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The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for someone's home? Look no further! These are perfect gifts for all the homebodies in your life.


non-toxic and sustainable gift guide for the home

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for the Home

$: Under $50

Graf Lantz Round Felt Coasters

These wool coasters from Graf Lantz are as beautiful as they are functional. We love that they are made from a renewable resource and protect tables from unslightly stains. A perfect stocking stuffer!

Heath Ceramics Bud Vase

This sweet little ceramic bud vase from Heath Ceramics will add a fun pop of color to any room. This vase looks so good you don't even need to add flowers!

Cora Ball

Protect your clothes and the environment with this Cora Ball! Simply throw it in with your next load of laundry to catch and prevent microfiber pollution.

Branch Basics Concentrate and Glass Bottle Set

Plant-based cleaning that really works! Branch Basics concentrate is a multi-use cleaning product that is free of any harmful chemicals. Pair it with the glass bottle set for a beautiful gift as the perfect introduction to green cleaning.

$ $: Between $50-100

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks

This beautiful coffee table book brings the gift of our National Parks into the living room. There are photographs of all 62 National Parks, including maps of each park and details of where the photographs were taken. This is a must have for any nature lover.

Cocktail Collection

It's always 5 o'clock somewhere, so why not up the cocktail game with Bloomscape's potted cocktail collection! This trio sage, mint, and rosemary are perfect for garnishing or muddling and come in beautiful ceramic pots.

goop Beauty Scented Candle

Give the gift of hygge with a luxurious scented candle from goop. These candles are made with soybean wax, natural fragrances, and smell absolutely divine!

Chilote Salmon Leather House Slippers

Cool meets cozy with these Chilote House Slippers. The combination of knitted sheep wool and salmon leather (yes, salmon!) are sure to delight. Each pair is crafted through a network of independent artisan women in Patagonia and all carbon is offset supporting the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru.

The Little Market XL Friendship Bowl

Support artisans in Rwanda with these sisal and sweetgrass Friendship bowls. Hand woven in beautiful designs, these bowls will look great perched on a shelf or nestled on a coffee table. The Little Market is our go to for fair trade and quality gifts.

Levoit Air Purifier Core300

Give the gift of clean indoor air! Banish dust, pollen, and pet dander with the Air Purifier Core300 from Levoit. The unique filtration system removes 97% of fine particles and allergens, and a streamlined design will look great in any living room.

$ $ $: Over $100

Citizenry Mercado Lidded Storage Basket

The Citizenry Mercado Lidded Storage baskets offer a chic storage solution for all of life's clutter. These baskets come in three different sizes, two colors, and are hand woven out of locally-sourced palm leaves by artisans in Mexico in a fair trade environment.

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

De-stress and relax with the Bearaby Napper Weighted Blanket. Long-staple GOTS-certified organic cotton means this blanket is heavy but breathable! We love this sustainable weighted blanket and love how they don't use synthetic fibers.

Avocado Natural Latex Mattress Topper

Give the gift of better sleep with this Natural Latex Mattress Topper from Avocado! GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified wool provides incredible comfort and will upgrade any sleeping experience.

Home

Is Vintage Dishware Safe to Use?

Why you should think twice before busting out your collectibles for the holidays.

Are you someone who collects antiques or enjoys scrounging local flea markets in search of the perfect vintage collectibles? Or perhaps you keep ceramic dishware or crystalware in your kitchen cabinets that've been passed down from previous generations and get dusted off for the holidays. While retro touches in the kitchen are fun and budget-friendly, you might want to think twice about using your family heirlooms or other collectibles when preparing, serving or storing food or drinks. Vintage dishware (which technically means older than 20 years) can potentially expose you and your family to poisonous lead. We break down what vintage and ceramic items might have lead, why it's important, and what you can do about it.

Lead in ceramics (think mugs, casserole dishes, serving platters and more)

Unfortunately, plates, bowls, and mugs, can release lead into our food and drinks. Traditionally lead was used as a main ingredient in the paint and glaze for most ceramic dishware because it provides strength and gives the dishware a smooth, clear finish. Lead and cadmium (another toxic heavy metal) can also add vibrancy to paint colors, making it a lucrative addition to ceramics. Areas of kitchenware that might have higher levels of lead include decorative painting, especially brightly colors (think red, yellow!), and decals or logos that are added onto glazed pieces.

