Jennifer van der Meer

SWIFFER SUSTAINABILITY: The swiffer designer speaks up

by , 06/09/07

PSFK conference, Swiffer, Proctor and Gamble, P&G, Greenwashing 101, Greenwash, Greenwash your floors

Our story “Greenwash Your Floors with the Swiffer” launched an interesting debate on our site about greenwashing and eco design . A commenter named Kim called on us to move beyond criticism and contact the designers directly…


If we can educate the product producers about holistic sustainable design systems and principles and give them better solutions, we can effect much more change on a larger scale than we could by simply calling them out on their greenwashing.

So we decided to contact the designer of the Swiffer, Gianfranco Zaccai of Continuum, directly to ask him to explain the Swiffer as an example of sustainability. The interview that came out of this was extremely interesting. Read on for the full debate >

Jennifer Van Der Meer interviews Gianfranco Zaccai about his swiffer design and sustainability

Jennifer: In your argument about the Swiffer’s environmental impact, you cite the fact that your design uses less water, energy, and toxins than a conventional mop. How did you analyze these impacts?

Gianfranco: The development of the Swiffer was the result of our analysis of what average American households actually do to clean their floors. We discovered—by doing a lot of research and observation in people’s homes—that, on the average, kitchen floors are washed once a week and that it requires a lot of hot water and detergent for washing and then more hot water for rinsing. We further realized—just by watching a lot of people mop their floors—that people spend more time cleaning the mop than cleaning the floor.

We also discovered that most of the so-called dirt on the floor is not sticky, adhering dirt, it’s dust. And water turns out to be a particularly bad way to get rid of dust because the dust will just float to the surface and then settle down in the form of mud. Again, we found that out by observing and analyzing—in excruciating detail and many times over—exactly what happens when someone mops the kitchen floor. We also learned that almost no one enjoys washing the floor and touching a dirty mop. Probably anyone could have told you that, but we verified it and, instead of ignoring it because it was so obvious, we really paid attention to it because it was so universal. This is key to what I’m trying to say: Water and energy and chemicals and all that are essential to analyzing this activity for its environmental impact. But so are frustration and boredom and house-pride and resentment of spouses who never do the mopping. Because those are the keys to designing a solution that is profitably sustainable because it is something people will willingly—even joyfully—do.

We put all of this information together and proposed that a single sheet of paper could entrap dust—since dust was most of the problem—by means of an electrostatic process and by modulating the surfaces of the sheet to increase entrapment. Basically, these two processes replace the water, the chemicals in the detergent, the time and back strain associated with filling buckets, and the energy needed to heat the water. And that became the Swiffer. Of course, the Swiffer has some environmental impact. That single sheet of paper goes into the trash. But compared with the many gallons of hot water and detergent used in the old system, this is obviously a lot better. Of course, we also created the Swiffer WetJet, which uses a spray of cleaning agent to spot-clean caked-on dirt, if and when necessary. But we believe that, even here, the total impact of energy consumption and chemicals in the waste stream is better.

By addressing both the technology and the users’ desires, we helped to create a sustainable solution, one which provided value to both the producer and the consumer while reducing the total impact on the environment. And we’re not kidding ourselves that replacing mops with Swiffers is what’s going to turn global warming around. We worked hard to come up with a profitably sustainable solution rather than a profitable but more harmful solution. If we can do that every time and if most other designers are doing that every time, whether they are designing jumbo jets or SpongeBob toys, that will help turn global warming around.

Swiffer, Proctor and Gamble, Greenwashing 101, Greenwashing

As a designer, how much impact do you have on the materials used in manufacturing what you have designed? Were you involved in specifying the ingredients of the Swiffer cleaning formula?

Well, in that particular case, we were not involved in specifying the ingredients of the cleaning formula of the Swiffer WetJet. In general, though, it depends on how comprehensive the request for our services is. If we are asked to develop a concept which will then be developed through manufacturing by our client’s engineering staff, we will try to develop and propose ideas that are fundamentally less wasteful and will suggest particular materials and processes. On the other hand, when we are asked to fully develop an idea through engineering, both mechanical and electrical, we try to choose environmentally sustainable materials and manufacturing processes. Although we do not employ chemists on our teams, we have sometimes employed consultants from universities in the area; for example, to develop a chemical formula for a biomedical product which had to be benign with respect to the environment.

