Sustainable Procurement Factsheet - Caretaking and Cleaning Supplies

The following factsheet has been developed to help Western staff and faculty members purchase sustainable goods and services. 

Quickly scan through an overview of where the sustainability risk lies within the specific product category, criteria to consider when deciding on your next purchase, eco-labels or certifications to look out for and the benefits of making sustainable choices. 

What are the Sustainability risks?

  • Human Health & Safety. Many cleaners contain toxic ingredients that can pose a health hazard after prolonged exposure. 
  • Water Quality. Cleaning detergents and fertillizers that end up in sewer and stromwater systems can contaminate local freshwater supplies. 
  • Air Quality. Chemical-intense cleaners can release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)into the air, affecting respiratory health.
  • Energy Use & Emissions. Some cleaning products use petroleum-based solvents or bleach and chlorine-based ingredients, which are produced using high-energy methods. Fertilizer production is also energy intensive.

Before you buy

  • Check existing inventory to avoid teh purchase of unnecessary products.
  • Consider opportunities to use products that work for all or multiple surfaces.
  • Consider if there is a way to improve handling, storage and use of the product to optimize health and safety.

What to look for:

  • Select cleaning products marked with eco-labels (e.g. EPA Safer Choice label).  
  • Choose biocompatible ingredients: opt for environmentally safe chemicals like sodium carbonate, bicarbonate, citrate, pine oil and citrus-based solvents wihch cause less harm to the ecosystem when disposed of. 
  • Look for minimally packaged or bulk/concentrated solutions (avoid ready-to-use packaging where applicators cannot be reused). 
  • Look for products with fewer or reduced hazard warnings (e.g. no GHS corrosive warnings, no GHS acute toxicity warnings in the Safety Data Sheet)
  • pH level close to 7.0: Persistent products with extreme pH levels can cause eutrophication and aquatic toxicity, which harm the organisms in the ecosystem. These levels of pH are not required to create an effective cleaner.

bottle cleaning supplies compost bag toilet paper

General Purpose

Hard Surface Cleaners Bags for Trash
and Composting
Sanitary Paper Products
  • Undiluted products that are non-toxic nor corrosive (with a pH between 3 and 11).
  • pH between 3 and 11 (before dilution)
  • ECOLOGO or Cradle to Cradle certified.
  • FSC certified or Green Seal certified
  • Avoid carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins.
  • A flash point of >61° C.
  • >30% postconsumer recycled
  • >30% postconsumer recycled and/or agircultural residue content.
  • Avoid aerosol cleaners and cleaning wipes
  • Maximum temperature usage that does not exceed 17°C below flash point.
  • Avoid intentionally added fragrances, PTFE (a PFAS chemical), and antimicrobial chemicals
  • Avoid intentionally added fragrances, dyes or antimicrobials.
  • Avoid antimicrobial agents
  • Biobased ingredients

Eco Labels