Last Updated on April 27, 2023 by The Filtery
Many people understandably assume that if a product or ingredient is available on store shelves, it’s been thoroughly tested for safety. But unfortunately, that’s not actually the case. Just like with the beauty and personal care industry, ingredients in household cleaning products are highly unregulated. Most ingredients and formulations go through very minimal testing before they’re put on the market, and there is little third-party testing or accountability in place.
Research has shown us that common cleaning products can significantly contribute to indoor air pollution, and that just mopping your floor with certain traditional cleaning products can leave your air as polluted as that of a city street. (We’ve listed some of the specific toxic chemicals to watch out for at the bottom of this article.)
This is why many people are making the switch to natural cleaning products.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to sort through the greenwashing that occurs in the home cleaning category, natural and non-toxic products tend to be a much better option for everyone—adults, kids, pets, and the environment as a whole.
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. As always, all recommendations are honest.
Okay, but do natural cleaning products actually work?
The short answer is: yes! People have been effectively using natural ingredients and products to clean their homes for generations. Most people know that vinegar and baking soda are two very effective cleaning ingredients that are natural, inexpensive, and powerful.
If you’re just starting the switch to non-toxic cleaning products and are perhaps a little skeptical, we encourage you to just give it a try. Choose a product or two and see what you think for yourself. Everyone has different preferences and priorities, so don’t be afraid to try a few different brands before deciding on your favorite.
Alright, now here are our top brands for non-toxic and natural household cleaners:
1. Branch Basics
What makes it different: It’s a truly all-purpose product (eliminating the need for a bunch of different products for different areas of the home).
What you CAN use it for: Pretty much everything. Countertops and other surfaces, bathrooms & toilets, mirrors & windows, laundry, hand & dish soap, stain treatment, bleach alternative, hard floors. Dishwasher detergent can be purchased separately.
What you CANNOT use it for: Hardwood with special finishes. Disinfecting.
I’ve been using Branch Basics for years now, and I use it all over my home. It comes in a concentrate, which you can then put into different containers for different purposes. If you get one of their starter kits, you’ll get a few spray bottles (either plastic or glass) and you can use the markings on the bottles to easily make cleaners of different strengths. (For example, you’ll use more concentrate for the bathroom cleaner and less for the streak-free glass cleaner.)
You can also put the concentrate in a foaming soap dispenser to use for cleaning hands and dishes.
Branch Basics also makes dishwasher detergent tablets and oxygen boost powder, which I use as both a laundry booster and a stain remover.
It’s unscented, which is ideal for the most chemically-sensitive people. It’s made of biodegradable ad plant-based ingredients, and it’s MADE SAFE certified (which is one of the best third-party labels for ingredient safety).
You can check out our full review of Branch Basics right here. And if you decide to make a purchase, you can use the code THEFILTERY for 15% off any Starter Kit.
2. Force of Nature
What makes it different: It’s a disinfectant.
What you CAN use it for: Hard surfaces, bathrooms & toilets, mirrors & windows, stain treatment, hard floors.
What you CANNOT use it for: Hand & dish soap, laundry, dishwasher detergent.
Force of Nature is a unique kind of cleaning product that uses electricity to transform salt, vinegar, and water into an electrolyzed water that acts as both a disinfectant and a degreaser.
This kind of technology has actually been used in medical facilities for quite a while, but Force of Nature is the first company to figure out how to bring it into regular folks’ homes.
I use both Branch Basics and Force of Nature in my home because sometimes I want to use a disinfectant and sometimes I don’t!
One of the cool things about Force of Nature is that you can use it for other things besides cleaning. For example, you can spray it on things like upholstery, shoes, and sports gear to eliminate odors. You can use it as a sterilizer for things you can’t rinse. You can even spray it directly on your hands to disinfect on the go.
One of the main downsides is that the solution becomes “inactive” after two weeks. So if you don’t have to clean that much or you go out of town, you’ll have to dump it and remake a new bottle. (It takes less than 10 minutes to “activate” the solution and make a fresh batch.)
You can read our full review of Force of Nature here and use the code THEFILTERY30 for 30% off Starter Kits and bundles.
What makes it different: This brand is for you if you like scented products.
What you CAN use it for: ATTITUDE carries products for just about every cleaning & personal care need.
