Eligible for Certification: Spray-Applied Microbial Cleaners

Green Seal has made important improvements to our standard criteria for microbial-based cleaning products to better recognize leadership in this popular product category.  These updates allow Green Seal to verify important health protections while removing the restriction on spray-applied products. Now product manufacturers with spray-applied microbial cleaners can demonstrate that their products are formulated to be healthier, safer options for buyers.

The Benefits of Microbial Products

Formulating with microbes is an exciting application of green chemistry. These naturally existing ingredients can allow product formulas to reduce or eliminate hazardous solvents and surfactants and make it easier for producers to formulate with biobased rather than petroleum-based ingredients.

In certain cases, these products are likely to be healthier, to degrade at a faster rate and under more natural conditions, and to be less harmful for aquatic life. Microbial-based cleaning products are sometimes referred to as “probiotic cleaners” because their active ingredients are non-pathogenic, commercially cultured bacterial strains, similar to what is in your yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Assessing Health and Safety

When Green Seal first issued criteria for microbial-based cleaning products in 2011, we took a precautionary approach by designing heavy restrictions until more information was known about the safety and environmental impacts of this newer product type. In the decade since then, these products have proliferated across the North American and global markets.

Now, extensive literature reviews and stakeholder outreach have demonstrated a sufficient record of safe use, with no scientific evidence that microbial-based cleaning products present a higher level of risk to human health or the environment than chemical-based cleaning products. Adding to our understanding of their safety profile, these types of products are being studied as safer options in healthcare settings.

Expanding Options for Safer Cleaning Products

Recognizing the green chemistry benefits and safety profiles of microbial-based cleaning products, Green Seal has adjusted our requirements for these products.

A key update is that we are now allowing certified microbial-based cleaning products to be sold in spray packaging.  Because Green Seal takes a precautionary approach to newer chemistries and technologies, we have incorporated health-protective requirements that are intended to address the risk of inhaling microorganisms during product application.  Microbial-based products in spray packaging must either:

  • Be formulated only with non-pathogenic microorganisms that are listed on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) Qualified Presumption of Safety list, or
  • Undergo inhalation exposure testing via a test chamber and demonstrate a low level of airborne microorganisms after product application.

We have also updated our labeling requirements to be more practical and allow for more flexibility in how companies disclose microbial ingredients on the product label.

Visit our Standard Projects page to see the final requirements, red-lined tracked changes, and all development documentation.

About This Initiative

Green Seal implements standard development based on best international practices using a stakeholder-based approach. We appreciate the time and expertise provided by our stakeholders in this process, including the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), EcoQuality Solutions, Genesis Biosciences, the Household and Commercial Products Association, and other subject matter experts and manufacturers.

As always, Green Seal will study the value and benefits of these criteria to product formulators and product users. We are excited to explore opportunities to further raise the bar for these products by lowering thresholds, providing greater transparency around microbial strains in products, and enforcing stronger quality control.

Green Seal

Green Seal is a global non-profit whose certification mark is a universal symbol that a product, cleaning service or facility meets the highest benchmark of health and environmental leadership.