How would you define sustainability?

In my view, the concept of sustainability cannot be limited to environmental issues. Finding the “right thing to do” won’t help much if most people won’t do it. We need to find the best thing to do that many people will do—because it’s enjoyable, beneficial, and engaging for them—and that is economically viable. Unfortunately, human beings have a difficult time seeing the relationship between their behavior and its effects if those effects are too distant in time or space. So people may pay lip service to more eco-friendly behavior—public transportation, for example—but unless that behavior provides short-term gratification, it is not likely to be sustainable.

What does this mean for designers?

Our job is to (1) carefully analyze the real environmental impact of some activity—anything from taking a bath to generating power, (2) understand what human values and desires are involved in that activity, and (3) find the elegant solution that provides greater value—that means greater physical, emotional, and social satisfaction as well as greater economic benefit—while avoiding harm to the environment as much as possible.

Do you think the design community is adopting a more sustainable process?

Unfortunately, the design community is very fragmented and, to a great extent, unprepared at this point. Some designers and some design firms are beginning to adopt cradle-to-cradle design practices and to be more conscious of the impact of design decisions dealing with energy consumption and material waste. But the idea of doing better with less is only beginning to take hold.

Swiffer, Proctor and Gamble, Greenwashing 101, Greenwashing, Gianfranco Zaccai

What have you learned from the experience of being criticized for your sustainability claims?

I am not at all bothered by constructive criticism. It provokes further thought on my part and it gives me the opportunity to communicate with greater detail what we are trying to do in this arena.

Do you think the consumer products industry needs a certification process—similar to LEED standards for buildings—in order to verify the authenticity of green claims and combat claims of greenwashing?

I think these things are inevitable. It will take some time to do it right and to have the general population adopt this mind shift, but, like all important progress, I believe it will eventually come about.

Beyond meeting certain EU regulations (ROHS and WEEE, for example), what kinds of sustainability issues is Continuum investigating for its clients?

Our work is broad in scope, going beyond products to the design of environments and services. We are therefore looking into many different methods for evaluating sustainability and environmentally conscious design—everything from smarter materials and longer-lasting products that serve multiple functions to consumer environments, such as stores and restaurants, that use natural light or buy as much of their food as possible from local farms.

Right now we are working with solar energy, air purification, chemical-free bug and pest detection, shared high-end transportation in urban settings, and medical devices with longer shelf lives and with less plastic, fewer wires, and lower electrical consumption (yet with far less error than previous versions of these products)—to name a few.

In the design process, who is most influential in pushing for “better” solutions: designers, clients, government, or consumers?

All of those constituencies have equal responsibility and, I believe, equal power. Nevertheless, the focus up until now has been on legislation—which is a “push” mindset. The power of the customer and of designers has been discounted. I think designers can create a “pull” effect whereby customers demand more sustainable solutions not only because they are environmentally sound, but because they give better value, provide more enjoyment, and make people feel better about their choices.

PSFK conference, Swiffer, Proctor and Gamble, P&G, Greenwashing 101, Greenwash, Greenwash your floors

Related Posts

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


43 Comments

  1. harmony February 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Swiffer was not designed by Design Continuum. The original Swiffer dry mop and Wet Jet were designed by Joss Design in Chicago. I was a team leader at Joss through the entire design, engineering, and production planning and at no point did we get input from Design Continuum. No doubt Continuum worked on the brand at some point, but Zaccai’s ongoing claim that he “designed the Swiffer” is a PR fabrication to claim credit for a successful product.

  2. msad2000 November 1, 2010 at 3:54 am

    I put elastic in couple large washcloths. I make my own cleaner – water and couple tablespoons liquid fabric softener in spritzer bottle and voila washable, reusable pads. No more disposable pads into the landfill and much less expensive cleaning liquid.

  3. turb0 August 21, 2009 at 5:01 am

    You are buying garbage!! C’mon people! If you buy this highly proprietary product you have to use their “pads” to make the unit operate.

    I feel that anything you buy and have to throw out because it is rendered useless is G A R B A G E!

    I hate this product. I purchased one (sucked in by the blasting of the ads), and after the first use tossed the whole thing out.

