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The 7 best eco-friendly glass, window and mirror cleaners that won’t harm you, your environment and your family
2016 bore witness to the global household cleaners market hitting a total market value of 25.5 billion US dollars . A statistic that is predicted to soar in at 33.78 billion by 2022. To put this into perspective – the worldwide flat-pack giant IKEA was in 2017 valued at $24 billion. And IKEA sells much more than just household cleaners.
Fact – the household cleaners market is a source of huge growth. New innovations are flooding our shelves like tidal waves. And with almost a third of us spending an average of 10 hours a week cleaning  – it’s no wonder. But with unlimited choices – choosing ‘the one’ is challenging. How do you pick a glass and mirror cleaner which works? How do you find a solution which doesn’t streak? Which is smear free? Which smells fresh and clean not harsh and toxic? Which is environmentally friendly, gentle and biodegradable.
Bottom line; How do you find a glass and mirror cleaner which is 100% effective for 0% elbow grease?
This is exactly the challenge our team of experts have questioned themselves with. And after completing approximately 80 hours of research – research conducted by product formulators, pharmacists and cleaning professionals – we’re in a unique position to name the best in class Glass and Mirror Cleaners on the market today.
The Winner – Biokleen Glass Cleanser
Let’s not beat around the bush. We start with the best. Biokleen Glass Cleanser – the only glass cleaner to score a full and wholesome 5 out of 5 stars. It is by far the best for cleaning – and with added extras. EWG gives a safety rating of A. The makers use only renewable energy sources. It’s cruelty-free. Biodegradable. Environmentally safe.
Why does such a product exist? Because the founder, Jim Rimer was fired from a chemicals company whilst trying to implement health and safety training to help prevent people from suffering the side effects of toxic cleansers – irritating and itchy rash, troubles breathing, allergic reactions.
What you get – almost a full liter for a ridiculous $5.19 steal.
How does it clean? With all-natural vinegar and a blend of mild, plant-based cleaning actives.
Did you know vinegar is recognized to be almost equally as effective at microbial reduction aka germ busting as many commercial cleaners? A report published in the Journal of Environmental Health in 1994 documents this fact. It is by far the most outstanding when compared to alternatives/natural cleaning ingredients like lemon juice, baking soda and borax.
Why does it work? Because vinegar is an acid that is able to penetrate individual bacterial cells, once inside its acidic nature destroys each nasty from the inside–out.
What about the performance? A spot-on match for any traditional glass cleaner. You will not notice a difference. Same sparkle but better, safer smell.
Note; do not use in combination with bleach. Mixing acidic cleaning products like Biokleen glass cleaner with bleach can release chlorine gas. This is hazardous.
Anything else you should know? While Biokleen glass cleaner is free from artificial fragrance it does contain essential oils and therefore if you have a known allergy or reaction to essential oils (because they naturally contain allergens) this may not be the one for you.
Bottom line; outstanding cleaning performance, fantastic safety credentials, great smell.
|Biokleen Glass Cleanser|
|A cruelty-free, biodegradable and environmentally safe vinegar based glass cleaner that is kind to you, your environment and your wallet.|
Joint Runner Up – Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner
A 4 out of 5-star winner and a maverick in the world of glass and mirror cleaners. This is because Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner is a neutral pH cleaner. It is not acidic like vinegar-based glass cleaner and it is not alkaline like bleach-based cleanser.
Why does this matter? Because acids and bases cause wear and tear – and can be irritating. Just think about getting a stray squirt of lemon juice inside your eye.
How does it clean? The pH of Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner is right about neutral, pH 6-8. And the formula’s first active ingredient is Polyquaternium-95. If you’re an avid reader of ingredient labels you may recognize ‘polyquaternium’ from bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Called quat for short by formulating chemists, these molecules all have a nitrogen atom which holds a positive charge. It’s part of why they work. Polyquaternium-95 is considered a green polymer that can bring a streak-free, spotless and easy clean.
