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How Things Have Changed…Green Cleaning Part 3

2010 August 5

By Lina Younes

I still have vivid images of cleaning days in my grandmother’s home in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico when I was a child. I remember watching my great aunt using a lot of water and detergents to wash the tile floors, bleach the sheets, and perform other household chores. The entire operation was very labor intensive and used a precious resource: water.

Now, we fast forward to the 21st century and household cleaning, overall, has become much easier and faster. However, the one problem that I see with these “practical” methods is that many of the new tools tend to be disposable. Disposable wipes for use everywhere—countertops, cabinets, and floors—even disposable toilet bowl cleaners. While we recommend as a green cleaning method to use reusable wipes and rags to minimize waste, it’s hard to believe that many consumers don’t succumb to temptation and use the more practical methods even if they generate waste.

So, I decided to look further into the issue of disposable wipes. While they definitely fulfill the practical requirement, are they green? On the plus side, they clean while minimizing the use of water. On the negative side, they just end up in the landfill after use. Well, in this case, technology has once again saved the day! Some companies have developed compostable wipes made largely of material such as bamboo fibers which are biodegradable and compostable, so we can allay the fears of our green conscience. For a full listing, visit our Design for the Environment website.

So what are your thoughts on the issue? Would love to hear from you!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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17 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    August 5, 2010

    Wow…… EPA has much green label !!! I am shock.
    In the early last century, almost people in the world seem poor together. However, now… different, because they haven’t “way of life”. Wrong chosen, but they don’t know. I am confuse to see them, people or prophet ? If you say “Green Cleaning”, then they are will cut our forests……

  2. Andy Ault, CLC permalink
    August 5, 2010

    There other considerations for the “typical” wipes as well:

    Our local sewer and water authority recently mailed out a special notice regarding the problems they are having at the treatment plants as a result of the volume of wipes they are getting from people flushing them into the waste line (via the toilet). They explained how it’s creating equipment failures which can result in the bypass systems allowing the untreated waste to go into the local water ways (the same as it does when there is a large storm water overflow event). It is also diverting funds and resources to repair costs which might otherwise go into upgrades for newer, more efficient equipment.

    The other consideration with many wipes is the chemicals they use in place of the water they’re “saving.” Eventually many of these chemicals are going to end up in that “saved” water anyway, either by way of groundwater leaching during solid-waste disposal or through the treatment process when they are flushed. I’d argue that it’s a better end-result to use some water upfront with greener, non-toxic cleaners then to “save” some by using harsh chemicals in their place.

  3. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 5, 2010

    Very good points. I hadn’t even considered the flushable types of wipes and their impact.

  4. richard babin permalink
    August 5, 2010

    I think that disposable items are the main reason for our pollution. Yeah, sure it is great to throw away something as it makes our lives easier. But, in return we do not make our lives easier at all. Our current economic crisis comes from disposable items. We the consumers want a product that makes our lives easier and that is cheap. For instance, cleaning wipes are a great way of keeping the house clean. However, the manufacturing costs (production, low wages, transportation, etc) do not make up for the low costs that the consumer wants. Therefore, companies are forced to move factories overseas, and or do illegal things, such as disposing harmful chemicals in a river, to cut more costs.

    So, the price I pay for clean wipes is high. I ruined somebodies live and I am responsible for the pollution.

    For the past thousands of years people cleaned their houses as well. They used cotton wipes that they would cook in hot water for sanitation. They also used natural cleaning agents that would not pollute as much.

    Today there are many alternatives. Either I can be lazy, clean my house, and be surrounded by chemicals – or I can use ecological cleaning products that do the job in combination with a microfiber cleaning towel.

    I have a clean house and I produced less waste or chemical exposure.

    For the future I hope that we humans can get our heads around those things.
    There is absolutely no need to chemically nuke your kitchen to have a clean kitchen. Simple tasks can be done to prevent those drastic measures in the first place. It is called: Don’t be lazy and clean your mess right away. Then I do not need heavy artillery of bleach and co.

