One of the most frequently asked questions by visitors to the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab is “Do green cleaning products really work?” Happily, we can now answer that yes they do, though this wasn’t always the case. As consumers have become more concerned about the ingredients found in regular cleaning products and opt to make their own homemade cleaners or purchase those with plant-based formulas, manufacturers have been hard at work finding new, effective yet sustainable alternative ingredients — meaning the performance of eco-responsible cleaning products is absolutely improving. You can expect eco-friendly cleaning supplies and tools to tout benefits like biodegradable formulas, ingredients sourced from renewable plants instead of non-renewable petroleum, refillable containers, and packaging made from higher percentages of recycled plastic or no plastic at all.
When we test eco-friendly cleaning products in the GH Cleaning Lab, we evaluate them just as we do any other traditional laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, or multi-purpose cleaner. For example, we test each product with the same 60 laundry stains or hand-wash the same 45 dirty dishes to make sure whatever we recommend cleans well, is easy to use and is labeled responsibly.
We also verify any environmental claims the brand makes. Keep in mind when you are shopping that the most responsible green cleaners clearly identify on the label what makes them green and exactly what environmental benefits they provide. Broad, unsubstantiated claims like “earth-friendly” or “all natural” are frowned upon by the FTC and by Good Housekeeping. If a manufacturer isn’t specific about what makes its product a smart environmental choice, we consider its claims to be greenwashing and won’t recommend it. Based on in-lab and consumer at-home testing, these are the best eco-friendly cleaning products we recommend you buy to clean your home in 2021:
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Best Eco-Friendly Heavy Duty Cleanser
Powder Cleanser (2 Pack)
A tried and true favorite since it first came to market in 1886, Bon Ami cleanser is made mostly of feldspar — a soft, mined mineral that gently polishes surfaces clean — limestone, and baking soda. Bon Ami doesn’t contain any dyes, chlorine or fragrance and cleans without scratching or damaging surfaces. It’s a great basic cleanser for cookware and kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Make a paste with a little water to gently clean scuffs from floors and walls. It even safely buffs away pesky rust and hard water stains.
- Free of dyes, chlorine and fragrance
- Doesn’t kill viruses, bacteria or mold spores on contact
Best Eco-Friendly Disinfecting Spray Cleaner
Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner
Seventh Generation multi-surface cleaners easily remove grease and grime from cooktops, counters and other household surfaces without streaking or extra wiping and rinsing. This version has the added benefit of being able to disinfect hard non-porous surfaces, too. Its active ingredient is Thymol, an essential oil from the thyme plant. Though it doesn’t work as quickly as other disinfectants do, it is safe to use on food contact surfaces, like high chairs and countertops, without rinsing and is EPA registered to kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in 10 minutes. In addition, the spray bottle is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
- EPA-registered disinfectant
- Great value
- Comes in a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottle
- Needs 10 minutes to disinfect surfaces
Best Eco-Friendly Disinfecting Wipes
Botanical Disinfecting Wipes
Disposable wipes may not be the most eco-responsible cleaning choice, but they can’t be beat for convenience. And with all the cleaning we’ve been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are the easiest way to kill germs on hard, non-porous surfaces, like countertops and faucet handles. These wipes from CleanWell use a plant-based botanical ingredient, Thymol, to kill germs. Thymol is the essential oil from the thyme plant. These wipes are EPA registered to kill bacteria and viruses on hard, non-porous surfaces in 10 minutes. After air drying, no rinsing or wiping is needed, even on food contact surfaces.
- Fresh scent
- Disinfects with an essential oil
- Takes 10 minutes to kill germs
- May dry out if stored too long
Best Eco-Friendly Bathroom Cleaner
ANTIBAC Bathroom Cleaner
Citric acid is the key ingredient in this plant-based bathroom cleaner from Method that helps it obliterate tough soap scum and hard water stains. Plus, it kills 99.9% of bacteria and flu germs on hard, non-porous. It’s safe to use it on all bathroom surfaces, including a shower head that’s clogged with hard water minerals and vinyl shower curtain liners and plastic toilet seats. It has a crisp minty scent with notes of geranium.
