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
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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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Roundups

Non-Toxic Kitchen Items Roundup

Bye bye plastic, hello reusable!

Looking for a way to be more sustainable but don't know where to start? Try the kitchen! Kitchen utensils are usually made from plastic and other harmful chemicals. Some items, like sponges, are also meant to be periodically thrown away, which just creates more trash. That's why we rounded up our favorite non-toxic kitchen items! These items are made from natural or reusable materials like wood, natural sponge, and copper. They're all durable and can stand up to the toughest kitchen messes!


Non-Toxic Kitchen Items


a) REDECKER Horsehair and Beechwood Bottle Brush

b) If You Care 100% Natural Sponge Cloths

c) Küchenprofi Classic Dish Washing Brush

d) Miw Piw Natural Dish Sponge

e) REDECKER Copper Cleaning Cloth

f) REDECKER Natural Fiber Bristle Pot Brush


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus for Early Childcare Providers and Schools

why it's important, other best practices, and a comprehensive resource list

This is a toolkit that is an easy to understand guide to best and safe practices for reopening childcare providers and schools during COVID-19. The toolkit has summaries of best practices from the CDC, EPA, and others in one place. Our recommendations also take into consideration disinfectants with safer ingredients. If you are a parent who is concerned about safe and best practices when schools are reopened, please download our toolkit to send to your childcare provider or school administrator. We even have a sample email that you can use to write your school administrator or childcare director and attach these materials. Or if you work as a childcare provider or at a school, we have made this resource for you. We hope that it is helpful.

Download the complete toolkit with sample email and all the links here:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Schools During Coronavirus.pdf

Here is a version of the pdf without the sample email to send to administrators and staff:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Schools During Coronavirus to send.pdf

safer disinfectant use during coronavirus for schools




hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus



safer cleaning and disinfecting resources for schools during coronavirus

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

COVID-19

How to Properly Wear and Clean Your Face Mask

An important part of keeping yourself and others protected

Whether you're on a walk, going to the grocery store, or picking up a prescription, wearing a mark is now a standard part of life. While masks may seem like a hassle to wear, they're an important tool in helping slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of infections (1). Many countries and local governments now require citizens to wear a mask while outside, and the CDC recommends wearing a mask even if it's not required by law. But how do you wear a mask properly and how do you keep a reusable face mask clean? A mask that isn't properly cleaned may pose a health risk to yourself and others. We have some simple tips that will make wearing and washing your mask a little more straightforward!

Why You Should Wear a Mask

Wearing a mask is important when you're in situations where socially distancing isn't possible (2). If you're healthy, a face mask can help protect you from breathing in germs. If you're sick, a face mask can help prevent others from getting sick as well (4). More research is needed on this subject in non-medical settings, but the available evidence suggests they can be a good precautionary practice. , One preprint study found that wearing a mask can be "very slightly protective against primary infection from casual community contact, and modestly protective against household infections when both infected and uninfected members wear facemasks" (3).

If your state or county requires a face mask, please comply with local ordinances. Many retailers and employers are also requiring masks for when employees return to work or when you enter an establishment. If you're going on a walk or an errand, use your best judgement of when you should wear a mask. It's always a good idea to have one when you leave the house just in case you find yourself in a situation where you're around more people than you had planned,

How to Wear a Mask

The most important part of wearing a mask is making sure it fits correctly! All masks should fit snugly around the sides of your face while covering your nose and mouth, but they shouldn't be restrictive or make it hard to breathe. All masks should be secured with ties or with loops that go around your ears (1). If you're using a cloth face mask, you should be able to launder it without changing its size or shape (1).

Here are the best practices for keeping your mask clean and keeping yourself safe:

  • Although it's tempting to rewear a disposable mask, they were designed to only be used once. If you sanitize or wash a disposable mask, you're most likely damaging it so it won't be as effective.
  • Cloth masks can be reworn, but they have to be washed with laundry soap or detergent after every use. Yes, this includes after your 5 minute walk to the post office or any situation in which you were around others! Make sure to wash your mask in warm water and dry on high heat- warm water and high heat laundry settings have been shown to deactivate the coronavirus. Detergent by itself can also deactivate and wash away the virus.
  • If you're using a filter insert with your mask, make sure to replace it every time you use your mask. Like disposable masks, filter inserts were meant to be single-use.
  • Wash your hands after touching your mask. This will stop you from potentially getting sick or spreading the virus around. Don't forget to wash with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds! The more time you take to wash your hands, the more effective it will be.
  • If you aren't able to wash your mask, you can leave your mask to air out for at least a week. You'll have to wear a different mask in the meantime, but leaving your mask alone for a week will dramatically decrease the amount of coronavirus germs on it (although there are other germs that may persist longer!) Therefore, we recommend washing your mask with detergent and water, even if it's by hand.


References
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1422.short
  3. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.01.20049528v1?ijkey=e95fe983345caa5a10c8351be7d05ad10ef5b351&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
  4. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
COVID-19

A Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning and Disinfecting During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Protect yourself from the novel coronavirus in the most non-toxic way possible

Updated May 21, 2020

We don't know about you, but the outbreak of the new coronavirus this year has us doing a lot of cleaning. And it seems like we're going to be doing this for quite a while. Having cleaning on the brain makes us wonder: What's the best "natural" or "green" way to clean that still gets rid of the coronavirus causing the pandemic? What's the difference between cleaning and disinfecting? What products are safe to use but also effective at preventing transmission and infection? Are there non-toxic disinfectants? We answer all of your novel coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting related questions below.

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