The terms green, earth-friendly, and even nontoxic are everywhere these days — but because laundry and dishwashing soaps aren't regulated the same way foods are, labels don't really tell you what you're getting, says Jennifer Sass, PhD, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A quick way to determine if your detergent is safe is to read the “what happens if you swallow this” warning. “If it says something like ‘go immediately to the emergency room,’ then you know it's probably not made of garlic,” says Sass. “If you can pronounce or recognize the ingredients listed, that's a good thing.” A few buzzwords you can trust: chlorine free, phosphate free, and nonpetroleum based.