07 November 2012

Is Cleanliness Overrated?

I sat in my car for a chilly hour and a half this morning while waiting in line for gas.  This gave me ample opportunity to notice how dirty the car has gotten.  To keep myself busy, I shook out the mats, brushed the seats with the snow brush, and dusted the dashboard.

Really cleaning, though, requires a vacuum cleaner.  A thorough cleaning would demand a steam cleaner for the seats.

Think about that for a minute: you can't clean a car without using electricity.  And that electricity probably got generated by burning fossil fuels, although there's an increasing chance of a contribution from solar or hydro or wind or nuclear power.

That got me thinking about cleaning as part of the environmental impact of stuff, beyond the need to use non-toxic cleaning products.

Do we need to wash every article of clothing after every use?  Should the need to vacuum (carpet) rather than sweeping (wood floor), or to dry clean rather than normal washing, be part of the decision making process when furnishing a home or buying clothing?  How can we limit cleaning and its impact?