute aquatic toxicity and bioaccumulation), and waste minimization (including recyclability of packaging and product efficacy). 

What’s UL Ecologo Certification

Underwriters’ Laboratories, or UL, certifies a range of products for safety. Its Ecologo mark indicates a product meets third-party environmental standards in several areas, including materials, manufacturing, health, environment, and performance.

What is USDA BioPreferred Certification

This voluntary labeling program through the USDA helps customers identify products that are made with renewable agricultural materials, renewable chemicals, and forestry materials, as opposed to petroleum-derived products. 

What is the Environmental Working Group?

The EWG is a nonprofit that rates products based on whether or not they include ingredients that it deems hazardous. Some scientists have criticized the group’s methodology. 

What’s a surfactant? 

Surfactants help reduce surface tension in water, allowing soap or detergent to mix in and trap dirt. 

What’s an emulsifier?

Emulsifiers help mix substances, like oil and water, that don’t usually combine on their own.

What are parabens? 

Parabens are chemicals that have often been used as preservatives in cosmetics, cleaners, food, and medicine. Studies have linked their presence to coral damage.

What are phthalates? 

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic more durable. There are some indications that they harm animals’ reproductive systems.

What are sulfates?

Sulfates are detergents that help cleaners and cosmetics lather and trap dirt. Some people find they irritate their skin or dry out their hair.



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