    Buckets? Hot water? Chemicals? Gee Bob, I use the sink as my pail (note that it is not rendered useless after 1 cleaning). Hot water, you bet! Oh but gosh, my electricity comes via hydro electric so no emissions there and once again, not rendered useless after 1 cleaning. Chemicals? Ok ya got me there, but Mr Clean lasts waaaaaaaaay longer then that crap in the bottles, oh and “Mr Green” no one ever mentioned those keen batteries needed to power the stupid thing.

    Nope, you lose, your product is by nature designed to keep you guys fat on making the consumer buy garbage!

    I’ll stick with my mpe and 2 hands, once again! not rendered useless after 1 use.

    Companies like you and my most favorite Johnson & Johnson “A family company” (poising the earth for 40 years should be forced to shutdown.

  4. ekhumphrey April 22, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    How much energy, water, waste goes into making these things? The units, the pads, the cleaning solution? Not only are the pads landfilled, but so are the batteries the WetJet, the empty plastic containers for the cleaning solution and eventually the units themselves.

    All of these factors have to be taken into account when declaring something “green.”

  5. G.H.Waite October 17, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    I am a cheapskate. When I used up the bottle full of whatever that stuff is, I filled it with plain water. I also use a rag on the thing. I have never, ever used hot water to mop. I have to wonder what kind of greasy dives some folks live in. Most of the time I just sweep and that takes away 90% of the dirt. I am annoyed at the design of the bottles for one use only and I am also annoyed that I have to get batteries for a frickin mop.

  6. m September 14, 2007 at 3:19 am

    sept / oct axis magazine has an article about how it goes around buying up ideas,

    the swiffer was the biggest one -

    which means that all the research conducted by contiuum was back searched –

    validating a product for the u.s market – and in this article back searching to make it green.

    the danger of this is, if you want to believe its green, your research is going to come out that way.

  7. Paul August 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    In reply to Robbi’s comment “The chemical in the wet-jet is harmful to pets [...]“: that’s a hoax/rumor/urban legend.

    It’s described and debunked at snopes.com:

    http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/swiffer.asp

    I’d be skeptical if the company alone made the claim that the product is safe for pets, but the WetJet solution has also been investigated by the ASPCA:

    http://www.aspca.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=16054&security=2220&news_iv_ctrl=1400

    The pages above also describe the ingredients of the cleaning solution.

    Full disclosure: I bought one of these today, and used it in my bathroom. I’m now using lots of extra energy running the ventilating fan, because the cleaning solution has a strong and long-lasting scent. Can something be done to convince the general population (or the marketers) that a “clean smell” doesn’t involve putting a time-release fragrance bomb in my house?

    I happened upon this discussion while checking to see if the solution can be replaced with vinegar and water, or ammonia and water. It turns out that it can, if you have a strong enough wrench and are careful in removing and replacing the “permanently attached” bottle cap. I’ll also investigate reusable cleaning pads when the supply gives out. As noted by other commenters, it’s sometimes possible to use a non-green product in a green way.

  8. Mike G. Martino July 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Another response to the general “if it’s one-use only, it’s not green” sentiment:

    One-use doesn’t mean “not green” if the thing being disposed of is an improvement over the other items which are one-time use.

    Several commenters have said that a mop with soap and water is “greener” than a Swiffer pad. Perhaps it is. But remember that the soap/detergent and the water you use to mop with are “one-use” only resources in a case like this.

    Now of course, I don’t know all the details about exactly what resources are consumed by the manufacture of a single Swiffer pad vs. the resources consumed in the manufacture of soap/detergent, or the resources involved in providing your water. If you live near a lake or the ocean, clearly it would be far “greener” to fill your mop bucket from those water sources, because there’s no reason at all to use potable water to mop your floor.

    But in some of the most populous areas of the world, there isn’t enough water, PERIOD. Using water to mop floors in those parts of the world is likely to be more wasteful (in terms of localized resource costs) than using a piece of chemical-impregnated paper.

    Ultimately, the point is: don’t become kneejerk in your quest for “greener” solutions. If you don’t like the product, of course you shouldn’t use it, but to attempt fact-based argument against something you don’t know much about is just lazy rationalization.

    As an absurd but simple example–it’s more harmful to the environment to use one single styrofoam cup for your coffee for 30 days than to use 30 paper cups and throw them away each time. (NOTE: This example is acknowledged as absurd. Obviously, porcelain is a better alternative than either paper or styrofoam.)

