I’m afraid of chemicals. They make me cough and my hands itch. They can even kill you if they’re not used as directed. I’m not saying I’m stupid enough to use cleaning products as an energy drink – tomatoes could kill you too, if you used them as oxygen masks. I’m just saying a lot of chemicals are toxic and smelly and mean.
Also, I never know which one is for which surface in which room. I don’t even understand what makes the cleaning of kitchens so different from the cleaning of bathrooms that you need two or three batches of nasty chemicals to clean both.
But without them, nothing would be properly clean – or so I thought. After all, something has to justify the ubiquity of these toxic substances. They coat any surface we come into contact with, cause and aggravate rashes, asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities – not to mention the residues which get washed down drains into rivers and oceans where they pollute, refuse to degrade, and then fizz their way into the food chain. They are eaten by aquatic creatures and, eventually, us. Next time someone says, “This floor is so clean I could eat off it!” tell them to go ahead. That detergent is getting into their system either way.
The packaging is a problem, too. Invariably they’re made of plastic and end up in landfills. So imagine my fury – and happiness – when I found out there are “E-cloths” that can clean using water only. My first assumption was that they were probably impregnated with chemicals. They’re not.
An E-cloth is made from incredibly fine fibres – 480,000 per cm squared, since you’re asking. That means each fibre is about a thousand times finer than cotton. Since water molecules are electrically unbalanced, they’re attracted to particles of dirt and bacteria. The fibre strands draw in the water-coated particles. That’s the science of it anyway, but does it work? I made a little video so you can see for yourself:
Online reviewers are loving E-cloths
I have the window-cleaning variety, which had an average Amazon rating of 4.8 stars (based on 76 reviews) As always, names have been changed for privacy and my own amusement.
“Just cleaned my windows with these cloths. The results are amazing, having tried most window cleaning products including many on Amazon.” – Serial window cleaner, UK
“Wish I’d discovered these products years ago! They are fantastic and I’ve recommended them to everyone I know.” – Serial cloth discusser, UK
“Once the drying cloth gets wet you still get a few smears. You can’t use it to do all your windows at the same time.” – Mr Muscle, UK
“This is my third e-cloth, I use them everywhere, house windows, car windows, mirrors. I can’t live without them.” – a tad dramatic, UK
“Dampen the cleaning cloth, wipe it over your window glass and frame, then wipe the now damp window with the dry polishing cloth and magic happens.” – Dumbledore, UK
My own verdict – the minus points:
• Glass this clean is a safety hazard, as anyone who’s ever bumped into a French window knows. In fact I’m convinced the French invented them specifically for the slapstick potential. Remember, kids – always leave a safety smear.
• If you find yourself beguiled by the lemony smell chemicals leave for that illusion of freshness, the E-cloths will disappoint you. They just clean things. There’s no side order of rash-inducing delusion. Having said that, you can buy E-cloth water scents for the effect if you like.
And the plus points:
• They leave surfaces pleasantly shiny, which chemicals often don’t.
• They actually clean. They’re scientifically proven to remove 99% of bacteria, including the big’uns like e-coli and listeria.
• There is no chance of dermatitis, a really nasty skin condition you can get from too much contact with chemicals.
• They’re machine-washable, and are guaranteed to up to 300 machine washes, so unlike the disposable plastic containers many chemicals come in, the impact E-cloths have on the environment is low.
• They’re safer to have in the house if you have kids or pets. It really doesn’t matter if they get into the cupboard under the sink if all you have in there is a pile of E-cloths.
I could live without E-cloths, but I’d rather not. They work, and do exactly as they advertise. Which was a relief after I smeared the Guardian windows with Vaseline, bell peppers, onions and potato wedges.
You no longer have to do a trade-off between dirt and chemicals. You can now eliminate both.
You can buy E-cloths from the lovely folks at Eco Green Store who sell a whole range and are doing so for 15% off at the moment. Isn’t that lovely of them? Prices range from £4.24 for a kitchen E-cloth to £8.07 for a window or bathroom pack. You can buy four general-purpose cloths for £12.74 or just go mad and get the E-cloth home cleaning set for £42.50.
More Green apps and gadgets:
The headline of this article was amended at 10:47 on 02/04/2014 to better reflect the content of the piece.