Before 1971, there were no limits on lead in dinnerware and ceramics, so vintage items from before then are very likely to have unsafe levels of lead. Starting in 1971, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to enforce limits on the amount of leachable lead in ceramics and tableware. Acceptable leachable lead concentrations in ceramics have decreased since then as the danger posed by lead-contaminated ceramics has become increasingly apparent. While incredibly important, these limits do not completely get rid of lead in ceramic dishware. The current limit is 0.5 μg/mL and ceramics are tested when they are new, not as they wear over the lifetime of a product. If you have dinnerware that was made during this time, it's possible that the allowable lead limits are still above what is considered acceptable now. In fact, it's still possible to buy new ceramics that contain lead, especially if they were made in a country that has weaker lead standards than the US.

Lead in crystal (think cocktail glasses, decanters, champagne flutes)

Just because ceramics are regulated doesn't mean there are lead limits for everything. Even though ceramics have lead limits, there are no current Federal standards for the amount of lead allowed to be leached from crystal glassware. Traditional glassware contains around 50% silica (sand) and no lead content, whereas "crystal" glassware is made of silica and lead oxide and is typically used for champagne, wine, or spirits. The use of lead in crystal glassware makes it easier to work with, since it allows the glass to be formed at lower temperatures. Even though it's delicate and pretty, crystal glassware has a big risk of leaching lead. The FDA has issued warnings against giving children or infants "leaded crystal baby bottles, christening cups, or glassware" and against storing food or drink in leaded crystal containers. Many manufacturers no longer make leaded crystal, but if you have any vintage crystal, it's very likely that it has unsafe levels of lead.

Why Lead is a Big Deal (still!)

Lead risks seem to pop up somewhere new all the time, and lead in vintage dishware is not any more or less important than the usual lead suspects. Lead is especially harmful for children. Their tiny, developing bodies absorb much more lead than adults do, making their brains and nervous systems more vulnerable and sensitive to the damage caused by lead exposure. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also very sensitive to the risks from lead because, over time, lead accumulates in our bodies and becomes absorbed in our bones. When a woman becomes pregnant, lead is released from our bones and can be passed on to the fetus in utero or while breastfeeding. This can cause the baby to be born prematurely, born with low birth weight, can impact the baby's growth and development, can increase the likelihood of learning or behavioral problems, and puts mothers at risk for miscarriage. There is also sufficient scientific evidence that lead exposure causes cardiovascular diseases in adults as well.

How to Avoid Lead in the Kitchen and Dinnerware

  1. Don't use vintage dishware to store, prepare or eat or drink from:
  • Don't store food in any dishes, antiques or collectibles that may contain lead, especially pieces made before 1971. Use vintage pieces for decoration only.
  • Women of child-bearing age should not use crystal to consume wine (or for any other purposes for that matter).
  • Don't store foods or beverages (especially acidic juices, alcoholic beverages, or vinegar) in crystalware or vintage dishware.
  1. Get your vintage and imported dishware tested for lead:
  • Always test vintage and imported dishware for lead or conduct a lead test yourself using a home lead test kit. LeadCheck ™ testing kits, sometimes called swab tests, are inexpensive and available in hardware stores. These kits are meant for paint and not ceramics, so they are not completely accurate.
  • Lab tests determine how much lead is present in products using acid or other dissolving agents. However, these methods can damage the product. To have your ceramics tested for lead, contact a certified lab by searching the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program List.
  • Your state and local health departments may have more resources and services for lead testing.
  1. Do your research to make sure your dishware does not contain lead:
  • Before buying imported ceramics to be used for food and drinks, ask the supplier, the maker, or the FDA about the product's lead safety. Ask if ceramics and glass are lead-free.
  • Before buying artisanal pieces from neighborhood or craft shows, ask the artisan if they use lead in glazes/paints.
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Food

Are Plastic Water Filter Pitchers Ok to Use?

Making sure your drinking water is healthy and safe

Water filter pitchers are a commonplace household item that almost everyone has. These handy devices magically turn our tap water into crisp, fresh mountain spring water. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it does make it taste better! Since many water filter pitchers are made from plastic, we decided to take a look at how healthy and safe they are when compared to alternatives such as tap water and bottled water. Let's dive in!

First, to better understand the use and necessity of water filter pitchers, we need to understand their purpose. The main use for most at-home water filters is to change and enhance the taste, color, and smell of drinking water, thereby improving the water's aesthetic effects (1, 2). The EPA has established both primary and secondary National Drinking Water Regulations meant to protect the public against consumption of drinking water contaminants that pose a risk to human health (2). Primary Standards are federally-enforced mandatory water quality standards, while Secondary Standards are non-mandatory water quality standards established as a guideline to assist public water systems in managing the aesthetic considerations for drinking water like taste, color, and odor (2). In some households, however, water filters are a necessity. Water from wells, older pipes, and other external factors can negatively impact water quality even with EPA regulations in place.

