You get to a certain age and it just happens: You get emotionally invested in finding the best cleaning supplies for your house. You swore it would never happen to you, and yet here you are, Googling “cheap organic degreaser” and “plant-based floor cleaner,” trying to find products that aren’t filled with noxious chemicals but still cost less than your rent.
When stocking up on affordable “eco-friendly” cleaning supplies, it’s helpful to know exactly what you’re looking for. While terms like “clean” or “non-toxic” may catch your eye, many of these claims are marketing tactics over actual regulated standards.
“In the U.S., there are no federal standardized definitions for many common marketing terms such as ‘non-toxic’ or ‘natural,’” Carla Burns, senior director of cosmetic science at the Environmental Working Group told HuffPost. “What is considered ‘non-toxic’ to one company doesn’t guarantee it means the same thing to the another.”
These days, it’s impossible to shop without seeing terms like “clean” or “green” on products in every aisle. In fact, companies labeling their products with generic “eco-safe” language to lure shoppers into “buying green” happens so much, there’s a term for it: “greenwashing.” And while greenwashing certainly happens with giant brands and at chain stores, small businesses and trendy “apothecary” shops can be guilty of it, too.
To combat greenwashing, and to help you make the most informed choices, Burns and the EWG urge you to take a deeper look at what you’re buying. “Turn the product over and look at the labeled ingredients,” she said. “We encourage consumers to check product labels or use resources like EWG’s databases or the Healthy Living app.”
Unlike vague terms like “non-toxic” or “green” that any company can slap on their essential oil all-purpose cleaner, the Safer Choice and DfE labels, as well as EWG grades and Made Safe certification, demand that products meet specific and stringent standards.
Though cross-referencing wood polish across various eco-friendly standard websites may be your cup of fair trade tea, it’s unrealistic to factor background research into every shopping trip. (Take it from me. After researching products for hours, it’s very hard to find cleaning stuff that fits these high standards and costs less than a fancy dinner out.)
So, to save you time and money, and to keep you from getting greenwashed, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite budget-friendly EPA Safer Choice-labeled, EWG-rated, and Made Safe-certified supplies to make your life just a little “cleaner,” whatever the heck that means.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
Want a powerful dishwasher clean? This soap is an EPA-certified Safer Choice product and Made Safe-approved. With no synthetic fragrances, chlorine or phosphates, it's super safe to use on things you'll be eating off of.
Promising review: "To me, this is the only type of detergent to use, EVER, in your dishwasher. Just as a test, I left gunked up eggs, chocolate and other things that never come off on my silverware and dishes... I use that soap and no matter what it always gets it so clean. I don't care if it costs a few extra dollars it's definitely worth it. I have small children and a busy life, I don't have time to have to wash my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher." — Bree Barrett
To get gunk and all sticky things off your countertops, look no more. This granite and stone cleaner is a Made Safe-approved brand using 100% essential oils and plant-based ingredients to keep your house sleek.
Promising review: "I was really not sure if this was going to be a good purchase but this type of cleaner is soooo expensive everywhere I've looked. I decided to take a chance and boy am I happy I did. This stuff smells really good, light and fruity. It cleans really well, leaves my granite counters shiny and feeling smooth to the touch. The price is very reasonable for the size of the bottle. This is definitely going to become one of my regular cleaning products." — Sandra McDonald
The all-purpose wipe is the crown jewel of cleaning supplies. This one is a plant-based disinfectant approved by Made Safe. It's even safe to use on toys or surfaces that may come in contact with food.
Promising review: "These do a nice job of cleaning my bathroom counter, sink, and toilet very quickly. Not quite sure why some reviewers have made such a stink (pardon the pun) about the fragrance of these wipes. There is a VERY faint smell of thyme when cleaning that goes away after about 1 second of cleaning. The smell, which doesn't bother me, never lingers after cleaning. Highly recommend!" — Jahess
If you've always wanted to visit the lavender fields in the south of France, this is for you. This Ecos laundry detergent is an EPA-certified Safer Choice product that works with all types of laundry. Scented with essential oils and natural fragrances, the long-lasting smell is sensitive on skin.
Promising review: "I have very sensitive skin and hardly ever can find a laundry detergent that doesn't make my skin itch well this is the one for me folks!! Doesn't affect my skin, the smell is great and you get a lot for the price. I was shocked by how big it was and how strong the lavender smell was we loved it and will be purchasing more soon!!!" — Micah & Shawna
To make your desks and tables shine, this furniture polish and cleaner does it all. An EPA-certified "Safer Choice" product, it's a biodegradable cleaner with no ammonia, phosphates or chlorine.
Promising review: "One of my favorite parts about this product is the smell. Most furniture polishes have an overpowering scent, but this one is pretty subtle. Yes, you can smell the orange, but you're not walking away smelling like a Tropicana factory. The polish itself works great and leaves furniture with a nice, but not super greasy shine. I would make sure to shake the bottle well as per the instructions for the best result (I was learned the hard way)." — Carolyn Claverie
For those who don't have dishwashers or who prefer to do some dishes by hand, this soap is both an EPA-Certified Safer Choice and Made Safe-approved product. With no dyes or synthetic fragrances, it uses natural scents from essential oils.
