Hey, kids, let’s science! The Magic of Microfiber

nylon molecule
(Photo: Michael Ströck/Wikipedia)
Microfiber packs a big punch

Fun fact: the average person spends about 20 hours per month on household cleaning.

But there are tools to make the job easier and science has given us so many labour-saving inventions, it’s easy to take them for granted. (Just think about how laundry used to be done!)

Microfiber cloths are so eco-friendly, effective and efficient they’re a must-have for any green cleaning kit. But how do they do what they do? Read on for the lowdown on this “magical” fabric.

She blinded me with science

The story of microfibers goes all the way back to 19th century Holland, when Johannes Diderik van der Waals laid the foundation for modern molecular physics. Building on that knowledge, chemical engineers of the 1950s and ’60s began experimenting with ultra-fine filaments for industrial applications.

By the 1970s, Ultrasuede hit the market and expanded the possibilities for new applications of the material. Not only was the ersatz suede used for making groovy pantsuits but also for interior, automotive and aircraft design applications.

But it wasn’t until the ’90s, when Swedish materials scientists began to develop the technology further, that microfiber cloths revolutionized green cleaning in both industrial and household applications. Today, microfiber cloths are widely used in Europe where environmental awareness is greater, but the technology is still catching on in North America.

So, what’s so big about tiny?

Microfiber is a synthetic combination of polyamides (aka nylon) and polyester. This substance is used to create super-fine strands with a diameter about 10 to 50 times thinner than a human hair. The strands are then split even further creating tiny fibers which are about the size of the average bacteria. Germs, begone!

microfiber versus cotton
Microfiber versus cotton

Thanks to this micro splitting process the surface area of microfiber is roughly 15 times greater than that of cotton fabrics, allowing it to trap more dust, dirt and bacteria in its million tiny edges. More surface area equals more efficiency — you get big results from those teensy fibers.

Another benefit of microfiber cloths is that they won’t scratch or mar even the most delicate surfaces because they attract debris instead of pushing it around. That’s why microfiber cloths are used for lens cleaning and other precision applications.

Remember that 19th century Dutchman van der Waals? He was the first scientist to describe the properties of molecular attraction. The “van der Waals forces” inherent in the plastic microfibers are what give these mighty cloths their ability to attract grime and germs, hence the nickname “dirt magnets.”

But is it green technology?

You bet it is. Microfiber technology virtually eliminates the need for paper towels and toxic cleaning chemicals.

Using these cloths will even reduce your water usage. A microfiber mop weighs far less than a traditional string mop and uses about half the water to get the job done.

Added bonus: microfibers are lint-free, making them ideal for glass and other shiny-surface cleaning. No more harsh window cleaners, which can be damaging to your lungs with repeated use.

Show me the money

Microfiber cleaning products can tolerate between 100-200 washings. That’s a long life for a cleaning product. So, you’re not only getting a more thorough, more environmentally-friendly result, but you’re also reducing your budget. Gotta love science.

At Allcare, microfiber cloths are just one of the products we use to make your facility shiny and germ-free. Get in touch today for more information on our Green Housekeeping practices.

We care about clean.

Top 5 Germ-Laden Things You Touch Every Day

We all get up every day and go about our business. We have things to do, places to go and people to see. Most of us do all of this without thinking too much about the germ-laden things we come into contact with – until we encounter a gritty park bench or a greasy handrail on public transit.

But, surprisingly, some of the creepiest crawliest things are in our homes and workplaces – and some are even right there in our pockets and purses.

So, without further ado, let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at what we deal with every day. Ready?

#5 Sponge Bob is Not Your Friend

Your kitchen is a hot spot for cross-contamination of many different types of bacteria, and guess what interacts with just about all of them? That’s right, your kitchen sponge — one the dirtiest things in your house. Sponges are very effective for cleaning pots and dishes because they’re full of tiny holes that hold soap and water. Those warm, damp crevices are also the perfect environment for germs to propagate. So let your sponges dry out — germs hate dryness — and wash or replace them regularly.

