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Use more durable cleaning supplies

Use durable cleaning supplies for a cleaner clean and a cleaner environment

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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).


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Did You Know?

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1. Bogo, Jennifer. “Children at Risk: Widespread Chemical Exposure Threatens Our Most Vulnerable Population.” E magazine. Sept./Oct. 2001: 27-33.

2. Ballantyne, Coco. [7 June 2007] “Strange but True: Antibacterial Products May Do More Harm Than Good.” Scientific America magazine. Available from: [10 December 2007]

3. National Center for Manufacturing Sciences. Environmental Road Mapping Initiative. [Undated] “Petroleum Refining: Impacts, Risks and Regulations.” Available from: [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. [10 December 2007]

5. [April 2007] Green Matters Q&A Column. Available from: [11 December 2007]

6. Warner, Jennifer [24 January 2004] “Microwave Kills Germs in Sponges.” WebMD Medical News. Available from: [11 December 2007]

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