The Green Cleaners We Swear by from Our Real Simple 2023 Cleaning Awards

We tested over 90 eco-friendly cleaning products to find our favorites.

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If you’d swung by the REAL SIMPLE offices last winter, you’d have found us knee-deep in earth-friendly cleaners. In anticipation of spring greening (when we clean our spaces and celebrate Earth Month), we gathered dozens of products in their recycled bottles and biodegradable cardboard boxes. Then we got to work testing everything in our labs—a.k.a. our homes—over two months. We created rigorous methodologies and filed our findings in endless spreadsheets. (People, this was a project!) Some formulas felt like duds—not enough suds, lingering residues, headache-inducing scents—but there were standouts, we’re happy to report. Read on for our favorite green cleaning products, according to our 2023 Cleaning Awards.

Best Dishwasher Detergent



Method Heavy Duty Dishwasher Packs

These pods stood out from other pods—as well as powders and those newly popular detergent sheets. Plant-and-mineral-based, they pack a serious punch. One tester found them to be just as effective as her usual (not super-eco) pods, always dissolving fully and never leaving food or filmy residue behind.

Price at time of publish: $18 for 46 packs

Best Dish Soap



Palmolive Ultra Pure + Clear

A common complaint about eco dish soaps is that they don’t suds up enough to feel like they’re working. This one is fully biodegradable, dye-free, and produced in a zero-waste facility—and it actually gets sudsy! One tester noted that it removed day-old crusties from a forgotten lunch container with ease.

Price at time of publish: $4 for 32.5 oz.

Best Pet Cleaner



Puracy Pet Stain & Odor Remover

This enzymatic cleaner is 99 percent natural and oh-so easy to use. If you’ve got, um, a solid mess, pick it up first, then spray the floor generously. (Enzymes break down proteins in what’s left on the carpet.) The next day, just vacuum over the spot! A follow-up scrub isn’t needed—the bacteria and scent should be gone, helping to deter your pet from marking the spot again. One user worried the cleaner’s cucumber scent would remind her of cheap bath products, but she immediately loved its fresh-smelling, deodorizing power. Another vowed to stockpile the spray. 

Price at time of publish: $15 for 25 oz.

Best Hardwood Floor Cleaner



Begley’s Best Earth Responsible Hardwood Floor Cleaner

No streaking, no residue, and quick dry time—this plant-derived floor cleaner delivers on the promises it makes. One tester marveled that she was clear to walk on her floors just a few minutes after mopping, and that the wood seemed “hydrated and smooth, not slippery.” The formula has a pleasant lemon-citrus fragrance that testers said lingered but didn’t overwhelm. 

Price at time of publish: $12 for 24 oz.

Best Multisurface Floor Cleaner



Bona Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner

Testers all agreed their tiles sparkled thanks to this water-based, biodegradable cleaner. Safe on at least eight types of flooring, including sealed stone and linoleum, it doesn’t leave behind any stickiness. One tester really loved the sturdy nozzle (it’s the little things!) and raved that with two strong stream options—direct and spray—she could easily spritz the neglected nooks around the base of her toilet. 

Price at time of publish: $7 for 22 oz.

Best Liquid Laundry Detergent



9 Elements Laundry Detergent

The products from 9 Elements never contain more than, as the name implies, nine ingredients, and this one has eight. The main one is vinegar, so it’s boss at brightening, deodorizing, and softening garments. (It eliminates the need for fabric softener!) Testers were pleasantly surprised that the vinegar scent didn’t stick; fresh-from-the-wash clothes smelled almost exclusively of eucalyptus. One observed that it removed hardened tree sap from a sweater (don’t ask), and all her clothes came out notably softer. 

Price at time of publish: $13.50 for 65 oz.

Best Powder Laundry Detergent



Ingredients Matter Laundry Soap

This coconut-based powder shocked one tester, who said, “It’s as good as my usual, environment-destroying detergent!” Powders often don’t fully dissolve in cold water, but this one did. It comes in lavender, lemongrass, and unscented versions. Testers loved the lavender scent and didn’t find it cloying or overpowering, which is hard to say about other detergents touting essential oils. 