After using, your surfaces are also more likely to resist grime and streaking. A bonus. More about this ingredient in the ‘what to look for in a glass cleaner ingredients’ section.
What about the performance? A crystal clean shine you’ll fall in love with.
Anything else you should know? It contains fragrance and Bean and Lily don’t tell us what It is. Smells like green tea. Potentially not appropriate for hypersensitive skin types.
Bottom line; A bottle of high quality naturally based ingredients which work plus respect your household surfaces.
|Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner|
|Unlike our winner, this is a ph neutral surfactant based cleaner that leaves a streak-free shine on your glass.|
Joint Runner Up – Method Glass + Surface Cleaner
Scoring a matching 4/5 stars, Method Glass + Surface Cleaner is a neck and neck contender to the runner up position. EWG safety rated at B. Works like a charm. Brings extra shine. Uses biodegradable, plant-derived ingredients.
How does it work? The first ingredient on the list is ethanol – a type of alcohol. Ethanol is a very effective degreaser and antimicrobial which evaporates away quickly. It’s the main ingredient in hand sanitizers (!) It works because alcohol sits on the fence. Most grease stains have no charge, whereas dirt stains are charged. Think of how olive oil which is not charged i.e. non-polar sits on top of the water which is charged/polar. Like dissolves like. Water dissolves water and oil dissolves oil. But not alcohol. Alcohol can dissolve both because alcohol sits way in the middle. Not polar but also not, not polar. For this reason, alcohol makes a very effective general cleaning product.
There’s also some mild surfactant cleansers in the bottle too.
What about the performance? Gloriously streak-free, easy to use and lightly fragranced.
Anything else you should know? Fragrance (again!) be aware if you have hypersensitive skin.
Bottom line; A worthy gentle yet effective replacement for traditional glass and mirror cleaners.
|Method Glass + Surface Cleaner|
|Method Glass + Surface Cleaner may be last in our list of winners, but it certainly not least. This cleaner features a combination of cleaning agents; alcohol and surfactant. It's only the presence of artificial fragrances that this superb cleaner didn't take top spot.|
The Best Glass, Mirror and Window Cleaners Cleaners
If the top 3 don’t appeal, there’s still plenty of great glass cleaners on the market today
If you haven’t seen your favorite cleaner listed, check out all our reviews. And if you still don’t find it, don’t hesitate to recommend it to us for review.
We can't recommend Biokleen Glass Cleaner highly enough. As well as cleaning exceptionally well (as well as the leading ammonia-based products according to our tests), it has been manufactured using renewable energy sources, is cruelty-free and is made exclusively with plant and mineral based biodegradable ingredients.
What else could you look for in a glass cleaner?
Attitude Window & Mirror Cleaner rescued my home's glass surfaces as well as or even better than any other brand-name, a commercial product that I've ever used, and my examination of the company and chemical formula behind this cleaner left me feeling pretty darn good.
Lots of product, no more smudges, simplicity, and a quick cleanup.
There's really nothing more I could ask for.
Bean & Lily Glass Cleaner is excellent. It cleans well and leaves a beautiful, crystal-clean shine and I was able to achieve glorious windows without too much work on my part!
While the cleaner does smell nice and isn't your typical detergent scent - Bean & Lily doesn't disclose the fragrance blend.
But fragrance aside, Bean & Lily does a great job with picking high-quality, naturally-derived ingredients that clean well. They also take a step above many companies by making their ingredient disclosure accessible and easy to understand to those of us who aren't chemists.
All things considered, great job, Bean & Lily!
If you're not sensitive to fragrances and are looking for a gentle but relatively effective glass cleaner then Method Glass + Surface Cleaner is highly recommended.
Just remember to wear gloves before using this product, and give the glass a pre-clean before applying this cleaner. It's much more effective if you use it like that.
Eco-Me's Glass Cleaner hits a home run on some surfaces and strikes out on others. Grime and dirt were effectively wiped away on glass surfaces but stuck around on mirrors. Streaking was also a problem unless the towel was completely dry. The ingredients in this product are wonderful, effective, and safe with the exception of an undisclosed mix of essential oils. This was a great cleaner on the right surface, but not consistent enough when compared to the top performers.