What you CANNOT use it for: Disinfecting.
Unlike the two brands above, ATTITUDE offers cleaning products in a variety of nice scents, like Citrus Zest, Summer Berries, Wildflowers, Mountain Fresh, Lavender, Green Apple & Basil, and more. (And they have unscented, too!)
I’m pretty sensitive to smells, and in my opinion, ATTITUDE’s scented products are nice and noticeable, but not overbearing (like a lot of the more conventional brands out there!).
Whereas Branch Basics and Force of Nature really just offer one signature product, ATTITUDE offers many different products for various areas of your home. They have all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergent, dish soap and tablets, air purifiers, and more. They also have a lot of baby-specific options and personal care products (shampoo, skincare, etc.).
Most of ATTITUDE’s products are EWG Verified, which means their formulations have been verified to be safe from harsh chemicals by the Environmental Working Group. They also offer “Eco-Refills,” which come in larger cardboard boxes to reduce plastic waste. (Some of their products are completely plastic-free.)
What makes it different: It’s the best zero/low-waste option.
What you CAN use it for: Countertops and various surfaces, floors, hand soap, dish soap, laundry, stain remover, bleach alternative.
What you CANNOT use it for: Dishwasher detergent. Disinfecting.
Meliora is one of the few brands that is BOTH truly non-toxic and very low-waste. In fact, it’s single-use plastic free; the only plastic parts are the top of the spray bottle and the big plastic buckets of refills if you buy in bulk.
Meliora offers an all-purpose cleaning spray, which can be used on pretty much any surface, including in the kitchen, bathroom, or even on hard floors. If you have a bottle already, you can get refill tablets, which just dissolve in water.
They also have a several different laundry products (powder detergent, stain stick, and bleach alternative), a foaming hand soap, a zero waste dish soap block, body wash, and a scrub cleaner, which is good for things like grout and the stovetop.
Some of their products are fragrance-free, while others are scented with just natural oils.
Everything is made right in their own factory in Chicago, Illinois. And all of their products come with lots of great third-party certifications, too, including MADE SAFE, Leaping Bunny, B Corp, 1% for the Planet, and Women-Owned.
We have a full review of Meliora coming soon, so stay tuned!
5. Aunt Fannie’s
What makes it different: Cleaning products are vinegar-powered. Plus they have other unique offerings like pest control products (like fruit fly traps and ant remedy) and pet-specific cleaners (like spray for cat homes).
What you CAN use it for: Countertops and other surfaces, bathrooms & toilets, hard floors and carpets, glass and mirrors.
What you CANNOT use it for: Laundry, dish soap/detergent, hand soap. Disinfecting.
If you’re someone who likes to use vinegar as a powerful home cleaning ingredient, you might want to try Aunt Fannie’s. They make a variety of home cleaning products with vinegar as their star ingredient. Their formulations are minimal, and they use (pet-safe) essential oils for refreshing scents.
Many of their products come with third-party certifications, such as EWG Verified and Leaping Bunny.
Aunt Fannie’s also has natural pest control solutions for your home as well, including fruit fly traps, sprays and powders for ants and other pests, and mosquito repellent.
One of the main downsides to Aunt Fannie’s is that they use more plastic than some of the other brands; they don’t have very many concentrate or refillable options.
You can buy Aunt Fannie’s at: Grove Collaborative | Hive | Target
Top Picks by Category:
- All-Purpose: Branch Basics Concentrate
- Disinfectant: Force of Nature Spray
- Hard Floor Cleaner: ATTITUDE Hard Floor Cleaner (for tile and wood)
- Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Refresher: Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher
- Stain Remover: Meliora Stain Stick
- Liquid Laundry Detergent: ATTITUDE
- Powder Laundry Detergent: Meliora
- Fabric Softener: ATTITUDE
- Liquid Dish Soap: ATTITUDE
- Foaming Dish Soap: Branch Basics Concentrate
- Dishwasher Detergent Pods: Branch Basics
- Surface Wipes: Aunt Fannie’s
- Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Force of Nature Spray
- Streak-Free Glass Cleaner: Branch Basics
What About Brands like Grove, Mrs. Meyer’s, Method, and Seventh Generation?
We call these the “big green” cleaning companies; they’re the “eco-friendly” brands that have made it to the mainstream and are commonly found in big box stores like Target.
