Best Eco Kitchen Cleaners

Green house-cleaners are a safer option than the chemical-laden versions that pollute the air and water with potentially dangerous toxins. But do they work? We put 30 different eco-cleaning products to the test to come up with our favorites:

Ecover Dishwashing Liquid: We looked for a detergent that was tough on grease but still gentle on skin. A pleasant smell helped, too. We loved Ecover for all these reasons, plus its value price ($4 for 32 oz.;

Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap: Its super-concentrated formula comes in delicious scents like Lemon Verbena ($4.99 for 16 oz.;

Sun & Earth All Purpose Spray Cleaner: Made short work of cleaning the inside of a refrigerator that hadn’t been wiped down for months. Plus, it smelled like freshly juiced oranges ($4 for 22 oz.;

Chemfree Solutions Kitchen: We liked this spray for the sheen it left on counters and its fresh, subtle scent ($5.99 for 16 oz.;

Howard Naturals Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish: Removed all evidence of fingerprints and grease and left surfaces shiny and clean ($9 for 12 oz.;

Caldrea Company’s Stainless Steel Spray: The olive oil in this formula cleaned steel surfaces without leaving streaks. Five lovely scents include Basil Blue Sage ($10 for 11.8 oz.;

How to Read a Cleaning Product’s Label

A quick guide to decoding the lingo:

Surfactants: This is the active cleaning agent in a cleaner. Look for plant-based rather than petroleum-based surfactants.

Chlorine-free: Since chlorine is harmful to health and the environment, it’s best to stay clear. If you need a cleaner with whitening action, look for one that’s “oxygenated,” which will break up stains and get rid of mildew.

Phosphate-free: Automatic dishwashing detergents sometimes contain phosphates, which help them clean better but can pollute the oceans by promoting overgrowth of algae in the water, which can block the sun and use up the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need. Opt for phosphate-free detergents.

Essential oils: A safer fragrance option than artificially derived scents.

Ammonia-free: Since ammonia can irritate the eyes and lungs, it’s best to avoid it.

Recyclable packaging: Remember to recycle plastic bottles and buy the biggest available bottles of cleaners.

Green Web Sites

The EPA blog offers online facts about nontoxic cleaning.

Green cleaning company Seventh Generation’s Guide to a Toxin-Free Home is extensive.

Green Home Living, an online magazine produced by eco retailer Green Home, is a great resource for information and green products: or