Cleaning Up The Future

Cleaning Up The Future

21 May 2020

Ever wondered how your cleaning routine impacts the environment? Turns out some ways are a lot cleaner than others (pun intended). If you’re a sustainability and clean freak like we are, this is where you keep reading.

Cleaning — chore or passion? Whatever your personal relationship with it, unless you really enjoy growing your own cultures of bacteria, odds are it’s something you undertake on a regular basis.

As with most things, cleaning your house and possessions has an environmental impact. A lot of issues stem from environmentally damaging chemicals that are found in most cleaning products, as well as unnecessary water and energy usage.

Add to that to the dreaded plastic waste and the spread of microplastics and microfibers, and you’ve got yourself a problematic industry.

How microfibers find their way onto your plate. Image from Cora ball.

Consequently, innovators around the globe are developing ways to ‘clean up’ the cleaning industry with new products and services.

A chemical detox

It’s a sad fact that whilst chemicals found in cleaning products are good at getting rid of germs, they’re also pretty bad for the environment. For example, phosphates found in many laundry and dishwasher detergents end up in water systems and can ultimately reduce biodiversity.

Thankfully so called CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) are now banned, however volatile organic compounds, which sound scary and are still found in bleaches and air fresheners, have been proven to be bad for both humans and the environment.

So, as a solution, green chemists, our favourite kind, have created natural alternatives. Fun fact: the ancient Romans used to wash their clothes with urine collected in the streets—we maybe won’t go that far!

Method for example, uses lactic acid (the stuff that makes you hurt on long runs) instead of chemicals in their all-purpose spray and laundry detergent. Oh and they also have a kick-ass initiative to promote inclusiveness:

"drumroll please. introducing… method X drag cleans. we’re proud to announce we’re partnering with the @lgbtfoundation + the hottest drag talent in town on a year-long mission to challenge the toxic cleaning stereotypes + make the world a more fun, fabulous + inclusive place. watch this space. yaaaaas clean."

Photo from Method's Instagram. Nice work guys!

Why use all that water and energy?

Seriously, thank you Hamilton Smith for first inventing the washing machine in 1858. They’ve come a long way since then but still use a lot of water, around 10 litres per kg or 17% of the average household’s water usage, as well as energy to heat the water.

In a world in which water is becoming an increasingly valuable resource and carbon emissions are reaching dangerous levels, surely there’s a more efficient way.

Putting your space age skills to good use.

This was the thought of former NASA engineer Kyle Grant and his cofounder Thomas De Wilton when they founded OXWASH.

Wanting to tackle problems a little closer to home, they use some space-age ‘ozone’ technology to launder fabrics in a process washes at a lower heat (20 degrees) saves an average 25 litres of water per wash, breaks down detergents, filters out plastic microfibres and has 0% net carbon emissions.

Their ultimate goal is to “eradicate the impact of washing on the world’s ecosystem,” which we can definitely get behind.

Oxwash is en route to becoming a certified B Corp, just like us.

Stopping the microplastic Armageddon

As touched upon above, another side effect of washing modern fabrics is that microplastics spun off the garments end up in water systems and eventually in most living things on earth.

A single load can release hundreds of thousands of teeny-tiny plastic shards and there’s no effective way to remove them from oceans. Diagnosis: not cool.

No longer wanting to “eat their fleeces”, the design team behind Cora Ball developed a product that can be added a load of laundry to catch plastic microfibres during the wash.

The Cora Ball catches 26% of microfibres and since launching they’ve been working hard to make improvements and find partners who can upcycle the waste material the ball collects.

The design is inspired by the way coral filters the oceans, hence the name.

Clean air cleaning

A lot of people invest in air fresheners and purifiers to clean air in their homes. The problem is that a lot of these release the volatile organic compounds that we mentioned earlier.

Also, air filters have to be regularly replaced, aren’t recyclable, and take thousands of years to decompose. So, inspired by the British countryside and “NASA’s favourite sheep”, Briiv have created a plastic free air filtration system that uses 100% renewable and natural materials with the equivalent cleaning power of over 3000 house plants.

4 layers of natural filtration make up Briiv's air filter.

Explanation of how the filter works from Briiv:

"Dried sustainability sourced moss filters out large particles from the air such as dust and animal dander before being drawn down through coconut husks and activated charcoal which traps finer particles, and the final filtration stage is Astino sheep’s wool - together these four layers remove 99.9% of harmful contaminants from the air."

Materials are either “naturally occurring, such as moss and coconut, or sustainably sourced and created (the wool is from a sustainable supplier and the bioplastic housing is easily recycled or biodegraded).”

Currently in development, follow their Kickstarter to stay tuned with the power of plants.

5 tips to amp up your sustainable cleaning routine!

As you can see, if we can clean up the way we clean up then we will have a cleaner earth for everyone to enjoy. Here are some key methods to reduce your cleaning footprint:

1. Switch to certified eco cleaning products and detergents, you can even make your own. Make sure you finish what you have first though. For some great DIY tips on sustainable cleaning, head on over to our Instagram.

2. Use cleaning services that use the latest technologies and processes with the environment in mind.

3. Wash your clothes less often - clothes can normally go a few wears between washes and it’s estimated that 90% of clothes are washed are clean enough to be reworn.

4. Stop using air fresheners – houseplants will do an awesome job at purifying the air. Recommended are spider plants and peace lilies.

5. Avoid the tumble dryer- air dry clothes instead or take a hybrid approach.
Capture the microfibres - use a Cora Ball or similar to catch microfibres in your wash.

Check out our Instagram for some easy DIY cleaning tips.

And a quick note to say that we're just big fans of these companies because we're in this together, no commercial partnership exists between us.

If you have any questions or fun ideas about this (or anything really) feel free to get in touch with Emilia Cullborg, Editor and Head of Communication & Community Outreach.
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