So, What Do Water Pitchers Filter Out?

When looking at different water filter pitchers, it is important to check their certifications. Certification is important because it shows the product has been verified by an independent third party to do what it says it does (3). Most commercial plastic water filter pitchers are certified by either the NSF/ANSI (National Sanitation Foundation/American National Standards Institute), the WQA (Water Quality Association), or both (4). However, even among certain certifications there are different standards they can be certified with. For example, water filters certified by NSF/ANSI can be either standard 42 or standard 53 (3, 5). NSF/ANSI standard 42 focuses on the aesthetic effects of drinking water treatment and establishes minimum requirements for systems designed to reduce non-health-related contaminants (5). NSF/ANSI standard 53 focuses on the health effects of drinking water treatment and establishes minimum requirements for systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants (5). NSF/ANSI standard 42 reduces contaminants like chlorine, taste and odor issues, chloramine, particulates, iron, manganese, zinc, and total dissolved solids (TDS) in drinking water, whereas NSF/ANSI standard 53 reduces contaminants like heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, and selenium), cryptosporidium, giardia, inorganic compounds, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in water (3, 5). Since PFOA/PFOS--fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals known as PFAS--are also a concern for people, the NSF has a P473 standard for that as well (19, 20, 21, 22).

Table created from information from [3], [5], and [21].

If you are looking for filters that can remove specific contaminants in your drinking water, make sure to check the product's NSF/ANSI standard certification beforehand. While most water filter pitchers are able to remove contaminants that affect the taste of water like chlorine, zinc, and hydrogen sulfide, not all are able to filter out contaminants like heavy metals and VOCs (8). Because of this, it's important to know what's in your water. You can check your community water system quality reports at the EPA Federal Reports site here, which also shows you potential water system violations. If your drinking water contains serious contaminants like lead or other heavy metals, it's advised to install a more comprehensive filtration system in your house or apartment (8).

Are Plastic Water Pitchers Bad?

Most water filter pitchers are made out of hard clear plastic, and popular brands advertise that their pitchers are BPA free. For example, according to Brita, their pitcher lids and filter housings are made out of polypropylene plastic, the reservoirs and pitchers are made from either NAS (a styrene based plastic) or SAN (styrene acrylonitrile), and all are tested by the NSF for material safety (12). However, there have been several studies that show that many hard clear plastics, including BPA replacements, do release estrogenic chemicals (23, 24, 25, 26). Plastics and endocrine disruption are still being studied, so erring on the side of safety, here are a couple of suggestions to help you properly take care of your water filter pitcher.

Tips for properly taking care of plastic water filters

  • Hand wash plastic components with a mild detergent and air dry upside down; make sure to not use any abrasive cleaners. Hand wash only, since the heat from dishwashers can stress the plastic over time.
  • Store filled pitchers in a cool, dim place away from sunlight to prevent algae formation. Both heat and UV light are shown to increase leaching from plastic, so it's safer to store your pitcher in the refrigerator or away from windows.
  • If you go on vacation and water has been left in the pitcher for a long time, it's a good idea to dump that water, give the pitcher a wash, and then refill it. Time of contact increases the potential of leaching from plastic, and standing water increases the risk of other contaminants building up.
  • Regularly replace filters for optimal performance depending on guidelines; most standard filters recommend replacement every 40 gallons, which is approximately every two months. Bacteria build up in the water filters themselves, so it is important to do this.

What If I Don't Want a Plastic Pitcher?

If you would prefer to not use a plastic water pitcher, no worries! There are glass and steel pitchers as well, although options are limited. It should be noted that most water filters do contain some plastic, even if the pitchers themselves are a different material. There are also water filters that screw onto the tap and countertop water filters that attach to taps that have less plastic. If you want to ditch the plastic pitcher completely, you can invest in a whole house filter or an under-the-counter reverse osmosis system.

Sustainability of Single-Use Filters

Since water filters need to be replaced on a regular schedule, you might be wondering what to do with the filter itself, which is usually housed in plastic. Many water filter companies have recycling programs, so you can look to see if there is a recycling component for your used water filters. For example, Brita currently partners with TerraCycle to offer a free mail-in recycling program for Brita filters, pitchers, dispensers, bottles, faucet systems, and packaging (14).

Make sure to not throw the filter directly into your municipal recycling bin as it can contaminate the recycling stream. It is also not recommended to cut open the filter to separate the plastic from the filter media inside. While the filters are made out of less plastic than bottled water, they are not a plastic-free solution.

