Cleaning Supplies Buying Tips
There is a growing multitude of cleaning products to choose from these days. Many of these products are task-specific and can contain hazardous ingredients, in addition to artificial dyes and perfumes. Green products are not always clearly labeled either, making it hard to quickly decipher which product is the best choice for you.
To help you easily find cleaning supplies with green attributes, we have generated a list of characteristics to consider when making your selection. Please also visit the glossary for definitions of commonly used terms.
Look for products that are . . .
- Dye and fragrance free.
- Effective in cold water.
- Free of optical brighteners.
- Petrochemical free.
- Not listed as containing chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens.
- Free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
- Approved by a third party certifier, such as Green Seal, the Environmental Protection Agency, or Environmental Choice.
- Chlorine free.
- Free of phosphates.
- Effective without the use of additional cleaning chemicals.
- Reusable and durable (if the product is a cleaning tool).
- Offered in refillable packaging or sold in bulk.
Learning about a product
While some products will list environmental attributes and ingredients directly on the label or website, you may wish to consult a product Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for more information. This product-specific document is designed to provide businesses and employees with important safety information about supplies that they use on a regular basis. Many manufacturers now provide their MSDSs online, but if not, contact them directly to request a copy. Although a manufacturer is not required by law to provide individual consumers with a MSDS, some may do so upon request.
MSDSs are a helpful tool for learning more about the products you use. Information on a MSDS includes a description of hazardous chemicals in products, potential health effects and safe handling procedures. Each MSDS is formatted differently, but the content remains the same. Please visit our MSDS page for more information and how to read them.
Some Helpful Hints
- For additional information about a product, visit the manufacturer’s website or call the manufacturer or your sales representative.
- Rather than setting your own criteria for products, it may be easiest to choose products that already meet the criteria of a third party certifier, such as Green Seal or the EPA. Many of these sites focus primarily on commercial cleaning products, but some also offer a small selection of residential products.
- Determine which aspects of green cleaning are most important to you. Are you looking for a product that does not contain a particular chemical or is packaging waste your primary concern? Once you prioritize your objectives, you may be able to set your own criteria to meet these needs.
- Remember that as with any new cleaning product search, there can be a period of trial and error. Certain products may require more elbow grease than more toxic conventional products or use a different procedure for cleaning. This does not mean that a product does not work, but does mean that you may need to reevaluate current cleaning practices.
- Keep a record of the products that you have used, when you used them, how well they worked, and any notes of interest. This will help you with buying products in the future, and can help commercial cleaners track changes over time.
- For commercial users, remember to ask your sales representative for a demonstration and product training. These experts can show you how to best use a product, and can often help with incorporating new procedures into a current cleaning schedule.