While sales of green cleaners have slipped during the economic slowdown, environmental groups continue to push for tough standards designed to limit greenwashing and help consumers identify truly green products. This week, the EcoLogo Program, a third-party certifier of sustainable products, released its latest standard for hard surface cleaners, a category that includes all-purpose cleaners, bathroom and glass cleaners, dish detergents, and degreasers.
The revised standard limits the use of certain chemicals known to trigger or aggravate asthma. It also prohibits many substances commonly found in cleaning products that are harmful to humans or the environment, such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and phthalates. (See Standard CCD 146: Hard Surface Cleaners for a complete list of controlled substances.)
"This standard sets a vital benchmark to help identify hard surface cleaning products that excel in protecting health and the environment,” said Dr. Angela Griffiths, Executive Director of the EcoLogo Program, in the news release. “We hope that purchasers and consumers will recognize the level of leadership and innovation displayed by manufacturers that have achieved EcoLogo certification for their environmentally preferable goods.”
Many of ten thousand or so EcoLogo-certified products are from smaller brands with limited market share, since that's where much of the green innovation first takes place, says Griffiths. But the logo is also on a handful of products you'll find in places like Target (Attitude) and Duane Reade (Apt 5 Goes Green).
Consumer Reports is planning to fully evaluate EcoLogo's standard. At first glance, we can tell you that the EcoLogo program, which was founded in 1988 and became part of the UL global network in 2010, seems to offer standards that are both meaningful and verifiable. It also maintains independence and protection from conflicts of interest, and it provides opportunity for public comment during its standards development process.
What's more, before they can be marketed as EcoLogo-certifed, products must meet performance requirements, in addition to the environmental ones. For example, bathroom cleaners sold as soap scum removers must be at least 75 percent efficient in removing such soils according to ASTM's “Standard Guide for Evaluating Cleaning Performance of Ceramic Tile Cleaners.” That's important in countering the misperception that green cleaners are less effective than their non-green counterparts.
Consumer Reports evaluates many household cleaners, and we've noted a number of unverified and vague claims, such as "natural," "chemical-free," and "non-irritating." We've also found big differences in performance, from green and non-green products alike. And our reports provide pricing information, which will help you find the biggest bargains among recommended green products. So while the EcoLogo may be a helpful tool for consumers, we encourage you to also check our Ratings of all-purpose cleaners, cooktop cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and more.