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October 23, 2008

Skoy cloths: they’re plastic-free and save many, many paper towels.

 

I gave up paper towels when I first went plastic-free since all brands come wrapped in plastic. Later, I realized how wasteful the whole idea of paper towels is in the first place. So I switched to natural cellulose sponges and cut-up rags. (Microfiber cloths are a no-no for the plastic-free crowd because they’re made from… uh… plastic.)

The thing is, sponges get gross and don’t dry out quickly, so they tend to smell bad after a while. And the rags I was using weren’t particularly absorbent. Then, a few weeks ago, I read about Skoy cloths on the Crunchy Domestic Goddess blog, and thought they sounded like a great idea.

Skoy cloths are 100% biodegradable, as they’re made from cotton and cellulose. They’re also chlorine-free and contain water-based colors and inks. While highly absorbent like sponges, they are thin and dry out fast. The company claims that one Skoy cloth can replace 15 rolls of paper towels and can last for over a year. I guess it depends on how often you use paper towels. I don’t think I’ve gone through that many in my lifetime. But then, I wasn’t counting.

Anyway, I emailed the company and asked for a sample. But not, of course, before asking about the packaging. Guess what! Zero plastic. They come packaged just as you see in the picture, with a simple cardboard strip holding the 4-pack together. And in fact, Michelle Lundqvist, who sent the cloths to me, said, “We really tried hard to find a way to package without plastic.”

So far, Michael and I are really pleased with the cloths. (Well, I should say Michael is, since he does most of the actual cleaning. What a guy!) The fact that they last such a long time (washable in dishwasher or washing machine and microwavable when wet) and can be composted at the end of their lives makes them nearly perfect.

Nearly? Well, the web site says they’re made from “natural cotton” rather than organic cotton. Perhaps we could ask Skoy to create an organic version. A 4-pack of regular Skoy cloths costs $5.99. Would you pay more for organic?

Right now, Skoy cloths are mainly sold online and in a few retail stores. I haven’t found them anywhere in my area yet. But if they last for as long as they claim, I won’t need to buy any more for quite a while.

Have you tried Skoy cloths? And if so, what do you think?

10/27/08 Update: One FPF reader mentioned Twist Cloths, which are sold at Whole Foods. First of all, Twist cloths are packaged in plastic, while Skoy cloths are not. To find out other differences, I emailed Skoy, and this is Michelle’s reponse:

Beth, We welcome you to try the difference between Twist and Skoy. We think Skoy will be the winner. It is a superior product and below defines that.

The differences between Skoy and Twist:

1. SKOY is made of cotton and cellulose and Twist is cellulose only (cotton net). This gives SKOY a rag-like feel rather than sponge-like.
2. Twist’s products are made in China and SKOY in Germany. Our factory is leaps and bounds above on environmental awareness.
3. Twist’s sponges are packed wet – feel free to investigate wetting/antibacterial agents in sponges and you will see the harmful effects to the environment. SKOY uses no antibacterial agent or wetting agent.
4. SKOY is washer and dryer safe and Twist instructs not to put in dryer.
5. SKOY has fun designs, Twist does not
6 SKOY has a full range of colors making SKOY more modern and fashionable.
8. SKOY uses no plastic in packaging, only recyclable paper.

Personally, I don’t care about colors and designs, but some of the other differences are very interesting to me!
 



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21 comments
 Assilem
Assilem

What do you do about cat messes? (only vomit so far, but possibly other messes later). Thanks!

dshaw1221
dshaw1221

So, I have a question for the masses.  I haven't done enough research here but it appears to me that there needs to be an evaluation here between the environmental impact from using something like a paper towel versus that of using a reusable cloth as a replacement for paper towels or napkins.  Presumably the reusable cloth or towel (I've heard much about this product, for example: http://www.paperlesskitchen.com/collections/people-towels ) is better simply because it's not a one time use, disposable product that contributes to landfills. But what about the environmental impact of the water you need to use to clean your cloth or towel (especially if you are doing it in a dishwasher or laundry machine). Again, I haven't researched this but I'm very curious to know whether the water and electricity you need to run a dishwasher or laundry machines outweighs the consequences of a paper towel (and I know a paper towel requires water and electricity to produce but economies of scale come into play).  

Rebecca Fogg
Rebecca Fogg

While traveling in New Zealand a few years ago I got converted to cotton dish cloths (they look like wash cloths, but are for dishes...you just throw them in the washing machine when they need cleaning), Shortly after, a relative gave me a woolen crochet dish cloth (very open crochet style)...it's great! Dries really quickly and doesn't get smelly. 

