San Francisco Environment Department

Safer Products and Practices in the Workplace

Most people spend a significant part of their day in their workplace, making it essential to use safer products and practices.

Less toxic products and greener practices can help protect the health of employees while saving money. Implementing Green Cleaning can save a business 95% in chemicals and water costs and can result in 20% savings in labor costs.

Quick Guide

Cleaning Products, Air Fresheners

  • COVID-19: Safer cleaning and disinfection factsheet (PDF)
  • Aerosol Cans can trigger asthma and breathing problems. Use spray bottles instead.
  • Air Fresheners can cause lung infections and respiratory problems. Use regular cleaning and natural air fresheners like orange peels or coffee beans instead.
  • Janitorial Chemicals can cause cancer, asthma, reproductive effects and other long-term problems. Use Green Seal certified products and safer practices. Try safer disinfectants.
  • Antibacterial Soaps can cause endocrine disruption, allergies, and antibacterial resistance. 

    >Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps provide no additional benefits compared to regular soap.

     Use regular soap instead.

  • Janitorial Paper Products can contain a chlorine-containing bleach agent which can harm humans and wildlife. Use processed chlorine-free and/or unbleached products.

Office Supplies

  • Glues can contain toxics that causes neurological effects. Use products without toluene and xylene.
  • Printing Inks contain heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can contaminate the atmosphere, soil, and water. Use soy-based or water-based inks.
  • Marker Pens can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Use low-odor or water-based markers.
  • Paints are highly flammable and emit VOCs. Use zero or low-VOC lines of your favorite paint brands.
  • Avoid aerosol electronic dusters because they use fluorocarbon propellants that can cause climate change, and are relatively expensive. Try reusable ones.

Batteries and Electronics

  • Batteries can leak and cause burns to eyes and skin and pollute surface water and soil. Use products that do not run on batteries or use rechargeable batteries.
  • Electronics contain toxic heavy metals that can bio-accumulate in humans and wildlife. Use EPEAT certified electronics.


  • Fluorescent lighting and Neon Signs contain mercury and should be disposed of properly, use LED lighting instead.


  • Pesticides can cause cancer, reproductive problems, disrupt the hormone and immune system. Use an Integrated Pest Management Program instead.
  • Solvents can cause irritations, organ damage, and neurological effects apart from being harmful to the environment. Avoid the use of solvents whenever possible.

A detailed list of hazardous items found in workplaces and tips for choosing the least-toxic alternatives can be used by office managers and business owners to make sure their workplace is safer for their employees.

Want to do more?

Enroll in the Green Business Program to learn how to save on energy, water, and trash bills, and reduce your exposure to hazardous substances. If you are interested in learning more, call 415.355.3700

Related Content
Find less toxic alternatives, SFApproved List (website)
Green Business Guide to Pollution Prevention (video)
SF Green Cleaning Videos in English, Chinese, and Spanish, (video series)
Comprehensive Report on Safer Disinfectant Products

Additional Resources
Green Building - information about green building and green remodeling

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