One day my wife brought home an invitation to a Norwex party after picking up our son from preschool. Apparently all the mothers were positively glowing about their microfiber cloth products. They were saying that you didn’t need any cleaning solutions, just this use this silver impregnated microfiber cloth and water. The claim sounded too good to be true; it set my skeptic senses tingling.
The first thing I did was try to find the Norwex website to see exactly what they sold and what they claimed. From their website:
Our line of cleaning products will save you time & money, improve health, and move towards creating a better environment. Norwex microfiber goes beyond “surface clean” with the innovative use of silver particles integrated into synthetic microfiber cloth ensure:
- Single-celled micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses cannot survive or adapt in silver exposure
- Surface-to-surface cross-contamination is eliminated
- Rapidly drying cloths prevent bacteria growth in the cloth itself
Cleaning with water only produces a healthy outcome for us and the environment.
Laboratory tests have proven that Norwex antibacterial microfiber reduced bacteria by 99.99% in 24 hours!
Breaking the marketing down line by line I spotted the following red flags:
- The product makes some big claims.
- Since when is a virus a micro-organism?
- They only give laboratory results for antibacterial properties, but what about fungi, yeast, and viruses?
And I asked the following questions:
- How do the silver particles in the cloth get close enough to kill the “micro-organisms” on the surface?
- Who performed these laboratory tests, what tests were performed, and what were the actual results?
- Would you get the same result with a normal Micro-fiber cloth?
The red flags by themselves don’t necessarily mean the claims aren’t true. Many legitimate products inflate their claims and get facts wrong in ad copy — colloquially people call a virus a micro-organism, but technically it’s not. I was a bit more worried about the cherry picking of results. Still there wasn’t enough information from the Norwex website to make an informed decision.
The next thing to ask was, “does the science check out?” Unfortunately, in this case there was so much misinformation about silver on the web that trying to wade through the ton of information to separate out the science from the bunk would have been pointless for somebody who’s not a microbiologist.
The only thing left for me was to try to find other trustworthy people who have written about the product and see if their reasoning held up. Searching for Norwex on Google, I was buried in sites giving the products glowing reviews — all testimonials and anecdotal evidence, no real science. The only place I found people critical of Norwex was a thread in the JREF forums.
On the forums several people asked the same questions I did. One reasonable sounding person, who turned out to be a Norwex consultant, gave the name of a different Norwex website that seemed to explain some of their claims without the marketing speak, but still didn’t address the elephant in the room: are Norwex microfiber cloths any better than normal microfiber cloths or other common cleaning products? One person actually acquired studies Norwex cites and forwarded them on to another forum poster who said he was a biologist. Here’s his summary:
Overall, none of the cited materials say anything valid about the superiority of the Norwex microfiber cloth (or the earlier ACT cloth) over cleaning with an actual cleaner (e.g. bleach). The only testing that they cite was completely non valid for that purpose, and involved dropping a material on a surface and wiping it off. This is entirely unlike actual household or hospital conditions. Based on my review of the supplied documents provided by Norwex, it is my opinion as a biologist that their claims of being able to safely and effectively replace chemical cleaning agents with just water are unsupported.
In conclusion, I never found any real hard evidence to back up the claims Norwex makes, only anecdotes, testimonials, and marketing hype. Until they publish some real peer-reviewed, double blind studies, I would neither spend my money on their product nor trust it to disinfect any area of my home.