    Do any of the water-mop advocates fill their buckets in the local stream or pond? If not, why not?

  9. Gwen July 11, 2007 at 10:06 am

    I am 26 and when I went to college – INSTEAD of buying a regular mop, I bought a swiffer wet jet. I use the pads only for heavy duty cleaning jobs. Instead, I usually use a washcloth that I pin to the swiffer’s head and wash that with my laundry. Just dampen the washcloth and, when I need an extra kick, I use the swiffer liquid.
    It takes me so long to go through 1 box of swiffer pads and 1 bottel of solution this way – safe the earth and my pocketbook. Also, in the 7 years I have had this, I have only had to replace the battery used to opperate the swiffer 1 time – and since I use rechargable batteries I don’t really think much of that either!
    Think of the energy I have saved from not vacuming as frequently!
    I never had to throw away a mop and never had to fill a hot water bucket up with tons of unnecessary chemicals and throw that down the drain.
    The Swiffer is Green if you use it right – anything can be used wastefully so just be smart about how you use products and be smart about how you treat the earth.

  10. Eileen July 10, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    1. There is a swiffer with a washable head – RealSimple magazine’s cleaning products line offers a great one with a nubby cottony/synthetic head that washes perfectly.

    2. There is a consumer products green certification in existence – Cradle to Cradle.

  11. Robbi July 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    The chemical in the wet-jet is harmful to pets. Vinegar water is not. I have the swiffer mop, because it’s light weight, but all you need is any old piece of soft cloth. I happen to like my son & hubby’s threadbare “tighty whities” LOL If I were going to start over with new cloths, I’d buy a pack or two of cloth diapers. The longer they’re used, the softer and better they work. My mom always had a rag bag, so do I. Yes, we had a dust mop. The head was removable and washable. We’d hang it on the clothesline and it was “bleached” by the sun! We got it from the Fuller Brush man. They still have products. http://www.fullerbrush.com

  12. Ted July 10, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Use a microfiber mop (can be laundered 500 times) and it is very effective with just water . As for cleaning products, there is nothing better than Our House products. Check out this website:

    http://www.ourhouseworks.com

    The products can be ordered online and sent directly to your home. They are manufactured in an environmentally conscious plant. They don’t even have floor drains as all waste is recycled.

    Input the 4 digit code of “1408″ to receive a discount.

    I have been using these for about two years and find them very safe & green, yet effective.

  13. Julia Ziobro July 10, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    I bought a yard of polarfleece (made from recycled soda bottles!) :-) and cut it into Swiffer-size pieces. I use them to do the floors, and when I wash them, I use minimal detergent. The “trick” is to dry them in the dryer without any fabric softeners. They dry super-fast (less than 10 minutes) and they are full of static to grab the dirt. These reusable cloths work better than the throw-away paper ones, IMO.

    For the Wet Jet, which I really love on our hardwood and slate floors, I use old infant-size cloth prefold diapers. Same deal… wash and reuse, no fabric softener. They are really absorbent and they are easy to attach to the mop head with a pair of binder clips (at either end). My cloth diapers have been used on five babies so far and I use the ugliest stained ones on the floor… this is about the best recycling of cloth that would otherwise be thrown away that I can think of! :-)

  14. Keith Pings June 14, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    No mention that the original Swiffer idea was lifting a product that already existed in Japan? P&G bought the original product from a Japanese company named Lion, who had copied a product already in the Japan market from Japan’s Kao Corporation, Qwickle Mop. P&G has since evolved and improved upon ideas with deep additional consumer insights for USA households.

  15. Moom June 14, 2007 at 7:22 am

    I think J’s comment is an important insight. The Swiffer is not designed to last – anybody care to guess how many Swiffer lifetimes a standard mop lasts? It’s lightness of construction is a dead giveaway. What’s more, I’m reading ‘cradle to cradle’ at the moment, and Mr Zaccai’s approach personifies one of the authors’ bugbears – as they put it, ‘less bad is no good’. This design is all about ‘less bad’ – green sensibilities have been tagged onto the end of the specification as a secondary (or possibly tertiary) consideration – the primary requirement being ‘create a disposable cleaning system’.

