Norwex® Cloth Independent Testing

My Norwex cloth experiments have moved to my new Dr. Annie's Experiments website. Please read that page there are new experimental results that are not on this page.  


Norwex®, e-cloth®, PollyclothTM, and other assorted microfiber products are very popular these days because they advertise that you can "clean without chemicals". Many people, including me, are tired of breathing toxic fumes when cleaning. With these cloths, you just need to add water and these great cloths pick up most dirt and germs. I have some Norwex cloths, ,e-cloths, and Pollycloths, and I do love using them. I think they are all great as a cleaning cloth. I love how they glide over the surfaces and really do seem to do a great job. The e-cloths are more affordable and are available on Amazon. The Norwex cloths are a bit more expensive and are only available through consultants. They all boast that they contain the highest quality microfiber available. Polly Cloth  is the only one I know of that you can handle being washing with chlorine bleach. I decided to put Norwex to the test!


If you are new to my website, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Annie Pryor. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry from The Ohio State University. After a few years working in a research lab, I "retired" to be a stay-at-home mom. When my first baby got a terrible stomach virus that required a trip to the ER, I decided to research the subject and created this website dedicated to reducing the prevalence of the stomach "flu" in the world. My 3 little kids keep me busy, but I still get a hankering to do experiments now and then. I've tested cleaning productshand sanitizersproduce washing techniques, essential oilsNorwex ClothsSteriPenslaundrylunch box coldnessthe Phone Soap, Spongesand even sunlight. I also happen to be the inventor of a really useful drying rack. I invented it because I needed a convenient place next to the kitchen sink to hang baby bibs up to dry between meals. It is also perfect for drying sports water bottles, dish cloths, food-storage bags, cleaning cloths and many other items. I have a shorter drying rack (12.5 inches tall) and a taller 15 inch rack. The Mommy Genius®  Drying Racks are manufactured in the USA and are available on Amazon. If you would like to be informed when new experimental results are posted, please like my Facebook page

I am also very proud of my daughter, Katie Scarlett. At age 8, she has written, illustrated, and published the first 3 books in a delightful series! Princess Katie and the Fairy Tea Party , Princess Katie and the Mermaid Lagoon and Princess Katie and the Kitty Club are available on amazon. The stories are so sweet and teach about kindness, forgiveness, including others, and doing the right thing. I think every little girl would love them! Please consider buying them for a little girl that you love. Katie gets about a $2 royalty from amazon for each book sold that is getting deposited into her college savings account. 

My thoughts on being "too clean".

Many people are confused and think that I want to kill all the germs in the world. This is not true. There is good bacteria in our bodies and our environment that is extremely important. I consider myself a "norophobe" and not a "germaphobe". I mainly detest stomach viruses and anything that will kill you. I also detest toxic chemicals. So, I don't want to waste my time using a toxic cleaning product that isn't really doing anything or isn't necessary. That is why I wanted to test these products and figure out what is best. So, I don't think you need to sterilize your entire house. It would be impossible anyway.  Our bodies, produce, carpet, floors, clothing, and environment are full of germs. Most of them are harmless or even helpful. My kids come inside covered in dirt every day and snuggle with our dog. Everyone gets PLENTY of germ exposure.  If you have ever taken a toddler outside to play, you know that they get dirt in their mouths, and it is pretty much impossible to keep them "too clean". However, from my schooling and research, I have learned that most nasty illnesses are spread through poop. So, I see no harm in having a clean toilet and washing hands before eating. Washing your hands before eating, keeping a relatively sterile toilet and food preparation surfaces is not going to make a dent in the total number of germs that you are exposed to every day. It will just reduce the likelihood of you coming in contact with a terrible germ. 

UPDATE: When I checked the Norwex website in June 2016, there is no longer any mention of hanging the cloths up to dry for 24 hours to kill germs. They wised up and are now recommending that slightly dirty cloths be hand washed and used again. For deep cleaning, the recommend boiling for 10 minutes. Good job, Norwex. They still say that the cloth "self-purifies", though. 


