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Green Cleaning

2010 July 22

As I was grocery shopping this past weekend, I noticed that many companies that produce cleaning products are joining the green bandwagon. Many of these companies are extolling the green virtues of their products as a means to increase revenues. The question is how truly green these products are? It is safe to say that there are products in the market place which have been screened to include the safest possible ingredients to help protect the environment and families. Which products you may ask? Well, the products that carry the Design for the Environment label. The DfE is an EPA Partnership Program in which product manufacturers earn the right to display the DfE logo after investing heavily in the research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and the finish product are really environmentally friendly.

Dfeb&g1While there is a list of Design for the Environment Partners covering a wide variety of consumer and industrial cleaning products, there are still individuals that prefer greener practices for their household chores. Here are some suggested alternative methods or products that allow you to clean without hazardous ingredients:

Glass Cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar. Note: these clean but do not disinfect.
Furniture Polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of vegetable oil.
Rug Deodorizer: Sprinkle liberally with baking soda and vacuum after 15 minutes.
Plant Spray: Wipe leaves with mild soap and water and rinse.
Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns.
Household Cleaning Solution: 1 cup of warm water, 3 drops of vegetable-based liquid soap, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

So, use and dispose of these products safely at home for the benefit of your family and the environment. Do you have any green cleaning habits you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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29 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    July 22, 2010

    I am not an American, but I believe that They are one’s in the world that can bring international state and tribal to “Go Green”. They have everything to do this and their commitment are credible. Don’t skeptic, please…, if you had the past reasons – because we are going to the future. I agree with DfE – EPA which drawn Globe of the world and also drawn international partnership to walk to difficulties challenges in our motherland. God Bless Us….!!!!

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    July 22, 2010

    As the green page editor of our web site, I’ve done some research on green cleaning and here’s one wonderful thing I’ve found: use inexpensive olive oil to clean stainless steel.
    Put a little on a lint-free cloth and wipe down the fridge. You’ll be amazed.
    It smells great and even picks up fingerprints.
    Linda J.

  3. darwinIam permalink
    July 22, 2010

    Chemicals(type) become more important in septic systems…the more toxic, the more you are apt to pump your system frequently—and the less effective your “bugs” will be. We also water with our dishwater and we believe in our cisterns.

  4. Tom Costello permalink
    July 22, 2010

    There is a little known cleaning method that reduces or eliminates the need for chemicals, solvents, and water when cleaning in industrual facilities as well as in homes and commercial buildings for mold remediation, fire restoration, and historical restoration. Dry ice blasting leaves no secondary cleanup or contmaination which minimalizes waste, hazardous or otherwise.

  5. Lina-EPA permalink*
    July 22, 2010

    Just olive oil? No lemon juice as well? Good tip! Thanks,

  6. Rolland Lusioli permalink
    July 23, 2010

    I believe on coconut it does wonders and beneficial to many of our communities not only to glass,window cleaning but oil for ornaments for ladies.

  7. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 26, 2010

    One of the biggest sources of chemical exposure is in the home from all the cleaners, fertilizers, insecticides kept in and used in and around the house. I am glad EPA and some corporations that take environmental protection seriously have come up with Design for the Environment so that we know what products to get to lessen chemical exposures. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  8. Linda permalink
    July 26, 2010

    White vinegar is a fantastic way to deal with mineral build up, especially on porcelain tubs and sinks. After tackling YEARS worth of calcium build up in a rental house in California and getting no-where, even with a plastic scraper, I almost threw in the towel. Then I remembered my most basic chemistry: calcium is a base, so I needed an acid to neutralize it. Vinegar is an acid, and it was cheap and handy. I draped towels over the tub and poured on the vinegar. The next morning, I just wiped with a clean sponge and watched the porcelain sparkle again. Not only are environmentally friendly cleaners better for everyone, sometimes they even work better than their more hazardous competitors. I believe in “green”, and I’m also a fan of “easy”. The two together makes a great combination!

  9. Aaron Schoenberger permalink
    July 26, 2010

    Thank you for the post!

    I feel that green cleaning is one of the most important aspects of running a sustainable, clean, livable household. I always use green cleaning products and stay away from harsh chemicals. Vinegar and water = my tool of choice.

  10. July 29, 2010

    I run a mold removal business and we used to an ammonia based product for disinfection, but it seemed, especially among women, to make them sicker than the mold did. We’ve been using green products for 7 years now.

    Hydrogen Peroxide is a great, natural disinfectant. Many people are afraid it will have a bleaching effect like household bleach, but i’ve sprayed/fogged regular store bought peroxide on/in just about everything you can imagine in a home the last 10 years. There’s also Ozone, if you have a good commercial strength ozone generator, and administer it properly. hydrogen peroxide and ozone both clean using free radicals of oxygen.

  11. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 2, 2010

    Ed, Kudos for going green. Thanks for the type on hydrogen peroxide. I had heard about it recently as a “green” cleaner for grout. Haven’t tried it yet, but will soon. Keep up the good work.