    Clearly personal circumstances will override our environmental sensibilities sometimes – I’m sure it’s great for people with back problems, and I can understand how the disposability is an asset in medical/veterinary circumstances. I wouldn’t condemn anyone for using this product – consumers have to weight up green issues just as much as producers. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I certainly won’t.

    (I’m really not sure I buy Mr Zaccai’s assertion that people spend more time cleaning the mop than they do the floor, either, but if they claim to have researched it, who am I to argue?)

  16. kelly June 13, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    I work at a vet hospital and we use swiffer. I get tons of inquries into whether it works, I alwyas talk to them for 5 minutes about how swiffer is not enviromentally friendly and suggest method’s version. I probably get asked this 3 times a day. I’m trying to get the hospital to use method- but our laundry is already a huge problem….reading this, I dont buy it. I use a broom still. It’s just as good as the swiffer I use at work for most households(the hospital’s level of pet hair is diffrent, we get 300 animals in a day).
    As for the saves water and electricity from washing a cloth- how much extra energy/water am I using it tossing it in a full load?? And how long will the thousands of swiffer pads take to decompose?

  17. mariro10 June 13, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I think the inventor of Swiffer products has made a very worthwhile contribution to the world. There are a great many people with osteoarthritis and other slightly debilitating diseases; and he has put cleaning tools out they can actually use, making them more independent.

    Moreover, if you consider electricity for heating water, and washing and drying cloths, Swiffer is a hands down winner! Yeah!! And a design award for Mr. Zaiccai.

  18. John June 13, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I recently went back to a good old fashioned mop, a sponge mop at that. Been using one for years and so had my Mom. The sponge pads are reuseable, are rinsed/cleaned efter each use and while they get thrown away, they are not often done so until after several uses, sometimes months later.

    I had used the wet swifter pads on my original swifter, which I bought to get rid of dust bunnies and such when I had hardwood floors and I was not too impressed with their cleaning power, and often didn’t get all of the dirt up so yes, I had to wipe up after I mopped.

    Bleach/water, ammonia/water or heck, vinager/water solutions all work great and do not require any rinsing afterwords. I find bleach is really good for very dirty floors that a standard cleaning just doesn’t get.

    And when all said and done, it doesn’t really take all that much time or effort and the scratchy pad that most sponge mops have help in those stubborn spots too.

  19. beth June 12, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I USE A WASH CLOTH/RAG WITH ONLY WATER! IT’S FREE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND. NO NEED TO BUY ANY SWIFFER RAGS, ONLY THE MOP.

  20. Christopher June 12, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Mopping does require energy to heat the water. But it’s a false comparison to put water-heating energy on one side, and Swiffer trash on the other. Of course, the disposable Swiffer pad required energy to manufacture — electricity generated by who knows what, probably burning coal.

    Mop with a little warm water and some vinegar, and don’t bother to rinse. Sweep with a broom first. Voila! Sparkling clean floors, no trash, minimal energy, no chemicals, no “back strain” or whatever other ridiculous marketing arguments he makes.

  21. frances June 12, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    The Swiffer pads probably can’t be reused because the electrostatic process that enables them to pick up dust would likely be ruined in the wash. If so, it’s quite a waste of resources.
    Doesn’t the basic issue come down to the fact that companies like P&G need to generate new products to generate growth to generate higher stock prices to survive and pay their employees? The more people on the planet, the more “things” these companies need to produce, the more resources are used…the planet cannot sustain such growth forever. So, doesn’t this get down to the ultimate problem, which is human overpopulation of the planet? I wonder why this issue gets almost NO dialogue or attention anywhere. Is ZPG from the ’70′s a bad memory for we boomers?

  22. J June 12, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    when I moved out from college, I found several swiffers in the dumpster. the swiffer pad isn’t the only thing being thrown out in great numbers. the mop itself is not very sturdy – I found myself putting bends in the metal pole every time I scrubbed hard at a little sticky spot, even after spritzing some cleaner to loosen it up. the swiffer is cheaply made and is as readibly disposable as its one-time cleaning pads.

  23. milinda neusaenger June 12, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    The best I’ve found for wood and tile floors is an old fashioned cotton mop, a wringing bucket, hot water and a combo of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and concentrated Simple Green. Both cleaners are nontoxic and just a little dab will do ya & floors are sparkling clean! Besides, with the Swiffer Mop it seems you’re only pushing the dirt around ~ there’s always a dirty film that has to be wiped away … … so you wind up cleaning after you clean … … wasteful all the way around!

