The Best Green Cleaners and More

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Earth Day might have made you want to turn over a new leaf and opt for “green” products — not just for your kids and family, but for the sake of the environment. But you may have noticed that when it comes to “green" products, quality can vary a lot and that most of them cost extra. Here at Consumer Reports, we’ve noticed the same thing.

But we've also found a handful of green products that perform as well as or better than traditional ones. They’re listed below. (Keep in mind, however, that there's no standard definition for claims like "green," "natural" or "nontoxic" on any product, and that those claims often go unverified, as well.)

GREEN CLEANERS

Dishwasher detergents

Go green? Yes

Green update: The detergents that perform best in our tests (Cascade Complete products get top scores) usually have environmentally unfriendly phosphates, which boost algae growth in fresh water, threatening fish and plants. But greener, phosphate-free options held their own in our latest test. More than three brands scored very well and cost less than a few conventional cleaners.

Smart Picks: Biokleen With Natural Oxygen Bleach Powder, 26 cents per load; Method Smarty Dish, 25 cents per load; Ecover Tablets, 24 cents per load.

Laundry detergents

Go green? Maybe

Green update: None of the eco-friendly laundry detergents we recently tested earned our top scores, but we found a couple that are worth trying, especially for your less grungy loads. And one of them is about half the price of other brands. (For really dirty laundry, Tide 2X Ultra with Color Clean Bleach Alternative for HE and regular machines is best.)

Smart Picks: For conventional top-loaders: Method Squeaky Green 3X Concentrated HE 31 cents per load. For high-efficiency washers: Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE, 36 cents per load.

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Note: Consumer Reports has no relationship with the advertisers on this site.

Dishwashing liquids

Go green? Yes

Green update: In our latest tests of dish detergents with eco-friendly claims, most did a very good job cutting grease and removing food. One by Ecover was excellent overall and costs less than the top-performing conventional dishwashing product.

Smart Pick: Ecover Ecological Dishwashing, 6.2 cents per tablespoon.

Shower cleaners

Go green? Maybe

Green update: Most "green" shower cleaners haven't wowed us. We found one decent choice by Green Works, but it wasn’t great on mildew removal. So for really slimy jobs, you might want to pick a conventional cleaner like Comet.

Smart Pick: Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner, $3.50.

PAPER PRODUCTS

Nonrecycled TP and paper towels still get the top overall scores in our tests. But we recently found that a few recycled brands are catching up in price and performance.

Toilet paper

Go green? Maybe

Green update: Recycled TP brands we’ve tested haven’t proven as soft or durable as conventional TP. But they broke down easily in our disintegration tests—that’s good news if your home’s plumbing system is sensitive. And some brands can save you money.

Smart Pick: If you’d like to give recycled TP a whirl, try Marcal Small Steps, 8 cents per 100 sheets.

—Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org or check out Consumer Reports’ Home & Garden advice.

Note: Consumer Reports has no relationship with the advertisers on this site.

Paper towels

Go green? Maybe

Green update: In our recent tests most recycled paper-towel brands were trounced by big national brands like Bounty and Viva as well as store brands from CVS and Walgreens. Only one product held its own, and it didn’t cost more than top-rated Bounty.

Smart Pick: White Cloud Green Earth, $2.07 per 100 sq. ft.

Sheets and towels

Textiles like sheets and towels with green claims are now easier to find and more affordable. But there are no standards for terms like "natural" or "eco-friendly." Here’s how to find legit green products:

  • Look for organic labels. USDA-certified organic textiles must be grown without most synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic cotton is an especially green choice because regular cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops.
  • Check processing methods. "Organic" textiles can be processed with chemicals like formaldehyde or synthetic dyes. The "Oeko-Tex Standard 100" certification offers some assurance that formaldehyde and other chemicals are restricted.
  • Don’t be misled by claims on "bamboo" products. The origins may be natural, but turning those fibers into fabric isn’t. It usually takes strong chemicals to convert bamboo into rayon fabric — a process that’s not environmentally friendly.

Get more great green shopping advice from ShopSmart magazine.

—Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org or check out Consumer Reports’ Home & Garden advice.

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