Are you as tired of my blogs about toilet paper made from recycled junk mail and washable cleaning cloths as I am? Sure, it was fun figuring out how to make DIY wipes out of plant-based solutions and old socks. But now that these are a part of life in my house, the process of targeting the next paper product in our pantry that might hurt the planet, researching it, finding alternatives, trying to convince my husband to go along with the change, and then writing a blog post about it is starting to make my eyes glaze over. The good news is, I only have three more paper habits to worry about: my Swiffer Duster, paper napkins, and coffee filters. Then I can wrap it up and look into my trash can to decide where to green next.
MY SUPER CONVENIENT SWIFFERS
I’ve been a loyal customer of Swiffer since they were first advertised in the 90’s. I was always quick to buy their next innovations, too. Most recently, I’ve come to love swabbing my floors with my WetJet Bissell steamer or doing high/low cleanings with my 54″ extended-reach Swiffer Duster. For years they’ve saved me from having to deal with yucky mops or sneeze-inducing feather dusters. Instead, I’d just remove the cloth pads or fluffy mitt thingy and toss them in the trash. So easy.
It’s not so easy on the planet, though.
It wouldn’t be a far leap to assume that anything designed to be used once and thrown out is going to be bad for Mother Earth. Still, I felt this little pang inside at the thought of having to clean without those thin chemical soaked cloths. I searched the Web hoping my assumption was wrong. Sadly, articles in TreeHugger and other eco-blogs told me it was not. Because of the number of Swiffer refills I’d use and toss during my bi-weekly cleanings, (not to mention those of every other person on the planet who use Swiffer,) and how those same paper pads wind up in landfills and how the cleaning agents on the floor mopping sheets seep into the ground, and let’s not forget the bleach and water used in manufacturing, the articles have pretty much said that if I care about the planet my Swiffer habit has got to go.
And then there’s that little thing called ‘greenwashing.’
Swiffer is a line of disposable electrostatic dusting cloths made by Proctor and Gamble. The design for these time-saving products came from Continuum Innovation. That company’s CEO, Gianfransco Zaccai, has claimed that Swiffer products are green and sustainable, because consumers use less water when washing floors with them than with an old fashioned mop and bucket.
This claim has made eco-watch groups mad enough to want to throw that wash bucket at him. From a blog post by Jennifer van der Meer I’d learned that ‘greenwashing’ is the act of trying to pass off unsustainable products as eco-friendly through branding, packaging and mislabeling. (Now I have a name for why I can’t simply choose green products based on their labels.) Many groups have accused P&G of doing just that with its claims about Swiffer. However, in BrandingBeat I’d read that Proctor and Gamble has indeed made an effort to reduce its impact on the environment by reinventing its packaging for some products.
That may be so, but in regard to the Swiffer line, I don’t buy the water-saving claims of Zaccai. I know for a fact that I’ve used and tossed boxes and boxes of those cleaning pads over the years, only to buy more. And, since the 1990’s the shelves at my supermarket have always been stocked with Swiffer supplies. So, I’m guessing a lot of folks have been doing the same thing. That means that Swiffer refill manufacturers use plenty of water and who knows what else when they keep pumping out those refill cloths.
A hack for my Swiffer Steamer
With my Swiffer Steamer I’d found that if I cut up a pair of old socks they fit perfectly on the head. I keep the socks in a mason jar with about 10 squirts of Dr. Bronners and a half cup of water. They work great as DIY floor wipes.The Swiffer can be a little hard to push along with the sock instead of the paper pad, but it’s not too bad and, while the paper pad is designed to just pick dust up off the floor, the socks pick up dust and dirt very well.
(A word of caution about DB: I’d read that it can leave a film on some wood floors. I haven’t noticed this on mine, but I did see residue on my cherry wood dresser. I’d used the Dr. Bronners wipes to dust there, as well. ( GoodGuide has a list of other green wood floor cleaners to consider.)
Goodbye to my Swiffer Duster
I was very happy that the sock idea worked well on my steamer. I’m not gonna lie, I won’t buy another one, but for as long as this one lasts, I’d like to continue using it. Unfortunately, a sock on my Swiffer duster is not going to work as well.
I even put a plastic tie around it to hold it in place. It made it stay on all right. But then I had to be careful to not scratch my TV screen when I dusted there. Plus, the sock just felt weird and floppy and too thin to clean with.
Amazon to the rescue
So, I went on Amazon and found a washable duster with a 62″ inch long extendable handle. (Here’s the link, if you’d like to check it out.) I just got it in the mail today. Let me tell you, this thing is long! It’s not long enough for me to dust my ceiling fan, which is really high up, but it has an adjustable head, so I can clean high spots on an angle. The only thing is, even though the Amazon ad said the head was washable, there really is no way to remove it from the smaller dusting handle that attaches to the extension rod. I wouldn’t put it in the washing machine with the handle, unless it was inside something, like one of the dog beds. I’ll give that a try and update this blog post when I do.
And, finally: just in case you were wondering if I was any less cluelessness
When I had originally started to blog about paper I automatically assumed that disposable cleaning wipes were in the same category. But during a recent trip to Price Chopper I noticed that cleaning wipes are not in the aisle with paper products. They’re actually in with the cleaning stuff. They also might be more of a textile, like cloth, and not paper at all. So, my DIY cleaning wipes and Swiffer refills would have been better covered when I green my broom closet, where I keep the cleaning supplies. There’s a bright side, though. This was a complicated corner to work through. Now it’s greener. And, I’m happy it’s done!