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Green product watch: Detergents, flooring, and low-flow fixtures

Here’s the latest news and advice on greener products, adapted from the August 2009 issue of Consumer Reports.

Do “green” dishwasher detergents really work? In Consumer Reports latest tests, dishwasher detergents without phosphates—which help clean but also boost algae growth in freshwater, threatening fish and other plants—tended to perform worst overall. Only two of seven phosphate-free detergents are worth considering: Method or Simplicity. Read Which detergents cut the mustard?

How to judge eco-flooring claims. Some of the flooring brands recently tested by Consumer Reports carry eco-labels. Wood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative offers some assurance that it's from sustainably managed forests. But other flooring might have green attributes without those credentials.

Vinyl flooring certified by the industry FloorScore program meets California standards, the nation's toughest, for volatile organic compounds, which are linked to health problems and pollution. Our picks are on that list. But vinyl floors still bring other concerns, such as phthalate exposure, along with manufacturing and disposal hazards. Get more tips on How to choose flooring.

Low-flow showerheads and toilets: Not all are created equal. Eight of the 18 models in Consumer Reports latest report on showerheads use less than the federal maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute; all meet the federal limit. But our panel of testers only found one model that could produce an invigorating spray – the American Standard FloWise Dual Function.

Consumer Reports latest tests of toilets revealed that not all could flush with success in every situation. Testers did find a 1.28-gallons per flush (gpf) standout performer from Kohler and a good 1.1-gpf model from Gerber. But several pricier models required an extra flush, negating any water savings.

Read Efficient showerheads and toilets can save you water.

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