  5. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 5, 2010

    Cleaning up the mess right away can go a long way in preventing greater problems like pests and as you say it avoids the need for the “heavy artillery.” Thanks for your comment.

  6. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    August 6, 2010

    Estimada Lina su comentario me parece muy bueno; recordar es vivir, se dice con frecuencia, pero además es necesario para darnos cuenta de los errores cometidos y evitar volverlos a cometer. No sabía de las toallas de fibra de bambú, muy interesante, creo que son cosas que nos llevan a la reflexión y a investigar al respecto y buscar lo más adecuado y verde para utilizarlo en nuestra vida diaria, gracias por el artículo, Usted siempre tan atinada

  7. Linda permalink
    August 6, 2010

    While disposable wipes have their place in the household, reusable cloths, brushes, and sponges deserve a spot too! What sense is there in wasting a paper towel to dry your freshly washed hands? Keep a clean kitchen towel hanging near the sink; you can use it several times, toss it in the wash when you do your next load of towels, then use it some more. If you only use it to dry clean hands or clean dishes, it will be clean … all it has done is absorb water. Likewise, a kitchen towel is great for swiping up crumbs from the counter, sopping up the spills, and erasing the smudges from your fixtures. Save the disposables for the nastier chores … wiping up the grease or oil you spilled on the counter, cleaning up after the pet, etc. I usually keep about 6 towels hanging around my kitchen so there’s always a clean one within reach. Given the longevity of a good kitchen towel versus the price of decent paper towels, it’s a “green” choice in more ways than one! As a bonus, try washing windows with a good, lint-free kitchen towel: no streaks and no specks of paper to hide the shine!

  8. Lina-EPA permalink
    August 7, 2010

    Definitivamente debemos aprender de nos errores. Nuevamente gracias por sus comentarios. Saludos.

  9. Lina-EPA permalink
    August 7, 2010

    Yes, reusable is definitely a must. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Educational Toys permalink
    August 12, 2010

    I must admit I hadn’t even considered the disposable wipes issues. What about kitchen towels – I’d have thought they would break down easier…

  11. Lina-EPA permalink*
    August 12, 2010

    Kitchen paper towels will breakdown eventually, but they will sit in landfills for some time. Sorry don’t have specific stats at hand. That is why we encourage the use of reusable towels.

  12. Marian permalink
    August 13, 2010

    The less the litter the greener the cleaning. I absolutely agree with you. It’s the same when trying to do the carpet cleaning.

  13. Lina-EPA permalink
    August 13, 2010

    I like you’re comment–“the less the litter the greener the cleaning.” Hope you continue to visit Greenversations regularly.

  14. Denver Green Cleaning permalink
    May 23, 2011

    What will they think of next? I always love to see innovation at work as consumer needs arise. As the focus on green cleaning and sustainable living increases, we see more and more great solutions for environmentally conscious consumers. We’ve seen a lot of change in commercial cleaning as more and more businesses are looking for green cleaning options.

    Denver Green Cleaning

  15. siblysarkar02 permalink
    February 4, 2012

    Cleaning the carpet in your residence can be a cumbersome job and could consider some time to get done. There are a good deal of items that require to be done, like relocating the furniture, finding the right cleaning answer, and many others. It would be best to timetable it on dates when you have a long weekend or for the duration of spring cleaning, as lengthy as the moments function for you. Proper arranging also enables you to be a lot more productive in cleaning. You can take help form carpet cleaning Carlsbad.

  16. Accountants In Dunfermline permalink
    March 8, 2013

    Cleaning is such an underestimated thing and yet is the cause of so many arguments, between family members, husband and wife and particularly landlord and tenant. Cleaning is always “someone elses” job. Few take responsibility for their own environment.

    When you consider the health benefits of getting rid of dust and dirt, the mental benefits of de-cluttering and the positive effect of cleaning to the environment around you it can be considered an all round “do good” task, not to mention the calories you burn when you undertake the cleaning!

  17. Professional cleaning services in Montreal permalink
    May 8, 2013

    This is nice post which I was awaiting for such an article and I have gained some useful information from this site. Thanks for sharing this information.

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