The Case Against Disposable Cleaning Products

white bathroom toilet bowl
Photo by Jonathan Borba on

Disposable cleaning products are being touted as more convenient and effective than the old-school, reusable products that pre-dated them. From wipes of all varieties to wet and dry mop pads to toilet brushes, it would appear that house cleaning has been revolutionized by these wonder products. But are they really all they’re cracked up to be? I offer the following evidence to support the case against disposable cleaning products.

The Truth About Disposables

The truth is, these products aren’t easier to use or more efficient than their reusable counterparts. What they are is more costly, which would account for the wide variety of disposables being pushed at consumers. Unless you’re the company profiting from their sales, these products are not beneficial. They’re actually detrimental in several ways.

Disposable cleaning supplies are not recyclable. They end up in landfills, contributing to the trash overload burdening our society. Additionally, single-use cleaning wipes that get flushed down the toilet clog up sewer systems and sewer pumps.

Furthermore, single-use wipes are typically saturated with more cleaning agent that you need, which not only contributes to the pollution of the earth and your household environment, but also leaves a residue on the surface you’ve used it to clean. Cleaning agent residue actually attracts dirt and dust. So you’re making more work for yourself when you use these products.

Plus, due to their texture, these wipes also don’t really pick up dirt and grime as well as a rag or microfiber cloth. This lack of efficiency means that you’ll have to use more of them to cover the same area as a re-usable cloth.

This leads us back around to the claim that disposable products are more convenient. Generally, in the same amount of time you spend wrestling wipes out their packaging, you could have used a rag or microfiber cloth to clean up whatever mess you’re after. Spraying a little cleaner onto a cloth isn’t that technically challenging.

The Easier Way

A simple, convenient, and much more inexpensive solution is to keep handy a spray bottle containing a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water. This mixture has disinfecting properties and can be safely used on a variety of surfaces. Plus, its impact on the environment is minimal. Used with a microfiber cloth, this solution is more effective than disposable wipes.

Disposable mop pads have many of the same drawbacks as single-use cleaning wipes. They’re less effective and more costly than other methods of floor cleaning, and they leave a residue on the floor surface. Plus, if your floor is especially dirty, you have to go back over the same area repeatedly to remove all the dirt, so you’ll need to use a number of mop pads to get the floor clean.

Cleaning a floor that’s more than superficially dirty is just plain easier using a mop and bucket of water, and this approach does a much better job. For quick cleanups, it’s easier to dampen an old dish towel and swish it over your floor surface with a sponge mop. This method covers a wider area more quickly than a disposable pad, and your old towel can be washed and re-used.

As for disposable dry sweeper-type mop pads, there’s an easier alternative to these as well. Your vacuum cleaner does a much better job of picking up loose dirt and debris on your floors. Disposable pads leave behind all kinds of particulate matter, especially anything heavier than a grain of sand. A vacuum cleaner not only picks up loose dirt of all types, it also locks down dust and animal hair, both of which have a tendency to fly away into the air only to resettle onto the surface you’ve just cleaned later on. So your vacuum cleaner does a superior job at a lower cost.

Finally, what about those toilet cleaning wands with disposable heads? With high per-use cost, poor durability and performance, and the fact that most aren’t flushable, these don’t stack up any better than other disposables. A five-dollar reusable toilet brush does a better job, lasts longer, is better for the planet, and is more economical. Plus you don’t have to fiddle around trying to snap the cleaning head onto the end of the brush that goes into the toilet water. Yuk!

The long and short of it is that disposable cleaning products are neither more effective nor more convenient than reusable products. They pollute the Earth and pollute your home’s environment. Unless you happen to own stock in one of the corporations producing these products, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from their use. The smart money is on the old school, tried and true reusable products that do a better job and are more cost efficient.

Want more organizing and house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my author page. My books include De-Clutter and Organize Your Home in 7 Simple Steps, Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, and How to Become a Cleaning Pro: the Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service.