Tips for Nontoxic Home Cleaning

More people than ever, especially moms, are looking for more natural ways to keep their homes clean and free of harsh chemical fumes and residues. Believe me, there is plenty of confusion about the best way to do that. Product advertisements often times provide vague claims, putting it nicely.  This makes it very hard for consumers to make educated decisions. This guide to greening your clean, sponsored by Green Works, will hopefully help with smarter, more natural cleaning choices for your home.

Green Your Clean
The Problem

Many families today are looking for ways to minimize their exposure to harsh chemical fumes and residues. But as they look for new alternatives, they are not looking to compromise on the performance they have come to expect from all sorts of home products.

Tips for Green Cleaning

courtesy Getty Images

Understanding Label Language

There are a lot of product labels that use words like “eco-friendly,” “organic,” and “nontoxic.” Unlike the food world, when it comes to cleaning products, these terms are largely unregulated, and as such can be misleading.

Read past the vague claims and take a closer look at the product’s label. Here’s what to look for:

Plant-Based Ingredients. Look for plant-based ingredients rather than petroleum-based ones. For example, citric acid, which is derived from citrus fruits like lemons and limes, acts as a soil remover in natural cleaners.

Know Your Buzzwords. Organic is well-defined for food, but less so for home care products. The USDA’s National Organic Program, which regulates the national organic standards, does not currently regulate home care products.

Credible Seals. Look for products that have one or more certifications or seals from credible sources such as Good Housekeeping, the Natural Products Association and the Environmental Protection Agency.

—Natural Products Association (NPA) Natural Home Care standard: The NPA has developed a natural standard for home care products. This means that the NPA has reviewed the product’s ingredients and manufacturing processes, and determined that it meets the organization’s rigorous guidelines. This easily identifiable seal will help consumers discern which products meet the organization’s standard of natural.

—Green Good Housekeeping Seal: Introduced in 2009 by Good Housekeeping magazine and the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI), the seal helps consumers sift through the confusing clutter of “green” claims on hundreds of products on store shelves today. goodhousekeeping

—Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created the Design for the Environment (DfE) Program to evaluate products that are made with safer chemistry methods. This logo on a label means that the review team has screened the manufacturing process for the product for potential environmental effects.

How to Clean Green

Clearing the Air. Dust harbors pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mites, mold and mildew. To control dust:

—Use electrostatically charged dusters or damp rags frequently.

—Use vacuums with HEPA filters that trap fine particles.

—Change your home’s air filters every month or two.

—Remove your shoes before entering the house to avoid tracking in dirt, dust and pollen.

—Use kitchen and exhaust fans to increase ventilation and reduce exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that get released into the air.

Doing Laundry

Some detergents and fabric softeners can contain ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Look for products that are made with plant-based cleaning ingredients and have been dermatologist-tested, such as Green Works Naturally Derived Laundry Detergent.

—Try fragrance-free variations for those who are sensitive to strong perfumes and scents.

—Soften fabric by adding one-quarter cup baking soda or one-quarter cup white vinegar to the wash cycle.

Cleaning Kitchens and Bathrooms

—For an all-natural way to clean the oven, try using a nonabrasive scrubbing pad and baking soda. Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply to the stove. Leave it overnight and rinse with water the next day.

—Prevent the build-up of mold in the bathroom by regularly running an exhaust fan. Keep in mind, the easiest way to clean is to avoid the mess in the first place.

—Cut back on chemical fumes and residues with plant-based cleaners, such as Green Works Naturally Derived All-Purpose Cleaner. It contains no ammonia or phosphorus and is made of plant- and mineral-based ingredients. For more on green cleaning products, visit

Stay Informed

Find out more about creating a greener, safer environment in your home:

Sierra Club: Learn how to create a more energy efficient, environmentally sustainable and healthy home environment with the help of The Sierra Club.

Environmental Protection Agency: Learn about the chemicals in your home with an interactive house tour at

Natural Products Association: Find out about the NPA’s programs for home care and personal care products.

More About Ingredients

Want to know just what is in your cleaner? Here’s a glossary of common natural ingredients and what they do in home care products.

Ingredient What is it and where is it from? What does it do?
Alkyl Polyglucoside Cleaning agent made from coconuts. Cleans — helps lift dirt, grease and other messes.
Lauramine Oxide Cleaning agent derived from coconuts. Helps penetrate stains and removes soil.
Potassium Carbonate Stabilizing agent derived from earth-based minerals. Prevents changes in a product’s acidity.
Glycerin Dissolving agent derived from plants. Allows for uniform drying and allows product to be more stable at lower temperatures.
Citric Acid Softening agent made from citrus plants. Helps remove soils.

Content provided by Family Features Authors and Green Works


  1. Great article about home cleaning. this is first time i visited your blog :)

  2. You know I understand all the talk about going green and all of the enviornmentally friendly and non toxic cleaning supplies but I have to tell you it is something that I have not jumped on because I love Bleach. I love bleach so much because the very smell of bleach makes me think its clean. I use to work at a gas station as a teenager and I am a complete germaphobe and I always had to clean the bathrooms. I kid you not I would take a bottle of bleach and pour it over then entire bathroom and people use to say you guys have the cleaniest bathrooms in this entire area. They smelled clean and the they looked clean. I am not as extreme at my house but I do use my share of bleach I mean anyting that can kill AIDS is good in my book. I know that I am probably going to have tree fall on me or something for saying that but its my truth.

  3. WOW Danielle that is a beach addiction. Bleach is something I also have used and it does work well.

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