The magazine for Western Washington University

Green cleaning tips from the pros

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Back row, left to right: Kasoma Duplantis, William Perigo, Ela Chala, Michael B. Smith. Front row, left to right: Angelito Domingo, Roberto Lim, Heather Dodd, James Perigo, Gurmit Bhumber and Anthea Jones. | Photo by Matthew Anderson

For the past dozen years, Western’s team of academic custodians have made it a priority to clean the campus without polluting the planet.

The cleaning team recently earned an honorable mention for green cleaning and sustainability programs in the national Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities.

For those of us who only have to clean one house instead of hundreds of classrooms, department supervisor Michael Smith recently shared a few green homecleaning tips:

• Use microfiber cleaning cloths. Microfiber is made from synthetic fibers split 90,000 times per square inch, which makes them great for grabbing dirt, Smith says. They also absorb seven to 10 times their weight in water and can be washed hundreds of times. More importantly, dampened “micro” cloths can replace many chemical-based cleaning products. “It’s saving us a lot of money,” Smith says, “and it’s better for the environment.”

• Read the labels on cleaning products. Look for nature-based ingredients, such as citrus or soy, while avoiding bleaches and petrochemicals such as butyls, benzene or ammonia.

• Containers matter. Smith recommends buying concentrated products, mixed with water in your own bucket or spray bottle, to cut down on the amount of disposable containers going into the recycling bin or landfill.

• Look for a vacuum with some muscle. Vacuums built for commercial settings are a lot better than home vacuums at picking up dirt and keeping it out of the air, Smith says.

• Beware of bleach. We’ve come to associate the smell of bleach with the smell of a clean house. But what we’re really smelling is harmful hypochlorite, Smith says. Bleach is an environmental pollutant and should be avoided, he says.