Consumer Reports checks true colors of ‘green’ cleaning products

More people are doing what they can to help the environment, and with that, you may be considering a change to your cleaning products to make a greener choice. But before you make the switch, we found out from Consumer Reports that certain cleaners marketed as “green” or even “natural” -- are not-so-green after all.

Let’s start with the labels. What does it mean when saying a product is “green?” Consumer Reports says not much. The same goes for terms like “natural,” “plant-based,” “nontoxic,” and “eco-friendly.”

“These are really just marketing terms to make a product seem more appealing. It’s sometimes called ‘greenwashing’ – a gimmick meant to attract consumers who prefer to buy products from environmentally conscious brands,” explained Consumer Reports Health Editor Althea Chang-Cook.

Still, lots of people want to make eco-friendly choices! Start by thinking about what aspect of “being green” is important to you.

Should a cleaner be made from plants? Biodegradable? And while an “eco-friendly” product may use less plastic in its packaging, Chang-Cook said that doesn’t mean the product is free from harmful chemicals.

“Another important thing to know is that just because a product is ‘natural’ or ‘plant-based’ doesn’t mean it is safe. It could even be toxic,” she warned. “That’s something you’ll want to be aware of especially if you have kids around.”

You may be considering a change to your cleaning products to make a greener choice. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

A better way to choose cleaning products is to look for a seal of approval from independent, third-party organizations that evaluate the company’s claims.

The seal from UL signifies that a product has a lower environmental impact than similar products -- factors like a manufacturer’s energy consumption, water usage, and waste.

To be EWG Verified by the Environmental Working Group, products can’t contain certain ingredients identified to be potentially harmful to human and environmental health.

The same is true when you see the Safer Choice logo. To get the seal, the Environmental Protection Agency also considers to what extent a product’s packaging is sourced, made, and transported using renewable energy. You can even search the EPA’s website to see if your favorite cleaner got the agency’s approval.

Whichever products you choose, Consumer Reports says try to use less! A drop of detergent could be just as effective as a glob. Also, consider buying concentrated cleaners that come in smaller bottles that use less plastic and use fewer resources to make and transport.