Green cleaning, not greenwashing

You may not think your business has any chemicals, but everyone has cleaning products. Green cleaning products are not only easier on the environment; they can also improve air quality and employee health.

But what’s green cleaning versus greenwashing (the snide term people use to indicate the marketing hype doesn’t match performance)? Terms like natural or non-toxic are not good guides because there’s no standard for what those terms mean.

If you use a janitorial service or supplier, simply ask for their green cleaning line and to be sure it’s credible, ask if they’re certified (eg, through EPA’s US EPA: Safer Choice, UL: ECOLOGO® Certification or Green Seal). If you buy your own products, you’ll have to do a bit of research on your own.

Fortunately the Environmental Working Group ( has done the research for you. Go to their Cleaning Guide and simply type in a cleaning product or purpose (dish washing, surface cleaning, degreaser) and you’ll get product ratings from A-F. You can also search for ingredients.

Ditch the anti-bacterial hand soaps (unless you’re exposed to nasty pathogens (as in a hospital or wastewater facility). These contribute to antibiotic resistance and according to the FDA, they are no more effective than soap and water.

You can easily make your own green cleaning products. White vinegar, water and a drop of dish liquid; hydrogen peroxide; baking soda; and if needed, isopropyl alcohol (which earns a B on the EWG site) can clean virtually anything and at a lot cheaper price than the store brands. Here are some DIY recipes from Good Housekeeping.