The Norwex cloths have an additional attribute that the e-cloth does NOT have. The Norwex® EnviroCloth® has embedded antibacterial silver molecules that are supposed to help "purify" the cloth. Some Norwex consultants (but not all of them) say that the cloths are self-cleaning and all the germs will die in the cloth after hanging dry for 24 hours. They say that you don't need to wash it between uses. You can just rinse it, let it dry, and use it again. The Norwex company itself doesn't make that claim. In their catalog, the Norwex company states "The Antibacterial agent is physically embedded inside tiny microfibers".  The Norwex website also states," Once inside the cloth, the Norwex MicroSilver in the cloth goes to work with self-purification properties against mold, fungi and bacterial odor within 24 hours, so that it is ready to use again." The word "antibacterial" and the "ready to use again" part of that statement definitely leads you to believe that the cloth is CLEAN after hanging dry. So, it is not surprising that many people, including some Norwex consultants, are under the impression that the cloths kill bacteria because of the silver molecules. I have gotten countless requests from Norwex fans asking me to test the cloth for germ-killing ability. The e-cloth company does not make any germ killing claims. Anyway, I decided to determine if the Norwex EnviroCloth with its antibacterial micro silver can kill bacteria within the cloth. 


Here is the basic procedure that I used to determine if all the bacteria DIE within the Norwex cloth. I had a brand new blue and a brand new green Norwex EnviroCloth, a brand new green and a brand new purple e-cloth, a brand new 100% cotton white washcloth, and a brand new 100% cotton stripped dish cloth from Target.

First, I used a black permanent marker to make a circle near the corner of each cloth. I would put the germs inside those circles so I would remember exactly where they were.

Then I washed the cloths in the washing machine on hot using Tide Free and Gentle Detergent and then put them in a hot clothes dryer. I did not use bleach, fabric softener, or dryer sheets. There was no lint. Wearing disposable gloves, I took the cloths directly from the hot dryer and hung them on my Mommy Genius Drying Rack so they would stay perfectly clean.  

Next I made "germ water". For each experiment I used different "germ water". Sometimes it was made with a scoop of dirt from the back yard mixed with water and then poured through a paper towel to remove chunks. I give more detail on the particular germ water used for each experiment later on. 

After the cloths were cool, I used a sterile syringe to put 1mL of "germ water" onto the circle on each cloth.  

Then I let the cloths hang dry on my Mommy Genius Drying Rack for the specified time (at least 24 hours). It is important to note that the Norwex company would recommend that you wash the cloth with Norwex dishwashing detergent, scrub it, and rinse the cloth in warm water to get it very clean before hanging it up to dry. I did not do this because I'm trying to determine if the cloth itself can kill bacteria. So, I didn't want to rinse the bacteria out first. However, if you are really using the cloth to clean, you should follow those official Norwex instructions.  

After the drying time, I used a sterile syringe to put 1mL of distilled water onto each circle. 

Then I would press the OPPOSITE side of the cloth/circle onto an agar plate. I used the opposite side of the cloth so the bacteria had to travel all the way through the cloth and come out the other side in addition to surviving the drying. I used these agar plates that are available on Amazon in case you want to do your own experiments. 

Then I incubated the plates in my warm incubator (about 90 degrees F) overnight and took photos the next day. Here are the results. The white dots you see on the agar plates are piles of millions of bacteria.


For this first experiment, I used "germ water" containing dirt and bacteria. I took a scoop of dirt from the back yard and mixed it with water. I poured it through paper towel to filter out chunks. Then I scrapped a little bit of bacteria from a previous days agar plates and mixed that in to add extra bacteria. Then I put 1mL of this germ water onto the circle of each cloth and let it dry for the specified time. Then I added 1mL of distilled water and pressed the opposite side of the cloth onto the agar plate. 

I tested a Norwex EnviroCloth, the white 100% cotton washcloth, and the 100% cotton striped dish cloth.  As you can see, there was lots of live bacteria in each cloth even after hanging dry for 24 hours.


