Healthy Schools: Green Cleaning

Many cleaning products — especially the strong formulations used in schools — contain harmful chemicals that can be bad for people’s health and the environment.

Ingredients of some cleaning supplies can irritate your eyes or throat; cause vomiting, cramps and diarrhea; and make it hard to breathe or cause coughing, especially if you have asthma. Over the long term, some of the strong ingredients in cleaning products could damage the liver, lungs or kidney, as well as increase the risk of cancer.

These ingredients also contaminate rivers, lakes and oceans. For instance, bleach can be poisonous to fish. Phosphates, which are added to some cleaners to make them work better, make algae grow fast. The algae then consumes oxygen in the water, killing other forms of life.

Products made without harmful chemicals work just as well as their conventional counterparts, are safer for custodians, reduce risks to children’s health and can cost less.


Green Seal – Founded in 1989, Green Seal provides science-based environmental certification standards that are credible, transparent, and essential in an increasingly educated and competitive marketplace. Find Green Seal certified institutional cleaners on their site.

Green Clean SchoolsHealthy Schools Campaign with a Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, awards and an informational blog.

Healthier Cleaning and Maintenance: Practices and Products for SchoolsHealthy Schools Network – This 10 page guide helps schools understand why green cleaning is important for healthy students and offers a simple checklist of steps to implement a green cleaning program, as well as attributes to look for in green cleaners.

School Cleaning and Maintenance Practices Resource List National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities – Comprehensive resource list.

INFORM’s Cleaning for Health: Products and Practices for a Safer Indoor Environment – Describes product evaluation methods, lists products meeting INFORM’s environmental and performance criteria, and presents model specifications. This report also provides manufacturer contacts and other resources on green cleaners.

Center for a New American DreamHas information about the benefits of green cleaning, success stories, policy recommendations, product recommendations and news stories about the green cleaning movement.

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