#4 On the Throne

Let’s face it, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go — and there’s probably nothing grosser than a public bathroom toilet seat. Roughly half of all North American women won’t sit on a toilet seat in a public bathroom. But covering the seat with a barrier of toilet paper isn’t the answer either and, in fact, might actually be worse. Toilet seats are designed to repel germs, (hard plastic deflects bacteria and germs). Adding a layer of absorbent paper can soak up those nasty microbes and pass them to your body much more efficiently. Bottom line, pun intended, your best bet is to always wash yours hands with soap after you’re done.

#3 Talk Dirty to Me

By now everyone knows that cell phones are not the cleanest things in the world. To put that into clearer perspective, your toilet seat is actually cleaner. In fact, every square inch of your phone has about 10 times the number of germs than your toilet seat has. Bacteria thrive in warm places, the phone itself generates heat and so do your hands. It’s no wonder that smartphones are prime breeding grounds for microbes. Think about that the next time you’re texting at the dinner table.

#2 Let There be Light

It’s something we do every day, at home and at work we turn on the light. And light switches are one of those rarely thought-about germ-laden hideaways. They’re often overlooked when cleaning. Recently researchers did a study of hotel rooms, looking for hidden germ locations. They discovered that light switches, especially on bedside lamps, are crawling with bacteria. So the next time you’re cleaning a room, flip the switch – then clean it.

#1 Money Laundering

Talk about dirty money. The stuff is rife with germs… and cocaine, especially American money. Which is one of the reasons the UK and Canada have switched to plastic-based notes. Plastic acts to repel bacteria and is easily wiped clean. Paper money has tiny crevices that allow bacteria to grow — it can even transfer a live flu virus for up to 17 days. Just like our cell phones, money has more germs  than an average toilet seat, including staphylococcus aureus — the bacteria that causes staph infections. Again, always wash your hands after handling money… or send it to us.

Don’t Freak Out

In the end, it’s best not to obsess too much about the germ-laden things around us every day. But with a few simple changes to your routine, you can keep yourself, your family and your staff healthy and safe from harmful bacteria and viruses.

Get in touch today to find out how we can keep your workspace not only looking clean, but also healthy and germ-free using eco-friendly cleaning products and practices.

We care about clean.

Top 5 Green Living Tweaks for 2019

Living a healthier, greener life can be easier than you think. And if we all make small adjustments, the benefit to our environment can be huge.

As the calendar ticks over to a new year, for many of us, it’s resolution time – a chance to take stock and clear the decks or face new challenges. Yay, us!

But sometimes we make grand resolutions that know we’ll have a tough time keeping. Think of all those fitness club visits that quickly taper off as the year marches on. A more sustainable approach in deciding on how to improve your quality of life is to make smaller, more manageable decisions.

Read on for some easy green living tweaks that you can start today:

#5 Ditch the Room Fresheners

Room fresheners don’t really “freshen” the air — they simply mask one odour with another. They also release a myriad of toxic chemicals that can make you quite sick with long-term exposure. Try these simple alternatives to keep your home smelling fresh: empty your garbage bins often, make sure your air circulation is adequate and invest in a good air purifier with both a charcoal and HEPA filter. If you like your rooms scented, consider using natural essential oils like peppermint, citrus or cloves.

#4 Give Your Clothes the Big Chill

Just a few small changes to your laundry routine can have a positive impact on the environment – and your electricity bill. Did you know that you don’t need to constantly wash your clothes in hot water? Heating the water uses about 90% of the energy required to run a load. So save money and reduce energy use.  Click here for more earth-friendly laundry tips.

#3 Grant Your Car a Day Off

Letting your car sit in the driveway for just one day a week can reduce your expenses, as well as the size of your carbon footprint. Take public transit or look into car-pooling for travelling to work — some businesses have programs encouraging employees to share rides. And who knows? You may even get to know your co-workers better.