For this next experiment, I used "germ water" that contained no dirt, just bacteria. I scrapped some bacteria off a previous days agar plate and mixed it with distilled water. Then I put 1mL of this germ water onto the circle of each cloth and let it dry for 31 hours. Then I added 1mL of distilled water and pressed the opposite side of the cloth onto the agar plate. 

I tested the Norwex EnviroCloth, the white washcloth, the e-cloth general purpose cloth, and the 100% cotton dishcloth from Target. For this experiment, I did a negative control. I put 1mL of distilled water on a clean spot of the Norwex cloth (that I had not added bacteria to) and I pressed the clean spot onto the negative control plate. As you can see, all the cloths still had live bacteria on them (with the exception of the clean spot of the Norwex cloth that was the negative control. 


For this next experiment,  I wanted to use some regular germs that you might encounter in your every day life, instead of my homemade germ water. From my previous experiment testing produce, I learned that a bag of shredded iceberg lettuce has a lot of bacteria, so I tested lettuce water. 

I added 1/2 cup of distilled water to a bag of shredded iceberg lettuce, shook it up, and let it sit out on the countertop overnight to grow a little more bacteria. Then I put 1mL of that germy lettuce water (without any lettuce chunks) onto each cloth circle and let it dry for 27.5 hours. I tested the Norwex Envirocloth, the stripped dish cloth, and the white washcloth. 

I used a clean spot on the dishcloth for the negative control. As you can see, even after 27.5 hours, there is still live bacteria on all the cloths. 


For this next experiment, I used another bag of shredded lettuce. This time I did not let it sit out at all. I wanted this experiment to be just like what would happen if you wiped up a little spilled salad and hung the cloth up to dry without rinsing it. I wanted it to have a very small amount of bacteria. I put 1/2 cup of distilled water in the lettuce bag it and shook it up. I put 1 mL of that lettuce water onto each cloth (no lettuce pieces) and let them dry for 29 hours.
  I tested my green and blue Norwex cloths. I did not test the other cotton cloths this day because I only had 3 agar plates left.  After drying, I put 1mL of distilled water onto each cloth circle and pressed the OPPOSITE side of the cloth onto each agar plate. As you can see, after 29 hours, there was still some bacteria in the Norwex cloths even when starting out with a lower amount of bacteria. 


In conclusion, bacteria can live for a surprisingly long time in a dry cloth. I'm not saying that ALL the bacteria survive in a dry cloth. Probably a lot of them do die. But, In my opinion, far too many survive. Since the Norwex company never says that bacteria actually die within the cloth, these results are not surprising. However, they might surprise some of the consultants and customers who thought presence of the antibacterial micro silver meant that they didn't have to worry if they didn't rinse their cloth out perfectly after using. Next I will determine how well rinsing the cloth out perfectly by hand actually works. 


After many requests from Norwex fans, I decided to test whether or not a good, thorough hand washing (according to the Norwex instructions) was good enough to clean a Norwex EnviroCloth. 


For this experiment, I made dirty water by getting a small scoop of mud from the back yard. I mixed it with distilled water, and poured it through a paper towel to filter out chunks. I washed all of my Norwex cloths in the washing machine on hot with NO DETERGENT (because people were concerned that my Tide Free and Clear might harm the cloths) and put them in a hot dryer. 

Then I drew 3 circles on my cloths with permanent marker and put 1mL of dirty water onto each circle. I tested my green Norwex Cloth and my cotton Target dishcloth. 

Here are the dry cloths with the dirty spots hanging on my drying rack. I did not let them hang very long (just while I washed the other cloth).

I pressed one circle of the each cloth onto an agar plate. This would be the positive control which would certainly grow a lot of bacteria. 

Then I washed the cloths, one at a time, according to the official Norwex instructions. I used warm water (105 degrees F). First, I got the cloth all wet. 