These brands have been accused of greenwashing more than once, leaving many consumers to wonder whether or not they’re truly as “natural” or “sustainable” as they market themselves to be.
We’ve actually done deep dives into these brands and their ingredients, which we’ve linked to below. But if you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole right now, here’s the summary:
When it comes to ingredient transparency and safety, some of these brands are better than others… but none of them are the “best.” Most of them leave out several of the “worst” ingredients in cleaning products (such as phthalates), but they may include other “not-great” ingredients such as isothiazolinone preservatives (which can exacerbate things like eczema).
If you’re interested, you can read more about each of the brands here:
Is Blueland Non-Toxic?
Blueland is a popular low-waste cleaning company that offers refillable cleaners for the whole home.
In general, Blueland is a good option. Many of their products (mainly the fragrance-free ones) come with third-party certifications, including MADE SAFE, EWG Verified, Cradle to Cradle, and Leaping Bunny. They explicitly leave out harsh chemicals like VOCs, chlorine bleach, phthalates, parabens, and ammonia.
However, the reason Blueland didn’t make our “best of” list is that many of their products include undisclosed fragrance as well as some colorants. Even though Blueland states their fragrances and dyes are free from Prop 65 chemicals and heavy metals, they still don’t disclose all of the info.
So if you do go with Blueland, we recommend choosing the fragrance-free options.
Harsh Chemicals to Watch Out for In Home Cleaning Products
As you probably already know, there are a lot of different types of ingredients used in cleaning products. Many of course are perfectly harmless, while others include allergens, endocrine disruptors, and even carcinogens.
Here are some of the ingredients to eliminate or minimize in your home cleaning routine:
- Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, a.k.a. QUATS: These are found in many disinfecting products and are linked to reproductive harm, antibiotic resistance, respiratory irritation, and skin dermatitis.
- Chlorine Bleach: This gives off toxic byproducts called dioxins and furans, which are carcinogenic and have been linked to hormone disruption and reproductive harm.
- Ammonia: It’s corrosive and can cause cell damage as well as various acute health concerns, depending on the amount of exposure.
- Formaldehyde Releasers: Used as preservatives, these chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and are linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions (as formaldehyde is a known carcinogen).
- Fragrance: This is an umbrella ingredient which can mean a lot of different things. Phthalates and other toxicants can be hidden under the word “fragrance” or “parfum.”
- Dyes: Some of the colorants found in cleaning products can contain heavy metals. And honestly, they’re just not necessary in cleaning products.
- Ethoxylates: These ingredients are very common in personal care and cleaning products. Because of the manufacturing process, they can be contaminated with two toxicants: 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. Examples of ethoxylates include PEGs, diethanolamine, and “-eareths” (steareth, ceteareth, etc.). Look for brands that either don’t use ethoxylated ingredients or have policies in place to test and/or minimize them.
Should you be disinfecting or not?
These days, many people equate “cleaning” and “disinfecting” as the same thing… But they’re really not. Cleaning generally refers to the act of wiping away dirt, debris, bacteria, etc. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to the act of killing germs, viruses, and bacteria.
There are certainly instances where disinfecting is appropriate and necessary, but conscious consumers will want to be wary of over-sterilizing. Some research indicates too much disinfecting can actually lead to antibiotic resistance, superbugs, and a decrease in overall immune function over time. And there are now over a million people per year that die because of antimicrobial resistance.
Plus, at least when it comes to hand-washing, the CDC has made it clear that using hand sanitizing soaps don’t actually prevent the spread of disease any more than regular soap and water.
Are natural cleaning products safe to use around pets?
For the most part, non-toxic cleaning products that are safe for humans are also safe for pets. The exception to this is certain essential oils (you can find a list here). If you have pets, you’ll want to either use fragrance-free cleaning products or use brands that are formulated to be safe for pets.
Want Even More Recommendations for Non-Toxic & Natural Cleaning Products?
If you’re looking for even more recommendations, here are some more category-specific guides that you might might helpful:
- The best non-toxic laundry detergent brands (by category)
- The best all-purpose cleaning sprays
- Where to find non-toxic dish soap and dishwasher detergent
- Non-toxic plug-in and spray air fresheners
- More tips & tricks for non-toxic cleaning tips for your whole home