Look for the EcoLogo symbol
on cleaning products to be sure that they're safe.
Sometimes when I mention to people how toxic most household cleaning products are they get a little overwhelmed. After all, homes need to be cleaned and if you can’t trust that your favourite products are safe for you and the environment what do you do? And how do you know if the product next to it on the grocery store shelf is any better?
I could print a list of harmful ingredients to look out for but when it comes down to it, ingredient lists on most household cleaning products are nonexistent. The back label is usually filled with poison control information and other warnings. Interestingly enough the products that do list ingredients are the eco-friendly options.
If you’re in search of less-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products, going the unscented route is the simplest place to begin. But that only addresses one part of the problem (albeit a significant part).
To save all the stress and worry of figuring out if a cleaning product is reasonably safe and effective, I default to products carrying the EcoLogo symbol. This very recognizable seal consists of three interlocking doves in the shape of a maple leaf, surrounded with the words “Environmental Choice”. (Some certified products use a variation of the seal that simply says EcoLogo Certified.)
Founded in 1988 by the Government of Canada but now recognized world-wide, EcoLogo is a meaningful, trustworthy certification standard that is earned only by products that are healthy, sustainable and eco-friendly.
The list of products that carry the EcoLogo certification is very broad, including everything from household cleaners to paint, flooring, garbage bags and rechargeable batteries. In the household cleaners category you can find multipurpose cleaners, oven cleaner, dishwasher detergent, dish detergent, tub & tile cleaner, carpet cleaner and more.
The standards are often revised and were recently strengthened for household cleaners. To be certified, household cleaners must now limit the use of chemicals known to trigger or aggravate asthma (asthmagens). The EcoLogo program also excludes other unsafe ingredients, including ammonia, formaldehyde and phthalates, all hazardous chemicals commonly found in cleaning products.
Products that fall under the new standards are general purpose, bathroom and glass cleaners as well as dish detergents, degreasers and cleaners for cooking appliances. (The standard also includes industrial, vehicle and boat cleaners.)
The simplest way to find EcoLogo certified products is to look in the natural food section of major grocery stores. When I checked in the general cleaning aisle I wasn’t able to find any products with the certification, although there were a few products that “looked” green. But when they aren’t third-party certified, you can’t be sure.
If you want to avoid looking at labels altogether you can switch to vinegar. It’s a non-toxic, all-purpose cleaner that cleans drains, deodorizes rooms, removes stains, cleans toilets, and the rest of the bathroom. Use it to scrub floors, sinks, counters and as a general laundry aid. For more information on the EcoLogo program and to search out other EcoLogo certified products visit ecologo.org.