green week

The Best Natural Cleaning Products, According to Experts

Photo: Courtesy of the retailers.

The best-known cleaning products are also the ones laced heavily with harsh chemicals. Mr. Clean, Windex, Clorox — all effective, none organic. The problem with switching over to more ecofriendly cleaning products — ones that won’t coat your home with brain-cell-killing fumes — is that lots of brands claim to be “natural” or “organic.” But unlike the USDA-certified-organic stickers you can look for in a grocery store’s produce section, you won’t find any such federal regulation in the housekeeping aisle. (These kinds of companies aren’t even required to list their ingredients, meaning they can sneak in chemicals without mentioning them anywhere on the bottle.)

Ask any green-living expert or organic devotee, and they’ll tell you that the best natural cleaning product is regular white vinegar and baking soda, with a little lemon or orange thrown in. But if you don’t want to mix and bottle your own cleaning products, or would like something with a more pleasant smell, there are many, many options. To guide us through a clean cleaning-supply shopping spree, we consulted some experts — Micaela Preston of mindfulmomma.com, Danny Seo of Naturally, Danny Seo, Saudia Davis of Best of New York GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, and Cindy DiPrima of CAP Beauty — on which kitchen sprays, laundry detergents, and all-purpose baking-soda scrubs are actually healthier for our homes.

The best natural all-purpose cleaners

Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner
$11 at Amazon

A plant-based cleaner that works just as well as the chemical-filled ones. Preston recommends the all-purpose spray, but there’s also a stainless-steel polish, a product that not many other natural cleaning brands carry.

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser
$2 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Bon Ami was recommended by two experts — Davis and DiPrima — who use it as a scrubbing powder when they need something stronger than baking soda. “I use Bon Ami, which has been around forever, and has a very simple ingredient deck,” DiPrima says.

Green Works All Purpose Cleaner Spray
Photo: Vanessa Solis / i4color
Green Works All Purpose Cleaner Spray
$3 at Target

The “Greener Choices” section of Consumer Reports recommends this multi-surface spray cleaner, which is actually from the Clorox company but doesn’t contain any noxious fumes.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap (40 oz.)
$19 at Amazon

As anyone who’s ever read a Dr. Bronner’s label knows, this liquid castile soap was designed for truly all-purpose use. As in, it cleans your body and your floors and your dishes. (Technically, you can even brush your teeth with it.) Dilute as needed and marvel at how far you can stretch this stuff.

The best natural dish soaps

Ecover Zero Dish Soap
$4 at Jet

Davis says that she usually makes her own cleaners, but that she uses Ecover’s dish soap. The Amazon link is for a pack of six, if you want to go all-in.

Intelligent Nutrients Hand Sanitizer
$15 at Amazon

Seo uses this CFDA-certified organic hand sanitizer, but to clean any bacteria and dirt on his fruits and veggies, not hands. It also removes the wax coating that often covers apples and cucumbers.

The best natural floor cleaners

White House Foods Cleaning Vinegar
$12 at Amazon

“Truly, the best way to clean wood floors is with simple white vinegar,” DiPrima says. This one is scented with lavender to take some of the edge off.

Truce Wood Cleaner
$12 at Amazon

The ingredients in Truce’s cleaning supply products are natural (the company uses lots of vinegar, for example), but the company also uses a refill model that aims to eliminate packaging waste. If you have wood floors, this cleaner also uses olive oil to help nourish them and keep them smooth. Could also work on wood furniture or windowsills.

Murchison-Hume Effortless Natural Floor Cleaner Spray
$20 at Amazon

This sort of fancy brand doesn’t use any ammonia, bleach, or dye, and this floor cleaner is scented like Australian White Grapefruit. The line is kind of like the Laundress but for house cleaning.

The best natural fabric cleaners

Ecos Eco Breeze Fabric Freshener
$10 at Amazon

Last March, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced the Safer Choice Label for cleaning products. Ecos was one of the early adopters of the label, and this fabric-freshening spray doesn’t use artificial smells, unlike Febreze.

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain Remover
$8 at Walmart

Biokleen’s most well-known product has an enzyme that breaks down odors, but also removes stains like chocolate and wine.

Legacy of Clean SA8
$24 at Amazon

Another product recommended by the Consumer Reports green-products team: this highly concentrated liquid detergent scored the highest in C.R.’s tests. “It was particularly tough on grass and ring-around-the-collar stains in our tests,” said James McQueen, a representative from the company.

A natural toilet-bowl cleaner

Ecover Toilet-Bowl Cleaner
$13 at Amazon

Preston’s favorite pine toilet-bowl cleaner comes with Ecover’s recently redesigned packaging.

A natural Windex alternative

Ecos Glass Cleaner (Pack of 6)
$19 at Amazon

One more from the Consumer Reports team: this cleaner contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and works just as well as other glass cleaners.

Plus, supplies for making your own cleaners

Full Circle Come Clean Natural Cleaning Set
$17 at Amazon

Danny Seo, who founded his own natural-goods-focused magazine, prefers DIY cleaning sprays, so he makes a mixture of white vinegar, water, and lemon that breaks down grime and grease, while also disinfecting and removing odors. This bottle conveniently holds it all in one place.

Cleaning Essentials Glass Spray Bottle
$14 at Amazon

You can’t read the tiny measurement markers here, but this bottle tells you how much vinegar, water, lemon, and so on is needed for cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, tile counters, and so on.

Pop Up Sponges (Set of 6)
$7 at Bed Bath & Beyond

“A good natural or metal bristle brush does wonders — as do good, quality French pop-up sponges,” DiPrima says.

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The Best Natural Cleaning Products