- Cuts soap scum and hard water stains
- Kills bacteria and viruses
- Comes in one scent
Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Vinegar
Vinegar has been a pantry cleaning staple for years and is well known for its ability to cut grease and dissolve hard water stains. But it’s no secret that vinegar has a pungent smell. If you like the idea of cleaning with vinegar, but hate to odor it leaves behind, Aunt Fannie’s is a great alternative. It comes in four essential oil scents — Bright Lemon, Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Sweet Mandarin — plus it contains additional plant-based ingredients to give the vinegar extra cleaning oomph. Use it on grease-splattered oven glass, hard water build-up on fixtures and more.
- Cuts grease and grime
- Comes in four scents
- More effective than regular white vinegar
Best Eco-Friendly Gentle Cleanser
Pure Baking Soda Shaker (Pack of 3)
What could be more eco-friendly than baking soda? Not only can you bake with it and brush y0ur teeth with it, but baking soda makes a great gentle abrasive cleaner. Sprinkle it directly on your sink to remove scrapes and marks, inside cups and carafes to remove coffee and tea stains and on floor tiles to remove scuff marks. Just like baking soda absorbs odors in the refrigerator, it can also freshen mattresses, pet beds, shoes and be added directly to the wash and rinse cycles to deodorize clothing. There’s so much baking soda can do, you’ll be coming up with uses of your own. The plastic shaker makes it easy to dispense and keeps moisture out.
- Gentle abrasive cleaner
- Absorbs odors
Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
purclean Liquid Laundry Detergent
Tide purclean was a top performer in GH Cleaning Lab stain removal tests and has earned our Good Housekeeping Seal. It works in all water temperatures and contains 75% plant-based ingredients. In addition, this formula is free of dyes, chlorine, and optical brighteners and is produced at a zero waste to landfill manufacturing site using 100% renewable wind power electricity. It’s available in honey lavender and unscented versions and we absolutely love the translucent cap that finally makes accurate measuring possible. Genius!
- USDA Certified Biobased Product 75%
- Translucent cap makes measuring easy
- EPA Safer Choice certified
Best Eco-Friendly Dish Liquid
Free & Clear Dish Liquid
A top performer in our GH Cleaning Lab tests of free and clear plant-based dish liquids and a winner in our Good Housekeeping 2019 Sustainable Packaging Awards, Seventh Generation washed more dishes than the competitors and had the longest lasting suds. It is impressively made with 95% biobased ingredients. The formula is free of dyes and fragrances and EPA Safer Choice certified. The bottle is made entirely of recycled plastic and the flip-top cap is mostly made from recycled plastic clothes hangers.
- Produces long-lasting suds
- USDA Certified Biobased Product 95%
- EPA Safer Choice certified
Best Eco-Friendly Powdered Dish Soap
Powdered Dish Soap Starter Set
Blueland’s innovative formula comes in a recyclable paper pouch. All you do is pour the powder from the pouch into the sleek, refillable, stylish silicone shaker and set it beside your sink. Sprinkle the soap powder directly onto a sponge or brush if you only have a few items to clean or into a basin or bowl that you fill with water for a bigger load. We found its grease-cutting ability impressive and its suds substantial. Because it’s a powder, this dish soap does double-duty as a gentle cleanser to clean y0ur sink, cookware and more. Though it may seem pricey, a little goes a long way.
- Produces a good amount of suds
- Also works as a powdered cleanser
- More expensive than other dish soaps
Best Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Detergent
Dishwasher Starter Set
Like its powdered dish soap, Blueland’s dishwasher tablets are shipped in a recyclable paper pouch that you pour into a reusable, sleek metal tin. The solid, powdered tablets are easy to handle without mess and should any of the tablets arrive broken, extras are included to compensate. The compact tablet size mean they easily fit into any dishwasher’s detergent dispenser. We saw very good cleaning results even in hard water. The oval metal tin takes up minimal space in an under sink cabinet and shields the detergent tablets from moisture.
- Very good cleaning performance
- No plastic packaging
- More expensive than others
- Some tablets may come broken
Best Eco-Friendly Refillable Cleaners
Refillable Glass Cleaner
A winner of our Good Housekeeping 2019 Sustainable Packaging Awards, Brandless Refillable Glass Cleaner cut through greasy soils and cleaned our black glass test panels without streaking. Unlike other refillable products we tested, it dissolved quickly and thoroughly and was ready to use within just a few minutes. Simply purchase the cleaner packs and reuse the same spray bottle over and over. And because you add the water, its shipping weight is lighter and less costly to save energy, too.
- Cleans well without streaking
- Comes with one pouch of cleaner in the bottle
- Also available in granite, multi-surface, and tub and tile cleaners
- Bottles are plastic, though reusable
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