Green Cleaners – the Beginner’s Guide


The concept of green cleaners no longer means mixing potions yourself — trying to get the right amount of lemon juice and essential oils added to a blend of vinegar, borax, and warm water — only to get some clumpy concoction that doesn’t spray right. Neither does it mean that you bought a case of some product that boasts its “naturalness,” and now your facility is “green.”

The green cleaners of today have everything to do with the health of the building’s occupants without sacrificing effectiveness. It has become increasingly apparent that traditional cleaning chemicals have a direct impact on indoor environmental quality, which in turn has an effect on the health and productivity of the people inside the facility.

Impact on Indoor Air Quality

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality (IAQ) is usually two to five times worse than outdoor air, and can be up 100 times more polluted in extreme circumstances. Even more surprising is the realization that, on average, we spend about 90% of our time indoors. In a commercial setting, IAQ should be relevant to facility executives.


While numerous factors impact IAQ, one of the easiest to address happens to be the types of cleaners used in your facility. It just may be that those harsh cleaners, used in the name of cleanliness, might be the reason for your employees’ increased struggles with asthma and allergies, or worse, the cause of increased absences.

So what cleaners should you use, and are “green” cleaners as effective as those I’m replacing?

The answer begins by noting that green cleaners are everywhere and made by everyone. Rather than get into a list of specific products (which could go on for awhile), let’s talk certification:

green cleaners

These are the labels you want on your green cleaners. Each carries rigorous standards, and each certifies that the labeled cleaner remains as productive, if not more so, than its harsh and unhealthy counterpart. Here’s a more detailed explanation of each certification:

EPA DfE – The Design for the Environment label helps consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. The label means that every ingredient in the product has been reviewed by EPA scientists and meets the rigorous criteria related to human health and the environment set forth by EPA. More than 2,000 products currently qualify for the label, enabling your company to play a role in workers’ health and protecting the environment.

EcoLogo CertifiedEcoLogo Certification is a multi-attribute certification that speaks to the reduced environmental impact of the products, services, and packaging. This voluntary certification program examines the environmental impact over the entire lifecycle of the product and indicates it has been subjected to rigorous scientific testing to demonstrate compliance with tough third-party environmental performance standards. EcoLogo Certification applies to everything from building materials and furniture to cleaning products, paper products, and toys.

Green SealGreen Seal Certified products and services enable the consumer to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to health and the environment. The Green Seal mark shows compliance with a strict set of criteria designed to reduce the health and environmental impact of cleaning products and services and are non-toxic. Green Seal products can assist your project team in fulfilling the requirements of various credits across LEED rating systems and provide an integral part of your company’s green cleaning policy.

Biobased ProductsBiobased products are commercial or industrial products that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products or renewable agricultural/forestry materials. Biobased products can include solvents and cleaners, paints and coatings, plastics, landscaping materials, fibers, paper, packaging, construction materials, and many more. Substituting biobased products for fossil energy-based products can strengthen an organization’s green purchasing policy and contribute to U.S. energy security.

The number of cleaners utilizing one or more of these labels is staggering and will not limit your options. In fact, these labels will help you to increase occupant comfort in your building and begin to reduce the environmental factors causing increased numbers of employee sickness, irritation, and absences.

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