The Pros and Cons of Cleaning with Microfiber (Is it Really Eco-friendly?)

The pros and cons of microfiber - ecofriendly cleaning? | Sustainable Suburbia.net

I’m going to be upfront about this: I am a recent convert to microfiber for chemical free cleaning. And you know what converts are like…

But let me start by telling you why I had resisted for so long.

What are the cons?

There were two main reasons I held out against microfiber for so long. Firstly, microfiber is not a natural material. In fact, it is made from petroleum oil, which of course means it is not a sustainable product.

The second reason was that I tried the clothes I could buy (quite cheaply) from my supermarket. Now, they did work. I was actually quite impressed. But they didn’t last. In fact, they wore out really quickly.  And I could see bits of them washing away with the water (a blue film of tiny bits of microfibre would rub off onto my grout and then wash away). So I figured, I can use my own, hand knitted cotton clothes (which do last), with my own frugal and sustainable non-toxic cleaning products (like my DIY spray ‘n’ wipe), so why bother?

BUT.

Firstly, I have to admit it takes me a bazillion years to knit each cotton cloth. I am a slow knitter.

Secondly, they don’t have anything like the cleaning power of the microfiber.

Thirdly, in fact, I use a lot of other cleaning paraphernalia like a scrubbing brush in my sink, toothbrush in my bathroom, and regular old scouring pads. Which, wait for it – are also completely synthetic and non-sustainable plastic products. That is, they are all made from petrochemicals too.

Fourthly, white vinegar? Made from petrochemicals. Oh, not always. If you buy the expensive stuff that is actually “distilled white vinegar”, it is probably distilled from a ferment of an actual grain. Though in America, that is likely to be corn, so probably GM (genetically modified), so… still not so sustainable.

I know, sometimes you just want to scratch your eyes out. Is *anything* sustainable these days?

In any case, I decided that not using microfiber cloths because they were made from petrochemicals was perhaps a little hypocritical. And with my sister visiting and cleaning my house with her Enjo products, and a good friend waxing lyrical about her Norwex cloths, I decided to try them out. I went with Norwex because a) they’re considerably cheaper, but a bit of a search online shows them to have a similar reputation in terms of efficacy and lifespan, and b) my friend is in Canberra, whereas my sister was then in Melbourne.

What are the pros?

So the cons are they are not truly sustainable, in the sense that organically grown hemp is (cotton’s not the greatest example, because it takes so much water to grow). But, neither is almost anything else, and these do last. The Norwex clothes are guaranteed for two years, and most people seem to use them for much longer than that, even up to ten years. Enjo appears to be similar.

The pros are: they last a long time, they work – really, they do – and they make it really easy to say no to toxic chemicals, because they work just with water, and they save me money and packaging on vinegar and the like.

Now Enjo and Norwex both have their consumable lines as well –a cream cleanser for when you need something a bit stronger, washing powder and so on. I haven’t tried any of those things, because I am perfectly happy with my homemade cleaning recipes.

But when I combine my homemade cleaning products with the microfiber clothes, I find I am really ahead. I don’t need to use as much vinegar or bicarb anymore, which saves me money and more particularly saves a heap of packaging.

And when I Spring cleaned my shower the other day, I found that my new cloths really did make cleaning easier than using vinegar etc alone. In fact, I have a post coming up on the exciting topic of the best way to clean your shower (with no nasties). That’s how inspired I was. (Spoiler alert – it doesn’t only include microfiber, but this stuff does get a mention).

The verdict

In summary, the downside of microfiber cleaning clothes are that they are made from petrochemicals. But, so are your scrubbing brushes, synthetic sponges and more than likely, your white vinegar. Also, in my limited experience, the cheap ones wear out quickly, and wash down into the waterways. The better quality ones don’t seem to do this though.

The upside is good ones last a long time, they work really well with nothing but water (most of the time), and consequently they make it easy to clean without harsh chemicals or even DIY cleaning products. So they can save you money and time, and they reduce your rubbish and recycling loads.

Also, as I understand it, Enjo take their cloths back for recycling (though I have to admit this is hearsay, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) and Norwex cloths can be recycled in some areas – Brisbane, for one – but is not accepted everywhere (and they don’t take them back themselves).

Over to you:

Do you use, or have your tried microfibre cloths for cleaning your house? If so, what do you like or dislike about them?
_______
As usual, this post was shared over at Essentially Jess.