If we were to judge Better Life Glass Cleaner on cleaning power alone, this would be a top recommendation. We're also impressed that this cleaner contains only four ingredients.
The fact that one of those ingredients is MI is still baffling. This is a company who are averse to using toxins in their products. It doesn't add up.
Hopefully, as awareness grows and more studies are conducted, MI will be phased out of their products.
Begley's Glass Cleaner contains only three plant based, biodegradable ingredients designed and manufactured by a company with vision and integrity. But try as I might, I couldn't recommend this product. I really wanted to as well. It would be a decent alternative if there were only a few natural options. But in a booming natural cleaning market, it quickly fell short of other competitor's performances. On the plus side, the ingredients are certainly better than conventional cleaners but it just didn't clean as well as other glass cleaners we've reviewed.
While I appreciate the mission and cause Begley's stands for, I wish it delivered better results.
Seventh Generation Free and Clear Glass Surface Cleaner cleans exceptionally well - as good as any glass cleaner I've used before. So, in theory, I should be shouting from the rooftops about this product, but I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly.
The inclusion of isothiazolinonesis a bit of a shocker for a product in a Free and Clear range, marketed as a rage for sensitive skin sufferers. It simply doesn't lend itself to the 'A Clean You Can Trust' motto the company are so fond of. Nor is it necessarily "Safe For Use Around Kids and Pets."
The cleaner deserves a passing grade for high performance and ingredient disclosure, but Seventh Generation should put more effort into delivering on their claims to receive top marks.
If you are choosing between this glass and surface cleaner and a regular supermarket product, Seventh Generation spray is the superior choice. However, there are far better choices out there.
How we chose the winners
Important to know – here at Safe Household Cleaning we only review cleaning products whose makers disclose their ingredients lists.
This is paramount for understanding if a new household cleaner is gentle, effective and safe for your use.
You might be surprised to know household cleaning makers are under no obligation to do this. Shocking.
We have chosen the winners of this list in careful consideration of several factors;
#1 – The ingredients. You wouldn’t buy food without knowing what’s in it, so why would you buy household cleaners blind? Truth be told – it’s a hard list to crack. Especially if you are not a trained formulation scientist. Even a doctor or pharmacist would not know the function of these ingredients without significant Googling.
We take that list and hack it for you. What’s safe? What’s environmentally friendly? What is the function of every ingredient in that list? Are they there to make the cleaner a joy to use or there to make the manufacturer’s life easier? And most importantly – are there ingredients of warning you should be concerned with. Will they be a risk for your skin health, your lung health or general wellbeing?
#2 – Performance. We want safety and we do not want to compromise this for performance. Finding a safe and eco-friendly glass and mirror cleaner without using a review list like ours is extremely likely to leave you disillusioned. There are many safe glass and mirror cleaners out there that do nothing for your shiny surfaces or make you work ridiculously hard for it.
#3 – Extra bits. Are there novel extras that make a product stand out? Kudos to Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner with that neutral pH. In our eyes, it can also be what’s missing aka fragrance. A hard find but a lifesaver for hypersensitive skin and lungs.
Bottom line; we use all 3 attributes to define 1 simple star rating for each glass cleaner we review. A rating with firm roots in science and safety.
What to look for in a glass cleaner
First stop, what’s the first ingredient on the list after water and therefore how does the glass cleaner you’re holding work?
There are primarily just a few simple ways;
- By being acidic – for example, Biokleen Glass Cleanser which uses vinegar
- By being a solvent – i.e. Method Glass Cleaner which uses alcohol
- By being a surfactant – these are what you find in shampoos and are good for lifting both dirt and grease
For example, in our winning list of the best glass and mirror cleansers, 2 are based primarily on alcohol:
- Begley’s Glass Cleaner which uses only alcohol denat
- Method Glass + Surface Cleaner uses ethanol in combination with surfactants.
