Household Cleaners

Ethical shopping guide to household cleaners, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to household cleaners, from Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.


This product guide to Household Cleaners includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 41 popular household cleaners
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • Microfibre Cloths
  • DIY cleaners


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Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


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Best Buys

as of April 2017

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.

Certified organic, vegan and received a best Ethical Consumer rating for Animal Testing: 

  • Greenscents
  • Libby V-concentrate
  • Bentley Organics
  • Sodasan   


These are followed by the vegan and cruelty-free brands:

  • Faith in Nature
  • Bio-D
  • Earth Friendly
  • Libby Chan  
  • Ecoleaf  


Additionally, Libby Chan and Earth Friendly Products were palm oil free companies.

Also recommended: Lilly's Eco Clean, Sonett, Ecozone, Astonish and Attitude and Dri-Pak for making your own detergent.

Ecover and Method are best of the widely available brands although since their takeover they have a boycott call against it for being owned by a non cruelty-free company, SC Johnson.

to buy

Image: Ecover

image: Ecover

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Last updated: April 2017 






Related Content

Read our Special Report into Cleaning Products



Household cleaners

The score table covers all-purpose, kitchen, bathroom, oven, carpet and floor cleaners, disinfectant and bleach brands. There is a seperate guide to Toilet Cleaners. 

Supermarket shelves are full of rows and rows of different cleaners for different household jobs, all seemingly with different formulations specially devised for the job, but in reality, most cleaners contain the same basic ingredients. 

However, some ingredients are toxic, most are based on petrochemicals from the oil industry and most use antibacterial chemicals and synthetic fragrances. None of these ingredients are necessary. 

Fortunately there are a number of plant based and more natural cleaners available.

Plus you can make your own from simpler products such as white vinegar, soda crystals and citric acid can help with most cleaning jobs around the home. Dri Pak makes these basic ingredients. 


Image: Cleaning Products


Make your own household cleaners

General, all-purpose liquid cleaner: 1 cup vinegar, 2 cups water and ½ a lemon.

Air freshener: A simple recipe of 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice), and 2 cups hot water in a spray bottle can be sprayed in the air to remove odours. Or sprinkle essential oil on a cloth and wipe it over a radiator.

Windows: Put 3 tablespoons vinegar 3 litres water in a spray bottle. Some recommend using half vinegar and half water. For extra-dirty windows try this: 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Shake well. The best way to get streak-free windows is to use newspaper to wipe them.

Toilet cleaner: Pour 1 cup of borax substitute into the toilet before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the borax substitute.

Ovens: To clean extra-greasy ovens, mix together 1 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste to oven surfaces and let soak overnight.

The next morning, lift off soda mixture and grime; rinse surfaces well (gloves are recommended as washing soda may irritate skin).

Disinfect surfaces naturally by mixing two parts water to one part vinegar or lemon juice.

See also for more info.



Microfibre cloths


Another way to avoid problem ingredients is to use microfibre cloths which are made from millions of polyester and nylon micro-fibres and clean with just water, no detergents or chemicals. 

Manufacturer Ecozone, who appear on the score card above, state “These high-quality cloths reduce your use of household chemicals by up to 90%. You only need to use minimal amounts of water and you can reuse them up to 300 times. Removes dirt, grease and over 99% of bacteria, including E. coli and Listeria.”


Probiotic cleaning – good enough to eat

A new addition to our 2017 guide is the Libby Chan cleaner from My Living Water. Libby Chan was created by Miki, who wanted to detox her home after illness. Looking into her cultural background, and how older Asian generations had cleaned, she decided to use the power of micro-organisms. The product is made from fermented soya, yeast, yogurt and fairtrade sugar (or in the vegan version, Libbys V-concentrate, soya, sour salt, and organic brown rice and soya milk). 

The cleaner is 100% edible and comes in a concentrated format. One cleaner does all cleaning jobs.

My Living Water’s website states, “During the fermentation process the friendly bacteria produce active impact mircro-organisms that are wonderful odour eaters, grease eaters and most importantly keep the bad bacteria in your home in balance.

It also states that a similar approach was used by Thai relief crews to clean up environmental pollution after the tsunami in 2011.

The company also has an ethical policy, choosing to use organic and fair trade ingredients, non-PVC bottles with water-based adhesive for the labels, and no palm oil.

Libby Chan is available from a number of shops around the UK, or from its online shop


Palm Oil

Three brands in this guide are owned by palm oil free companies – Libby Chan and Libby V-concentrate and Earth Friendly Products.

Bentley Organincs, Sodasan, Sonett and Ecoleaf are owned by companies that get our best rating for palm oil because they use sustainable palm oil.


Toxic chemicals

We have rated all the companies for their toxic chemicals policies. The companies which received a best rating had a policy because they had banned the use of parabens, phthalates and triclosan (see our feature on toxic chemicals for why we have chosen these chemicals) were:

Greenscents, Bentley Organics, Bio-D, Faith in Nature, Earth Friendly, Ecozone, Libby Chan, Lilly’s Eco Clean.



Animal testing

In October 2015, the UK Government banned the testing of ‘finished’ household products on animals and introduced a ‘qualified ban’ on testing the ingredients on animals. But it’ll make little difference to animal welfare. This is because no animals have been used for testing ‘finished’ household products in the UK since 2010. It’s usually the ingredients not the ‘finished’ products that are tested on animals. 

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetics on their animal testing policy. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets, such as China, where animal testing of products is required by law.

Libby Chan, Greenscents, Bio-D, Faith in Nature, Earth Friendly, Ecozone, Ecoleaf, Lilly’s Eco Clean, Astonish, Method, Dri Pak and Ecover all received our best rating for animal testing.

Ecover has been targetted for animal testing in recent years, find out more in our feature 'Should I Buy Ecover?

For more information see our animal testing article in our wider report into Cleaning Products. 





Company profile


In South Korea, a coalition of civic and consumer groups as well as the families of the victims who are believed to have died or suffered from lung failure after using Oxy humidifier disinfectants made by Reckitt Benckiser between 2001 and 2011, initiated a boycott of the company's products in April 2016.

Over 100 people are said to have died and prosecutors were investigating allegations that Reckitt knew about the possible danger of the chemical used in the disinfectants, ignored consumer complaints, and paid off university researchers to fabricate toxicity results in a study in its favour.[1]

Reckitt apologised and agreed to pay £300 million in compensation. In January 2017, the former executive of Oxy Reckitt, Shin Hyun-woo, was found guilty of accidental homicide and falsely advertising the deadly product as being safe even for children and jailed for seven years.[2] Three other research and development employees were also convicted and jailed.[3] The current head of Reckitt Benckiser Korea and the group’s CEO remain in position.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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1 Consumers to boycott Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, 25/4/16 – 
2 Former Reckitt Benckiser executive linked to death of 100 people in South Korea jailed for seven years – The Independent, 6 Jan 2017 
3 South Korea court convicts ex-Reckitt Benckiser unit chief in sterilizer case, Reuters, 6 Jan 2017 




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