We have all wondered what labels on cleaning products that are considered environmentally friendly actually mean. In addition, they contain stamps and certificates, which many people do not understand well when buying cleaning products.

When looking for household items in the store, it can be difficult to make a quick decision between ‘green’ and ‘green’ and those ‘ordinary’ cleaners. What do all these conditions and certificates really mean?

Green and environmentally friendly
Green cleaners claim that it is safer for your health but also for the health of the planet. ‘Environmentally friendly’ refers to products that have reduced their harmful effects on the environment. However, both are marketing terms that are not strictly regulated. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created ‘Green Guides’ in an effort to target environmental marketing claims so that products do not mislead customers. According to the FTC, many companies are to blame for advertising their products as ‘green’, even if only certain aspects of the product cycle are ‘green’.

Photo: ElizabethCC BY 2.0

So what should an informed customer buy? Depending on whether you are looking for products that are better for you or the environment or you are interested in both, find a stamp or certificate that shows that the product meets a certain set of standards.

The term non-toxic claims that the product or ingredient is not associated with any adverse health effects. Like the words above, however, the terms are not exactly regulated, so any product can use this terminology.

Leaping Bunny logo – rabbit label for products without cruelty
This label means that the company undertook not to, and has not tested the product on animals. However, there is no ‘no cruelty’ label approved by the government. Instead, the rabbit logo was originally created as a third-party certificate for non-cruel cosmetic products. This already well-recognized logo can now be found on household cleaners.

Organics
The use of the term ‘organic’ can be particularly confusing – while the word ‘organic’ on packaging is not strictly regulated, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has its own ‘certified organic’ stamp. Stamped products have met certain standards, such as banning the use of GMOs and avoiding synthetic fertilizers. This seal is mostly used on food, but it can also be applied on household cleaners.

Natural
Although the word ‘natural’ is not overly regulated for cleaning products, there is a US Department of State stamp for ‘certified bio-based products’. If you look closely at the seal on the product, it tells you what percentage of the product is biologically based on the results of the Department and the American Society for Testing and Materials. The idea behind advertising such ‘natural’ products is that they reduce dependence on oil-based production, which in turn reduces our need for fossil fuels.

Green Seal
Green Seal is a non-profit organization that rewards and awards certificates and products that have been proven to meet certain sustainability standards, known as the ‘eco-label’. When a product is certified, the organization looks at the entire life cycle of that product, from raw material extraction to disposal. The set of standards differs for each type of product. Standards for paper products such as toilet paper state, for example, that the product may not contain chlorine or boilies, must be biodegradable and more. When you see a product with the mentioned eco-label, you know that it has passed strict standards, reports Real Simple.

‘Ecologo’ seal
Since many terms and popular words do not actually have standards for their support, ECOLOGO, like Green Seal, is another certificate you can keep an eye on.

ECOLOGO-certified products have a reduced impact on the environment in some or all of the following categories such as: materials used, energy, production and industry, health and the environment, product performance and use, and product management and innovation. Specific standards differ for floor cleaners, disinfectants, carpet cleaners and more.

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