Safer Choice: Because you shouldn’t need a PhD to know what’s safe

You shouldn’t need a PhD in toxicology to buy your cleaning products. But long, confusing ingredient lists on soaps, sprays, and other common household products leave most consumers wondering what is safe to use in their homes.

The huge range of options available coupled with a rise in misleading buzzwords like “natural” and “eco-friendly” make it hard to know what’s actually safe. That’s where Safer Choice comes in.

SaferChoice label
Look for the Safer Choice label

Safer Choice is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s product certification and labeling program. In the nearly 30 years that EPA has been assessing product safety, they developed a Safer Choice database. This database includes a list of roughly 2,500 products that EPA certified as safe. Most of the products listed in the database are for laundry and cleaning, but it also includes products ranging from floor finishes to pet care products. As the program continues to grow, the categories will expand even further.

Safer Choice takes the guessing out of shopping for cleaning products

Blurry grocery aisle with the front of a shopping cart, overlaid by the Safer Choice logo and the text, “Shopping for household cleaners?
The Safer Choice website features an intuitive system (even for those who don’t wear a lab coat to work!) to provide the public with ways to identify safer products. Visitors can view the full product list, search for safer choices available in different communities, and access information on the types of chemicals being tested and replaced in the products they use.

Safer Choice has high standards

The standard to get a product certified is stringent. It makes companies think about a number of factors — not just the performance of their products, but also the impacts they have on human and environmental health.

Beyond this, EPA requires manufacturers to undergo annual audits. This ensures the company maintains product quality over time, so consumers can truly feel confident they are making a safer choice when they buy products with this label.

Safer Choice drives a shift in mindset

Safer Choice drives innovation in products by creating a system to benchmark different companies and hold them accountable.

Saskia van Bergen — a green chemist here at Ecology — leads our partnership with Safer Choice and sees the value of programs like this for transforming the market.

A row of generic detergent bottles on a store shelf.
“Safer Choice shifts the market toward a proactive mindset, which allows manufacturers to get ahead of regulatory changes. It highlights companies that are committed to safer choices, because it sends a message about their willingness to face scrutiny,” says van Bergen. “Overall, it moves commerce toward a focus on safer alternatives and green chemistry, rather than being reactive and having to clean up the mess after toxic chemicals are released into the environment.”

How Ecology supports Safer Choice

Here at Ecology, we’re finding ways to promote safer alternatives in consumer products. We do this by:

  • Collaborating with innovative organizations.
  • Encouraging companies to work with EPA on Safer Choice.
  • Designing and sharing curriculum for educators that includes green chemistry principles and resources to help identify safer alternatives.
  • Ramping up our implementation program for Safer Products for Washington, which will align our state’s toxics in products regulations with the goals of Safer Choice.

We’re not all scientists — and thanks to EPA’s Safer Choice program, we don’t have to be. With Safer Choice, we can feel confident that we are choosing safer consumer products to keep our homes clean.