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Determining if a Cleaning Product Is Green

The federal government’s guidelines for its own programs can work just as well for your facility.

September 6, 2022

If you manage a facility that is looking to go green—that is, be as environmentally friendly as possible—a great way to start is by finding and using green cleaning products.

But what exactly makes a cleaning product green? What are the characteristics of a green cleaning product? Is a product green just because the label says so?

To distinguish a green product from one that’s not, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines on judging a product’s “greenness” for its federal operations through its Environmentally Preferrable Purchasing (EPP) program. You can lean on the EPP program as well as the EPA’s Recommendations of Standards and Ecolabels for Federal Green Purchasing to help ensure that the cleaning products being used in your building are truly in line with your facility’s clean agenda.

The EPA suggests looking for the following standards when purchasing green cleaning products:

  • The Green Seal™ 37 standard for industrial- and institutional-use cleaning products
  • The Green Seal 40 standard industrial and institutional floor care products
  • The Ecologo/UL 2777 standard for hard-floor care products
  • The Ecologo/UL 2759 standard for hard-surface and carpet/upholstery cleaning products

The federal programs can also use cleaning products with the following ecolabels:

  • BioPreferred® Program— United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased
  • Safer Choice

Hand soaps and cleaners have their own recommendations:

  • The Green Seal 41 Standard for hand cleaners for industrial and institutional use
  • The Ecologo/UL 2784 Standard for all other hand cleaners

If you need more information on how these standards and ecolabels were actually determined, the EPA discusses the framework used for their assessment here.

For more information on the benefits of green cleaning and how to get started, see 5 Steps to Developing a Green Program.

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