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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flushable Cleaning Wipe?

I am a lousy housekeeper. I keep thinking that at some point I will get it all together, but... So, anyway, I see people using the Clorox Wipe-type products and I see the appeal, but just can't get behind disposable chemical crap. There are some wipes that use essential oils and non-toxic liquid, but that still leaves the wipe itself. I checked every package our Target had and they ALL say, "Do Not Flush." So I came home and did a little research and found that these wipes, paper towels, ultra-plush toilet paper, and even the new "flushable wipes" are causing problems for sewage treatment plants to the tune of millions of dollars in new shredding machines and repairs to fix clogged and damaged pipes.

A study by the Portland Water District in Maine in 2011 analyzed what was causing clogs in their sewer pipes and came up with this analysis:
— 42 percent paper products, including paper towels
— 24 percent baby wipes
— 17 percent hygiene products, including feminine pads and tampons
— 8 percent "flushable" wipes
— Remainder, other items, including household wipes, cosmetic pads and medical materials.

My mission was to create a flushable wipe that didn't have any nasty chemicals on it that would break down in a reasonable amount of time to satisfy hippy-me and conventional-me. Basically, I failed. Any wipe that is sturdy enough to hang out in cleaning solution waiting for you to use it, is too sturdy to go into the septic or sewer system. Makes sense, right?

Here is my 18 hour dissolve test paper towel vs toilet paper:
Definitely not sewer safe.

But, this wasn't a total failure, I did make a wipe that cleans and disinfects naturally, is easy to use, and inexpensive. It would also "probably" be compostable, but only in a healthy, thriving compost system because the tea tree oil could potentially kill the healthy microbes in the pile.

Now, after the longest intro ever:

Wipes (2 packages):

1 roll single-ply paper towels (I used Bounty Basic Select-a-Size)
2 gallon zip top bags
1 t dish soap
2-3 T Borax (there is some confusion about the safety of Borax, rest assured, it is fine, ask Crunchy Betty)
10-20ish drops essential oil/s (see note*)

Use a serrated knife to cut the roll of paper towels in half. Remove the center tube (some will just slide out, some need to be convinced). In each zip top bag, put a few drops of dish soap, 1-2 T Borax, 5-10 drops oils, and about a cup of water  and shake it all up:

Pull up the very center towel a little and then place the whole roll in the bag. Add a little more water if they aren't saturated and dump out if there is a lot of excess (the amount varies based on the type of towels):

To dispense, just pull one at a time out from the center of the roll.

 *Note - I use tea tree in the bathroom and a combination of tea tree and peppermint in the kitchen because we have an ant issue right now and ants hate peppermint. I recommend always using tea tree because it is antimicrobial and will keep your wipes from mildewing and disinfect whatever surface you use them on. Lavender also does this to a slightly lesser degree, so is another option. Some citrus would be nice as well, just customize to your heart's content.

I bought a package of 8 rolls (on sale for $7 for 103 sheet rolls) because we have a business where the health department requires us to use paper towels, so I could but the extras there; otherwise it would have made more sense to buy a single pack even if it costs a bit more per roll just to avoid storing all those paper towels. This recipe costs around $0.50 per package, but no matter what towels you choose, this is waaaaay cheaper than buying wipes.

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