#2 Let a Computer Set Your Thermostat

If you’d like to save some money, stay cozy and help the environment, then a programmable thermostat may be for you – especially if you tend to forget to lower the heat when you’re not at home or before bedtime. Some programmable thermostats are able to connect to WIFI, allowing you to set your ideal home temperature over your computer, tablet or smart phone. The most basic systems can be self-installed and will pay for themselves quickly in energy cost savings.

#1 Kick the Plastic Habit

It seems like the easy alternative when you’re on the go, but bottled water is all-around bad news for both the environment and your body. A whopping one million bottles of water are sold globally each and every minute.  In Ontario, only about 14% of those plastic bottles get recycled – that means about a billion bottles are sent to landfills each year.  That’s bad enough, but consider that recent studies have shown 93% of bottled water contains plastic residues. Not cool. So, why not get yourself a re-usable bottle, an inexpensive water filtration system and, for extra fun, one of those nifty home carbonation systems?

Have a great — and green — New Year!

For more information on our services, including Sustainability Consulting, get in touch – we’re here to help your organization save money and make your work space as healthy as it can be.

Don’t be S.A.D.: How to beat the Winter Blues with some simple hacks

Yes, the Winter Blues are an actual thing

It used to be called simply the “winter blues” but in 1984 mental health researchers first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and made the link between reduced sunlight exposure and mood disruptions. If you find you’re feeling depressed starting in late fall and throughout the winter, you may just be SAD. Symptoms include difficulty with concentration, decreased libido, anxiety, lethargy and even carbohydrate cravings. So, savour those yummy Christmas cookies but be mindful: weight gain is another SAD symptom.

There’s plenty you can do to beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

The good news is that there are a few easy lifestyle tweaks that can help ease the symptoms of this seasonal syndrome.

The first order of business is to make sure you optimize your vitamin D levels. A simple blood test will let you know whether or not you’re deficient. If you are – and those of us living in cold, northern climes are prone to deficiency, especially during winter – you can supplement with vitamin D3 to raise your levels to the optimal range.

An added benefit of ensuring you have enough of the so-called “sunshine vitamin” is that recent studies indicate, in addition to the known benefits of helping maintain healthy teeth and bones, D may have a protective effect against cold and flu viruses, as well as some cancers.

The sunshine prescription

Of course, nothing brightens the mood like sunshine itself. Take time for yourself to go for a brisk walk when the sun is shining, preferably around noon when you’ll get the most benefit from the sun’s rays.

If you can manage to get away to a tropical place in winter, you’ll store up enough vitamin D to help get you through to spring. It’s estimated that just 30 minutes of full body sun exposure around mid-day generates about 10,000-20,000 IUs of vitamin D.

Staying active — a little bit of exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week — can lift your mood and relieve anxiety and stress. And be sure to get enough sleep, but not too much — it’s easy to hide under the covers when you’re depressed.

Whether you work from home, in an office or an industrial environment, in addition to helping alleviate the winter blues, proper lighting makes work easier and more efficient.

Poor lighting conditions, such as low, glaring or shadow-casting light can cause headaches and eye fatigue, which can lead to more serious consequences like workplace accidents. Proper lighting reduces stress and increases productivity by allowing you to concentrate better on the task at hand.

Chase away the Winter Blues with a light box

Light therapy, in the form of a full-spectrum light box, has been used for decades to effectively combat seasonal affective disorder. SAD sufferers use the specially-calibrated table-top light in the morning for just 30 minutes a day. It’s simple and easy – just turn it on while you’re catching up on the news or scrolling through your social media feeds.

So, if you’re feeling SAD, no need to suffer in the dark. The best way to beat the winter blues, to work more efficiently and to have a healthier, happier life is to live in the light.

We care about clean — and your health

Get in touch with us today for your no-obligation Healthy Space assessment.

The Great Debate: Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

It’s really all about germs, isn’t it?

You’ve all heard the argument when it comes to drying your hands: should you use paper towels or the electric hand dryer? Which is more hygienic? Which is more environmentally responsible? Which is more efficient and economical? Or should you just let your hands air dry and forget about the whole thing?

