Stop Swiffering

Stop Swiffering

Cleaning sucks. Sure, it’s nice and satisfying when you’re done, but stuffing your hands in dirt and swabbing filth around the floor is basically unpleasant. There’s no need to make it more unpleasant by letting a multi-billion dollar conglomerate rob you blind. Put differently: You should stop Swiffering and buy a nice vacuum.

Let me make something very clear: I hate cleaning floors. I attribute this to a traumatic teenage memory. The first and only time my parents caught me drinking in high school, my dad made me clean the kitchen floor five times. Our house was also a restaurant, so this was a back-breaking and rather disgusting job, especially when you’re experiencing your first hangover. I get flashbacks to that punishment every time I pick up a broom or mop — or glass of Jack Daniels.

I remember being kind of intrigued when Swiffer arrived on the scene. The European-looking blade that magically consumed dust felt like a convenient innovation on the old broom-and-mop paradigm. In fact, it was more of a marketing ploy than anything. Proctor and Gamble launched Swiffer in 1999 with the hope of making a boatload money by applying the infamous Gillette approach to household cleaning. The Gillette approach is commonly known as the razor-and-blades business model, where a company gives customers a free or cheap product in order to sell them expensive complementary products.

I did this for years. I bought the dry cloths and the wet cloths in order to get my floors extra clean, and it worked fine. I liked how pushing around the nimble little Swiffer seemed so easy and fun. I hated how pulling off the dirty cloth seemed like changing a nappy, and I really hated how the sloppy wet ones dripped all over my clothes. Over time, I frankly resented how much money I was spending on glorified paper towels. (And, come to think of it, paper towels are kind of a waste of money too.)

So I stopped Swiffering — and you can too. The trick to a cheaper, cleaner lifestyle is not dissimilar to getting rid of your money-sucking Mach 3 razor and investing in a Norelco shaver that doesn’t need expensive new blades every few days. In this case, I put away my Swiffer and got a Dyson V6. While it might seem silly to surrender a large sum of cash to a vacuum company instead of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, but the trade off makes sense in the long run.

Plus, Dyson recently released a new attachment that it promises will suck up fine dust and larger debris better than a Swiffer. There’s no need to buy refills or fiddle with silly clothes. It’s called the Fluffy.

Dyson first showed me the Fluffy at an event earlier this year. True to its name, the plush attachment feels a bit like a cute little puppy. A more accurate analogy, however, would be a paint roller since it’s really just a fluffy column of fabric that spins as you vacuum hard surfaces, pushing dirt up into the Dyson vortex. The demo was impressive as I watched the cordless, drill-shaped vacuum suck up anything from hair to Cheerios to flour, all at once. Most vacuums have trouble dealing with both large and small debris while also keeping your hardwood floor looking good. However, the Fluffy is designed to do just that. But I wasn’t initially convinced that this thing was the Swiffer-killer that Dyson wanted it to be.

I just spent two months using a Dyson instead of my trusty old Swiffer. Now, I’ll never go back. This might seem like a natural conclusion when comparing a $500 vacuum to a $20-ish stick with a block of rubber on the end. The Dyson cleaned faster, better, and more efficiently. In the time that it took me to cram a cloth into the those little Swiffer holes and break my back using the cloth with my foot, I could literally pull the trigger and be halfway done with the whole apartment. The only really annoying thing about using the V6 is the fact that you have to charge it after 20 minutes of continuous use — or about 6 minutes on the max setting.

I’m not saying you should stop Swiffering to save time, though. You should stop burning cash on those stupid cloths. I did the maths and figured out that my weekly Swiffer routine was costing me about $5 per session in wet and dry cloths. That number is based on using six of each to do a thorough clean of my small apartment and buying the materials at my local Duane Reade. That means that a top-of-the-line Dyson would pay for itself in about two years. That figure is not counting the extra labour involved in swapping out cloths and going to the store.

The X-axis represents the number of weeks cleaning, while the Y-axis is the amount of money spent on materials. Notice how nice and flat the vacuums are!

But you don’t necessarily need to buy an expensive Dyson product either. More conservatively priced alternatives include the Hoover Linx, the Shark Navigator, and the very Dyson-like Shark Rocket. Any of those options would pay for itself in a few months, although I can’t vouch for their capabilities on bare floors. You could also just buy a broom and mop or just get on your hands and knees and scrub the deck with a rag, like Cinderella.

At the end of the day, nobody should be buying into the Gillette-inspired scam that is Swiffer. Beyond being expensive and annoying, the disposable cloths take their toll on the environment. If technology is meant to do anything, it’s meant to make our lives better. Proctor and Gamble wants to sell you Swiffer stuff under the auspices that it’s making cleaning floors easier. There’s no reason to convolute corporate greed with convenience, though. The two seldom go hand-in-hand.

Pictures: Tara Jacoby, Michael Hession