Promising review: "Love this product! Effective, but not abrasive and has a gentle formula for us with sensitive or dry hands, yet still cleans as well as Dawn it any other brand that rids of grease, residue, etc. Will continue to buy!" — Cortney
If you prefer detergent packs to liquid soap, look no further than Seventh Generation Ulta Power Plus packs. These are EPA-certified Safer Choice and Made-Safe-approved with no synthetic fragrances, dyes or artificial brighteners. For a larger load, you'll want to throw in two.
Promising review: "Love this product. Stained shirts always came out clean and bright." — PK
For all your number two needs, this toilet bowl cleaner from Thrive Market has an overall "A" rating on EWG with high ingredient disclosure. Made from tea tree and eucalyptus oils, this cleaner will have your latrine smelling like a trendy perfume shop.
Promising review: "This stuff works pretty well, and smells even better. For a clean cleaning product, it definitely does the job while not choking me up and taking my breath away from the typical potent cleaning smells you get it in the average cleaning product." — Carmen from Tennessee
These dishwasher packs are an EPA-certified Safer Choice option, rank "A" on the EWG site and are Made Safe-certified. They're fragrance-free with no dyes or chlorine bleach, meaning you'll actually want to do your dishes. (Well, you can hope.)
Promising review: "Worth extra cost to not be smelling detergent on glasses and cups. Morning coffee experience is so much better now. We use the express cycle on our dishwasher and even then it manages to get things clean." — S. Brown
For tiles, tubs, toilets and everything else bathroom, this cleaner has a "B" rating from the EWG. It's a plant-based product mainly comprised of vinegar and essential oils. Don't be limited by the name on the label; many costumers say they use this all over the house.
Promising review: "Great cleaner. Easily cut through the soap scum on my shower doors. Works better than CLR for that purpose! I’ve tried so many convoluted chemical-laden bathroom cleaners, it is thrilling to have a product with simple non toxic ingredients work so well. Delightfully surprised. More pleasant to use than straight vinegar but there still is a scent. At least it isn’t a chemical fragrance concoction. It doesn’t stick around too long." — Linda Williams
Aunt Fannie's Floor Cleaner has an overall "A" grade from EWG. The product lists its ingredients (which are mainly vinegar and essential oils) and doesn't use animal testing. It's a concentrate, meaning you mix it with a large bucket of water, so one jug should last you a while. Many consumers say the vinegar smell is muted by the water and essential oils (comes in six scents including lemon and lime mint).
Promising review: "New favorite floor cleaner! It works well and I feel a lot better knowing my baby is crawling around on floors cleaned with vinegar-based product rather than some harsh chemical product. Made up a small spray bottle to have on hand to spot clean areas of the floor. Also love the vinegar wipes!" — Adidasd412
For a citrus sensation, look no further than this orange all-purpose cleaner. It has the EPA Safer Choice label and is rated an "A" from the EWG. With no ammonia, parabens or phosphates, this cleaner is safe to use in the kitchen and won't make your house smell like a swimming pool.
Promising review: "I got this cleaning spray because I clean houses from time to time and all the other cleaning sprays (Lysol, Clorox, etc.) really make it hard for me to breathe. Every time I used those other cleaning sprays, I would cough my head off and almost feel like I was choking. These sprays are much lighter on my lungs and the smell is really nice and fresh." — Ecc
Mrs. Meyer's Surface Scrub has an overall "B" rating from the EWG and a "Green" rating from the Whole Foods Market Eco-Scale, meaning its label disclosure and chemical composition meet Whole Foods' standards. It's a powder-based cleaner for tough grease and grime. You sprinkle it on, and then let it do the cleaning for you. Well, some of the cleaning. You'll still need to scrub.
Promising review: "I've used many brands of cleaning products before for my bathroom and I always end up having my body smell like the fumes by the time I'm done cleaning. I would have the fumes still stuck in my nose (somehow) and I figured that probably isn't good for my lungs, nose, or health. So I went online to look for a product that doesn't leave this effect. I can proudly say that this product solved my issue with strong cleaning product fumes. This product smells very subtle but good and doesn't offend my nose. I can clean my bathroom without being suffocated by strong toxic fumes like before. Cleaning my bathroom now is made easy with the scrub and also the safe odor of Mrs. Meyer's. I highly recommend this to those who are also looking for a solution to the same issue I had." — Henny
This concentrated all-purpose cleaner has a "B" rating from the EWG. It makes 64 gallons of cleaning solution with no dyes or preservatives.
Promising review: "I have been switching all of my household cleaners over to Biokleen. They are extremely effective without being filled with too many different essential oils which can be harmful to cats. I use this all purpose cleaner all around the house. Very happy to be able to get the concentrate." — Bianca Reagan Get it from Amazon for $14.99.