 

Michelle Lundqvist
Michelle Lundqvist

Hi Beth! Michelle here from Skoy - just checked back and read some comments. Two things. Twist sponge cloth is made in China - they have one product made in Mexico and try to use that as where "all" their products are made. I am sorry about the plastic from Amazon, but when we found out - we contacted them and explained the importance of no plastic and now they are shipping plastic-free. All my best...

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi. As I recall, Twist does come in plastic packaging. But double check. Also, someone told me that she ordered Skoy cloths through Amazon and they came packaged in plastic. But if you get them directly from Skoy, there is no plastic.

kanishka
kanishka

thinking about switching to skoy. if i remember right, the twist loofah sponge i buy does not come in plastic packaging. for materials used, i'm not sure which one is better. for production process, based on skoy's claim, they win. "2. Twist’s products are made in China and SKOY in Germany. Our factory is leaps and bounds above on environmental awareness." correction, from what i see on the web, twist is made in mexico. and they try to support their workers. from a workers right stand point, Germany has a stronger record. from resources used in shipping from factory to usa, looks like twist wins. i'll probably go with skoy based on German worker's rights and claims about cleaner production method.

Nikki
Nikki

A friend (thanks MaryAnne) sent one of these great cloths home with my husband from church... (to say the angels sang "Alleluiah" would be lyin', and just because I'm not Catholic, doesn't meant that I don't still wanna go to heaven) ... BUT I did love it, and I will keep passing on the great news of this product!

stella
stella

I’ve wondered how good these are.Totally agree. Thanks for sharing that.

Berry
Berry

Hi,I gave up using paper towels over a year ago. We use cloth napkins, wipes, etc for cleaning ourselves up. I have a kitchen rag I use to wipe up spills. If I have to wipe the floor, I use it and then start a new one. Regarding Kim's question about what to use on greasy items (oiling cast iron, bacon grease, etc)-I use a tea towel designated for oil. Then I wash it in hot soapy water in my sink, rinse it out, then simply wash it with other towels in the regular wash. I DO use hot water for towels (and underwear/socks and diapers). Everything else is on cold water. I've never had a problem with grease transferring to other items.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hey Kim. I suggest you email Michelle at Skoy and ask her your question. She's really nice and responsive. She might have a solution for you.michelle[at]skoycloth[dot]com

Kim
Kim

Thanks.We don't have a dishwasher, unless you count my kids :) I was just wondering what other people were doing since this is the last area that we really use paper towels in. I've tried the soaking method but the grease and oil still tends to transfer to the sheets and other towels that the greasy stuff is washed with. I guess we'll just continue to use regular paper towels for these few things.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Kim. You can put Skoy cloths in the dishwasher. I'm wondering if that would be better than the laundry since the dishwasher already contains greasy dishes? You could also keep a bucket of soapy water for soaking them beforehand.

Kim
Kim

This might be a silly question but I was wondering what you do for greasy foods? I use paper towels for oiling my cast iron and for greasy food because I cannot figure out a substitute. Using rags for this kind of thing just doesn't work since I can't wash them with the rest of my laundry.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Lauren. Don't know if they're the same, but I do know that the ones at Whole Foods come wrapped in plastic.

jennconspiracy
jennconspiracy

I just use rags - same rags have lasted 15 years. I don't use a dishwasher so not sure if there would be much of an advantage. *shrug*

Allie
Allie

Oh wow! Those sound fantastic. I use rags, but they aren't as absorbent, and then I have a big bin of rags to wash. I love the idea of being able to just throw these in the dishwasher, and it seems like they will pick up a lot more than a rag would.

Jennifer
Jennifer

Sounds like a good idea. It would be nice to have an organic option... I might pay a little more for organic (I can see paying $10 for a 4x)

Natalie
Natalie

My dad is very waste-conscious mostly for the sake of being frugal, and I don't think he uses paper towels at all.  To clean up after cats he uses a dustpan and rubber gloves (I'm not sure if he uses the gloves to get the stuff onto the dustpan) to get rid of the 3 dimensional part and then cleans up with soapy water and a mop or rag.  I always thought it was a little gross but he does clean up the dustpan and everything so it shouldn't be a safety concern.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @ Assilem I would use a Skoy cloth to clean up cat vomit.  They rinse out really well.  But for something like poop... I use toilet paper.  :-)

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi dshaw1221.  The impact of the disposable towel is not simply from its end of life but from production as well.  Paper requires a lot of water to produce.  And paper towels come packaged in plastic, which is made from all kinds of nasty chemicals and pollutes the air and water when it's manufactured.  So as long as you use a reusable product enough times to make up for its production costs, it will come out ahead.

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