The most sustainable cloths to use when cleaning your home

What are the best cloths to use when cleaning your home? Dishcloths and tea towels come in all designs and materials. How do we choose a healthy and sustainable option? Can we avoid microplastics and find beautiful cloths that do not cost the earth?

Cleaning up in the kitchen is important to rid surfaces of spills, debris and unwanted microbes. Cloths are needed to wipe surfaces clean & dry and remove bacteria. These kitchen basics can be repeated elsewhere in the home – cleaning bathrooms, paintwork and many other sealed surfaces.


 

Microfibre cloths are made of plastic

 
Microfibre is a popular fabric for cleaning. It is made from polyester and nylon and sourced from crude oil & gas. This means microfibres do not biodegrade or decompose. Microfibre cloths are made of microplastics that are now understood to be a major source of plastic pollution which affects human health and our marine environment. Microfibre cloths shed fibres whenever they are used for cleaning and every time they are washed. This serious sustainability issue with microfibre cloths is why we don’t recommend them.
 

What is a Swedish dishcloth?

 
Swedish dishcloths were invented in 1949 and were popular in Europe from the 1950’s only becoming common in the US more recently. They are made from approximately 70% cellulose and 30% cotton and bridge the gap between a paper towel and a regular dishcloth. Recent estimates show that using Swedish dishcloths instead of paper towel should have some environmental benefits, especially if you are washing the dishcloths with other things. The downsides are the rate at which Swedish dishcloths breakdown and as they crumble away bits of cloth get everywhere.
 

Cotton dishcloths

 
100% cotton dishcloths are absorbent and will last longer than a Swedish dishcloth – although they are usually more expensive. However, cotton is a chemically intensive crop and around 4.7% of the world’s pesticides are used to grow cotton. A sustainable alternative is organic cotton (GOTS certified is best) which as well as avoiding synthetic pesticides also saves up to 91% of water compared to growing conventional cotton. However, even organic cotton is not as absorbent and long lasting as linen.
 

Linen dishcloths & tea towels

 
This is the best money can buy! 100% linen dishcloths & tea towels are naturally anti-bacterial, low allergen, super-absorbent and leave no odour, residues, fluff or marks. Once the linen has been washed at low temperatures to avoid shrinkage, these cloths can be washed repeatedly without losing their shape or colour.

Linen is made from the flax plant using low-impact production methods: it is grown in rotation with other crops, and crucially is an eco-friendly crop that requires no irrigation (except in exceptional drought) and is GMO-free. None of the flax plant is wasted and manufactured linen is highly biodegradable and can be composted without increasing pollution levels. Because of hollow fibres and loose weaves, air can easily flow through the fabric, and this makes it ideal for wicking away moisture, drying and mopping up spills.
 
Our linen dishcloths and tea towels are guaranteed by two important certifications:

• STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certificate guarantees that only non-toxic materials are used to produce linen fabric. Each product is safe for contact with human skin for both adults and children. Certified textiles are tested for azo dyes, formaldehyde, phthalates, and heavy metals such as nickel, but also harmful chemicals such as pesticides and allergenic disperse dyestuffs. The STANDARD 100 protocol also ensures a skin-friendly pH and dyes that are not transmitted through human skin.
• EUROPEAN FLAX® certificate label means that each step of premium linen fibre processing is traceable. Each party that participates in the processing of linen is audited and commits to specific criteria regarding their work. This certificate ensures that the flax plant is grown with respect to the environment – zero irrigation, zero waste, and GMO-free, which reduces the ecological footprint.


 

What are dishcloths used for?

 
Our linen dishcloths are ideal for cleaning surfaces. Teamed with a Greenscents spray, this is an ideal combination for a blitz in the kitchen, bathroom or on paintwork and touch points. These dishcloths rinse easily, dry rapidly and have no nasty odours. Our linen dishcloths can be machine washed and will last many years.
 

Why do we need tea towels?

 
Tea towels have a long history in the UK and Ireland and are linked to the afternoon tea rituals popular in the 19th Century and before. Today, the main function of tea towels is to dry cutlery, crockery & glasses that has been hand washed and for drying hands. They can also be used to mop up large spills. Linen tea towels have always been prized as the best for drying glasses without smears and any delicate items. Linen tea towels will dry rapidly after use and can be machine washed with dishcloths. An indispensable item in the kitchen, linen tea towels will last for years if properly cared for.

Discover our linen dishcloths and linen tea towels here.

Further Reading

  • https://allianceflaxlinenhemp.eu/en/european-flax-environmentally-responsible
  • https://www.pan-uk.org/cotton-poisoning/
  • https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/mar/12/what-is-swedish-dishcloth-reusable-paper-towel-better-environment?utm_term=65f139db3716
  • https://www.soilassociation.org/take-action/organic-living/fashion-textiles/organic-cotton/
  • https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/discover/are-microplastics-a-big-problem
  • https://www.greenmatters.com/p/is-microfiber-plastic
  • https://cottoncreations.com/2021/10/20/types-of-kitchen-towels/
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