  12. andy hunter permalink
    August 23, 2010

    as the owner of a green cleaning company, i’m sick of this kind of green washing that is currently the trend amounst large commercial manufacturers to ‘green up’ their product range. Unfortunatly we still live in a world where as consumers we consistanly take things at face value and still believe the hype that large companies push at us without ever questioning their motives or real contributions. I advise everybody to read the labels and and if there’s a large amount of ingrediants there that you can’t pronounce or that sound questionable, stay well away. Theres still very few laws regarding what can be classed as a green product and throw away phrases such as biodegradable (everythings breaks down given an infinate timeline) and chemical free (even water and air is a chemical, so your product contains a vacuum then!!!!) don’t mean a thing. Do your research consumers and don’t listen to the guys with the adverts and big displays at your local supermarkets, its all lies….

  13. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 25, 2010

    Reading the label first is good advice, Andy, so we can make informed decisions. There is no doubt that many companies want to join the green bandwagon. Too many ingredients that you can’t pronounce may raise a red flag. Thanks for your comments.

  14. Terrie permalink
    August 30, 2010

    An inexpensive ‘all in one’ green disinfectant is a hydrogen peroxide and water solution.

    Food grade hydrogen peroxide is better because it does not have stabilizers and/or heavy metals. If you are using 35% food grade H2O2 you can mix one cup of it with one gallon of water.

    This makes a disinfectant for many things such as bathroom cleaning (including toilet bowl disinfection) and mopping floors. It is particularly good for cleaning the inside of your refrigerator since it kills organisms that lead to spoilage.

    Please do not use on fabrics before testing a small swatch. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a whitener, therefore it may lighten or whiten a fabric.

    If you want to use a 3% solution (the kind you can buy at a drugstore) mix 3 quarts of it one gallon of water and use it the same way.

    For more uses of hydrogen peroxide please visit

    Hope this is useful!

  15. lyounes permalink*
    August 30, 2010

    Thanks for the good advice. Do you always need to dilute it to have the full effect?

  16. Terrie permalink
    August 30, 2010

    You do need to ALWAYS dilute the 35% hydrogen peroxide. At this strength it can actually cause damage to some materials. For instructions on proper dilution visit the website mentioned in my previous post. It is on the page about tooth whitening.

    You do not need to dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide if you don’t want to. I usually use it full strength in the bathroom.

    If you want to dilute 35% to 3% just mix 1 ounce of 35% and 11 ounces of water to make 12 ounces of 3% H2O2.

  17. Lina-EPA permalink
    September 13, 2010

    Thanks for the tip and explanation.

  18. Mead Rose permalink
    September 25, 2010

    Although I am familiar with the Vinegar and Newspaper window cleaning method (which recycles newspapers in the service of window cleaning) a friend of mine has an even better method in terms of fewer streaks and smears and doesn’t even use paper. (Although there is a bit of technique involved).

    What is required is a window razor, a large and small squeegee, a towel and a bucket of biodegradable soap solution. Here’s a video demonstrating how it’s done.

  19. Tucker permalink
    October 24, 2010

    There is a blast cleaning that is 100% eco-friendly called dry ice blasting. Dry ice blasting is the process of shooting small dry ice bits at a surface to clean it. The dry ice immediately sublimates in to CO2 gas. The dry ice used to clean is produced from repurposed industrial byproducts. Dry ice blasting is a great technology because it cleans very well and does not product any secondary waste to cleanup.

  20. Kyle permalink
    April 2, 2011

    Great info posted here. Alot of the info provided above can be applied to getting rid of mold. Great way to “clean green” :)

    Here’s a pretty short and sweet guide on it:

    Hopefully everyone needing to find the info does, as black mold has pretty negative side affects on health (especially long term)



  21. Dan permalink
    April 22, 2011

    I don’t think Ed is talking about using ozone on mold, so please don’t try it. All mold companies should follow the IICRC S520 standards and there is strong evidence that ozone doesn’t kill mold. Regardless, the standards for taking care of mold is to remove it (not kill it) so drywall etc needs to be cut out. I get the gist of what he’s saying, but just remember what your goal is here.

  22. Anonymous permalink
    December 24, 2011

    You can cut out and throw away the drywall, but can you also tell us about the air duct infested with mold. In this case the goal is to kill the mold and mold spores, What agent work best to kill them?

  23. Aftab Ansari permalink
    December 24, 2011

    Is dry ice plasting better than agitating by brush plus vacuuming? How? Thanks.

  24. May 14, 2012

    Yeah, you’re right with your point. This blog can be a great help for many consumers… Great information and idea. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Water Jane permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Dry Ice Blasting is absolutely fascinating to me. The fact that it breaks smoke away from surface areas with micro-explosions is amazing.

  26. Hire Professional House Cleaner of CRH Commercial Cleaning Services permalink
    August 17, 2013

    Today many companies producing green cleaning products. These products have safest possible ingredients to help and protect the environment and families.

  27. Rachel Tyler permalink
    December 10, 2013

    Great work dear.

  28. Miley Garner permalink
    January 26, 2015

    I am a big fan of environmentally friendly cleaning myself as well. If you cannot find ecologically sound domestic cleaners over the counter or you are not trustful towards professional cleaning service, you can always do the job yourselves with some cleaning mixtures of your own. Why not mix equal amounts of baking soda and water – this paste can do wonders with your oven, washing machine and practically any kitchen appliance. Don’t forget about vinegar as well – it is a powerful bacteria slayer, especially for those, that reside on the cutting board.

    Best regards!

  29. maria permalink
    March 3, 2015

    There are a lot of companies that are working on creating green cleaning products. Some of my favorites are still the ones I make at home.

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