Other Alternatives?

Popular alternatives to filtered water include tap water and bottled water. The EPA has established protective drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants as part of its comprehensive Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), although there are still incidences where violations occur (16). Bottled water also presents various health hazards, so it should not be regarded as the de facto standard either. The plastic of bottled water is made from PET, a material regarded as safe for one-time use, but refilling bottles or storing them in hot places increases the risk of chemicals and microplastics leaching into the water (1, 17). The bottled water industry is also self-regulating and not always liable to FDA regulations, so there's a greater chance of contamination occurring (1, 17). Recent tests have actually found PFAS and arsenic in bottled water for sale (27, 28). Bottled water also has a huge environmental impact, since 86% of all plastic water bottles end up in landfills rather than being recycled (18).

Final Take-Aways

Plastic water filters are helpful tools that allow individuals to enhance and improve the taste and smell of their drinking water, as well as remove potentially harmful chemical contaminants. While we work to create better water filtration systems within our communities, plastic water filters are a good alternative for people's current drinking needs.


References

  1. http://www.uvm.edu/~shali/Brita.pdf
  2. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/secondary-drinking-water-standards-guidance-nuisance-chemicals#self
  3. https://www.wqpmag.com/sites/wqp/files/notallfiltersarecreated.pdf
  4. https://wqa.org/programs-services/product-certification/industry-certifications/wqa-certifies-to-nsf-ansi-standards
  5. https://d2evkimvhatqav.cloudfront.net/documents/dw_nsf_ansi_42_53_401.pdf?mtime=20200417153151&focal=none
  6. https://www.brita.com/why-brita/what-we-filter/
  7. https://www.pur.com/why-pur/filter-comparison-pitcher
  8. https://www.consumerreports.org/water-filter-pitchers/things-to-know-about-water-filter-pitchers/
  9. https://www.pur.com/why-pur/filter-comparison-pitcher
  10. https://www.brita.com/why-brita/health/whats-in-your-tap-water/
  11. https://healthykitchen101.com/best-water-filter-pitchers/
  12. https://clearandwell.com/are-brita-water-pitchers-made-from-safe-plastic/
  13. https://www.brita.com/water-pitcher-support/
  14. https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/brita-brigade
  15. https://www.pur.com/help-pitchers-dispensers
  16. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa
  17. https://time.com/5686811/is-bottled-water-safest-best/
  18. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/reasons-avoid-bottled-water
  19. https://www.nsf.org/knowledge-library/perfluorooctanoic-acid-and-perfluorooctanesulfonic-acid-in-drinking-water
  20. https://www.nsf.org/knowledge-library/contaminant-reduction-claims-guide
  21. https://www.aquasana.com/info/education/nsf-certification
  22. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nsf-international-certifies-first-water-filters-that-reduce-pfoa-and-pfos-in-drinking-water-300370732.html
  23. Guart, Albert, et al. "Migration of plasticisers from Tritan™ and polycarbonate bottles and toxicological evaluation." Food chemistry 141.1 (2013): 373-380.
  24. Yang, Chun Z., et al. "Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 989-996.
  25. Bittner, George D., Chun Z. Yang, and Matthew A. Stoner. "Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products." Environmental Health 13.1 (2014): 41.
  26. Bittner, George D., et al. "Chemicals having estrogenic activity can be released from some bisphenol a-free, hard and clear, thermoplastic resins." Environmental Health 13.1 (2014): 103.
  27. https://www.consumerreports.org/bottled-water/whats-really-in-your-bottled-water/
  28. https://www.consumerreports.org/water-quality/arsenic-in-some-bottled-water-brands-at-unsafe-levels/
Home

Struggling With Pests at Home? Here’s What To Do

DIY Pest Solutions, Integrated Pest Management, and More

Everyone wants to have a place to call home, somewhere you can eat, sleep and hangout with your friends and family. But people aren't the only ones who want a home - rodents, ants, mosquitos, flies and cockroaches do too! If you suddenly find yourself with a few new creepy crawly roommates, your default reaction may be to pick up the phone and have an exterminator come into your home to shoo them away.

However, let's first think about what that means for your home and health. Traditional exterminators may use many toxic chemicals to get rid of pests and should be your last resort instead of your first.

Thankfully, there are safer methods to clear your home of pests.

The Issues With Exterminators

Most exterminators will go over the active ingredients in their pesticides and some will go over potential health effects, but that might not give you the full picture. It's super important to do your own research before hiring someone.

Pest exterminators can spray pesticides, herbicides and insecticides throughout the home (either inside and/or outside (16)) which can cause damage to health, particularly for children (13) and infants (8,14).

