Healthy Homes Guide to Cleaning and Disinfection
The resources on this page will help you identify and use cleaning and disinfecting products that are safer for the environment or human health. When deciding which products to use, including those that are marketed as “green” or “natural,” it’s important to research and consider the product’s ingredients, potential impacts on your health, and for what purpose you’ll be using it. Note that green products are not guaranteed to be safer for your health or effective at what you want to use them for.
In addition to the guidance provided here, we recommend following the recommendations on our Products page about always following label and manufacturer guidelines for all cleaning products.
Cleaning Product Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency manages the Safer Choice label. Products under this label must follow the Safer Choice Standard, which is designed to designate products that are safer for both people and the environment. Safer Choice criteria related to human health include carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and volatile organic compound (VOC) content.
- Explore a list of cleaning products that meet this standard. This list is sortable by home or business use, type of product, fragrance-free products, and products with outdoor use.
- Review the standard itself. The Safer Choice Standard was most recently updated in 2015.
- Read frequently asked questions about Safer Choice.
Green Seal is a third-party certifier of products and services. They have standards for a variety of products, including household cleaning products. Green Seal has also compiled a selection of resources about cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19. Green Seal follows EPA requirements for third-party certification.
- Explore a list of household cleaning products that meet this standard.
- Review the Green Seal standards. Household cleaning products are under standard GS-8.
- Read frequently asked questions about Green Seal.
Decoding the Labels
This page from the Environmental Working Group provides definitions for some of the most common phrases and words used on cleaning product labels. [url; EWG]
Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A Toolkit for Early Care and Education
The EPA created this toolkit specifically for use in childcare settings. The toolkit features specific resources on labeling and non-chemical ways to reduce the spread of disease.
This resource is part of the EPA toolkit, but serves as a good introduction to anyone with questions about microfiber cleaning cloths and mops. [pdf; EPA]
- Microfiber is effective at picking up dirt and grease from surfaces.
- Microfiber products are reusable and need to be washed between uses.
- Microfiber can be used with cleaners or disinfectants. They should not be used with fabric softeners or bleach, which can shorten the life span and make them less effective.
While microfiber can be very effective at cleaning surfaces, there are also some concerns that repeated washing can make them less effective over time. Washing the cloths can also release tiny fibers into waterways.
Safer Products and Practices for Disinfecting and Sanitizing Surfaces
The San Francisco Department of the Environment put together this analysis of disinfectant products. The report also includes a list of recommended disinfectants (Appendix A) best practices for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces (Appendix C).
Protecting Yourself Without Toxic Chemicals
Beyond Pesticides has a description of how to prevent exposure to COVID-19 without using toxic chemicals. They emphasize simple prevention measures that don’t require disinfection, such as practicing social distancing and wearing a mask in public. For hand cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, they group different types of ingredients in products into “better,” “good,” and “bad” related to health effects. Beyond Pesticides also has a FAQ about disinfecting for COVID-19 and specific products.
Green Household Cleaners and Coronavirus: What You Need to Know
This article from The Washington Post discusses the various options and pros and cons for cleaning and disinfecting using green products to prevent COVID-19. Ultimately, the article suggests that, if you are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and want to disinfect your home, you should choose products on the EPA’s List N.