Research has been done to compare both methods of hand drying and the verdict is – ready? – that, environmentally speaking, they’re about the same.

Each approach has a small advantage over the other, depending on various factors, such as the number of paper towels used (two on average), recycled paper or not, length of time, power usage of the electric dryer and regional electricity impacts. So, basically, it depends on how the electricity is generated and how the paper towels are made and disposed of.

What about those fancy new hand dryers that are popping up everywhere? You know, the non-heated, super rapid-air kind that strip the water right off of your hands. Research shows that they have a much shorter drying time than conventional warm air dryers and use less electricity.

After analyzing the data associated with generating electricity for the rapid-air hand dryers versus data related to the production and disposal of paper towels, the high-speed dryers came out on top – but just barely. This held true even when the paper towels were 100% recycled, both in manufacturing and disposal.

It seems that the argument for the rapid air electric hand dryer is the hands down winner. But that could easily change, with smaller, lighter towels or reusable towels (now there’s a concept). New paper technologies could soon provide environmental benefits over the use of high-speed air dryers.

So, the bottom line is that hand-drying methods should be considered by taking into account the life cycle of the whole system so you can make choices that are better for the environment now and in the future.

But whatever you do to limit your environmental impact, the bottom line is: don’t skip the hand washing.

We care about clean.

 

 

Posted on Categories Green Living

The Magic of H2O2 | Hydrogen Peroxide – Part 1

Hydrogen Peroxide: H202. You probably already have it in your home, and more than likely you use it to treat minor cuts and scrapes. But you’d be surprised at how many uses this colourless liquid has.

For household cleaning, health and hygiene, beauty, medical uses — even as rocket fuel! Hydrogen peroxide is readily available at any drug store or grocery store. It’s inexpensive, and is one of the handiest household supplies ever.

Best known for its medicinal uses — hence its availability at pharmacies. Let’s start with some common uses, and some that you may not be aware of.

Health, Hygiene and Beauty

Minor wounds

 This is the most obvious use that most people know about, that’s probably why you have it in your home. Applied directly to minor wounds, it can help clear up infections and clean away dead tissue.

Disinfect your toothbrush

 Once a week, soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide for at least five minute, rinse the toothbrush thoroughly and let air-dry. This eliminates any bacteria that may be hiding there. If you’re sick, repeat after each use, so you don’t re-infect yourself.

Hair, Teeth and Nails – and Feet

 Speaking of teeth, swishing a solution of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide will whiten your teeth and get rid of bad breath. And since peroxide is a bleaching agent, you can also use the same solution to lighten your hair.

To whiten your nails just soak some hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton ball and swab your nails. Oh, and BTW, it works well to cure athlete’s foot. Apply the same equal parts solution to the infected area on your feet, and that itching and discomfort will be gone.

House Cleaning Uses

Disinfect surfaces

Since hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant, it’s a great cleaning tool all around the house. Leaving countertops, and other surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, office, anywhere in the house, sparkling and clean.

Grout whitener

 Nobody likes the look of dingy grout in the shower, but there’s an easy fix. To whiten your grout, make sure it’s dry, then spray H202 directly onto it. Go and do something else for a couple of hours (Netflix), then come back with a toothbrush and soapy water. Scrub away, and viola, perfectly white grout again.

The benefits of using this natural, and incredibly inexpensive compound are almost endless. This is one amazing tool that everyone can use to clean and disinfect the house. In fact, there are so many uses, that we’re going follow up with another blog post. So, read on for Part 2.

If you have any interesting ideas that we might have missed about the fabulous uses of hydrogen peroxide, please let use know, and share in the comments section below.

Remember, we care about clean.

Best Holiday Houseplant

The Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), takes its name from a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand. It’s notably effective in removing many common indoor air pollutants.

mothernature-postcard_xmas-2

Although the Norfolk Island Pine is a beautiful year-round indoor plant, this small conifer is often used as a Christmas tree. Be gentle with the decorations as it has fragile branches, so take it easy with heavier ornaments.

