How to Shop Clean(er) at Target

Last weekend, I put some stories up on our IG about dryer sheets. What started off as a lesson about essential oils turned into dozens of questions about how to shop for green products! It came about because I shared a screen shot from Think Dirty (an app that rates products from clean to dirty … 0 is the cleanest and 10 is the most toxic) of some dryer sheets and they were all rated 9s.

There are a LOT of brands out there that market themselves as cleaner or “more natural” that just aren’t. For example, there are baby wipes and lotions that have scores as bad as the worst brands of toilet bowl cleaner. It is alarming. I don’t want to freak you out, though. Instead, I want to share some helpful information and my own go-to brands with you!

I buy a lot of my products from smaller companies online, but I understand that many people are just not willing to do that for reasons of both time and budget. So today, I am focusing only on brands you can buy in larger retailers that are more accessible. I wanted to shine a light on common “drugstore” brands (that you can purchase at places like Target) that are better than most. To figure out which brands I will buy, I use the Think Dirty app. It’s not a perfect resource (a lot of products are missing from the database still), so we’ve also learned to score our own products and read labels. This takes time, but the quickest cheat sheet I can share is to check for the words “fragrance” or “perfume”… artificial fragrances skyrocket products into having much higher scores and they are completely avoidable.

I know that learning to read labels isn’t something we’re all ready to do (at least not at first), so here’s a cheat sheet of the best products I have found.

In the cleaning aisle: 

Some of the worst offenders are found in these aisles. There are brands that blatantly market themselves as “green” that are worse than your average, conventional brand. Why? Because they can get away with it. If people don’t read the labels (or know how), they’ll trust the marketing. It makes me so upset because consumers are trying to make more conscious choices, but with all the misleading marketing it’s hard to know where to begin or who to trust.

Seventh Generation – I buy this brand for a lot of our cleaning products, including dish soap, laundry products and cleaner for my floors. A quick look at their website and you’ll see they are not just transparent, but proud to share information about their ingredients. This is truly rare and special. I really like this company and it’s one of the only companies I trust in the cleaning aisle.

Honest – Another good brand for basic cleaning products (and children too, which I will go into below). I use a lot of these products. I like their bath products, We use their shampoo/body wash now (I bought it in preparation for Nova and then realized I love it for my own body wash too).

Dr. Bronners – This soap is good for so many things. It has a bunch of recipes on the label. I use it to make my own hand soap and cleaning spray for our home. You can use it for baths as well. It’s great and since it’s supposed to be diluted, it lasts a long time.

In the beauty aisle:

Acure – My go-to for face masks, affordable day and night cream and a gentle cleanser.

Pacifica – Pacifica has a lot of good options including clean cosmetics (I mean, how pretty is this? And it’s affordable too), a lot of bath products and low-scoring perfumes (which is super rare to find!)

Fig + Yarrow – One of the better skincare lines carried at Target. They have nice face masks and oils.

Seaweed Bath Co – This brand is new to us. The packaging is so cute I assumed it would have crappy ingredients (haha—that happens a LOT), but they are excellent!

W3ll People – Definitely one of the best makeup options at Target (although they don’t carry it at every location).

Shea Moisture – One of my go-to brands. I love their shine spray. When I first began transitioning to natural skincare, I was horrified by the score of my body lotion (which I previously assumed was pretty clean). Shea moisture has a big line with a lot of options. They have kids products as well.

Burt’s Bees – Burt’s Bees does not have totally consistent scores (although they are mostly clean, I always double-check), but they are definitely one of the best and largest product lines you can find at big box stores. I have used their tinted lip balms and body oil for years.

SW Basics – A truly clean brand—most of their products only have a few simple ingredients.

Tom’s Of Maine – A good option for toothpaste and mouthwash.

In the children’s aisle: 

Babyganics – A good option for fragrance-free baby wipes and soap. I like their sunscreen stick because it’s small and purse-friendly.

Honest – An easy go-to for kiddo products. I like that they clearly define what ingredients they don’t allow in their products. Besides having some of the best kiddos products, they are also my other go-to for sunscreen.

California Baby – A great brand for kiddo bath products.

I hope this post was helpful!! If you have any questions, I am happy to help if I can. xx – Elsie

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Edited with A Color Story Desktop.

  • Thank you so much for this list- makes shopping so easy! Especially for those of us who’s on the s are path to finding the best non-toxic and *cruelty free* beauty options- because it can be daunting!

