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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Green Living: Green Cleaning

Resources to help you green your home and make better environmental decisions.

Green Cleaning Basics


According to the U.S. EPA, the average US household accumulates up to 100 pounds of hazardous household waste, including cleaning products, paints, oils, batteries, and pesticides. 

Green Cleaning Tips

  • Eco-friendly cleaning products allow you to keep a clean house without toxic chemicals that can affect the environment and your health. Green Seal lists certified household products on their web site.
  • Cut costs, reduce waste, and clean safely by mixing basic cleaners to clean hard surfaces at home.
  • Castile soap is a pure, vegetable soap that's safe and biodegradable. Clean your home and everything in it, including floors, dishes, your body, and your pet.
  • Drain cleaners are among the most toxic household cleaning supplies. Keep chemicals out of the water supply by opting for natural alternatives. More information available at
  • Launder naturally by avoiding chemical cleaning agents that may affect ecosystems by contaminating soil and groundwater. Choosing natural laundry detergent also reduces the amount of chlorine, phosphates, and petroleum-based chemicals that are released into the environment and onto your skin.
  • Protect your hands and the environment while getting dishes clean and streak-free with safe and natural dishwashing detergents.
  • From shining silver to loosening the grime around taps and tires, a few simple ingredients are all you need to make your fixtures sparkle from the kitchen to the garage. Recipes for making your own available from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute.
  • Rags, dust mitts, scrubbers, and more can be made out of what you already have around the house, including old towels, t-shirts, and bed sheets.
  • Give your clean-up a little green-up with paper towels made from recycled fibers and without bleach.
  • Don't buy anti-bacterial products containing triclosan, which eventually ends up in the water supply. Plain soap, warm water, and proper handwashing will do the trick. Alcohol-based gel or foam hand sanitizers that don't contain triclosan are also good alternatives if you don't have water to wash your hands.

Cleaning Products Are Only Part of the Picture

By changing your cleaning practices, you can also reduce the need for strong, toxic cleaners. Follow these tips for greener cleaning:

  • Keep dirt out of the house. A durable welcome mat encourages visitors to wipe their feet
  • Minimize product use by matching the product with the need. Don't use a strong cleaner on a mild stain.
  • Choose cleaning equipment that is durable, energy efficient, and quiet
  • Use products properly. Read the labels!

Make green cleaners at home

Learn more about green cleaning