This $35 Laundry Accessory Makes My Microfiber Cloth Cleaning Habit 10x Greener

updated Apr 26, 2021
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A person drying off their freshly-cleaned television screen with a dry microfiber cloth
Credit: Cat Meschia/Kitchn

I’m embarrassed to even share this, but I used to clean my entire house with paper towels. And the worst part is, when I finally switched to reusable cloths I realized it wasn’t even a tradeoff; it was identical to my paper towel habit, but so much greener.

It turns out all I really needed to do to make my cleaning routine greener was set the paper towels aside and buy a 12-pack of cloths I could rotate through each week. I set up folded clean cloths in a wire basket, then keep a small hamper basket near the kitchen to toss the dirty ones into. Just grab, spray, and wipe.

I chose microfiber cloths because they came highly recommended by people I know who take their cleaning seriously. Microfiber is lint-free, making it effortless to get a crystal clear finish when cleaning glass. And because the fabric is so intricate and absorbent, a microfiber cloth actually is a great cleaning tool even when it’s dry, or with a tiny spray of just water.

You’re waiting for a catch right? I was too. Microfiber cloths are greener than virgin paper towels, and work harder than any other cleaning tool in your arsenal, so what gives? It turns out cleaning with microfiber isn’t the most eco-friendly habit. The impact of reducing paper waste can’t be understated, but laundering microfiber towels week after week introduces a new concern to your trying-to-be-greener household: microplastic pollution.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Microplastic Pollution

Synthetic fabrics, like microfiber cloths but also stretchy workout clothes and bathing suits, contain millions of tiny microplastic fibers that can shed in the laundry. When the wash water runs out of the machine, it takes those microplastics with it, where they can end up polluting our planet’s water. The sheer amount and size of microplastics shed from washing synthetic laundry means they can’t be “totally retained” by wastewater treatment plants, and if they make it into natural waterways, the microplastics can then be ingested by plankton and other marine animals and potentially make it back into the food we eat.

A Simple Home Solution for Washing Microfiber: The Guppyfriend Washing Bag

I worried about the impact of my new “greener” habit, until I learned there’s a simple thing I could do to retain microplastics from within my home: Just wash my microfiber cloths inside a Guppyfriend Washing Bag. It’s a laundry bag designed to trap microplastics from the wash water, allowing you to toss them into the trash at home instead of sending them into the water supply.

I hang my Guppyfriend bag from a magnetic clip and leave it stuck to my washing machine. Every time I use a microfiber cloth, it goes into the bag. (I started putting my yoga pants and bathing suits in there too.) Then when it’s time to do laundry, I zip up the bag (it’s generously sized) and toss it into the wash.

The Guppyfriend bag can’t go into the dryer, so when the wash is done, I empty the cloths from the Guppyfriend bag and toss them loose into the dryer. Then comes the really fun part: Pulling a small puff of microplastics from the corner of the Guppyfriend bag. It looks like a small piece of lint, but as I toss that puff into the trash in the kitchen, I realize just how many microplastics I was unknowingly sending into our waterways, week after week.

If you regularly use and wash microfiber — or any synthetic clothes — I can’t recommend a Guppyfriend Washing Bag enough. It’s a simple way to prevent the pollution of our planet from right inside your laundry room.