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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Greening Your Cleaning Closet
By Elizabeth B. Goldsmith PhD, Betsy Sheldon
The general rule when assembling the greenest cleaning equipment is the environmentalist's first commandment: Thou shall reduce, reuse, and recycle. Just as you question whether you require a multitude of cleaners for countertops, bathroom tile, and floors, you may not need that assortment of brushes or three different kinds of vacuum cleaners. Secondly, work with what you have. Instead of tossing and replacing, repair and reuse. And, lastly, when your old equipment is finally ready to go to the utility closet in the sky, recycle everything that you can.

Remember that buying isn't a green activity. But for those tools you must acquire, seek products made of ecofriendly materials or of recycled content. Look for items with minimal packaging - more and more, such wrappings may be identified as recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.

Tackling Dirty Jobs: Cleaning Cloths

Cleaning cloths are the workhorses of your house-cleaning kit. If you have nothing else in your utility closet but towels and rags, you have all you need to attack most cleaning jobs

These multipurpose fundamentals can tackle just about any household job, including

• Dusting, wet or dry

• Wiping down appliances and furnishings

• Mopping floors

• Cleaning tile and kitchen and bathroom surfaces

• Shining chrome

• Sopping up spills

• Polishing silver

• Cleaning glass and mirrors

Hanging up a damp cleaning towel to reuse risks growing and spreading bacteria. Solve this issue by switching out the towel and washing it often in hot water.

Working With the Right Material

Options for cleaning cloths are endless: On the market are packages of clothlike throwaway towels, heavy-duty, purpose-made cleaning cloths; products with antimicrobial properties; microfiber wipes, and paper towels. And you can always repurpose old, worn T-shirts, towels, and sheets.

The best cleaning choice is the cloth that picks up the most dirt without streaking, spreading, smearing, or leaving behind muddy trails. Certain fabrics do a better job than others:

• Wool: Ideal for dusting, wool contains lanolin and has static electricity properties, attracting dust and keeping hold of it more so than other fabrics.

• Cotton: The soft, absorbent nature of pure cotton makes it a great choice for almost any cleaning job.

• Microfiber: Its fine filaments pick up dust, dirt, and oil and boast a high absorbency factor, able to hold up to seven times its weight in water.

Repurposing Old Clothes: The Greenest Option

Used fabrics make outstanding cleaning aids. They've been washed to a smooth softness, with less lint and loose fibers. Cut up an old wool blanket or reuse hole-ridden wool socks (just slip them on your hands) for dusting; convert old cotton towels, baby diapers, and soft cotton T-shirts and nightwear into scrub rags. Remove any buttons or zippers because they scratch surfaces.

This standout choice for cleaning rags meets the highest green standards: It requires no additional output of energy (other than your effort to cut it into rag-size pieces); you don't have to buy it; it requires no wasteful packaging; it's not damaging the environment; and you're exercising the principle of reuse. And if you're using old towels or T-shirts made of organic cotton, chalk up even more green points.

Buying New Cleaning Cloths

One benefit of buying new cleaning cloths rather than repurposing: You can choose colors to separate cloths for different uses - red for dusting and blue for wet-wiping, say. The ability to color-coordinate makes keeping cloths separate a lot easier.

Look for 100-percent organic cotton towels. Organic towels often cost more than conventional towels because the natural materials used are grown without the use of most pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetic engineering. Most organic towels are 100-percent cotton or a blend with cotton and another natural fiber, such as linen or hemp. To verify that the product is organic, look for the USDA certified organic symbol. Another green choice is bamboo. more



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