What is a Biodegradable Cleaner?

There are many interchangeable and confusing terms used in the Green industry today that make it overwhelming to take the initiative. Browsing through all the cleaning products, one confusing term is Biodegradable, because doesn’t everything biodegrade eventually? So how would purchasing biodegradable cleaning products better the Earth, and how would that relate to cleaning products?

Essentially, Biodegradable means any product that is capable of breaking down to its natural components to rejoin Earth’s ecosystem. A biodegradable cleaner, therefore, are cleaning products that contain ingredients that are capable of biodegrading over time. 

When people purchase something because it’s Biodegradable, they assume its not harmful to them or the environment. Unfortunately, labeling something Biodegradable is not that simple.

Are Biodegradable Cleaners Safe for the Environment?

When an item biodegrades, depending on what it is and the environment it is in, it can release certain gases. In nature, items like food and wood can degrade harmlessly with the help of microorganisms. Products like plastic, however, release methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas that is harmful and contributes to global warming. In conditions like landfills where there are mounds and mounds of items on top of each other, such as food, plastic, paper, wood, etc. there is no balance. Everything is decomposing at different rates, so methane is constantly being added to the atmosphere.

How to Choose Biodegradable Cleaning Products

In most cases, people look for biodegradable products because they want to purchase eco-friendly products that don’t harm the Earth. Keep in mind that there are no mandatory labels for the term, so essentially anything can be labeled Biodegradable. Good news is there are agencies that have done the work for us to filter out and approve what is safe to use.

Safer Choice Label

The Safer Choice Label from the EPA was made to help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Currently about 1,900 products have been approved and passed the Safer Choice Standard and Criteria, a list of everything can be found here.

DfE Label (Design for the Environment)

The DfE label, also from the EPA, helps consumers and commercial buyers identify antimicrobial products like disinfectants and sanitizers to meet pesticide registration requirements and more. DfE Certified products are evaluated based on human health, the environment, ingredients, product performance and packaging. There is a list of certified products that is available for you to browse through.

Green Seal

Green Seal is a global nonprofit organization with a mission to transform the economy for a healthier, greener world. With the high standards that they hold, the Green Seal of approval is the best way to know the products are safe for your health and the environment. They have a directory of certified products and services that you can browse through.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Ingredients at Home

Instead of purchasing pre-made cleaning products, another eco-friendly option to clean is using simple ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. These are simple, just as effective, and best of all affordable.

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Borax
  • Salt

Are Cleaning Supplies Biodegradable?

The ingredients are “biodegradable” but what about the container that it comes in? If on the subject of cleaning, what about the brush being used to scrub, the sponge, the bucket, the spray bottles, and the paper towels. Unfortunately, most cleaning products that have claims of being biodegradable and eco-friendly are sold in plastic spray bottles. The best route is to be aware of all the plastic consumption, think twice before making a purchase, and think about what you already own that can be reused to prevent the mounds in landfills from getting bigger.

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