Then I put 1 drop of Norwex Dishwashing liquid on the middle of the cloth. I also put one drop of the Norwex Dishwashing liquid into the center of EACH dirty circle (so 4 drops total per cloth). Then I scrubbed and rubbed the cloth against itself (outside of the water) for 1.5 minutes. I scrubbed the heck out of the dirty circles. Then, I thoroughly rinsed the cloth under running water for 1 minute. The total "hand wash" time was 3 minutes. I really felt like that was the best hand washing job that could be done. 

 I rung the cloth out thoroughly and hung it back on the drying rack. It looked perfectly clean.

Then I pressed the second dirty circle from each cloth onto an agar plate. I also took a swab of the running tap water and rubbed it on a plate to make sure my tap water wasn't adding any bacteria to the cloths. The agar plates were incubated for 24 hours in my warm incubator. 

Then I let the cloths hang dry for 26 hours. After 26 hours, I put 1mL of sterile water onto the the third dirty circle on each dry cloth to wet it again and pressed that circle onto an agar plate. The agar plates were incubated for 24 hours. 


As you can see, the clean control (clean spot on the Norwex cloth) and the tap water had no growth. As expected, there was bacteria growing on the positive controls which were the dirty circles BEFORE they were washed. There was very little bacterial growing on the plates from the cloths AFTER the extensive hand washing. There were 2 colonies on the Norwex plate and 3 colonies on the dishcloth plate. These results are consistent with the Norwex recommendations that SLIGHTLY dirty cloths can be hand washed and used again. 

After the 26 hour drying time, there was only 1 bacteria colony on each plate. 

I did the experiment another time, but this time I added extra bacteria to the dirty water. I also scrubbed the cloths for a longer time so the hand washing took 4 minutes. 

These results show no growth on the clean spot on the Norwex cloth, no growth on the clean spot on the dish cloth, and no growth from the sink water as expected. The dirty circles BEFORE washing had a LOT of growth (since there was more bacteria added). I was really, really surprised that after my 4 minute thorough hand washing (using Norwex dish washing liquid DIRECTLY on the dirty circles) that there was still so much bacteria left after hand washing. The cloths LOOKED perfectly clean. 

These cloths were dried for 28 hours and then the third circle was pressed onto an agar plate after drying. Not surprisingly, there was still bacteria present in the cloths, possibly less than was there right after the hand washing. So, maybe some died during the drying. However, as my earlier experiments showed, I am not detecting any significant benefit from the "antibacterial silver" present in the Norwex cloths. 

To sum up, it is much more difficult than I thought to hand wash ALL the germs out of a cloth, and all the bacteria don't die when a cloth hangs up to dry. This is not what I wanted to hear, either. I sell a DRYING RACK for heavens sake. I would have LOVED to say "All you need to do is rinse out your Norwex cloths and hang them on my drying rack to dry. No need for laundry. Buy a drying rack." However, that is just not true, and I can't have anyone getting salmonella because I kept my results a secret. So, do not buy my drying rack in hopes of sanitizing your cloths. Instead, buy more cloths so you have more clean ones available to use until you have time properly clean them. Which brings me to my test set of experiments. 

UPDATE: When I checked the Norwex website in June 2016, there is no longer any mention of hanging the cloths up to dry for 24 hours to kill germs. They wised up and are now recommending that slightly dirty cloths be hand washed and used again. For deep cleaning, the recommend boiling for 10 minutes. Good job, Norwex. They still say that the cloths "self-purify", though.

What is the best way to sterilize Norwex cloths between uses?

I think it is fine to use one Nowex cloth, e-cloth, or cotton washcloth for the whole day of wiping up the kitchen as long as you didn't use it to wipe up raw meat. I suggest hand washing it between uses and hanging it up to dry. However, at night (or after wiping up raw meat) I recommend retiring that cloth until it can be properly cleaned. Get a new, clean cloth out the next morning and start each day with a fresh one. But what is the best way to really get the germs out of the cloth? We have already established that hand washing doesn't do a very good job. Norwex cloths are not supposed to be bleached. PollyCloth is allowed to be washed with chlorine bleach according to their website. If you look at my laundry experiments, you will see how much more effective chlorine bleach in the laundry is than everything else. So, I tested out a few other methods. 

