Ease is in for household cleaning
<p>This Tuesday, May 2, 2006 file photo shows a shopper in Omaha, Neb., looking at Swiffer products. There's now a kit for just about every household cleaning task, from swabbing dust bunnies to scrubbing the toilet. Introduced by Proctor & Gamble a decade ago, Swiffer now holds about 25 percent of the dry and wet mopping tool category. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, FILE)</p>
| June 6, 2010 9:00 PM
Michelle Lee of Asheville, N.C., spends a lot of time selecting organic food for her family of six. "Cleaning's another story," however, says Lee, who writes a housekeeping blog Adventures of Supermom. "I need things that make my life easier and I love a fast cleanup. The convenience of wipes outweighs everything to me."
Michelle Lee of Asheville, N.C., spends a lot of time selecting organic food for her family of six.
"Cleaning's another story," however, says Lee, who writes a housekeeping blog Adventures of Supermom. "I need things that make my life easier and I love a fast cleanup. The convenience of wipes outweighs everything to me."
How is it that people who are generally devoted to living green are so willing to use disposables to clean?
Well, they're easy. Instead of hauling out a bucketful of cleaning gear, you pop open a package.
"I credit Swiffer with kind of starting the whole idea of cleaning as you go," says Carolyn Forte, the director for home appliances and cleaning products at the Good Housekeeping Institute. "A lot of consumers have gotten away from dedicating specific time for cleaning. Instead, people are doing a little bit all of the time."
There's now a kit for just about every household cleaning task, from swabbing dust bunnies to scrubbing the toilet. Introduced by Proctor & Gamble a decade ago, Swiffer now holds about 25 percent of the dry and wet mopping tool category.
Julia Hidy of Toronto turned to the electrostatic cloths after a recent fire in her apartment building.
"Cotton rags and towels just smeared the soot around, and 32 other building residents were vying for the laundry," she says. "Cleaning sprays were too caustic to use all over. The soot was too fine to vacuum. The electrostatic action of the Swiffer cloths 'picked up' the soot and trapped it before it spread."
Hidy says she doesn't own a car, has recycled for 20 years and buys organic. But she's devoted to her disposable cleaning tool.
"When someone comes up with a solution that's exactly like a Swiffer, but completely reusable and doesn't trigger my dust allergies, I'll be there," she says.
There are private-label refill dry cloths for Swiffers and the like; some consumers are devoted to the original, while others are happy to buy whatever is cheapest.
Mary Findlay, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning" (Alpha 2009), isn't a fan of either.
"People spend on average about 200 dollars a year for wet and dry cloths," she says. "I found running to the trash each time one of them soiled, then going to get the replacement, slowed down my cleaning time. An old white 100 percent cotton T-shirt is just as effective, and washable."
Disposable toilet-cleaning wands also have fans and critics. A plastic handle grips an ejectable pad. Germophobes like them, viewing conventional toilet brushes as antiquated biohazards.
Cheryl Garrison in Lansing, Kan., has her wand do double duty. "I've found there's enough sudsy cleaner on the pad that I can do my sink and sometimes the tub before I clean the toilet," she says.
But Allen Rathey, president of the online The Housekeeping Channel, says marketers prey on worries about germs. "Bowl brushes aren't a big source of cross-contamination, since most people know not to touch them," he says.
People with pets or chemical sensitivities often choose "green" products that use plant-based cleaners, such as citrus, evergreen or coconut oils with purified water.
The nonprofit Natural Products Association has a certification standard; its seal on a package means the product meets its standards for testing, components and manufacture.
Clorox's relatively recent Green Works line of products meets NPA standards. Seventh Generation offers thyme-based disinfecting wipes, and cedar, balsam and citrus-infused plant-based cleaners.
Look for products that list all ingredients, advises National Geographic's Green Guide for Everyday Living. It recommends brands such as Dr. Bronner's, Aubrey Organics and Ecover; its Web site has comprehensive price and performance comparisons.
Jamie Novak, a professional organizer and cleaner in Scotch Plains, N.J., uses vinegar, tea tree oil, toothpaste and rubbing alcohol, plus Tang and lemon Kool-aid powder to clean toilet bowls. And while she's a dry Swiffer aficionado, she makes her own wet version by putting strong paper towel sections in an airtight food storage container and adding ? cup isopropyl alcohol to 2? cups water and 1 tablespoon white vinegar.
"It would be nice to go green in every area of our lives, but we're busy and we're human," says Novak. "At the end of the day, if you did more according to how you want to live than not, you're doing OK."