Most of my readers know I have been green cleaning for over 20 years now. And that is 20 years of trying all the different green cleaning products and methods out there! Since switching to a zero-waste cleaning routine is more important now than ever before when a good (or bad) one comes along, I am all over it.
Take Swiffers for example, they are a hugely popular cleaning product that has been marketed as an all-in-one affordable alternative to dusting, mopping, and sweeping. As consumers have become more aware of the environmental impacts the products we buy have on the environment, we have been seeing more and more environmentally friendly Swiffer alternatives pop up on the market.
So, how does Swiffer hold up? What is their impact on the environment? And what are some alternatives to Swiffer that are more eco-friendly?
What is a Swiffer?
Since 1999, Swiffers have been a popular household dry/wet mop system that uses a disposable pad to trap dirt and dust. Owned by P&G, the Swiffer was meant to be a replacement for a broom and a mop, allowing the user to do both with one single cleaning tool.
Swiffers come in two main options:
1. The Swiffer Sweeper comes with a plastic handle attachment with a 360° swivel head, as well as dry and/or wet disposable cloths. The Swiffer Sweeper wet cloths are mostly used for quick wet spills around the house. While the dry cloth is best for picking up hair, dander, and dust.
2. The Swiffer WetJet mop includes the same plastic handle attachment redesigned as a "power mop", disposable cleaning pads and refills, and a bottle of multipurpose cleaning solution. The Swiffer WestJet mop is marketed as a more heavy-duty product compared to the Sweeper. With Swiffer WetJet, you no longer need to fill a heavy mop bucket with water and lug it around your home since the mop includes an ultra-fine mist spray nozzle.
It's worth noting that Swiffer has some other cleaning products like dusters and vacuums, but for today we are just going to focus mainly on the two above!
Why is a Swiffer bad for the environment?
For us to understand Swiffer’s impact on the environment (and the best Swiffer alternatives!), we need to look at all the different components of the Swiffer Sweeper and Swiffer WetJet.
First and foremost, we know Swiffer likely isn’t a cruelty-free company. Likewise, ingredient disclosure when it comes to Swiffer is generally pretty poor, which is usually a bad sign that a company might be greenwashing and trying to appear more environmentally friendly than they truly are.
In terms of an environmental footprint, both the Swiffer Sweeper and Swiffer WetJet come with a reusable plastic handle and swivel head attachment. Both of these components are sourced from fossil fuels, a known contributor to climate change. This isn’t that surprising, plastic is such a HUGE component of our typical cleaning routines, and we simply don’t need it (check out my plastic-free cleaning kit)!
The Swiffer Sweeper dry sweeping cloths (scented and unscented) were both given an "F" rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for reasons cited as environmental, asthma, respiratory, and skin irritation concerns. The Swiffer Sweeper wet cloths are no better. Poor disclosure and terrible ingredients give the Swiffer Sweeper wet cloths a “D” rating by the EWG. The wet cloths may contain ingredients toxic to aquatic environments, and also put people at risk for respiratory, skin irritation, and development/reproductive concerns. The wet cloths also might contain 1,4-Dioxane and Ethylene Oxide (which we have talked about before), ingredients that have both been linked to cancer.
The Swiffer WetJet cleaning pad is likely made up of a mix of synthetic fabrics derived from petroleum like polypropylene, polyester and polyacrylate polymers, nylon, and other thermoplastic polymers. The WetJet also comes with a multipurpose cleaning solution. Like the Swiffer sweeper wet cloths, the regular cleaner solution in the "window fresh" scent was given an "F" rating from EWG.
On a positive note, Swiffer has partnered with TerraCycle to offer a free recycling program for the dry and wet cloth refills for the Swiffer Sweeper, as well as the wet pads for Swiffer WetJet. The paperboard boxes Swiffer products come in are also curbside recyclable.
At this point, I don’t blame you if you are ready for some alternatives to Swiffer!
What’s the best alternative to a Swiffer sweeper?
Already bought a Swiffer and don’t want to keep buying the disposable pads? Let’s look at an alternative to Swiffer Sweeper.
1. A broom and dustpan
I know, I know…What about all the plastic? Well, chances are you already have a broom and dustpan in your home, and remember, it’s always a MORE eco-friendly choice to keep using what you already have instead of buying something new. Remember the first "R" of the five R’s of zero waste is refuse! They are also much cheaper in the long run, this really is the best Swiffer alternative.
2. Swedish cloths
Swedish cloths (like these from EarthHero) are made from cellulose and are completely reusable, lasting anywhere from 5 to 6 months. Most Swedish Cloths will fit into the grippers on the Swiffer Sweeper in a similar way to their dry pads, just throw them in the wash after! These have been an absolute game-changer in my kitchen and if you want to know how I clean my whole house using these make sure to give the best paper towel alternatives a read!