  • Did you happen to notice that the Acure face lotion changed recently? I’ve been using it for years and recently noticed the scent changed- it’s terrible! My local Target had a few complaints, wondering if it’s just our area or if you experienced too?

  • Hi Elsie! Thank you for your list and the app recommendation! I always use Cosmetics Database ( to check my home/body/makeup products. They have a really comprehensive list of items (and an app too!) and rate them by toxicity. And it’s great to know that many non-toxic products are also affordable. : ) Anna

  • Love these! i always look for cleaner options when it comes to what I am putting on my skin. Shea Moisture has become one of my favorites, I love their hair products.

  • I currently downloading the apps. Hope the products in my country availbale in the apps 😀

  • I took a consumer chemistry class in college that made me aware of the danger in every day products for the first time. It’s scary that items like baby soap can be endocrine disrupting. If you like Think Dirty check out EWG Skin Deep. Thanks for using your brand to educate others about this issue! This guide is great.

  • For baby wipes, we actually buy plain dry wipes and just add water. When we were taking our baby care class at the hospital, we learned that there was really no reason to use anything more than water because their skin doesn’t need it and even clean products can leave a residue. It’s worked great through many a poop-splosion!

    Thanks for the post! I was totally a person that believed the marketing and I’m going to make a point to be more intentional.

  • I feel so tricked by the years of buying All Free and Clear for my sensitive skinned kiddos. And Mrs. Meyer’s only scores a C??? I might as well be using something that actually *cleans* the counters if it’s not actually better than a conventional brand, sheesh.

  • Are you guys going to address the removal of the mugshot pics/fingerprint pillows or just brush that under the rug?

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say “just brush it under the rug” just because we don’t make a statement. We are an open and transparent company, we are also humans doing our best. If you want to talk to us- email us, DM us or leave us a question here. We’re real people who are open to a constructive conversation. So please don’t assume the worst… no reason for that.

      I know how hard Emma worked on that post and I know how good her intentions were. It’s not the first time we did something (innocently) that offended some people and, sadly, it probably won’t be the last. I hope you can see how hard we work to learn, grow and correct mistakes. We’ve written almost 5,000 blog posts over ten years and zero of them were written to be purposefully insensitive.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Great post! Like you, I love supporting small companies and purchasing online, but I’m also a huge Target shopper. I’ve posted a number of recipes using super healthy/clean ingredients from Target…love their frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon, and love that they carry Kerrygold butter. Thanks for the update on cleaning products. I’ve been using the 7th generation stuff a lot because it’s clean and it works! Wish my Target carried W3II cosmetics….I’ve been wanting to try them!

  • Recently I’ve been able to find the Acure brand at TJ Maxx super discounted! Makes it even better! I love it.

  • what another method products? i have used them for years thinking we were being green. i love the company. or at least i did. have they been bought like toms and burts bees?

  • Hi A Beautiful Mess! I’m so happy you covered a topic I’m very passionate about — better skincare. I love how you listed a few of your favorites, as I too love Honest Company products, just to name one! I would like to mention though that we should not fear products. Instead, we can be more conscious at finding products with less ingredients and better. This doesn’t mean synthetic ingredients/chemicals are all harmful. Some are actually just as good if not better than some natural products. I’ve learned that someone can be allergic to anything, even essential oils. Hope this helps you too, as your post helped me!

    • I completely agree with you! 🙂 In this post I mainly just wanted to highlight some brands that are really accessible that are better than most. xx

  • Thank you for posting this. It is a very good piece, very helpful, I am going to bookmark it so I can refer to the list each time im shopping. Toothpaste is something im currently switching, but this stuff stresses me out. My husband bought me this really expensive skin care set for my birthday and it gave me an allergic reaction in my left eye so bad! Couldnt wear my contacts, had to get drops, looked the opposite of refreshed with my saggy puffy under eye and it was sooooo expensive. The I read the labels, I couldn’t even pronounce any of it. And the body lotion: I took the kids to the park near dusk and the no-see-ums were out. How about I was viciously attacked on my arms and legs (not face, no lotion on my face) but Not One bite on any of the kids including the baby in my arms?! I counted 17 bites on one leg, 30 altogether. I still don’t know what’s in that crap, but its in the garbage. Sorry babe.

  • Target really does have so many good options!