Price at time of publish: $23 for 72 loads

Best Predosed Laundry Detergent



Grove Co. Laundry Detergent Sheets

Did you know that laundry detergent sheets are a thing? They are! And because they’re lighter to ship than liquid detergents, they have a lower carbon footprint. Just toss one into the washing machine’s drum and start the cycle. These outperformed other predosed options, like pods and tablets, and one tester said she “loved the size of the box, and the fact that it’s cardboard, so it’s easy to recycle.” The same tester said her clothes smelled clean and like lavender, but “not perfumy.” There’s a fragrance-free option for the scent averse. 

Price at time of publish: $13 for 32 sheets

Best Stain Remover



Meliora Soap Stick Stain Remover

One skeptical tester used this vegetable-based stick to erase makeup stains from a blouse and was won over: “I normally use a spray product and disliked the bar format at first, because it meant having to go to the sink and get my hands and the bar wet. But the stain was gone with one wash!” Another user loved the minimal ingredients—there are just four—as well as the cardboard packaging. 

Price at time of publish: $5

Best Unscented All-Purpose Cleaner



Branch Basics The Concentrate

Developed by parents on a mission to use the safest cleaners possible in their homes, this concentrate is fragrance-free and plant based (ingredients include organic chamomile flower extract and a coconut-oil-derived surfactant). You get four-plus cups of concentrate, and you only need a few drops to make a cleaner that truly is all-purpose—it can be used on laundry, tile and grout, carpets, and more. So the steep price pays for itself pretty quickly. We sprayed it on multiple surfaces, like counters and steel sinks, and found that it removed grit and grime with very little elbow grease. One tester said she even successfully lifted shoe scuffs from flooring. 

Price at time of publish: $55 for 33.8 oz.

Best Scented All-Purpose Cleaner



Method All-Purpose Cleaner

Some people need to smell freshness to feel like they’re properly cleaning, and this spray really hits those fruity and floral notes. Available in five winning scents, the biodegradable formula polished up glass, granite, and even stainless-steel appliances without streaking, said one tester. Turns out, his bathroom sink has never sparkled more. 

Price at time of publish: $4.50 for 28 oz.

Best Glass Cleaner


Windex Vinegar Glass Cleaner

Nothing beats classic Windex—except this newer, ammonia-free version, which is vinegar based yet surprisingly doesn’t smell like a jar of pickles. It works as well as the original, leaving no streaks and no annoying cloudy film behind. A huge plus: The packaging is made from discarded plastic collected near oceans and waterways. 

Price at time of publish: $4.50 for 32 oz.

Best Disinfectant Spray



Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray

Yes, an eco-friendly disinfectant does exist! We can have nice things! A registered disinfectant with the EPA—meaning it does indeed kill more than 99.9 percent of household germs, like the flu and staph viruses—this spray uses thymol, derived from thyme, as its active ingredient. The recyclable can is comfy to hold, and the light, even mist easily covers large surfaces, our testers raved. While some disinfectants require rinsing, this one doesn’t, and though its scent is strong and astringent, it dissipates very quickly. 

Price at time of publish: $5.50 for 13.9 oz.

Best Bathroom Cleaner



Biokleen Bac-Out Bathroom Cleaner

You know those dreaded pink lines that show up along your grout? This tub cleaner actually removes them, according to our testers, proving gentle formulas really can get your bathroom looking clean. The biodegradable solution has no chlorine or ammonia, and all Biokleen products are packaged in numbers 1 and 2 plastics—the most commonly accepted by curbside programs, with a low risk of product leaching. 

Price at time of publish: $13 for 32 oz.

Best Toilet Cleaner



Blueland Toilet Bowl Cleaner

If you loved science experiments in middle school, you’ll enjoy watching these lemon-scented tablets fizz in the toilet bowl. Like many items from Blueland, the starter set is plastic-free. It comes with a “forever” steel tin; you just reorder tablets when you’re running low. The cleaner is predosed, so unlike with gels, you can’t squeeze out too much and waste product. Just drop one into the bowl, wait for the bubbles, and swipe around with a brush. 

Price at time of publish: $24 for 14 tablets

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