The most common active ingredients in insecticides are pyrethroids and pyrethrins which have been linked to increased risk of childhood cancer (11). And many insecticides are also composed of organophosphates and chlorpyrifos which have been linked to chronic neurological function (1), and neurodevelopmental issues (8).

If an exterminator tells you the products they use are safe after a couple of hours, that may not necessarily be true. Studies of chlorpyrifos have shown that residues persist for up to 2 weeks after a single broadcast application, with potential exposure to young infants reaching levels 100x greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended levels (15). Residual pesticide exposure is especially important if you have infants in your home, since minimal exposure can result in levels above the threshold of toxicological response in infants (12). Studies show this chronic level of exposure has been linked to risk of childhood leukemia (10).

The work done by pest control professionals - the routine extermination procedure and home treatment such as spraying pesticides - has shown an overall link between pesticide exposures and childhood cancers (10). We definitely don't want these chemicals unless we really have to.

DIY Solutions to Keep Pests Out of Your Home

It's easier than you think to prevent pests! Sometimes simple upgrades to your house or a new product are all you need. Here are some simple solutions for how to prevent pests at home and what to do if you have them.

1. Block Any Entry Points for Pests

Show your home some love. Take a day off and spend time doing the following:

  • Seal gaps and plug holes with copper mesh.
  • Repair torn screens, keep weatherstripping in shape (a.k.a. make sure there are no gaps around doors and windows).
  • Make sure the damper on your dryer vent is properly closed.
  • Trim plants against your house.

Not sure where else pests could be coming from? Sometimes pest control professionals can help you identify their entrypoint and help you plug it up without having to fall back on spraying. Integrated pest management professionals (see below) are especially good at this.

2. Update Your Cleaning Routine

Pests seem to have a sixth sense for clutter and crumbs! A deep clean can help stop these unwelcome critters from getting too cozy.

  • Keep your kitchen sparkling clean by sweeping regularly and be sure to dry up damp areas.
  • Immediately clean up any crumbs or spills from countertops, tables and shelves, and dispose of garbage regularly. Avoid walking around the house while eating, as you may leave crumbs in unwanted places such as your couch, bed or carpet.
  • Store ingredients and snacks properly in containers with an airtight seal to prevent pests from getting inside. While you're at it, check out these tips on how to Stock Your Pantry Shelves With Non Toxic Packaging Materials. If you have a pet, be sure to store away their food overnight.
  • When at the grocery store, inspect packaging for any holes before purchasing to avoid bringing any pests home with you.
  • Check the expiration dates on ingredients before use. Throw out items stored for an extended period of time.
  • Clean up clutter, especially stacks of newspapers, cardboard boxes, and paper bags as these can be a favorite home for pests.
  • Avoid dampness in your home by keeping it well ventilated. Pests thrive in humidity higher than 70% (9). Measure your bedroom's humidity levels and use a dehumidifier if necessary. Here's a compact dehumidifier and a rechargeable dehumidifier.

3. Invest in Some New Products

We did some research and found some recommended safer products to use on your own:

Know When to Call an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Professional for Help

If you live a busy life-style and don't have time for DIY's or if it's too late to take matters into your own hands, don't worry. IPM has your back.

What's IPM? It's a cost-effective holistic approach to eradicating pests from your home by taking into account which pests are in your home, how they got there, why they are there, and where they're coming from. IF chemicals are necessary, then companies will use products that are just as effective on the bugs but safe for humans and pets. But again, always do your own research! Look into any products an IPM company is recommending to make sure it's actually a safer choice or an EPA registered product. Studies have shown success in the implementation of IPM (3). Check out the WSPEHSU's helpful toolkit to avoid traditional chemically invasive pest control.

Here's how to hire a pest management professional who does IPM.

Dealing with pests can be overwhelming and frustrating but it's important to remember you have options! Calling an exterminator to spray your home with pesticides is not the only solution to getting rid of pests. There are better, safer solutions!



References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/jpepsy/article/33/1/91/966989
  2. https://eartheasy.com/insect-dust-diatomaceous-earth-4-4-lb/
  3. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/pdf/10.1289/ehp.6069
  4. https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products
  5. https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/list-pests-significant-public-health-importance
  6. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/do-you-really-need-use-pesticide
  7. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles
  8. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/abs/10.1289/ehp.02110507
  9. https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/natural-insect-pest-control/
  10. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10552-013-0205-1
  11. https://www.nature.com/articles/jes201036
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1532945/
  13. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/4/719.short
  14. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/6/e1845?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR:+No+local+token
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12515682/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23558445/
  17. https://www.ortho.com/sites/g/files/oydgjc116/files/asset_files/T46024_020301205_LB9902_082117_CFL.pdf
  18. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-bugs-in-your-house

Sigh… we're spending a lot more time at home nowadays. And for some reason everything seems a lot dirtier than usual and we feel like we're cleaning 24/7. That's why we've been doing a ton of research into cleaning tricks and hacks! One subject that has come up over and over again is microfiber cloths.

