Green cleaning products you and the planet will love


Cleaning alternatives that really work. For most cleaning around the house, it's not hard to add some green to your routine.

Vinegar and water does nearly as good a job cleaning windows as any ammonia-spiked spray, and borax and baking soda are your allies in the fight to keep your kitchen and bathroom spick and span. But some cleaning projects -- getting that tile grout in the shower white again, removing oven-baked grease or getting out laundry stains -- have even people with the best of intentions resorting to polluting chemicals.

So we tried out a handful of products to find out what could replace the most toxic offenders in your cleaning arsenal. We focused on two companies Method, a San Francisco outfit that wants to make green cleaning products mainstream, and Nature Clean, a Toronto-based, family-owned company that's been making environmentally friendly products for decades -- and put their products to the test in a Canadian home populated by a two-year-old, a dust-sensitive dad and a pregnant magazine writer.

Dusting cloths and floor polishes
Method's slickly designed Omop is the hipster's answer to housewife-pitched products like the Swiffer --you can imagine some guy in Prada pulling this out from his closet. The mop comes with disposable but compostable dusting pads that lick up dust bunnies, as well as a washable pad that can be used wet or dry. The kit comes with a bottle of toxin-free floor polish that Method suggests pairing with the wet mop. The hardwood never looked so good.

Oven cleaner
Sure, you can use baking soda and a scouring pad to tackle baked-on grime, but conventional ammonia and-lye oven cleaners save a lot of elbow grease, right? Problem is, they also give off toxic fumes and can burn your eyes and skin. Nature Clean offers a barbecue and oven cleaner that's toxic-fume-free, hypoallergenic and biodegradable (its ingredients include corn and palm-kernel oil, as well as a substance derived from citrus rind). Spray it on, let sit 30 minutes and wipe away. It really works! (Though its strong perfume may encourage the scent-sensitive to prefer bicep-building baking soda.)

Tile cleaner
For regular tile cleaning, Method's tub + tile soap scum + stain remover cleans well and has a pleasantly mild, eucalyptus-mint smell. However, for the toughest of shower grime, you might want to whip out your Nature Clean oven cleaner. When paired with a scouring pad, we found it to be the best at getting the shower to look like new again.

Stain remover
Some conventional stain-removal products contain neurotoxins like benzene and xylene as well as formaldehyde. Nature Clean's Laundry Stain Remover is derived from a mixture of plant sources such as corn and castor oil and is non-toxic. It works well enough: a toddler's jacket came out of the wash looking great. But when it came to the daycare T-shirt, laden with dirt, food and washable paint, it still looked a bit like an art project even after cleaning.

Dishwasher rinse
That electric-blue liquid sure does a good job of keeping the dishes looking sparkly, but it can also send chlorine fumes into your air and phosphates down the drain. Nature Clean offers a biodegradable alternative called All Natural Rinse Agent that, load after load, kept both the cutlery and the glassware glinting.

Try your own green clean off
There are a number of household ecocleaning brands on the market. Experiment and see what works best for you.

  • Bio-life: This brand-new, affordable line of non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaners is sold exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  • Citra-Solv: Citra-dish, Citra-suds, Citra-clear and even Citra-drain are made from orange extracts, are biodegradable and not tested on animals.
  • Ecover: This Belgian-based company sells its wide range of green cleaners --from non-chlorine bleach to toilet-bowl cleaner -- in more than 20 countries around the world, including Canada. The company's environmental policy is that all products must biodegrade after you use them.
  • Method: Sleek designs by Canadian designer Karim Rashid and youthful product names have them competing with the major brands - though some Method products are made in China, which means greenhouse-gas-causing fossil fuels are burned to bring these products here. But they are sold at major chains across Canada, bringing green mainstream.
  • Nature Clean: All products are local to Ontario and available in bulk at Grassroots stores, giving them extra green points.
  • Seventh Generation: Has been selling its green line (shower cleaner, toilet paper made from unbleached, recycled paper and much more) since the late 1980s. Its cleaning products are all VOC- and toxin-free.