  24. Villa Sevilla June 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I have to agree with Amy Perry. It shouldn’t be too difficult to make sturdier Swiffer pads that could be thrown in the laundry (with the regular washing, of course) so they could be reusable. Even if they’re reusable 5-10 times, that would be a definate improvement.

  25. Michael Smith June 12, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I don’t think anything one-time-use and disposable is particularly green. And from a cheapness standpoint I don’t like having to buy proprietary, non-refillable bottles of chemicals.

    I found something called the Lysol Steam Mop that I think is the best thing for my hardwood and tile floors. You fill it with water, plug it in, and steam clean the floor. The pad is cotton and reusuable – just throw it in the wash. And it comes with 6. You don’t even have to use soap if you don’t want to. There’s a provision for putting Lysol concentrate in an integrated dispenser, but I never bother. The steam does fine on its own. And as an added bonus, it disinfects as you go without chemicals.

  26. eco_tom June 12, 2007 at 10:30 am

    I think this was really poorly done. I read the whole thing looking for answers to basic questions that were not asked, such as “what is it made of?” and “what chemicals are in the wetjet”. Jennifer, how can we determine anything about swiffer when you don’t ask those questions?

  27. Ramsey June 12, 2007 at 10:18 am

    If you look back at a product’s development through a “green” lens it is fairly easy to see hues of sustainability. The Swiffer is a successful product because it offers its users a significant improvement in experience over traditional floor care options. It could easily be made more sustainable, but would most likely also be less profitable. Creating a profitable product for PG was the designers intent. Zaccai’s comments are an elegant defense of Continuum’s development process, but like the Swiffer itself they are hardly the epitome of sustainability.

  28. jjello June 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

    I cannot agree that the Swiffer is a green solution, despite Mr. Zaccai’s careful research and my overall admiration of Continuum’s work.

    When asked whether the design community is beginning to adopt a more sustainable process, Mr. Zaccai himself sums up the problem by stating that design community as a whole is currently too fragmented and unprepared to take on this task.

    The Swiffer is an excellent demonstration of that fact. The Swiffer’s very existence was drummed up not to ameliorate an existing, poorly designed, wasteful product, but to profit from the consumer’s insatiable appetite for sexy gadgets and the next “new thing”.

    The disposable pads, around which much of the criticism has focused, are only the tip of the iceburg, The fact is that a large segment of the US population has discarded their old brooms and mops and bought a new product made out of a petroleum-based material manufactured by the thousands in a factory in China – all to replace a product that did just as good a job (better, in some cases) as the new one and was not especially wasteful in terms of natural resources.

    Any product is going to use resources – the Swiffer simply uses different ones. In addition to the disposable pads, there is also all the attendant packaging associated with the entire Swiffer system – the packaging of the mop itself, the packaging of the dry pads, the wet pads, etc. All of this packaging is designed, manufactured, and thrown away.

    And speaking of the wet pads, Mr. Zaccai stated that Continuum was not involved in specifying the ingredients of the cleaning formula of the Swiffer WetJet. Again, fragmentation. The cleaning formula is an important component of the entire product. What is it made of? How sustainable is its production? And, these matters aside, how do we know it’s not carcinogenic?

    It appears that once Continuum was presented with the Swiffer project, they approached it in the most responsible and sustainable manner possible. But their admirable effort is just a small fragment of a much larger, product-based system. If we think that the Swiffer is the be-all and end-all of mops and that it will not be joyfully replaced by the next new fad ten or twenty years from now then we are kidding ourselves. It is critical for us as consumers to recognize that in some cases, a “green solution” may mean buying nothing instead of buying something.

  29. miranda June 11, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    …which is why everyone hated cleaning their floors.

    I use Swiffer Wet Jets because I have back problems, and I can’t lift a bucket or crawl around on my hands and knees.