  • Think Dirty and EWG are my two FAVORITE resources for double checking my products as I ditch the yuck and switch to cleaner alternatives. I pretty much use essential oils and essential oil infused products for cleaning, laundry, and all self-care. I love when influencers continue the dialogue on why this transition is so important for our health. Might I recommend Dr. Lindsey Elmore, BCPS and Dr. Cole Woolley, PhD as potential resources with backgrounds in health sciences?

  • Isn’t Honest currently settling a fairly large class action lawsuit stemming from using misleading marketing (with phrases like “all natural”) on products that really weren’t? Kind of surprised to see them on your list.

    • I totally agree that “all natural” is nothing language. I know nothing about the lawsuit, so I can’t answer you there. I included them on our list because they do have a lot of products with low scores that have better ingredients than other options in Target. I can’t speak for all their products or their company, but they definitely deserve to be on my list based solely on the ingredients used.

  • I really appreciate this! I’m beginning to be a little more conscious about the products I buy but it’s definitely intimidating starting out.

  • My family got fried with Honest sunscreen a couple of years ago. There was a lot of press about it being a poor sunsreen. Is is a new formula? We love Thinkbaby and Badger! Everything else I’ve tried from Honest has been legit. That sunburn was legit too and we reapplied several times.

  • Thanks for the great app recommendation! I also like Environmental Working Group (EWG) consumer guides for finding cleaner products, I use their Skin Deep Database which is specifically for skincare and cosmetics: Like Think Dirty! it’s not perfect and doesn’t have EVERY product but it’s a good start, I especially use it to look up mystery ingredients from labels.

    Also, I used to LOVE Dr. Bronner’s but I’ve stopped buying it since they started using palm oil in their formula due to it’s environmental and other impacts. Basically it leads to deforestation and exploitation where it is grown, here’s one article:
    This is a pretty recent change for them since the company has passed to the younger Bronner generations and it really bums me out!

  • Have y’all seen the line of clean tampons and pads? I forgot the name (no help, I’m sorry!!!!), but they aren’t outrageously priced and it’s awesome! I’m a big fan of a reusable cup, but I need pads for post partum and was so happy to see a cleaner type!

    Love these posts. Love what y’all stand for! Soooo excited for my box to arrive!! Much needed monthly pamper time for mama 🙂

    • Yes! I only use Veeda tampons. 100% cotton. I think I was having an allergic reaction to something in the more popular brands of tampons. So scary to think what’s in them!

  • I really liked this post, thanks for sharing the research and advice. Might just get me started on a slow/partial switch.
    Also, I miss Target being in Canada, all the time.

  • I love this post!! Will there be a clean(est) post as well?

    Thank you for the clean living posts. I think food and product safety is one of the most critical issues facing us today not only because of consumer and environmental health, but also to combat modern day court ordered slave labor that happens in US manufacturing facilities:

  • So… here’s my problem. I use Kirk’s Castile bar soap- which is a fraction of the price of Bronner’s. Think Dirty scores it a 9 because of fragrance so I looked into it more on Kirk’s website and they say the only fragrance is pine and citrus essential oils…. I’m feeling like I was really excited to use the think dirty app because I really want to find shampoo for our family (my continual struggle area) but this find makes me feel like my initial research brands myself plan might be better. Thoughts?

    • That totally happens!! Think Dirty is not a perfect app. “fragrance” can sometimes mean essential oils, but it’s rare. Because of our beauty box we email companies all the time to clarify & they are usually really nice and helpful.

      My opinion- use Think Dirty even though it’s not perfect. It’s overall really helpful, especially when searching categories for new options. It’s edited by humans who make mistakes, but it’s still a useful resource. And if you really want to dive in, learn to read ingredients lists and create your own scores using the EWG site.

    • I actually prefer the EWG’s Healthy Living App. It has more products available and sometimes (just from my own research) I disagree with Think Dirty’s scores. Neither app is perfect but I actually use both and compare when I’m out shopping and need to make a decision without being able to spend hours of research at home on my computer.

  • I just found out about an amazing company called Melaleuca. All their products are non-toxic. The thing I love is that their cleaning products don’t have child proof caps so I can feel safe having them around my 1 and 3-year-old kids. I also like to know that all the laundry products are super safe as well, especially knowing my kids will get into everything these days! 🙂

    • You still need to be careful. Just because it’s natural and safe doesn’t mean it’s safe to ingest it. These things still need to be out of the reach of children!!!

      • I definitely keep them out of reach of my kids. They are stored in safe places but it’s nice to know that if something did happen, I wouldn’t have to worry… especially after seeing the Tide commercial showing how toxic their detergent is.