Pro-tip; combination products can give an all-round better and faster clean. That’s because there are more ingredients that work in different ways/have different benefits and therefore the end product has multi-benefits.
Food for thought; If you have a delicate shiny surface, perhaps a mirror which is etched or painted, then a neutral pH product using just mild surfactants is preferable.
Extras; Sometimes a few more well-chosen ingredients on the list can mean a better, longer-lasting sparkle. For example, some can help your glass and mirrors to resist new grease, dirt and streaks. A bonus to kill for.
This is the case with our runner up – Bean and Lily Glass Cleaner which contains Polyquaternium-95.
Remember how these types of ingredients are referred to as ‘quats’ and how they’re also found in hair conditioners. That number you see at the end – usually, in cosmetic science, it refers to the position of an atom in a molecule, however for the quats – it’s just the order in which they’ve been named/discovered. This one is #95.
These types of ingredients can help prevent what’s called water sheeting – the drizzle you see left on a window. An uneven pattern which when it dry’s leaves smudges and makes windows look dirtier, quicker. Polyquaternium-95 helps water spread evenly – that’s because a small amount of Polyquaternium-95 is left on the surface of the glass and loves water – whereas glass repels water. Scientists call this surface hydrophilization. It means spotless drying.
It also means your surfaces are easier to clean again, plus helps resist new dirt from taking hold.
Alcohol-based glass and surface cleansers can also be the best at delivering you a streak-free shine. This is because of alcohol’s low boiling point meaning it evaporates fast. Zero or minimal streaks are left behind because the liquid is not in contact with your surfaces for long enough to mark.
A final watch for. Antimicrobials. What looks clean, can under a microscope be a haven for bacteria, mold and more.
Fact; Contaminated surfaces spread bacteria and viruses, the kinds which can go on to cause cold and flu and more shockingly intestinal diseases. Hard surfaces are identified by the Journal of Environmental Health as being the most commonplace ‘where cleaning methods often need improvement’. Cleaning defends against this spread.
Now we know from that very same study that out of alternative cleaners vinegar is almost as effective as a shop brought, antimicrobial household cleaner. We also know from a study published in the Journal of Microbiology that environmentally preferable cleaning alternatives like the ones we’re reviewing here can be just as effective as bleach .
We also know that alcohol can be a very effective anti-microbial and of the alcohol family ethanol is the most effective against viruses. Alcohol kills quickly and has been used as a hand disinfectant since 1888.
These are strong indications of antimicrobial performance.
A quick note; other products can contain distinct antimicrobials. Take for example Bean & Lily Glass Cleaner contains sodium propionate (2nd active ingredient on the list) which is a preservative/inhibitor of molds and some bacteria. It is however not a broad spectrum like alcohol and vinegar can be.
Extra; fragrance which you’ll either see as fragrance, perfume or an essential oil i.e. Orange Oil used in Biokleen glass cleaner. It’s a watch for If you have allergic-type skin or even asthma.
How to use a glass cleaner
While you should always follow the makers in use directions, these hints and tips for how to use a glass cleaner are ones you’re not likely to read on the instructions list. They will make cleaning your glass and mirrored surfaces a breeze.
- Remove build ups of dust and dirt first. Wipe down with a dry cloth.
- Use microfiber cloths, they’re extra gentle plus most likely to grab up smudges before they happen.
- Clean from top to bottom. Drips happen and you don’t want them streaking your newly sparkling window or mirror.
- Be aware of wood framing! It can be a delicate and you might want to consider a non-acidic class and mirror cleaner for these areas.
- Be sparing with your glass and mirror cleaner. Too much product causes streaking. Aim for a light misting.
 Olson, Wanda, et al. “Hard Surface Cleaning Performance of Six Alternative Household Cleaners Under
Laboratory Conditions.” Journal of Environmental Health, vol. 56, no. 6, 1994, pp. 27–31. JSTOR,
 J Appl Microbiol. 2015 Nov;119(5):1245-52. doi: 10.1111/jam.12935. Epub 2015 Sep 24.