How to choose less toxic cleaning products

Swap out your toxic cleaning products for these safer ‘green’ options.

How much time do you spend selecting your household cleaning products? Studies have shown that consumers spend mere seconds choosing products off the shelf. It’s no wonder then, that manufacturers use branding tricks, such as enticing colours and words like ‘BAM’ and ‘Earth Choice’, to catch your eye.

The fact is, most household cleaning products found in supermarkets contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to you and your family. Many ingredients can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation.

So what’s the alternative if you’re wanting to switch to safer cleaning products?

According to Australian ethical consumer website Shop Ethical, you can learn about a product’s hazards by scouring the label. Unlike food or personal care products, however, cleaning products don’t have to display a complete list of ingredients. Even so, packaging can provide useful information that can help you make greener and more ethical choices.

You can spot the most hazardous products based on warning labels on the back.

  • ‘Caution’ indicates a slightly toxic product
  • ‘Warning’ indicates a moderately toxic product
  • ‘Danger/Poison’ indicates a most hazardous product.

Shop Ethical also suggests avoiding products or detergents containing:

  • chlorine or ammonia, listed as active ingredients
  • formaldehyde, terpenes, phenols, chlorine, organic mercurials, balsams, aluminium complexes, which are known to have carcinogenic effects
  • alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which do not degrade completely and are known hormone disruptors
  • phosphates, which cause algal blooms in waterways.

Further, consumers are cautioned not to fall for unregulated ‘greenwash’ statements on product packaging, which claim to be ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ but are often capitalising on social trends.

Instead, you should look for:

  • biodegradable to AS4351, or better still, to an international standard
  • plant-based ingredients, instead of petroleum-based
  • concentrated forms
  • specific ingredient information, such as ‘solvent-free’ and ‘no petroleum-based ingredients’ rather than unregulated ‘greenwash’ claims.

If you’re looking to change to greener cleaning products, we’ve compiled a list of safer and more environmentally friendly options, so you can swap out those nasty chemical-based products:

  • Ecostore Liquid Scourer (replacing Jif Cream Cleanser)
  • Ecover Dishwash Liquid (replacing Earth Choice Dishwash Liquid)
  • Resparkle Kitchen & Multi Surface Cleaner (replacing Ajax Spay & Wipe)
  • Regular kitchen cloth and a homemade vinegar and water spray (replacing Dettol Antibacterial surface Cleaning Wipes)
  • Ecostore Dishwasher Tablets (replacing Finish All-in-One Dishwasher Tablets)
  • Ecostore Over & Hob Cleaner (replacing Mr Muscle spray).

You might have to search a bit further than Coles or Woolies for these and pay a teeny bit extra, but they’re worth it. Check out your closest health food shops or the companies’ online stores.

Want to see how your products stack up to safety ratings? Environmental Working Group’s handy search function lets you search for 2500 products, providing you with comprehensive information about the health and environmental risks associated with them.

Want to go even greener and cheaper? Why not make your own DIY cleaning products?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    15th Jul 2018
    I have never used it in the house, but I do recommend Exit Mold for cleaning black mould off old headstones. It was recommended by a Head Mason. The headstone we used it on was almost 89 years old then.
    15th Jul 2018
    Safer to use clove oil for mold.Better still look at ways of preventing mold, not sure what you can do for a headstone though.
    15th Jul 2018
    Hey Blossom, we used a lot of Exit Mould on the tourist boats, & in the resorts in the Whitsundays & other tropical areas. In the wet season up there, boats in particular would grow mould as you watched. Before Exit Mould we would do a fair bit of damage to paintwork with all the scrubbing to get it off.

    It is a pity that unnecessary fear of chemicals has removed far too many from our products. Younger people today would have no idea of how good detergents used to be at removing grease when they still had phosphorous in them. Removing it has caused many more human health problems, than it ever caused to phosphorous intolerant plants.
    15th Jul 2018
    None of these products are necessary. Hot soapy water or while vinegar and water do just fine. Scrunch up newspaper and clean windows and mirrors with vinegar water for a streak free shine and no unpleasant chemical smell. You smell like a chip shop instead! Ha ha ha.
    I really wish all the antibacterial products would be removed from the shelves. They do nothing that soapy water can't except raise antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is a health issue for all of us.
    15th Jul 2018
    I agree, people are just too lazy to use elbow grease, instead want instant results, whilst poisoning themselves, their children, their pets and their animals.
    15th Jul 2018
    Really happy to see YLC post this article. So many people don't realize how toxic cleaning chemicals are. They cause all sorts of health problems. They effect your nervous system, your hormones, your brain and your immune system. Your liver and lungs work overtime trying to filter them. Please also look at your personal products and parfums. This I believe is making the world a very sick place and increasing disease especially in children, think about the increase of cancers and gender problems because of all the hormone disrupting chemicals in the world. I have been using natural products all my life and have found these days there are many major companies jumping on the bandwagon by including 'natural ingredients' whilst still including chemicals so don't be fooled. My favourite brands are Biologika and Sonett but there are many more trusted brands, and I find they are not more expensive because you use less. Or you can make your own, many recipes on the internet for everything and works out cheaper too.
    16th Jul 2018
    Yes beware anything that tells you not to mix with other cleaners or use in well ventilated areas!
    18th Jul 2018
    Quick wipe of cheap bleach does it for me. Is that hazardous?
    18th Jul 2018
    Yes it can be especially the fumes and to children, check out these two articles:

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