Washer and Dryer

The easiest way to clean a cloth would be to put in a hot washer and a hot dryer. Surely, washing on hot and an hour in a hot dryer will kill all the germs, right? I've always assumed that. However, I needed to actually test it. 

 First, I drew 3 circles on each cloth with permanent marker and put 1mL of dirty water (made with mud from the back yard) onto each circle.

I tested a Norwex cloth and a cotton washcloth. 

I pressed one dirty spot from each cloth onto an agar plate as the dirty controls. 

Then I washed the cloths on the hot normal cycle in my 1 year old HE Samsung top loader. After the cloths were done in the washer, I pressed the second dirty circle from each cloth onto an agar plate. Then the cloths spent an hour in my  Samsung dryer on the sanitize setting. After coming out of the dryer, I put 1mL of sterile water onto the 3rd circle of each cloth and pressed that onto an agar plate (because the cloth needs to be wet to efficiently transfer germs to the plate). The plates were incubated for 24 hours. 

Much to my dismay, the cloths were still not germ-free even after going through the washer and dryer! This experiment has been repeated many times. In fact, it has spawned a whole month of washer/dryer laundry experiments and you can see those results on my laundry page

Here are the results of an experiment where I compared hand washing to machine washing of two Norwex cloths. I put the 1mL of germ water (with lots of dirt and bacteria) onto the circles on each cloth. I hand washed one cloth for a total of 4 minutes using hot (120 degree F) tap water and Norwex detergent. The machine washed cloth was done in hot water with Tide Free and Clear detergent. Then I dabbed the "clean" cloths onto agar plates. 

As you can see, the machine washing did better than the hand washing, but it was not STERILE like I had hoped. See more laundry results here. 


Boiling is more labor intensive than the washer and dryer, but it would certainly kill all the germs, right? Laure Ingalls describes in detail how they boiled all their laundry once a week in her "Little House on the Prairie" books. I always assumed that if a germ was in boiling water for a mere 2 seconds, then it would die. So, I did an experiment where I drew 3 circles on my cloths with marker. I put 1mL of dirty water on to each circle. I pressed one spot from each cloth onto an agar plate for the dirty control. Then I boiled the cloths for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. I stirred occasionally while the cloths were boiling because they would balloon up, and I had to push them back under the water.  

After the cloths were boiled, I let them cool briefly on my drying rack and then pressed the formerly dirty circles onto an agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24 hours. I tested Norwex, e-cloth, and cotton cloths over the course of a few experiments. 

I don't know about you, but I am STUNNED that any bacteria could survive 2 minutes of boiling! There were even a few colonies that survived 5 minutes of boiling! So, boiling does a great job sterilizing a cloth, but it is best to boil for a full 10 minutes. 

Soaking in HOT water

One Norwex consultant suggested that I just soak the cloths in very hot water instead of boiling them. So, I boiled water and then took the pot off the burner for a few minutes to cool it a little. Then I soaked the cloths (that had dirty water on them) for 10 minutes. 

For this experiment, the cloths were soaked for 10 minutes in water that went from 200 degrees F down to about 160 degrees F during that 10 minute period. I am shocked that there were still some live germs on the cloth. 

In this experiment, the cloths soaked in water that went from 180 degrees F down to 160 degrees F during the 10 minute soak. There were a TON of live germs. It is mind boggling? Don't we only need to cook chicken to 170? How can this be?

I wondered what the heck was going on. Were there tiny bubbles on the cloth protecting the bacteria? Perhaps it was the STIRRING that was making the difference. In the boiling experiments, the cloths were constantly moving around. However, in these experiments, the cloths were just soaking without being agitated at all. So, for this next experiment, I stood at the stove and stirred for the entire 10 minute period. (It was a huge pain to stand there and stir for 10 minutes. If it is not homemade chocolate pudding, it just isn't worth it.)