    The pads are reusable insofar as you don’t *have* to throw them away after a single mopping… most of the time, for us, it’s good for a month of cleanings, esp with the antibacterial solution. I’m not making any claims about the green-friendliness of the solution, but until pretty recently it’s not like most widely-available floor cleaners were any friendlier. As far as washable mop cloths go, remember that you use energy and release ickiness into the water every time you wash them, so there’s a trade-off on both sides. If I were using washable cloths, I would be double-sure to try to use something labelled non-toxic and eco-friendly to do the actual floor-cleaning with.

    I’d rather have washable microfiber cleaning cloths than the Swiffer duster, though, because the duster fills up with dust very quickly and really does seem like a single-use product.

    & if Method makes a reasonable substitute for the Wet Jet, I’ll happily use it… they make most of the other household products I use, along with Seventh Generation.

  30. ktaboa June 11, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Aryeh said: “but I find in unlikely that most people will be willing to either 1) clean their floors with what is essentially a dirty utensil, or 2) eschew a commercial cleaning device in favor of “old t-shirts”.”

    But, until the Swiffer hit the market, this is what people had been doing for decades. I don’t see how it’s such a hardship to use a re-usable mop head that can be thrown into the washer or other options that aren’t one-time use products.

  31. Aryeh June 11, 2007 at 11:44 am

    To comment on Amy Perry, James Warden, and fenomanology:

    I belive that Gianfranco essentially preempted your criticisms when he said “we need to find the best thing to do that most people will do”. I understand that the Swiffer involoves paper waste, but I find in unlikely that most people will be willing to either 1) clean their floors with what is essentially a dirty utensil, or 2) eschew a commercial cleaning device in favor of “old t-shirts”.

    Perhaps there are elements of Swiffer’s business model that could be improved. Still, even critics must admit that this company is making efforts in this area that far exceed most businesses.

  32. Missy VanWinkle June 11, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Um, isn’t the product the Swiffer replacing called a “dust mop” — and didn’t every home have one?

    No piece of paper to throw away at the end, just go shake it out in the yard.

  33. Steve Robinson June 10, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I just use a stick and a rag. See stickmop.com for instructions (but it”s pretty obvious!)

  34. onomiko June 10, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    When he says “entrap,” he’s not kidding.
    People, washable mop+spray bottle of water+vinegar=clean floor.

    I’ll repost the most excellent links from Jill, above:

    http://www.gaiam.com/retail/3/HO_House_CleaningTools/p/0
    http://www.methodhome.com/products/detail.php?prodName=omop_cloths_floor

    Happy housekeeping!

  35. James Warden June 10, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    I just use old t shirts as rags to clean the floor.

  36. pambamboo June 9, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Just use method’s oMop – it does all the things a sustainable and green floor cleaning product should. Plus it’s easy to use; attractive as can be; smells yummy and the floor pads for sweeping are compostable and the floor pads for
    washing are microfiber wash in the machine.

  37. greenie June 9, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Just use a broom or vacuum cleaner if you want to pick up dust.

  38. fenomanalogy June 9, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I agree with Amy Perry: create a re-usable Swiffer pad (ie, one that can be used after MANY washes, unlike J-cloths) and I’ll be way more likely to use it.

  39. Jill Danyelle Jill Danyelle June 9, 2007 at 11:44 am

    you can get reusable or compostable cloths
    here
    and
    here.

  40. rek June 9, 2007 at 11:12 am

    What chemicals are used to produce the cloth? Is the Swiffer factory green in any way?

    More importantly: Why isn’t there a reusable Swiffer cloth (throw in with the laundry)? Perhaps because their business model is the Razor Blade Strategy: consumer buys the razor once, and the blades again and again and again.

  41. ayisha June 9, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Very insightful. This information has helped me chart out some useful points for the new mission statement of my furniture design company that is now going green. Thanks!

  42. Amy Perry June 9, 2007 at 9:45 am

    The bottom line: we need to reduce our use of one time use items. Now.
    Create a swifter pad that can be re-used and I’ll take another look at your products.

  43. David Lambert June 9, 2007 at 8:17 am

    I’d have to say that I think it’s green. Now I haven’t done much mopping, (I’m just starting college, it was never one of my chores) but I know that before my mom got one of the wetjets she did it more or less just as Gianfranco described, big bucket of water with lots of soap. While there is some waste with the wetjet, I have to weigh that against the large amounts of water and soap that are wasted with conventional mopping. As this is my first post, I’ll also mention that I love the site, It’s one of my first stops in my feed reader every day.

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home