  • Think Dirty sounds like a great resource for consumers to learn more about the products they use everyday. As a science nerd I also worry that someone may jump into an app like this and become totally afraid of everything in their pantry/medicine cabinet without taking the time to understand why certain chemical compounds are good or bad for them. There is a ton of misinformation and pseudo-science floating around out there (I’m looking at you random Facebook articles), and this crappy info can only be partially attributed to big corporations and brands. Since you ladies are breaking into the wellness market, it would be fitting for the blog to feature some posts by chemists, biochemists or medical doctors too. A regular blog feature could fit right in with your new dietician posts 🙂

    • I totally agree. The app is a good resource, but not it can be confusing at first. On each product page there is a helpful breakdown. I like to check whether the questionable ingredients are allergen concerns or known carcinogens… huge difference obviously.

      I also agree that there is a lot of misinformation spread by brands, but also well-meaning people too who just don’t know. And I am still learning as well. We all are. That said, we are learning from experts and trusted sources and are working hard to carefully edit these type of posts so that they don’t contain false information or claims.

      I would love to make friends with a doctor who was interested in these subjects (my doctors were kind of jerks last time I asked them a question about essential oils) If anyone out there is a doctor or expert in clean products, email me!! I’d love to chat.

      • I agree, it’s so hard to find doctors who are open minded about essential oils and don’t already work for a specific company. Even doctors who are open to natural living can have strong opinions. You tend to either find people who are all about essential oils and nothing else or the opposite, anti essential oils.

        thanks for this post as it gives me ideas of other products to take a look at.

      • Hey Elsie,

        I’m actually a doctor and wanted to email you a response I wrote up to these comments (it got WAY too long, haha,) but I can’t find your email anywhere on the website anymore. Happy to chat if you’re interested 🙂

      • Agreed, re: doctors! When I was pregnant I asked my doctor about products that contained essential oils, even bringing specific products with me and she just waved me off and it seemed like she thought I was “woo woo.” I wasn’t sure where to turn but I scoured the internet and probably ended up being too cautious about what I used.

      • Hey Elsie,

        Now this thread is a few months old and you’re researching more and more natural beauty brands, I’d love for you to write a beginners guide to what to look out for – and what criteria products in the Oui Fresh boxes need to meet.

        The monthly delivery has kickstarted me into being more discerning, but I’m not really sure what I’m looking for! 🙂

  • Great post, thank you!

  • I downloaded Think Dirty after your stories last week and it was eye opening. Definitely giving my beauty and cleaning products an overhaul as things run out.

  • Thanks for sharing this list. It helps with some changes I’ve been wanting to make.

  • So…I just realized the “natural” cleaning products I’ve been buying (and loved) are SO NOT natural. Reading this post sort of tipped me off…I figured if they were really a natural brand they would have been mentioned here. After scouring a few websites, I realized they were dirty liars! It really bothers me that companies can market themselves as “natural” when in reality they aren’t. Now I know which bottles to reach for instead! Thanks Elsie!

    • I’m not saying there are no other clean products or brands at Target- I was only highlighting the ones I have tried. That said, check the brand you are thinking of on the Think Dirty app (or email me, I’d love to help if I can!)

      When I first started swapping products, I realized that basically all the makeup that I’d used since high school (that I thought was “more natural”- whatever that means) was really high scoring. It’s frustrating at first, but don’t give it. Small changes over time make a big difference! 🙂

      • I used the Think Dirty app and the cleaning products I thought were better were all rated a 9! I started researching the products and was very disappointed in what I found. I literally had questioned the “naturalness” of the products the night before you posted this blog…I was cleaning our bathroom and since it’s so small, aromas and chemical smells can become overwhelming quickly in there. The smell from the products I was using gave off a very chemical-y smell, if that makes sense. It was great timing to see this post the next day.

        I’m dork-ishly excited to find new cleaning products. The Dr. Bronners products come in so many aromas and that makes me even more excited! Thanks so much Elsie! 🙂

  • Great info! Just FYI on Tom’s and Burt’s Bees: they are both now owned by huge companies (Clorox and Colgate-Palmolive, respectively) that test on animals and are otherwise not very “friendly.” The products themselves may be clean(er), but the companies are not cruelty-free, which is a deal-breaker for me. Schmidt’s is a great natural deodorant available at Target. Not sure how they rank on that app (I hope well!).

  • Thanks for recommending the Think Dirty app! Never knew about it, will download right now!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

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