Parents' Best Green Cleaning Products of 2021
At a time when we’re hanging at home more than ever, a tidy space feels like a big accomplishment. For the second year in a row, we tested eco-friendly formulas to find out which ones get surfaces clean and leave the planet intact too. Roll out the green carpet for the winners.
Best Disinfecting Wipes (Tie)
There’s an antiviral component in thyme oil (who knew?), and that’s what makes CleanWell Botanical Disinfecting Wipes germ blasters on toys, sinks, doorknobs, and whatever else you’re sanitizing these days. “The wipes have a good amount of moisture without being too wet,” said one tester, who enjoyed the lemon scent.
Best Disinfecting Wipes (Tie)
Citric acid gives germ-fighting oomph to Arm & Hammer Essentials Disinfecting Wipes. Testers noted that they’re thicker and more textured than other brands they’d tried.
Best Scented Disinfectant
The lavender-vanilla Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray has a slight edge over the fresh citrus. But you do you. What matters is they both contain the herbal-based germ fighter thyme oil—yep, the same active ingredient that’s in the CleanWell wipes.
Best Fragrance-Free Disinfectant
Quite the multitasker, Honest Disinfecting Spray doesn’t just wipe out invisible germs. Unlike many brands, it contains ingredients that cut through grime so your baby’s high chair is legit spotless. At least for a few minutes.
Best for Countertops
In an easy-to-spray bottle, Boulder Clean Natural Granite + Stainless Cleaner is the bomb for wiping up baking messes, pet slobber, and sticky fingerprints, keeping counters streak-free. (You can also use it on marble, sealed stone, and chrome.) The company donates 1 percent of its annual sales to nonprofits focused on helping the environment.
Best Dishwasher Pods
Standing up to the likes of dried pancake batter and utensils with caked-on mac ’n’ cheese unearthed from a teen’s room, Boulder Clean Dishwasher Detergent Power Packs leave no spots or residue. “Everything dried to a sparkly clean,” raved one tester, who preferred the Citrus Zest scent. The secret sauce: a patented sugar-derived ingredient.
Best Dishwasher Cleaner
We’re not judging, but when was the last time you deodorized your dishwasher? Use Lemi Shine’s Dishwasher Cleaner monthly to remove mineral buildup and other gunk while infusing a lemon scent.
Best Powder Dish Soap
A surprise hit: the Blueland Dish Soap Starter Set, with a reusable silicone shaker bottle and a mineral-based powder that foams up when you sprinkle it on a wet sponge or wet dishes. Said one tester: “It cuts through grime on dishes you left in the sink too long.”
Best Liquid Dish Soap
Made with several plant-derived cleaners, Thrive Market Dish Soap cut through grease on our testers’ pots and pans. They were split on whether they preferred the lavender or the fragrance-free version.
Best Baby-Bottle Soap
Dealing with cloudy milk residue inside bottles and sippy cups? The baking soda and the cleaners derived from tree oils and coconut in Dapple Baby Bottle & Dish Soap cut through film from milk or formula. Buy a pump bottle the first time and use pouches for refills.
Best Laundry Pods
Smaller than most pods and filled with clear liquid, the Brandless Laundry Detergent Packs dissolve well in the wash. “They cleaned like a champ, and the lavender version left a great scent,” one mom said. Psst: There’s a fragrance-free option if you need it. In either case, each jar comes with a child-resistant lid and contains 50 pods.
Best Baby Laundry Detergent
Milk stains are no match for Babyganics 3X Lavender Laundry Detergent thanks to a blend of plant-based cleaners and enzymes. Said one tester: “My 6-month-old’s clothes are pretty nasty because she has reflux. This brand removed the stains and odor without irritating her sensitive skin.”
Best Liquid Laundry Detergent
With a combo of gentle foaming cleansers—including one made with coconut oil—PUR Home Laundry Detergent removes grungy stains on the first shot. As one tester, who tried the lavender-grapefruit scent, put it, “I usually wash my son’s soccer jersey twice to get out all the dirt. But with this detergent, it didn’t need a second round.” More good stuff: The bottle is made completely of recycled materials; you can even toss the exterior cardboard shell into the compost bin.
Best Fabric Softener
The perks of using Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Fabric Softener, according to our testers: Just an ounce of the biodegradable liquid removes static, reduces wrinkles, and leaves towels fluffy. Testers were also impressed by the selection of scents.
For Mealtime Messes
“I literally forgot to put soap in the machine—mom life!—while washing my daughter’s high-chair cover, and all the food stains were gone with just the Disney Baby ECOS Stain & Odor Remover that I’d applied.”
For Spills on the Go
“Using this little tube of Babyganics Fragrance Free Stain Eraser, I have blotted away pasta sauce, chocolate ice cream, and purple grape juice from my son’s clothes. It lightens the stain as you’re working on it, and the rest comes out in the wash.”
For Set-in Spots
“The Kids ‘N’ Pets Instant All-Purpose Stain & Odor Remover got out old mysterious brown stains from my son’s plush blanket while preserving the preprinted design.” Other testers swore by it to clean up accidents from real and furry babies.
Hailed as a “miracle worker,” Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Surface Scrub tackles trouble spots you might think are hopeless. “This powder did wonders for my bathtub, which had grit and grime on it for a long time,” said one tester. Another raved about how it easily removed dried toothpaste from the sink.
Best Toilet Bowl Cleaner
The citric acid in Method AntiBac Toilet Bowl Cleaner kills germs while the spearmint scent neutralizes the odor. The bottle’s narrow shape is also easy to handle, according to testers.
Best Bathroom Cleaner
With lime and lavender essential oils, AspenClean Bathroom Cleaner helps you get the job done faster. As one tester mentioned, “It dissolved thick scum in my soap holder.”
Best All-Purpose Floor Cleaner
The organic vinegar–based Squeak Floor Me Floor Cleaner loosens dirt on wood, stone, and tile. “My softwood pine floors, entryway tile, and floating cherrywood floors didn’t look particularly dirty, but the water was gross when I was done cleaning,” said one tester, who also noted that the product filled the room with an amazing earthy scent.
Best Disinfecting Floor Cleaner
Spritz Bona PowerPlus Antibacterial Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner on your germy hot spots, like near the bathroom sink and under the high chair. The hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria without leaving a residue. Shout-out for the nozzle’s dual setting, which makes spot cleaning a potty accident less annoying.
Best Mop Set
Truly a game changer, The Maker’s Mop “feels like it was designed by someone who wanted to make mopping pleasant so you don’t put it off,” one tester said. Features such as a lightweight extendable handle, a U-shaped mop head that gets into hard-to-reach spots, adhesive strips that grip eco-friendly washable pads, and a rubber ring that prevents sliding when you lean it against the wall are about as exciting as it gets these days.
Best Spray Mop
The Libman Freedom Spray Mop one-ups similar systems because you can pour your own eco-friendly cleaner (rather than a specific solution) into the refillable compartment. A battery-free trigger and a washable microfiber pad also give it an eco-edge.
How We Chose the Winners
We started with more than 100 products that are free of ammonia, hydrochloric acid, petroleum, phthalates, and sodium hydroxide (except in small amounts for pH balance)—the five chemical ingredients that Parents advisor Philip Landrigan, M.D., a pediatrician and director of the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health at Boston College, cited as most concerning to the environment. Families rated the products’ effectiveness on kid stains (think bibs and muddy clothes) and routine cleanup (such as washing dishes and disinfecting countertops).
To pick the winners, we also factored in the price and the sustainability of the packaging, a suggestion from Surili Sutaria Patel, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and Equity at the American Public Health Association. Without further ado, here are our green product winners.