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?
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, and if it’s not organic a LOT of pesticides as well). 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. (Edited to add: Actually, see an update on this below.)
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).
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 (edited 2015) Norwex now also take their cloths back for recycling – just talk to your Norwex consultant, when your cloths eventually wear out.
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 links to Norwex cloths in this post, now go to my own online store. Woohoo! (It used to go to my friend’s store. Sorry Lis!)
Edited 2016 to add – I have to admit that I *do* now use the Norwex cleaning paste (when necessary) and washing powder – it just works so well and is easier than making my own, plus, because both those products last a really long time, there’s way less packaging then my DIY methods. About the only thing I still make of my own is a disinfectant spray, with essential oils in white vinegar (if you want the recipe, you can get it along with all my other recipes here). I don’t need it very often, but it’s useful sometimes. Oh, and I use the Norwex dishwashing liquid (I never did find a homemade dishwashing liquid recipe my husband would use), and the pre-wash stain remover – I still think my DIY one with ammonia might be more effective on some stains, but I like not having to have the ammonia.
Over to you:
Do you use, or have you 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.