Updated to add: Since writing this post I have become so gung ho about Microfibre that I’ve actually become a Norwex “Independent Sales Consultant”. Consequently, the link Norwex cloths in this post, now goes to my own online store. Woohoo! (It used to go to my friend’s store. Sorry Lis!)

  18 comments for “The Pros and Cons of Cleaning with Microfiber (Is it Really Eco-friendly?)

  1. December 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I love microfibre clothes, use them and throw them in the washing machine. I think buying less is always a good thing.
    Eleise recently posted..Christmas and the Blended FamilyMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Yes, I have to agree Eleise. If you can buy less, it has to be good :)

  2. Julie
    December 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I use the Enjo cloths and love them. They really do reduce the amount of cleaning product I need to use, and they last for ages. If we lived in a perfect world, there’d be a way to get microfibre without petrochemicals; but until then I’m okay to stick with reducing amounts and reusing the cloths for years.

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

      That makes sense to me Julie. Reduce & reuse :)

  3. December 17, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Wow, there was so much in here that I didn’t know. Thank you for sharing. Paper towel and that earth choice cleaner. I put it in a compost for non edible plants. I have no idea how eco friendly it is but it works ok. You have given me some food for thought though.
    Rhianna recently posted..It is what when?My Profile

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

      You’re welcome Rhianna. Thanks for commenting :)

  4. December 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’ve had my Enjo cloths for around 8 years, and haven’t had to replace them yet. With the Enjo, I don’t have use any chemicals in my shower, bathroom or toilet (except the odd spray of vinegar to keep mould away, and a bit of lemongrass essential oil to make the toilet smell fresh).
    Of course, I’m not the world’s most regular cleaner, so this may be why my cloths have lasted so long : )

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 11:08 am

      LOL, I was joking about the same thing with my sister, and about how we both tend to use things until they are literally falling apart – so they should last :)

  5. kate
    December 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    i use micro fibre cloths through out My house. They Are easy to wash and durable. I feel buying less and creating less waste is always good.

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      I agree Kate. It is awfully hard to create no waste these days, but minimising has to be good, and they do seem to do that.

  6. Jamie
    December 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the article. I like your point about all the other “unsustainable” products we use everyday. I have recently bought some microfiber cloths on Amazon.com (Skylarblue brand) and they have been great. I mean really life changing as far as cleaning my bathroom and kitchen! Most everything gets clean with only the microfiber and water. Even soap scum. I guess I’m what you’d call a convert, too.

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Ah, good to know I’m not alone then Jamie :)

  7. Janet
    December 19, 2013 at 2:43 am

    I like to clean with the worn out socks my husband likes–cut them lengthwise–use the terry cloth inside if I need to scrub and the outside close knit if I need a smoother surface to wipe or polish. He uses the Hanes brand which are part cotton, part synthetic.

    • Kirsten
      December 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

      It sounds like you have a good system there Janet!

  8. February 18, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Hi there, just came upon your blog and read your article about using microfibre cloths. Did you know you can get them by the bag in random sizes from Bunnings which makes them so much cheaper. They have the equivalent for cotton rags called Rags in Bags…sorry can’t remember what the micro fibre rags are called I’ve thrown the packaging away..
    The microfiber ones come in different type of “weaves”
    Thanks for a great blog.
    Alexa from

    http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

    • Kirsten
      February 19, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Hi Alexa,
      I didn’t know that, thanks for the tip. BUT, my experience with the cheap ones I have used before quite put me off microfibre for years. They seemed to work well at the beginning, but they quickly started shedding – and all those tiny bits of microfibre going down into the waterways did seem like a bad thing, not the mention the fact that they therefore quickly stopped working as effectively. It’s only having (finally) tried a quality brand that I am now using and recommending them.
      Cheers
      Kirsten

      • February 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        All the best with your new venture into cleaning products. Great work and also a fantastic set out blog .
        I’m very slowly setting up my blog and enjoying the writing. There’s so many different directions to go and so many ideas…and as with many things what was old fashioned is really now the new.

        Alexa from

        http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

  9. Joanne
    March 12, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I use Chi Clean micro fibre clothes. Found them by accident on the net about 10 years ago. They recommend new ones every 12 months but I get longer out of them. I down grade them also, from general use to kitchen to bathroom to toilet to outside. Last ages.

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