Clean up you act! Your mother had it right: sponges, mops and old t-shirts are the best kind of cleaning supplies.
The popularity of single-use cleaning supplies is one toxic trend. Using throw-away wipes, dusters, mop-heads, paper towels and brushes for cleaning is energy intensive and downright wasteful. And flushing away extra solid waste expands the waste stream and puts huge unnecessary demands on the sewer system. Billions of non-biodegradable wipes and such enter our landfills and sewers each year.
Flimsy disposables don’t stand up well to tough jobs and this fact compounds their overuse and wastefulness. Technology has come a long way since your high school janitor’s dirty string mop. You can find tidy, easy, reusable implements at low prices – and the best part is, they’ll do a better cleaning job for you.
One-use cleaning supplies are a new trend, not a necessary one. Misconceptions about bacteria feed their popularity, but there’s no substitute for time-tested natural cleaners and sturdy cleaning implements for balancing our need to clean with our responsibility to care for the earth. See our tip for more information on natural cleaning.
Take Action / Next Steps
Assemble a good set of cleaning tools that will last through many uses. Sponges, mops, nylon scrubbers, and old towels and the like work well.
Bacteria grow in wet environments. Letting cleaning instruments dry between uses will keep bacteria in check.
Clean your reusable rags often in one of three ways (listed from most to least effective):
A.Microwave a damp sponge for two minutes at full power. Doing so can kill 99% of living pathogens according to WebMD.
B.Wash in the dishwasher during a normal load if it has a booster heater that raises the water temperature to 160°F or above. This is sufficient to kill most bacteria including salmonella and E. coli.
C.Wash in the washing machine using laundry soaps containing natural disinfectants (e.g. vinegar, grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, lavender and lemon).
Did you know that chemically-saturated wipes leave residues that can harm young
Children are particularly at risk from exposure to the toxic ingredients in household cleaners,
according to E Magazine. Their small bodies and developing organs can be harmed by the effects of toxins quickly and
in some cases irreversibly.
Did you know that overusing wipes
containing anti-bacterial products can lead to worse bacteria?
Unlike soap that dissolves and loosens dirt and bacteria and is rinsed away, wipes impregnated with antibacterial
agents leave a residue on surfaces. This encourages the development of resistant “super bacteria."
Did you know that many cleaning wipes are made from
Using disposable petrol-based wipes contributes to environmental impacts from finding, extracting
and refining petroleum. Exploring for and extracting petrol alters ecosystems and habitat. Petroleum refining is the most
energy intensive industry in the U.S. and the largest source of greenhouse gases of any manufacturing sector, according to
the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.
Did you know that cleaning a home using entirely disposable products could easily result in the
consumption of 1,000 wipes in a single year?
Keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies that have a
lifespan of mere minutes squanders resources and leads to more greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
Did you know that synthetic cleaning cloths
Cloths made from polyester and nylon, for example, are not biodegradable and build up
in the environment.
Did you know that Americans are addicted to trash?
1960, each American generated 2.7 pounds of garbage per day. By 2005, that number had increased to 4.5 lbs, says the EPA. A
huge increase in single-use “disposables” is in large part to blame.
1. Bogo, Jennifer. “Children at Risk: Widespread Chemical Exposure Threatens Our Most Vulnerable Population.” E magazine. Sept./Oct. 2001: 27-33.
3. National Center for Manufacturing Sciences. Environmental Road Mapping Initiative. [Undated] “Petroleum Refining: Impacts, Risks and Regulations.” Available from: http://ecm.ncms.org/ERI/index.html [10 December 2007]
4. US EPA. Municipal and Industrial Solid Waste Division. Office of Solid Waste. [18 October 2007] Executive Summary. Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. http://www.epa.gov/msw/pubs/ex-sum05.pdf [10 December 2007]