Several months ago, I was asked to test the E-Cloth, a series of job-specific microfiber towels that require only water to clean every surface inside and outside the home, from delicate glassware to over-burdened outdoor grills.
While some consumers still purport that green products “cost too much,” or are “just a marketing gimmick,” with E-Cloths you don’t have to buy green products—in fact, you don’t need to buy anything at all. Besides, while some sustainable products might cost a little more at the checkout counter than conventional products, there are much bigger, and much longer-term savings that show up in the health of your family and the health of the planet.
What took me so long to give them a test-run? I was hugely skeptical. How could a mist of water and a set of hand towels get my house “clean enough”? I have two sons, a husband, and a pet–all conspiring against the cleanliness and freshness of my home. In my case, the motivating factor was guilt; I’m embarrassed to admit I still hadn’t broken my paper towel habit, and with an E-Cloth Starter Pack at my disposal, I had no excuse.
First, a quick overview on why paper towels no longer make sense for household cleaning:
- Cleaning with microfiber eliminates the use of energy for the manufacture, transport and disposal of paper towels.
- Paper towels are used once then thrown away. Used paper towels cannot be recycled so they create a large volume of landfill waste.
- Manufacturing paper towels from virgin fibers (far and away the most produced) leads to deforestation and typically involves chlorine bleaching to make them whiter. Chlorine is a toxic chemical that releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans.
- No run off and disposal of the chemicals used to manufacture paper towels.
I began with the kitchen pack, consisting of a General Purpose Cloth for thick grease and dirt and a Glass & Polishing Cloth for glass, light cleaning and final polishing. Amazingly, the fiber technology penetrates and removes dust, grime, oil, grease and even bacteria. The most two most surprising results were how easily stuck-on kitchen messes came off, and the consequential gleaming shine of my counter tops.
For years, I only used biodegradable, phosphate-free household cleaners , and I understood that spraying, waiting for the product to sink in, and scrubbing were the three steps of the cleaning process. With the E-Cloth, a light mist of water and an immediate sweep with the cloth lifted even the most offensive of kitchen messes without requiring the help of my own “elbow grease.” Cleaning was literally effortless, without the surface film typcially left behind by cleansers. My surfaces are now the cleanest and shiniest they have ever been. I am, in fact, shocked by how well these products work. Tile, countertops, stove tops, glass windows and bathroom surfaces are literally “squeaky” clean, with zero residue or bacteria, without effort. For family members with respiratory problems, the prospect of entirely chemical-free cleaning brings much-needed relief.
According to the National Research Council, no toxic information is available for more than 80% of the chemicals in everyday-use products. (Click here to view a video about our exposure to household chemicals on mygreenside.org.) In the U.S. there are no legal requirements for listing ingredients on the labels of household cleaning products. Household chemicals don’t come under the jurisdiction of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) .The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates pesticides, and the focus of Consumer Product Safety Commission is limited to acute poisoning hazards.
However, as mentioned in Clorox Green Works to Boost Company Image and Sales?, regular use of toxic cleansers chronically expose family members and pets to known, cancer-causing carcinogens. Studies have shown that we spend over 85% of our time indoors. The EPA reports that indoor air quality is often times much more polluted than outdoor air. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 23 million people–including 6.8 million children–have asthma. Young children crawl on the floor, then put their hands in their mouth transferring chemical residue. While the human body is accustomed to most common home bacteria, our bodies are not equipped to fight cancer-causing toxins. Since household cleaners were the third largest category of substances associated with calls to poison control centers, the Soap & Detergent Association (SDA) recommends protecting children from cleaning chemical exposure by only cleaning when they are out of the house.
E-cloth’s only cleaning companion is distilled water, guaranteeing this product is:
- Non toxic
- Non allergenic
- No skin irritants
- No toxic residue
- Completely safe to use around children and pets
- Reusable (E-Cloth promises 300 uses)
- More effective than any product this tester has used.
So what is to stop me from buying a case of microfiber cloths at Costco? Does using the E-cloth brand make any difference? “Microfiber” is a general term used to describe a wide variety of materials fabricated using ultra-fine fibers. There is a large disparity in quality from one microfiber to another. Understandably, inexpensive microfibers do not clean as well, and are not as durable as premium microfiber.
Small fibers are best suited for cleaning because they possess far more “cleaning edges” to pick up dirt. Clearly, the more fiber strands per square inch, the more capability the cloth has to cut through, collect and absorb grease, dirt and liquids.
E-cloth’s fabrication creates microscopic texturing with each fiber being about 1/100th the width of a human hair. A standard E-cloth has 500 million strands per cloth. While Costco, for instance, doesn’t offer that information, its site specifies that its brand, “Will soak up to 7 times its weight in liquids, and leaves surfaces 99% bacteria-free without expensive disinfectants.” Before purchasing microfiber cloths, be sure to do your research.
Using microfiber cloths saves money, time, and will eliminate paper towels’ carbon footprint and landfill waste, along with air and water pollution that chemicals create.
For more info: Check out the E-Cloth website and/or order products.
E-Cloth won the Good Housekeeping UK 2009 Green Living Award, is recommended by the British Allergy Foundation, and Greensburg’s GreenTown.
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