What to Look for in a Green Disinfectant
In my previous blog, I debunked some myths about green cleaning and disinfecting. Now that we know it is possible to make a green disinfectant that is safe, sustainable, and effective, I wanted to provide the key features to look for in a green disinfectant and introduce a few third-party product certifications that confirm that your product has all these key features.
Key Features of Greener Disinfecting Products
When choosing a more approachable disinfectant, look for features impacting both the environmental impact of the product, in addition to features that demonstrate improved safety to the end-users and building occupants:
- Active ingredients that can be produced sustainably. Several ingredients deemed safer to the end user, such as citric acid, lactic acid, hypochlorous acid, and ethanol can be produced more sustainably than many traditional actives.
- Disinfectant formulation that uses ingredients safer for the environment and the end user. Avoid ingredients that produce volatile organic compounds and do not contain ozone-depleting compounds.
- Manufacturing process that minimizes environmental impact. For example, a manufacturer who powers their plants with renewable energy, reuses water from cooling machinery, and reduces and repurposes wooden pallets used in shipping is helping to minimize their environmental impact.
- Container or packaging made of recyclable material or minimizes plastics. For plastics, packaging that uses post-consumer recycled materials is preferred.
- Ingredients and packaging that do not accumulate in the environment. At the end of the product’s life, anything that ends up in the water should be rapidly biodegradable and not have any aquatic toxicity.
Third-party certifications can help identify products with some, or all, of these safety and environmental features
Finding information about manufacturing processes, or recycled content of packaging can be challenging on your own. A reliable third-party certification does the leg work for you and is your guarantee that a product has some, if not all, of these key features.
But, like the key features in a product, finding a credible third-party certification can be challenging, and some “certifications” may be false, or awarded to a manufacturer by the manufacturer and are little more than a marketing ploy. When looking at third-party certified products, look for a certification that appears unbiased and publishes the criteria for achieving certification.
See the table below to learn more about several of the most common, credible, third-party certifications. Safer Choice is an EPA-run program that covers the certifications Safer Choice and Design for the Environment. Safer Choice and GreenSeal only certify cleaning products (not disinfectants) and Design for the Environment (DfE) and EcoLogo only certify disinfectants. All of these, however, include requirements for safety and product efficacy, have ingredient limitations, include requirements to minimize aquatic toxicity, and require packaging recyclability and other environmental benefits.
|Products It Certifies
|EPA Safer Choice1
|SaferChoice is an EPA-run program whose goal is to certify products that perform as well as traditional cleaners and that are safer for human health and the environment.
|EPA Design for the Environment (DfE)2
• Ready-to-Use (liquids and wipes)
|All DfE products must meet the Safer Choice criteria and can only use approved active ingredients (citric acid, lactic acid, hypochlorous acid, hydrogen peroxide, peroxyacetic acid, ethanol, isopropanol, sodium bisulfate, chitosan).
|Green Seal is a global nonprofit. They certify many products, including cleaning products that meet specific safety and environmental criteria.
|Cleaning Products and Disinfecting Products
• Concentrates (or RTU if concentrate form is available)
|EcoLogo is a UL-run certification program. They have criteria to certify cleaners and disinfectant products based on a lifecycle assessment of the product’s environmental impact.
Our final blog in this series will cover considerations for when and where to use safer and sustainable disinfectants in your facility.
1. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Safer Choice Standard and Criteria. EPA. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/standard
2. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Safer Choice – Related Programs. EPA. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-choice-related-programs
3. GS-37 cleaning products for industrial and institutional use. Green Seal. (2022, January 29). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://greenseal.org/standards/gs-37-cleaning-products-for-industrial-and-institutional-use/
4. UL standards sales site. UL Environment Standard | UL Environment 2759. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.shopulstandards.com/ProductDetail.aspx?UniqueKey=23384
5. UL standards sales site. UL Environment Standard | UL Environment 2794. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.shopulstandards.com/ProductDetail.aspx?UniqueKey=24136