The Norfolk Island Pine is an easy-care indoor plant that doesn’t like to be too hot, preferring temperatures in the 16-24°C (60-75°F) range, and likes basking in full sun to semi-shade. It doesn’t like being overwatered, but if the air is very dry, misting it with room-temperature water or adding a humidifier will make it happier.

This lovely evergreen grows slowly, adding just one new tier of branches per growing season, to a height of 91-183 cm (3-6 ft.) indoors. Outdoors, the Norfolk Island Pine can grow up to 61 metres (200 ft.) in height.

Norfolk Island Pines can live as long as 150 years in their natural habitat. With the proper care, an indoor Norfolk will provide many years of joy – and will help make the air in your home or office easier to breathe.

We wish you a joyous holiday season and a Shiny New Year!

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 4

Philodendron is a large genus of flowering plants in the Araceae family. The two most effective air-purifying Philodendrons are the Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’) and the Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum).

The Heartleaf Philodendron, often used in hanging baskets or trained to climb, is easy to grow and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. This native of Mexico and Central America adds oxygen to the air and filters out toxins such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene.

The Elephant Ear Philodendron is a very low-maintenance houseplant that can easily survive in just about any place in a room — and they even respond well to artificial light. This Philodendron is not a climber and has large, broad, heart-shaped leaves as well as the same air-cleansing qualities as its cousin.

Please note that Philodendrons are poisonous to cats and dogs.

Posted on Categories Green Living

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 3

Broad Leaf Lady Palm 

The Broad Leaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), a native of Taiwan and China is one of the most popular houseplants in the world; it’s been used as an indoor plant in Japan for over 500 years, and is widely known as one of the easiest plants to grow.

Unlike other household plants that produce only oxygen, the Broad Leaf Lady Palm will remove common household toxins such as ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene and carbon monoxide, making the air safer and cleaner to breathe.

This graceful and elegant palm does best in bright, indirect sunlight and will tolerate a wide range of temperatures (-6 – 37ºC). The soil should be kept uniformly moist, but not left in standing water, as sogginess will rot the plant’s root system.

 

Devil’s Ivy 

Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pathos (Epipremnum aureumt) is a popular, attractive houseplant with small, green, heart-shaped leaves and variegated white and yellow accents. Often sold as a decorative hanging plant, it prefers to live near a bright window out of direct sunlight in moist, peaty soil.

This native of the Solomon Islands is not only easy to care for, but has the added benefit of being extremely efficient at cleaning household air pollutants, such as xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

A word of caution, this plant is toxic when ingested, especially for pets. Seek immediate veterinary assistance if you suspect your pet has consumed any part of this plant.

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 2

Florist’s Chrysanthemum

Florist’s Chrysanthemum, also known as Florist’s Daisy and Hardy Garden Mum (chrysanthemum moriflium), is a beautiful perennial plant that’s often found in homes and offices for its long-lasting and various coloured blooms. This houseplant needs a medium amount of water and flourishes in direct sunlight.

Those lovely flowers not only brighten up a room, but they also help clean the air of many common chemicals found indoors, including formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, benzene, toluene and trichloroethylene.

While they’re beneficial and beautiful to have around, a word of caution: they are poisonous to animals and can make cats and dogs very sick if ingested. If your pet has consumed any part of this plant, call a veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

Flamingo Lily

Flamingo Lily (Anthurium andraeanum) is a beautiful flowering plant that is an excellent houseplant for removing air-borne toxins commonly found indoors. Their large, dark leaves suck up ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene.

These plants are durable and fairly easy to grow as houseplants and will thrive for years if cared for properly — they can even last for a year or two in the most adverse conditions.

Flamingo Lily plants should be thoroughly watered regularly, allowing the soil to dry only slightly before watering again. They should only receive indirect sunlight, never full sunlight, and enjoy a draft-free, humid environment.