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Spring Cleaning: EWG’s Tips on What to Use – and What to Avoid

(202) 667-6982
[email protected]
For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 25, 2013


Washington, D.C. – From kitchen, bathroom, glass and all-purpose cleaners to dishwashing detergent, laundry soap and bleach, Environmental Working Group has scoured the chemical ingredients of more than 2,000 different household cleaning products and come up with a list of some of the best – and some you should avoid.

“With spring upon us, it’s that time when millions of Americans are prepping for a major home cleaning,” said EWG’s Director of Research, Renée Sharp. “But lurking in many available and widely used cleaning products are highly toxic chemicals associated with a number of serious health problems. The good news is there are plenty of products that will get the job done without exposing you and your family to these hazardous substances.”

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning gives people practical solutions to protect themselves and their families from exposures to potentially harmful chemicals. That’s important, because U.S. law allows manufacturers of most cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development. The government does nothing to assess the safety of the vast majority of cleaning products before they’re sold to consumers. The Environmental Protection Agency only regulates cleaners that contain registered pesticides  (such as disinfectants with “active ingredients”) whose labels the agency must approve. To fill the gap, EWG’s staff scientists evaluated the ingredients listed on cleaning product labels, websites and worker safety documents based on information available in top government, industry and academic toxicity databases and in the scientific literature on potential health and environmental problems. 

“It’s important to keep your home clean, but in doing so you might be using products that contain chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks, allergic reactions, eye and skin irritation or that are known or probable human carcinogens,” said Sharp.  “Even more troubling is that the law doesn’t require most types of cleaners even to disclose what chemicals are in them.”

Instead, many companies use vague terms such as “surfactant” or “preservative” to describe their ingredients, leaving consumers in the dark about the specific chemicals they may contain and whether they might pose health hazards. EWG believes that’s not good enough. Consumers have a right to know that information at the point of sale before bringing cleaners into their homes.

From the database it compiled, EWG identified some of the best and worst products in each of four categories – bathroom, dishes, laundry and kitchen/all-purpose –  and created handy lists of 10 of the best and 10 to avoid. (Note: These lists are not intended to be exhaustive; they are meant to give consumers a sampling of products that received high or low scores in EWG’s rankings based on what’s known about their ingredients and how much their labels disclose.)


Green Shield Organic Bathroom Cleaner, Fresh

Earth Friendly Products Shower Kleener

CLR Calcium Lime, Rust Cleaner

Seventh Generation Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir

Earth Friendly Products Toilet Kleener, Natural Cedar

Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Title Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir

Lysol Professional Disinfectant Basin Tub &Tile Cleaner

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lavender Bathroom Cleaner

Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner Pine Fresh


Green Shield Organic Squeez Automatic Dishwasher Liquid Detergent, Lemongrass

The Honest Co. Honest Auto Dishwasher Gel, Free & Clear

Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Hypo-Allergenic

Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs, Free & Clear

Better Life DISH IT OUT Natural Dish Liquid, Unscented

Ecover Rinse Aid

Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Powder, Free & Clear

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Automatic Dishwasher Detergent, Citrus

Earth Friendly Products Wave Automatic Dishwashing Gel Lavender

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Basil Automatic Dish Pack


Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster & Household Cleaner

OxiClean Laundry Baby Stain Soaker

Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value 2X Concentrated Laundry Detergent, Unscented

Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, HE Elite Care, Free & Clear

Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent, White Flower & Bergamot

Planet 2x Ultra Laundry Detergent, For HE & Standard Machines

Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach, Free & Clear

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint

Planet Delicate Laundry Wash Hypo Allergenic


Green Shield All-Purpose Cleaner Degreaser, Fresh

Whole Foods Market Glass Cleaner, Unscented

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner

Ecover Cream Scrub

Green Shield Organic Glass Cleaner Fresh

Method All-Purpose Surface Cleaner, Ginger Yuzu

Whole Foods Market Green MISSION Organic All-Purpose Spray & Degreaser, Lemon Zest

Attitude Bathroom Mold Mildew Cleaner

Citra Solv Citra Clear Window Glass Cleaner

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser


These products all received an “F” grade in EWG’s rankings for one or more of the following reasons: 1) they contain ingredients linked to health effects such as asthma and respiratory problems, skin allergies and irritation, developmental and reproductive toxicity or cancer; 2) they contain ingredients may have harmful environmental effects; or 3) product labeling failed to disclose ingredients that may be toxic.


LYSOL Action Gel Toilet Bowl Cleaner Country

Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach, Rain Clean

Scrubbing Bubbles Extend A Clean Mega Shower Foamer

Tilex Soap Scum Remover

Toilet Duck Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner

LYSOL Aerosol Bathroom Cleaner Sunshine Fresh

Clorox Bleach Foamer for the Bathroom

Drano Professional Strength Max Gel Clog Remover

Safeway Bright Green Liquid Drain Opener Professional Strength

Drano Clog Remover


Simple Green Naturals Dish Washing Liquid

Ajax Dish Liquid with Bleach Alternative Lime

Clorox Commercial Solutions SOS Pot Pan Detergent

Palmolive Eco + Gel Dishwasher Detergent, Lemon Splash

Ajax Triple Action Dish Liquid Hand Soap, Orange

Cascade Dishwasher Detergent Gel

Dawn Ultra Concentrated Liquid Dishwashing Detergent Hawaiian Pineapple

EASY-OFF Professional Liquid Dish Detergent Concentrate

Cascade Powder Dishwasher Detergent

Palmolive Ultra Oxy Plus Odor Eliminator Dish Liquid


Fab Ultra 2X Liquid Laundry Detergent, Spring Magic  

Tide Plus a Touch of Downy Liquid Detergent, Lavender

Ajax 2X Ultra Liquid Laundry Detergent, Original

Ivory Ultra Snow Liquid Laundry Detergent

Cheer BrightCLEAN HE Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Gentle

All Small & Mighty Laundry Detergent HE, Fresh Rain

Dynamo Liquid Laundry Detergent

Gain Liquid Detergent, Island Fresh

Tide Liquid Detergent with Febreze Freshness Meadows Rain

Wisk High Efficiency Liquid Laundry Detergent


EASY-OFF Professional Heavy Duty Cleaner-Degreaser Concentrate

Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner

Walmart Great Value Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner

Lestoil Grease & Stain Heavy Duty Cleaner   

Drano Professional Strength Kitchen Crystals Clog Remover

LYSOL Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner Citrus

EASY-OFF Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner Aerosol Spray

Soft Scrub with Bleach Cleanser for Bath and Kitchen, Mountain Breeze

Weiman Cook Top Scrubbing Pads

Bar Keeper's Friend Soft Cleanser