The 10 Best Sustainable Cleaning Products

From sponges and mops to dish soap, we’ve rounded up our top picks.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Cleaning with a dish cloth

Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty

When we clean, we don’t want to worry that our supplies are contributing to poor air quality. Unfortunately, cleansers and disinfectants can be sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and can negatively impact our health and the environment.

Using more sustainable and lower-impact cleaning products doesn’t just affect your indoor air—it also means you’re washing fewer problematic chemicals down your drain and into your local water supplies. That's good news for our streams, rivers, and lakes. Sewage runoff can impact the health of more sensitive amphibians and fish, and can cause algae blooms which deprive the water of oxygen, killing animals—their source is our home drains.

We've scrutinized ingredients lists and researched the market to find the best sustainable clean products.

Best Dish Soap: Puracy Natural Dish Soap

5
Puracy Natural Dish Soap

Courtesy of Puracy

Puracy Natural Green Tea & Lime Dish Soap (there’s a lemongrass scent too) really nails the sustainable cleaning product trifecta, making it our top choice dish soap. First, it comes concentrated, so you save money and reduce shipping costs (since the product isn’t just mostly water), and it also comes in a refill pack, so you can use the same dispenser and not trash a plastic container every time you run out.

Second, the soap itself was developed specifically for those with sensitive skin and allergies, and the plant-based, cruelty free formula contains no sulfates, triclosan, parabens, phosphates, SLS, SLES, MEA, DEA, TEA, petrochemicals, dyes, or caustics. Overall, the EWG gives it an “A” grade. Third, Puracy is made in the United State and donates profits from every purchase to kids and families in need.

Best Sponge: Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Plastic-Free Cellulose Sponges

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Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Plastic-Free Cellulose Sponges

Zero Waste Club

It’s amazing how we’ve turned a simple, biodegradable product into one that’s made from plastic that will take hundreds of years to break down, and sheds microfibers with every scrub, but that’s the reality of many modern sponges. For a sustainable version, look for a plain, cellulose sponge.

This one is a good example: It can be used, disinfected by running through the dishwasher (or microwaved on high for 30 seconds), used some more, then home composted as it’s biodegradable—and it won’t shed plastic bits into your dishes and our waterways. Trader Joe’s also makes a 10-pack of sponges that are just biodegradable cellulose.

Best Concentrated Cleaner: Branch Basics The Concentrate

Branch Basics The Concentrate

Buying a multipurpose cleaner in a concentrate means you can dilute it to use any number of ways. You can mix it with water in a reusable spray bottle for kitchen counter and bathroom-sink cleaning, or use it at a higher concentration for kitchen and bathroom floor scrubbing, it works as a laundry detergent. At full-strength, it can remove stains from fabric (always follow label instructions on clothing when treating stains), or for tough kitchen-stove spots.

Branch Basics The Concentrate comes in a trial size so you can try it out and see how it works for you, and then if you like it you can save if you subscribe. You can buy the brand's bottles or use your own. Branch Basics' products carry the Made Safe seal, which certifies they’re made without the use of over 6,000 concerning chemicals.

Best All Purpose: Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner

Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner

Dr. Bronner’s is the soap recommended for camping trips because it’s totally biodegradable and won’t poison waterways or the animals that live there. Sal Suds is a similar product to the company’s Pure-Castile soap, but it doesn’t react with hard water which can leave a mineral precipitate behind on shiny surfaces. Sal Suds is also more concentrated.

You can use Sal Suds (or the Pure-Castile soap) for laundry, floor-and-counter cleaning, spot cleaning, and it pairs well with baking soda as a strong cleaner for tubs and sink basins, as well as a great toilet cleaner. The product gets an A from the EWG, and is certified Vegan and Cruelty Free.

Best Mop: Quick-Loop Mop

Quick-Loop Mop

Courtesy of Quick-Loop

A Cuban mop doesn’t have a typical mop head made from sponge or yarn—it has two dowels that a piece of wet fabric (which could be a rag made from an old kitchen or bath towel) is wrapped around. Then you just wash the rag and hang it out to dry. You can also use the same mop head to dust hard-to-reach surfaces. Made from a wood handle that lasts for decades and then easily biodegrade, and combined with reusable fabric, this is the most eco form of mopping around.

This particular model has steel pinch loops and a single dowel which hold your reusable cloth in place, and needs to be attached to a separate broom handle that’s threaded (or a painter’s pole with the same threaded end). You can use your fabric of choice on the mop head depending on the job, it can get into very tight spaces. The oak and steel pieces are made in the United States.