3. Tea towels
Similarly, tea towels (that you also likely already have around your home) will fit into the grippers on the Swiffer sweeper and can be used to dust your floor.
I have even used microfibre cloths or cut up old t-shirts and used them to do a quick dusting of my floors, they work great.
What’s the alternative to Swiffer wet pads?
It’s not too hard to find an eco-friendly alternative to Swiffer wet pads.
1. Dish towels and cloths
One of the easiest alternatives to Swiffer pads is to just sub in a cloth or dish towel you already have hanging around the house. Like microfibre cloths, dish towels usually also fit into the grippers on the Swiffer Sweeper and can be a good substitute for a mop pad. All you need to do is wet your cloth or towel, soak it in a bit of eco-friendly cleaner, and you are ready to go.
2. Earth Hero Sweeper Large Mop Pads
These reusable mop pads from EarthHero fit onto standard Swiffer Sweepers and other similar dry/wet mopping systems. They are handmade in Colorado, vegan, and fully compostable! Plus, Earth Hero products are shipped in recycled packaging which can then be recycled after use. The mop pad itself is made of cotton chenille and cotton thread so you can throw it into your washing machine afterward.
What’s the best alternative to Swiffer WetJet?
There are so many eco-friendly mops on the market today that, in my opinion, are a much better alternative to Swiffer WetJet.
1. The Cuban Mop
The Cuban Mop is plastic free, instead, it’s made from wood screwed together to form a T shape. All you have to do is take any small towel or cloth from around your home and fold it over the end of the mop, and voila! You have an easy, reusable, eco-friendly mop (that you can use wet or dry). The Cuban Quick Loop mop is another plastic-free mop that is designed to hold a towel or cloth in place.
Once you are done with the towel or cloth, place it in the laundry and you can use it again and again. And if you are using the Cuban or Quick Loop mop for wet surfaces, simply pair it with your favorite eco-friendly cleaner and you are good to go.
2. Electric Steam mop
While made of plastic, steam mops come with pads that can be reused time and time again and are a great non-toxic Swiffer alternative. Plus, you don’t need any fancy cleaner or toxic chemicals to disinfect your floors… just add water!
FYI, before buying an electric steam mop, do your research. Some flooring doesn’t do well with intense heat. In that case, I would try a Cuban or Quick Loop mop! Check out my guide on steamers if you want to learn more about this.
JustMeToo is another fantastic brand I have talked about before as a good non-toxic Swiffer alternative. JustMeToo has tons of cute eco-friendly reusable mop pads made from cotton, terry cloth, and cotton batting.
Best nontoxic Swiffer alternative?
If I haven’t said it enough already, the cleaning solution that comes with Swiffer Sweeper wet cloths and Swiffer WetJet isn’t all that great for you or the environment.
Lucky for us, there is a great non-toxic Swiffer alternative that you can make right at home…To make your own all-purpose cleaner, you can:
- mix 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp liquid Castille soap
- about 1½ cups of water
If you’re looking for something with a little more oomph, there are tons of eco-friendly cleaning products that disinfect out there. Here are two of my favorites:
1. Attitude Living All Purpose Cleaner Disinfectant
Attitude Living’s natural, nontoxic cleaner disinfectant formula is made from renewable plant materials which I love. All of Attitude Living’s bottles are made of recyclable HDPE #2 plastic and they ship all their products in recycled and recyclable packaging. Plus, EWG gives them an "A" rating!
2. Natura Solutions All-In-One Disinfectant Cleaner
This all-in-one cleaner is biodegradable and kills 9.99% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Their packaging is also recyclable, and bonus, they are based here in Canada so you are supporting a local business!
I have tons of other eco friendly cleaner suggestions!
How to make a DIY Swiffer?
Remember the Cuban and Quick Loop mops? You can DIY this too!
All you need to do is find an old broomstick or mop handle. I have even seen people use an old rake handle for this step. Next, find a cloth or towel you don’t mind cutting up into smaller pieces. You can even use an old t-shirt or sweater that might be in too rough condition to be donated.
Cut your towel or rag into smaller sections and sew it around the handle, and you are ready to get mopping!
A final word on Swiffer alterntaives
With so many toxins in our cleaning supplies today, making more sustainable choices while cleaning can be a huge benefit to not only your health but to the environment.
So, what are the best alternatives to Swiffer? Well, it really depends on your home. Think about what kind of floor you have, how big your home is, and perhaps most importantly, how dirty your home gets… If you have pets or a lot of traffic coming through your home, a steam cleaner might be a better option. But if you are just looking for something to get the dusting done, then using Swedish cloths or old tea towels might be the best Swiffer alternative for you.