Clean Green With Microfiber

Choosing to go green in your home can be as easy as choosing to recycle a can instead of throwing it away or choosing an energy efficient appliance instead of an energy wasting one. But sometimes the greener choice is not so obvious.

Take choosing a soft cloth to use for your dusting and cleaning. Nearly every green source I’ve consulted mentions synthetic microfiber as a green cleaning product. It does such a great job cleaning that it eliminates the need for toxic cleaning products and disposable wipes. It also can hold more dirt, grime and bacteria than other rags so you can use it longer before you have to wash it.

Jack of all cleaning tasks

Dry microfiber makes a great duster because it attracts dust to it instead of scattering it. It also works well for electronics like computer monitors and televisions where using a cleaning solution or a harsher cloth can cause damage. Microfiber can scrub just enough to get rid of spots or dirt without scratching and attract and hold the dust that hides in tight spaces. With a little water and a dab of non-toxic dish soap, microfiber can match or beat any toxic cleaning solution for tasks such as wiping counters, cleaning bathrooms, washing windows and just about anything. So why wouldn’t everyone want to clean their home with this wondercloth?

The not-so eco-friendly side of microfiber

Microfiber is made from polyester and nylon so it’s a petroleum-based, non-renewable, and non-biodegradable product. The process that produces the petrochemicals that go into making microfiber also produces polluting and globe-warming greenhouse gases. This is bad for the environment and also for the workers who transform the raw materials into cloth and consumer products.

Suddenly microfiber doesn’t look like such a green choice after all. It can be greener than, say, disposable wipes or toxic cleaning solutions, but luckily there are also greener options than microfiber.

Greener cleaning cloths

The greenest choice is to use scraps of t-shirts or other fabrics that you would normally throw away. You keep the fabric out of the landfill and avoid buying a new product. For more effective dusting, spray your rag with a mixture of ¼-cup white distilled vinegar and a few drops of olive or jojoba oil.

Another option comes from the eco-friendly sponge maker Twist in the form of a cleaning cloth made from bamboo and corn. It’s washable and reusable like microfiber, but it also comes from renewable resources and is biodegradable. It does a great job dusting, which means it doesn’t leave its own particles behind and it actually grabs the dust instead of scattering it. These cloths also work great wet to clean the kitchen counter and the bathroom (separate cloths for each of those tasks of course).

So depending on your green priorities, microfiber may really be for the birds. Luckily, Twist is most definitely for the birds — quite literally. The cardboard packaging for the bamboo cloths has instructions on the back to make it into a bird feeder (see photo). I’m not sure how long this reincarnation will keep this bit of paper out of the recycling, but it’s fun while it lasts.


Kimberly Delaney is the author of Clean Home, Green Home: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Eco-Friendly Homekeeping, published by the Knack imprint of Globe Pequot Press.


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