Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products are harmful to aquatic life, water quality and the overall ecosystem. Some chemicals damage fish tissues, while others create nutrient imbalances leading to algal blooms. Whether you clean your boat on land or in the water, the choice of product that you use is very important.

Manufacturers of chemical products are not required to list ingredients on their containers or make them public, so it’s important to take the time to do your research before you purchase a cleaning product. Labels on cleaners can be confusing and words like “natural”, “non-toxic”, “organic” or “biodegradable” are misleading because there is no regulation of the words’ use.

Use the following programs to ensure that your cleaner is safe and environmentally friendly:

  • The Environment Protection Agency’s Design for Environment (DfE) created the Safer Choice label, which means the product has been through a rigorous EPA review. EPA scientists have evaluate every ingredient in the product to ensure it meets their stringent criteria. Additionally, the EPA creates partnerships with manufacturers and formulators to produce products, whose ingredients, when compared to conventional formulations, are less toxic, less persistent (biodegrade faster), less bioaccumulative (don't build up in living tissue of humans or animals) and whose ingredient byproducts have similar beneficial characteristics.
  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. EWG’s scientists compare the ingredients listed on cleaning product labels, websites and worker safety documents with the information available in toxicity databases and the scientific literature on health and environmental problems tied to cleaning products. They use that information to create EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which provides you with easy-to-navigate safety ratings for a wide range of cleaners and ingredients.

What should I use on my boat?

BoatU.S. Foundation tested 20 different “green” boat soaps to see if the products lived up to their environmental claims while still cleaning a vessel effectively. Based on their research and weighing all the factors (cleaning, performance, toxicity and biodegradability), here are the top products:

When you have found a suitable product, only buy the amount you need and make sure all items are properly handled and stored. Remember, no matter what you buy, there is no alternative to good old-fashioned elbow grease!

Think ahead when planning your cleaning routine. It is important to keep wash liquids away from the water (See Graywater). Also, use rags and old clothes to clean, rather than disposable items like paper towels.

What should I use in my boat?

Below deck, you can use the same environmentally friendly products that you use in your household. Here are some companies that produce eco-friendly cleaning products:

  • BioKleen – A manufacturer and supplier of earth-friendly, safe, non-toxic and biodegradable cleaners for industrial, marine, automotive, janitorial and household purposes.
  • Bon Ami – A unique, earth-friendly company providing biodegradable household cleaners for all surfaces that are free of chlorine, perfumes and dyes.
  • Ecover – An international company active in the production of ecological cleaners, supplying dishwashing, laundry, household and personal care products to more than 20 countries.
  • PureGreen24 – The first “green” disinfectant, PureGreen24 has the lowest toxicity rating assigned by the EPA.
  • Seventh Generation – Non-toxic and environmentally safe household products, including paper towels and tissue, cleaning/dish/laundry products, trash bags, diapers and baby wipes and personal hygiene products.

Green Boating Guide: