Most green cleaning products have environmental claims and labels on their packaging. Not all claims and labels are equal, and only some represent true environmental and health benefits.
Below you will find information on specific eco-labels and how to look up other green cleaning products.
Labels you can trust
If you don’t have time to look into different ecolabels, these are robust, reputable and vetted.
Green Seal: Green seal sustainability standards are based on life-cycle research and are developed in an open, transparent and stakeholder involved process.
UL Environment: ECOLOGO products are evaluated by multiple attributes throughout their life cycle and all products must undergo rigorous environmental testing, exhaustive auditing or both.
GREENGUARD certifies products for indoor air quality.
Safer Choice: The U.S. EPA reviews every ingredient in a product against stringent human health and environmental criteria, as well as, product packaging and performance
A note on greenwashing
It is important to be mindful of greenwashing – the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service - when buying products that make environmental claims or have eco-labels.
When you shop, look for specific information on the product that explains why it’s getting a green promotion. If you don’t find science backed specifics, choose a different product. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website with consumer information for shopping green for more information.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cleaners Database Hall of Shame is another resource on false marketing claims for green cleaners. Product by product, the database lists ingredients that are harmful to people or planet. Not all bad products are in the hall of shame, so it’s important to understand your label. The EWG label decoder can help you do just that.
Labels to look for and what they mean
Green seal sustainability standards are based on life-cycle research and are developed in an open, transparent and stakeholder involved process. Browse and search for products with the seal.
UL Environment developed ECOLOGO product certification to evaluate products by multiple attributes throughout their life cycle. Before getting certified, all products must undergo rigorous environmental testing, exhaustive auditing or both. Click here for the full list of products with ECOLOGO certification.
UL Environment also owns GREENGUARD, a certification program for low-emitting indoor products. Use GREENGUARD certified products when remodeling to improve indoor air quality. GREENGUARD standards primarily apply to building materials, cleaning products, electronic equipment, finishes, furniture and interior furnishings.
Products that qualify to carry the EPA Safer Choice label must meet the Safer Choice Standard. The Safer Choice Standard includes criteria for safer chemical ingredients, product performance, packaging, ingredient disclosure, and auditing.
There are two forms of the label, one with a house for products commonly found in grocery or retail stores and another with a circle for industrial and institutional products used in facilities such as schools, office buildings, hotels, and hospitals. Browse or search the list of Safer Choice qualifying products.
Curious about other labels?
Four things to look for in an ecolabel
- Backed by widely-respected and trusted organizations.
- Claims should be verified by an independent third-party.
- Label should be based on a set of reliable standards that are readily accessible to the public.
- Company should disclose any connections it has to the organization behind the seal.
A standard is a set of guidelines and criteria against which a product can be judged. A certification says that a product meets those criteria.
Before you buy, does the ecolabel’s standard meet this criteria?
- The standard has clear, meaningful and relevant criteria.
- The standard was created by a third party OR follows ISO 14021 and 14022.
- The standard is ANSI approved.
- Meets ISO 14024 (Type 1 ecolabel) or ISO 14025 (Type 3 ecolabel) for environmental labels and declarations.
Does the certifier meet this criteria?
- The certifier is an independent third party, such as a government agency.
- Is an ISO/IEC 65 Accredited Product Certification Body.
- Meets ISO 17025 requirements for testing and calibration laboratories.
While this may sound like a lot of work, there are a handful of online tools to help get this information. If it is not easy to get information about an eco-label online, it may not be a reliable claim.
Databases and product registries
- The Ecolabel Index, the largest global directory of ecolabels, has information on 460 ecolabels used around the world. While some information is on their website, they charge for full access to the site and index.
- Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices Food Safety and Sustainability Center eco-label search tool. With this tool, you can search by product, category, or certifier and compare labels on cleaners. While the tool is designed for households, many offices use household cleaners for around the office tidying. Additionally, the chemicals and labels used for household and workplace cleaners are the same. Click here to read reviews for 41 different claims used on cleaning products.
- Transpare is a free product registry aimed to help purchasers understand the environmental, safety and health attributes of different cleaning products. Through their search tool, you can find products that satisfy cleaning and environmental needs, and search for products with Green Seal, ECOLOGO, or EPA Design for the Environment certifications.
- Consumer Information: Shopping Green
- EPA Safer Choice
- Green Seal
- UL ECOLOGO
- EPA Guidelines for Purchasing Green Cleaners
- The Ecolabel Index
- Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices Food Safety and Sustainability Center eco-label search tool
Researched and written in 2014-2015.