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Have you been ‘greenwashed’ by eco products?


Green cleaning is great for the conscience, but is it really that good for the environment? Do your eco products live up to the hype that’s printed on their labels?

Green has gone mainstream, which means the green pound is big business. Supermarkets dedicate whole shelves to products that can help make us feel like we’re doing our bit.

But I’m a bit of a scrooge about the idea you can buy your way to greenness. Part of me suspects that ‘green’ products are being sold to me not because of the decline of the hedgerow, or to save the fish, but because there’s money to be made.

Approach eco products with caution

And I’m not alone. Which? research found that people are pretty cynical about green claims – and that sometimes it’s justified. We discovered that some of the claims that come on these products are poorly explained, exaggerated or in some cases simply false.

Take the iron that has an eco setting – except it’s just a standard iron with a relabelled dial. Or the loo cleaner that boldly states it doesn’t contain phosphates. All well and good – except none of the standard loo cleaners we’ve looked at contain phosphates.

Many eco cleaning products state that they’re better for rivers and waterways but the claims we looked at weren’t backed up by enough evidence.

So if you’re out shopping and the green claim on the packet isn’t explained or it’s not clear why it’s better for the environment than the product next to it, proceed with caution.

What makes a product ‘green’?

It’s not all black and white though. What did shake my scepticism is that it’s not all about what’s in the bottle or even what they’re claiming. Sometimes it’s about how the product was made to begin with.

Many of the eco cleaning products we looked at are made using sustainable ingredients and many of the companies who produce them work hard to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with manufacturing anything.

But the question still remains: why are they feeding my scepticism when a clear explanation of what makes their products ‘green’ could go such a long way to restoring my faith?

Do you buy eco products and do you trust the green claims they’re making? Have you bought a product that upon reflection you suspect isn’t that green after all?


Being kind to the environment is a complicated subject. The best buy conventional washing detergents wash quickly (30 minutes) using less water at a lower temperature. Using so called green cleaning agents that take longer, require a higher temperature and make unsubstantiated green claims is not achieving anything except for costing more money and sometimes more effort.

giles says:
28 June 2012

I have found Ecover products to be excellent. The washing power seems to have improved too. In this article I feel Which should have investigated more fully before putting people off using sustainable products. Thats just not acting responsibly. I don’t want a wesbsite telling me just the cheapest and most effective. I increasingly want a website telling me which is the most sustainable. Which is not doing this well enough.

I belong to http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ which I believe fits your requirement. It’s like “WHICH” but only deals with things on an ethical viewpoint. Plus it’s a lot cheaper than WHICH membership.

Hello Giles, the goal of this Conversation was to explore whether eco products offer the same results, and equally whether they can back up their claims. However, the key goal was to get your opinions on eco cleaning products, so thank you for your feedback.