Microfiber cloths have been our best friends these past couple of months, not only for dust bunnies but to make sure things are extra germ free during the coronavirus pandemic. If you don't know about microfiber cloths, listen up! These magic cleaning cloths really do work well and have been scientifically shown to reduce germs and cross contamination between surfaces (which is an especially good idea nowadays!). There's even a clever way to fold them to create 8 unique cleaning surfaces per cloth. Basically, they're amazing! Read on to learn why it's a good idea to clean with microfiber cloths, especially during a pandemic, and how to use and wash them the right way.

What Are Microfiber Cloths?

Microfiber is a special kind of extra soft and fuzzy fabric made of polyester and nylon super fine fibers that have a diameter of less than ten micrometres. That's a hundred times finer than human hair and even finer than silk fibers! Microfiber cloths and mop heads are widely used because these super fine fibers are really good at cleaning, even without any cleaning products. Millions of tiny fibers on a cloth have a slightly positive charge that actually attract dirt and dust (which are negatively charged) and dislodge them from surfaces. That's why when you dust with a microfiber cloth, it almost seems like it swoops up the dust particles without any resistance. And because the super fine fibers increase the surface area, microfiber cloths can absorb 7 times their weight in water, which is also really useful when cleaning up messes. The tiny fibers are also able to get into cracks and crevessaes, which also contributes to their superpower cleaning abilities.

Why it's a Good Idea to Clean with Microfiber Cloths During the Coronavirus Pandemic

All of these properties of microfiber cloths that make them really good at cleaning up dirt and grime, also make them an excellent choice for cleaning during the coronavirus pandemic. Studies have shown that microfiber cloths reduce the transfer of germs from surface to surface as compared to cotton cloths (1). Another study showed microfiber mops remove more germs from a surface without a disinfectant than a cotton mop did with a disinfectant (2). That's some super power! Microfiber cloths also dry fast, so there's less chance for bacteria growth if you don't immediately put them in the laundry.

Since microfiber cloths are so effective at cleaning on their own, this means that you can clean your house using less harsh cleaning products. Since cleaning products have been shown to reduce indoor air quality and damage lungs (3), anything that reduces their use is a good idea. Indoor air quality, lung health, and overall wellness are so important during the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, the fact that microfiber cloths make cleaning much easier means that you're more likely to do it. Having a clean home and disinfecting when necessary are really important during the pandemic. In fact, the CDC recommends cleaning a surface before disinfecting; this combination is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. Dirt and grime can actually make some disinfectants not work properly and cleaning actually physically removes germs and dirt from surfaces or objects.

How to Use Microfiber Cloths the Right Way

Knowing the correct way to use a microfiber cloth is crucial for maximum cleaning potential. It's important to keep microfiber cloths dry when you are dusting. That allows the static electricity to work the best at attracting dust. For other surfaces that need a bit of water or all purpose cleaner, don't over saturate the surface or cloth. It's also a good idea to color code your cloths for different uses (even more important if they are being used at schools or other facilities). This reduces the cross contamination risk even after you wash them. You don't want to accidentally clean your kitchen with a cloth you used on your toilet! And while you're cleaning, folding the cloths in half and then in half again and then using each side for a different surface is a great way to reduce cross contamination. You can get 8 separate surfaces this way! See our handy video or follow the instructions below.


How to Fold a Microfiber Cloth to Reduce Surface Contamination
  1. Fold the microfiber cloth in half, and then in half again. A quarter of the cloth should be exposed now.
  2. Hold the cloth in your hand and clean your first surface, like the dining room table.
  3. Flip the cloth in your hand and use the other side to clean the next surface, for example counters.
  4. Unfold the cloth and then refold it the other way, and use the two remaining surfaces on this side of the cloth.
  5. Unfold the cloth completely and then fold the cloth in half so that the non-used side is exposed. Then fold it in half again. Repeat steps 2-4 on the unused side of the cloth.

