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Green product watch: best spring cleaners 3/11

Spring cleaning can be easier and much less-toxic this year if you consider using homemade cleaners or some of the greener, high-rated commercial cleaning products now on the market.

We’ve rounded up some of the best choices based on Consumer Reports recommendations.

Homemade cleaners

With some simple, reliable recipes and clean, empty containers, you can make your own cleaners right at home using familiar household ingredients.

We have a list of the best homemade recipes that you can use for cleaning tasks in each area of your home. Plus we provide a glossary of safer ingredients and what they clean best.

Greener commercial cleaners

Many less-toxic commercial cleaning products are now available in stores and online. But which ones actually work well?

To find out, we reviewed Consumer Reports tests on several kinds of cleaning products: all-purpose cleaners, dishwasher detergents with low phosphates, dishwashing liquids, laundry liquids and powders, and shower cleaners. Listed below are some greener choices.

All-purpose cleaners

The idea that you can use just one cleaning product for many different chores is definitely eco-friendly. The fewer products and containers in the cupboard, the better. And Consumer Reports tests show that Nature’s Source and Seventh Generation, each 12 cents per ounce, were among the best all-purpose cleaners tested. Both were gentle on most surfaces except yellow brass and paint. Ecover Natural also cleaned well but in the tests it marred more surfaces than most when left overnight.

Dishwasher detergents with low phosphates

The good news is that the low-phosphate products Consumer Reports last tested in 2010 performed much better than the ones in the 2009 tests, which were low-rated. Among the top cleaners, in alphabetical order, are: Cascade Complete All In 1 pacs (28 cents per load), Ecover tablets (27 cents), Finish Powerball Tabs tablets (22 cents), and Method Smarty Dish tablets (21 cents).

Dishwashing liquids

In our latest tests of dishwashing liquids with eco-friendly claims, most did a very good job cutting grease and removing food. Ecover Ecological Dishwashing at 6.2 cents per tablespoon was judged excellent overall and costs less than the top-performing conventional dishwashing product.

Laundry liquids and powders

When Consumer Reports last tested laundry detergents, the tests included several detergents that claim plant-based, hypoallergenic formulas. None of the greener detergents were top-rated, but two did a reasonably good job in the tests. Each is designed for the newer high-efficiency top-loading or front-loading washers. They are: Kirkland Signature Environmentally Friendly Ultra 2X HE (Costco) at 12 cents per average load, which cleaned well among products making green claims; and Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE at 34 cents per average load, which also cleaned well and did a better job on difficult bloodstains.

Shower cleaners

Most "green" shower cleaners haven’t done very well in past tests. One brand that did okay is Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner, $3.50. The maker, Clorox, says it has "plant and mineral-based ingredients." Green Works did prevent scum and mildew from building up, removed rust, and left no streaks. But it was poor at removing established mildew, so you need to use it often to prevent slime. Do-it-yourself cleaning recipes might be a better way to go.

Related links

Homemade cleaners: best recipes 1/11

Can one cleaner do it all? 1/11

Cleaners: green buying guide 1/11

Trying to make scents of the chemicals in household cleaners 11/10

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