Best Dish Towel: Full Circle 100% Organic Cotton Dish Cloths

Full Circle Tidy Dish Cloth

With colorful loops on one side, and terrycloth on the other, these 100% organic cotton towels are versatile—you can scrub with one side and wipe with the other. They’re also thin enough to dry out quickly between washes and that makes it easy for them to be wrung out, too. Non-toxic dyes are used to impart color so you don’t have to worry about toxic runoff from dyes onto the dishes you eat from.

Full Circle is a Certified B-Corporation and the towels are reasonably priced as well as durable.

Best Carpet Cleaner: KisClean Carpet Cleaner

KisClean Carpet Cleaner

Courtesy of KisClean

This cleaner can be used for spot cleaning, but also diluted with water to use in a carpet-cleaning machine. It works for carpets and rugs, and also fabric-covered furniture and drapes. The ingredients are simple—just plant-based enzymes, folic acid, vanilla, and coconut oils. It works well and it gets a “B” rating from the EWG. Made in Los Angeles, KisClean comes in a spray bottle, a gallon jug, or a 5-gallon bucket.

Best Laundry Detergent: Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent

Puracy NATURAL LAUNDRY DETERGENT

Courtesy of Puracy

Puracy wins this category too, with its concentrated laundry detergent. You need less per load and you have a less-bulky bottle (which also reduces the environmental impact of the plastic packaging). If you choose the 64-ounce foil refill, you might only need to replace it once a year, depending on the size of your household. It’s safe for sensitive skin, affordable, plant-based, cruelty free, works well, and is free of harmful chemicals, so the EWG gives it an “A”.

Puracy’s formula contains no sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium coco sulfate (SCS), petrochemicals, sulfates, caustics, phosphates, dyes, chlorine, gluten, tree nut allergens, or optical brighteners. It’s made in the United States.

Best Glass Cleaner: Aspen Clean Natural Glass Cleaner

Aspen Clean Natural Glass Cleaner

Aspen Clean

This window and mirror cleaner is EWG Certified, as well as EcoCert Certified. The ingredients are biodegradable, plant-derived, and haven’t been tested on animals. Aspen's bottles are made from 100% recycled materials and the product is made in Canada. It not only leaves a streak-free finish on mirrors and windows, but also chrome bathroom fixtures, tiles, and enamel surfaces.

Best Scrub: Bon Ami Cleaning Powder

Bon Ami Cleaning Powder

Grove Collaborative

Most of the time, baking soda works beautifully to scrub surfaces, both physically removing particles and also deodorizing without adding scent. But when you need a little more cleaning muscle, Bon Ami is very inexpensive and still uses the same formula it has been since 1886—a combination of powdered feldspar, limestone, baking soda, and soda ash—which is totally biodegradable and safe for septic tanks. It has an “A” rating from EWG.

It also won one of Treehugger's Best Of Green: Cleaning Awards. Our housekeeping expert notes that it removes caked-on stuff as well as hard-water stains. It has no fragrance and can be used on stainless steel, porcelain, natural stone, fiberglass, and acrylic surfaces. Be careful with other surfaces though, as there are some that shouldn’t be subjected to any scrub.

Final Verdict

All the products on this list are best-in-class. However, for an all-purpose cleaner, our go-to is Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds. For a simple and biodegradable scrubber, look for cellulose sponges

What to Look for in Sustainable Cleaning Products

It’s never been easier to find cleaning products that will impact your indoor air less, as well pollute our shared fresh water supplies less. In addition to the finds above, keep an eye out for products that are fragrance-free, and for soaps that are chlorine and phosphate-free.

Where it’s applicable, we’ve also considered the rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit that ranks products based on the toxicity of their chemical ingredients. You can also look up nearly any product's EWG grade yourself. Start by entering some of the products you already have under your kitchen cabinet in their database. It’s a simple way to learn which products you might want to avoid in the future.

Lastly, not everyone will like every product—the way it smells, its concentration, the way it cleans, or other factors might mean it doesn’t work for you. The great thing about green cleaning products’ now-wide availability is that you can keep trying products that work for you. Just use the suggestions above as a guide.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Starre Vartan has been researching and reviewing environmentally sustainable products for 15 years and wrote a book on eco-friendly, healthy living. She uses Dr. Bronner’s soap for cleaning floors and dishes, and a lot of baking soda—for laundry, scrubbing anything, and soaking up spills.

View Article Sources
  1. Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality.EPA, Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. Puracy Natural Dish Soap, Green Tea & Lime Cleaner Rating.EWG, Environmental Working Group.

  3. The MADE SAFE Banned List.Made Safe, Made Safe.

  4. Dr. Bronner's Cleaner Ratings.EWG, Environmental Working Group.

  5. Kisclean Carpet Cleaner Cleaner Rating.EWG, Environmental Working Group.

  6. Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear Cleaner Rating.EWG, Environmental Working Group.

  7. Bon Ami Powder Cleanser Cleaner Rating.EWG, Environmental Working Group.