How to Wash Microfiber Cloths the Right Way

Microfiber cloths can be washed in the washing machine using warm or cold water, and can be reused many many times. However, if you wash them with cotton cloths or your normal clothes, the fibers can get gunked up with stuff that will make them less effective. It's a good idea to create a separate laundry basket for your microfiber cloths and wash them alone. Make sure to avoid using fabric softeners and bleach when laundering microfiber cloths because they can damage the fibers. Microfiber cloths also dry very quickly, so hang them to dry, or dry them on low in your dryer.

What About Microfiber Pollution from Microfiber Cloths?

Perhaps you have heard about the microfiber pollution problem? If you haven't, basically little microfibers (which are essentially plastic) are being released into our rivers and oceans through our laundry (4)! Fleece and lots of other clothing contain synthetic fibers, which can shed while they're being washed. While this is a problem that scientists are just beginning to discover and understand, we do know that they can cause hazardous effects in aquatic species. We don't know much about the human health effects yet, but scientists are working on it. Washing and using microfiber cloths does contribute to microfiber pollution, but they probably contribute less than everything else you wash. Since microfiber cloths reduce harsh cleaning chemical use and are more reusable and durable than cotton cloths, we still recommend them. Purchasing one less fleece or clothing item with synthetic fibers can offset the couple of microfiber cloths you need for cleaning your entire home! To reduce the potential for shedding, you can buy some microfiber trapping devices like the Cora ball and the Guppyfriend bag and use those when you are washing your microfiber cloths.


References

  1. Trajtman, Adriana N., Kanchana Manickam, and Michelle J. Alfa. "Microfiber cloths reduce the transfer of Clostridium difficile spores to environmental surfaces compared with cotton cloths." American Journal of Infection Control 43.7 (2015): 686-689.
  2. Rutala, William A., Maria F. Gergen, and David J. Weber. "Microbiologic evaluation of microfiber mops for surface disinfection." American journal of infection control 35.9 (2007): 569-573.
  3. Svanes, Øistein, et al. "Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction." American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine197.9 (2018): 1157-1163.
  4. Mishra, Sunanda, Chandi charan Rath, and Alok Prasad Das. "Marine microfiber pollution: a review on present status and future challenges." Marine pollution bulletin 140 (2019): 188-197.
Home

Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Swiffers

Or convert the Swiffer you already have into a non-toxic, planet-friendly option

Who hasn't had a Swiffer before? The promise of an easy-to-use and affordable sweeping, mopping and dusting solution is hard to say no to! While Swiffer products are quite convenient and user friendly, have you ever thought about how much trash those single-use pads generate and what toxic chemicals might be used in their cleaning solutions? Well we're here to give you the low down. If you already have a Swiffer, we have some tips on how to use your Swiffer in a more environmentally conscious way with non-toxic ingredients. And if you don't have one, but want some just as convenient recommendations on mopping and dusting we have you covered too.

Why You Might Want to Think Twice About Swiffers

Ever take a big whiff when you bust open your new package of refillable Swiffer wet pads? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those flowery and attractive smells contain fragrances and other harmful ingredients, which often carry phthalates, asthmagens (1) and other chemicals of concern. When these fragrance chemicals vaporize into your household, they can trigger asthma attacks, and aggravate sinus conditions; they can disrupt hormones, cause headaches, eyes, nose and throat irritation, and produce neurotoxic symptoms, like loss of coordination, and forgetfulness (2).

Other ingredients in Swiffer products have also been found to aid in developing resistance to antibiotics over time (3). This means that germs like bacteria and fungi start building the capacity to defeat the drugs that are designed to kill them. When this happens, this can require extended hospital stays, more follow-up visits to the doctor, and other costly and toxic treatment alternatives (4). It's not just humans that are impacted either, these products are also very toxic to aquatic animals (5,6). Makes us think twice about using them all around the house!

Not only is it a good idea to steer clear of these chemicals, but can we talk about the trash? Easy disposal of these toxic, non-biodegradable products, like the refill pads, has resulted in an exuberant amount of unnecessary waste and has nearly destroyed our environment (7). Refillable Swiffer pads are made from polyester which is derived from fossil fuels (8), and are contributing to the degradation of our ecosystems and wildlife (9). These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are harmful toxins that will continue to corrode our environment for centuries, as they occupy landfills and slowly leak toxins into soil and water over time (9). What a mess!

The good news is that there are simple alternative methods you can start using that are more protective of our health (and the planet's) well-being. Plus, since you don't have to purchase refill pads, they are great for your budget too. There are even easy hacks to turn the Swiffer product you already have into a non-toxic option.

