Cleaning Up the Greenwash

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

Back in July, I moved back to Arizona and I’m now newest member of the my Econista friend’s household. With the move came a shift of my lifestyle to the greener side of things, one of them being greener household cleaners. Basically the only things we use are vinegar, baking soda, and thieves all purpose cleaner.

More people are using natural cleaning methods because most cleaning products on the market contain chemicals and toxins that create indoor air pollution and can lead to health side effects such as lung damage.

Because there is no industry certification for what is “natural” or “eco-friendly” or “healthy,” household cleaner manufacturers can get away with greenwashing their products. So the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched their “Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning” a few weeks ago, to let consumers have a better idea of what’s in their products and what effects these products might have on their consumers. Unlike food and cosmetics, it is not required that cleaning products list all of their ingredients, so EWG had to do some real digging to determine the full ingredient lists.

Like EWG’s Skin Deep Database, the Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning really surprised me with the items that got a bad grade. Here’s an example: When I think toxic cleaners for some reason the first thing that popped into my head was Windex. So I typed in Windex, expecting to have a bad grade come up, which it did. Windex Original Glass Cleaner got the grade of D, so did Windex Nature’s Source Glass Cleaner and Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar Cleaner. So I wanted to try a more eco brand, thinking for sure the eco brand would get a better score. I looked at Seventh Generation’s window cleaner, Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner, Free & Clear, the score was better, but not by much, with a C grade, mainly because of the ingredient methylisothiazolinone. Frustrated, I clicked on the category “Glass/ Window Cleaner” to see who could best the C grade. Turns out of the 49 glass cleaners out there, 4 received an A: Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care, Rosemary Mint; Whole Foods Market glass cleaner, unscented; Green Shield Organic Glass Cleaner, Fresh; and Citra-Solv Citra Clear Window & Glass Cleaner.

For the record, there are simple homemade DIY recipes out there, including pure vinegar; you can check them out here. Or try our Four Thieves Vinegar or All-Purpose Cleaner recipes! Happy Non-toxic cleaning everyone! Have any favorites?


2 thoughts on “Cleaning Up the Greenwash

  1. Welcome back to Arizona Mary! Glad you came – more sustainability-focused mind are needed our here.

    We use vinegars for a lot of things, window cleaners, descaling hard water deposits, fabric softener, etc. I’d really like to do is make my own vinegar – that’s a trick I haven’t tried yet (though I came pretty close with some wine I made years ago!).

    No other particular cleaning favorites, but I will throw in that three efforts to unclog drains with a natural solution of baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water have been unsuccessful. Each time I’ve had to break down, wrench off the U-joint, and poke out the nasty hair-and-toothpaste slime.

    Thanks for the link to the EWG site, and to “Crunchy Betty.” The post today about making friends with her reality was touching, and sounds like the type of introspective journey that might help a lot of people these days.


    • Thank you for your comment, Rob! Actually, my associate, Katie, is the one who has returned to AZ and she has found quite a supportive community of kindred green spirits there.

      As for vinegar, it is a wonderful cleaner for all sorts of tasks. I have used the baking soda, vinegar and boiling water trick successfully many times. It’s good to do sometimes as a preventative. If you are dealing with a big clog, it may take a few applications before it breaks through the goo.


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