Who doesn’t love quick clean ups?
Let me start by saying that, like many Americans, I love cleaning wipes because they’re convenient. I just flip the lid up on the yellow Member’s Mark Disinfecting Wipes canister that I keep near my kitchen sink, pull out a square sheet of non-woven fiber and with a swipe of my hand obliterate 99% of germs like salmonella from my kitchen counter. It also makes my kitchen smell lemony. When I’m done, I just drop the wipe into the trash.
A top seller in a gazillion forms
It makes sense then that what started out in the 1970’s as a way for mommies on the go to wipe their baby’s behinds has grown to a multi-million dollar industry aimed at satisfying all our cleaning needs. These days, there are wipes to clean our faces, pets, eye glasses, car interiors, computers, dust off furniture, wipe down floors and showers, and so on and so forth. They’re used in schools, hospitals and businesses, and nearly half the households in North America have some forms of disposable wipes on their weekly shopping lists. In short, since the 1990’s when sales of the time-saving dynamos really took off, the use of cleaning wipes in their many forms has become a way of life for people all over the world.
The life of a wipe doesn’t end with the trash can
But now that so many of us are using them, like with single-use plastic shopping bags, discarded wipes are washing up on beaches and hanging around in landfills. The problem is, the majority of them don’t biodegrade either. And, like plastic bags, when cleaning wipes float around on the surface of our oceans they look a lot like tasty jelly fish to sea turtles and other animals, which eat them, get sick, and die. The wipes have also been known to clog sewer lines, although it does say on the containers not to flush them.
Also, like with plastic bags from where inks, dyes, and other chemicals act as toxins when they seep from them into the ground and waterways, the chemicals and fragrances on cleaning wipes bleed too. But the agents that make many disposable wipes anti-bacterial present other problems when they hit the ground and water. Just like they can kill 99% of bacteria in our kitchens, they kill bacteria everywhere. But some bacteria is necessary; like the ones that help garbage break down in landfills.
A public health crisis?
If that’s not bad enough, the chemicals in cleaning wipes and other cleaning products these days can cause health problems for some people that range from allergic reactions to auto-immune conditions. There are also doctors who are concerned that our extensive use of anti-bacterial agents could actually make our immune systems less capable of fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.
And let’s not forget Charles Darwin
Then there’s that little old Theory of Natural Selection, if you believe in that sort of thing.
‘Super bugs,’ sound like science fiction, but they’re not. They’re what happens when bacteria grow resistant to antibiotics and the anti-bacterial chemicals in so many of the cleaning and personal hygiene products we use. They may be microscopic, but they could really make us sick. Then we might have to come up with stronger ways to zap them and that could wreak more havoc on everything and everyone. With that in mind, maybe we should rethink our drive to kill germs everywhere and accept that there are germs in our homes and in other places that we could most likely live with and still be healthy.
A change of heart
More and more I’m learning that if a product is made to be used once and tossed, it’s going to cause problems for Mother Earth. For me, that’s enough of a reason to end my love affair with disposable cleaning wipes. Now I just have to find out about eco-friendly alternatives, and see which ones would be a good fit for my husband and me.
Until next week.
Comments: Always welcome. Always appreciated. If you would like to share an insight, experience, or ask a question, please include the words ‘cleaning wipes’ in your message. This will help me distinguish real comments from spam.