How to Make Your Swiffer Non-Toxic and Earth-Friendly

Get a reusable washable microfiber pad and ditch the single-use ones. Microfibers are extremely effective at capturing germs and small particles (10). These microfiber mop pads work for both the Swiffer sweepers and WetJet. Here are some we like:

Just throw that bad boy into the washer after you're done using it and it's ready to be used the next time you need it. And if you want a completely free way to do this, you can even try using an old fuzzy sock and wrap that around the bottom of your WetJet and voila, you're all ready to start moppin'.

If you have an old washcloth you can also place that into the corners of the holes of your traditional Swiffer to secure the cloth. You'll want to make sure to dip the cloth into your cleaning solution before you attach it to the mop and/or you can add the cleaning solution to a spray bottle to spray the surface as well.

DIY Your Own Safe and Effective Cleaning Solution

If you've got the Swiffer WetJet, make sure the refill bottle is thoroughly cleaned out with soap and water, then go ahead and add your preferred non-toxic cleaning solution. There are several ways you can create your own safe and effective floor cleaner, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Add ½ tsp of liquid soap to each gallon of water
  • Add ½ cup vinegar to every gallon of water

When the floors are really dirty use liquid soap solution to really mop up that grime and dirt. If things have been more chill around the house, use the vinegar solution. We've heard that using the vinegar on hardwood floors is not a problem, but you should check what type of finish your floors have, and do a test sample somewhere out of sight just to be sure.

Convenient, Non-toxic, and Budget Friendly Swiffer Alternatives

If you don't own a Swiffer, bless your heart. Here are two of our favorite Swiffer alternatives for getting your floor clean.

Steam Mops

Another green alternative you can use is a steam mop. Steam mops work by heating up the water to really high temperatures inside it's chamber and dispensing it as steam, which is then dispersed through a cloth or pad. The steam helps to loosen up the dirt and grime from your floors, and the high temps help to kill germs and bacteria on hard surfaces. No harmful chemicals needed!

Steam mops are typically safe to use on vinyl, ceramic, and porcelain tile floors, but you may want to double check with your flooring brand to make sure using steam won't void your floor's warranty. You should also never use steam mops on any unsealed, peeling or unfinished floors, and although manufacturers claim it is safe to do so, use caution with any wood or laminate flooring.

Spray Mops

Spray mops are super convenient and easy to use on all types of floors, including hardwood and laminate flooring. Plus, no need for any buckets or wringing! Just add your washable/reusable microfiber mop pad and pre-made non-toxic solution to the dispenser and you are ready to have at it!



References:
  1. https://zsds3.zepinc.com/ehswww/zep/result/direct_link.jsp?P_LANGU=E&P_SYS=2&P_SSN=11337&C001=DISC2&C002=ZCAL&C003=E&C013=AF7231E
  2. https://noharm-uscanada.org/issues/us-canada/fragrance-chemicals
  3. https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(18)30424-3/pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html
  5. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/5288-SwifferSweeperWetMoppingClothsOpenWindowFresh/
  6. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2819-SwifferWetJetMultiPurposeCleanerOpenWindowFresh/
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/realestate/2005/05/21/disposable-wipes-no-throw-away-issue/22e091b2-7bc9-4b01-a9c3-6ca1c00f9cfc/
  8. https://www.cmu.edu/gelfand/lgc-educational-media/polymers/natural-synthetic-polymers/index.html#:~:text=Synthetic%20polymers%20are%20derived%20from,polyester%2C%20Teflon%2C%20and%20epoxy.&text=Examples%20of%20naturally%20occurring%20polymers,%2C%20DNA%2C%20cellulose%20and%20proteins.
  9. https://sciencing.com/environmental-problems-caused-by-synthetic-polymers-12732046.html
  10. https://archive.epa.gov/region9/waste/archive/web/pdf/mops.pdf
Roundups

Non-Toxic Floor Cleaners

Because just shuffling around in fuzzy socks doesn't really count

Updated for 2020!

We walk on them all the time, so it's not hard to believe that floors get dirty. Sure vacuuming and sweeping are a good start, but you also need to wet mop them. We did the research and came up with a roundup of 7 of the safest, healthiest floor cleaners out there. They are all well reviewed and widely available. Take your pick!

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COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus at Home

plus DIY disinfectant and cleaning recipes and when and how to wash hands or use hand sanitizer

We've created a one stop shop for all your questions on using safer disinfectant at home to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Please share with your family and friends. We hope they are useful!

You can download the entire PDF with links here with both toolkit and sample email:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Home During Coronavirus.pdf

safer cleaning and disinfectant use during coronavirus at home


hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus


DIY cleaners, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers during coronavirus

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