Some all-purpose cleaners contain the sudsing agents diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), which can react with nitrites (an often undisclosed preservative or contaminant) to form nitrosamines – carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin. Skin also easily absorbs nerve-damaging butyl cellosolve (also known as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether), present in some cleaners. Fumes from ammonia-containing cleaners may cause respiratory irritation. Sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite (bleach) are highly caustic, and sodium hypochlorite should never be mixed with any product containing ammonia or acids, or toxic gases will result. To prevent chemical accidents, it’s best to simply avoid.

Most household cleaning needs can be met safely and inexpensively with a sturdy scrubber sponge and simple ingredients like water, liquid castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s, below), vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda for scrubbing grease and grime.

Listed below are a number of all-purpose cleaners that are gentler on human health and the environment. While eco-friendlier cleaners are becoming more widely available in conventional grocery and home stores, most can be found only at natural foods stores or must be ordered by mail.


Procyon Carpet and Upholstery cleaner,

Greenworks Oxi Stain Remover,

Aubrey Organics Earth Aware,

BioShield Vinegar Cleaner,

Ecover All-Purpose Cleaner,

Seventh Generation All Purpose Cleaner,