Martha Stewart has launched her new line of cleaning products, aptly titled "Clean," to much fanfare. The initial line features 10 products for use in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and general household use. They are certified environmentally safe and have been developed almost entirely from plant- and mineral-based formulas that are safe for use around pets and children. They are completely free of perfumes and synthetics.
The products come along with an accompanying book, "Homekeeping."
"This is what started it all," Stewart said, on a tour to promote the line, pointing at her book, "because I wrote this book, this encyclopedia of homekeeping, it was a natural extension to do the cleaning products and in a green fashion. It was very important to me."
The line was developed with The Hain Celestial Group, a natural and organic food and personal-care products company whose brand list includes Celestial Seasonings Tea, Alba Botanicals and Terra Chips.
"We worked on the cleaning products for almost a year" she said. "I was testing them all along the way."
In overseeing this line, she made sure that everything from packaging to shipping was also environmentally responsible, she said. The beautiful, clear bottles contain recycled content and even the shipping cartons are sourced from managed forests.
"Testing, approving and suggesting packaging, labeling -- it's a very complex process," she said.
But do they work? From my experience, they do. But if you're used to the foaming, chemical-smelling clean we all grew up with, you may be disappointed.
"Green" cleaning products in general have a hit-or-miss history. In 2006, when Jeffrey Hollender's book "Naturally Clean" was released, there were very few green cleaning products on the market. Numerous studies looked at the toxicity of indoor air vs. outdoor air; many tagged household chemicals as a main culprit for the higher level of toxins indoors.
After interviewing Hollender, president of green-product manufacturer Seventh Generation, and Devra Lee Davis, director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, I cleaned out my supply of chemical cleaners and began to look for other ways get surfaces sparkly bright. Some of the products I liked most were kind of expensive, and some just didn't work at all. Others were cheap, effective and there to be rediscovered, like the Bon Ami cleanser my mom always used.
I tested six of the 10 products in Stewart's Clean line and liked them all. One I didn't try was the laundry detergent ($17.99 for 64 ounces, 28 cents per load). Consumer Reports tested it along with many other green laundry cleaners for its July issue. Her detergent came in dead last in the ratings, no better than clean water, according to the judges. But most of the customer reviews I found on the Web gave the product good ratings. You will just have to try it yourself to see what you think.
Meanwhile, here are the reviews of the products I tried:
The glass and mirror cleaner was the best I have ever used. It left them streak-free, and my cleaning cloth had black dirt on it. (I had just done the windows two weeks earlier with another green product.) Once I had done a few windows, I saw how dirty they were and had to tackle the rest. It costs $3.99 for a 32-ounce bottle.
I've always had a problem finding a good toilet-bowl cleaner. Stewart's product ($3.99 for 20 ounces) has mineral salts as an active ingredient, and it clung well to the bowl and removed the stains. The all-purpose cleaner ($3.99 for 32 ounces) worked well on bathroom surfaces, kitchen surfaces and even quick spills on the floor.
It's tough to find a green automatic dishwashing detergent. Most commercial brands are loaded with water-softening phosphates that suck oxygen out of the waterways. Twelve states have phased in low-phosphate laws, and more are looming on the books. Before testing her product ($7.99 for 64 ounces), I let my dishes get really crusty. My glasses weren't sparkly, but they were clean. The dishes, pot and pans came clean and the grease and stuck-on stuff was gone.
The carpet-stain remover ($4.99 for 32 ounces) didn't perform as well as I would have liked. (My cat had upchucked his dinner on my off-white carpet, so it was a fair test.) But I loved the dish-hand soap for the kitchen ($3.99 for 17 ounces). It's one of Stewart's favorites, too.
I wondered what part of the home she found homeowners are most baffled about cleaning and maintaining.
"Well, surfaces, floors ... In terms of healthy, green cleaning, it's a lot about floors, a LOT about rugs. We are working on a rug cleaner right now," she said.
She said wood floors are another big question: People want shine without grit. Her wood-floor cleaner ($7.99 for 35 ounces) does the job, she said.
"It's hard to do a wood floor without streaks, without oil. It leaves this illustrious, beautiful finish on it without any residue whatsoever."
More Clean products are in the works.
"After we launched the first 10 products, we want to do certain polishers, abrasives, scrubbers and things that we don't have in the line right now," she said.