As you can see, almost all the bacteria died when the cloths were soaking in the hot water (200 degrees F down to 160 degrees F) for 10 minutes when I stirred. So, agitating is a whole lot more important than I originally thought. I still don't fully understand all of these results, though. For now, I'd suggest just boiling for 10 minutes any cloth that you want to sterilize with occasional stirring. Feel free to consult the manufacturer of your favorite cloth to find out if the cloths can withstand repeated boiling. 


Microwaving would be an easy way to sterilize the cloths so I decided to test that. I made germ water that contained dirt from the back yard (so it is a totally reasonable amount of bacteria that you would likely encounter while cleaning regularly). I got the cloths wet and rung them out. Then I folded the cloths over twice and put 4 mL's of germ water on each cloth. I put 2 mL's on the top of the cloth and 2 mL's on the inside, because I wanted to see if the microwave would "cook" the different layers evenly. After microwaving, I let them cool for a minute and pressed the dirty spots onto an agar plate. I tested 2 different Norwex cloths and a cotton cloth in these experiments. 

I microwaved them on a paper plate. 

I covered the cloth with a paper plate too. 

I microwaved for various time periods. As you can see, 1 minute and 2 minutes were not long enough to kill all the bacteria. I also took the temperature of the cloths after 2 minutes using my meat thermometer and they were about 180 degrees F. 

3 minutes was not long enough to kill everything. 

5 minutes did not quite kill everything either. 

So, microwaving certainly killed a lot of germs, but I was never able to get the completely sterile cloth that I got with 10 minutes of boiling. I was afraid to microwave the cloth longer than 5 minutes. I wasn't quite sure if anything bad would happen. 

Just to compare, here is what grows when I press a piece of Bounty paper towel onto an agar plate (after wetting it with sterile water.) 

Nothing grows. A roll of paper towel is pretty sterile. 


I think the Norwex cloths and e-cloths are great to clean with. I love how they glide over the surface. I always use my Norwex and e-cloths to clean my fake wood floor. I really think the floor looks cleaner and shinier than if I use a cotton washcloth. On taco night when I am wiping up shredded cheddar from the floor, I always grab the e-cloth or Norwex because they just seems to pick it all up easier. However, all cloths, including the Norwex EnviroCloth, need to be sanitized.  I think it is fine to use one cloth for the whole day. I rinse it out between uses and hang mine on my Drying Rack next to the sink. But at night, mine goes into the laundry basket, and the next day I get out a clean cloth. Of course, if you wipe up raw meat or raw chicken, that cloth needs to be immediately retired to the laundry or boiled. If you feel comfortable using the same cloth for several days, that is up to you. But know that the cloth is most likely full of bacteria. 

It is certainly a lot harder than I expected to get the germs out of any cloth. 10 minutes of boiling is ideal but washing on hot in the washer and dryer is more convenient and, hopefully, good enough. My laundry experiments showed that if your washer has a sanitize cycle that might be good enough. Of course, now that I know how difficult it is to get all the germs out of a cloth, I will personally be wiping up raw meat, vomit, or diarrhea with paper towel and not even attempting to clean that stuff out of a cloth. I will still be using my e-cloths and Norwex for most of my regular cleaning, though. I do truly love to clean with them. Once you've wiped up with an e-cloth or Norwex, it is hard to go back to a cotton washcloth. Please realize that while the cloths are great, they are not magic. Be smart, you should not be wiping up raw chicken and then wiping off the baby's highchair tray because you think the cloths couldn't possibly transfer germsI am also a big fan of using 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect sinks and countertops daily. You can see my amazing hydrogen peroxide experimental results on the cleaning products page

UPDATE: When I checked the Norwex website in June 2016, there is no longer any mention of hanging the cloths up to dry for 24 hours to kill germs. They wised up and are now recommending that slightly dirty cloths be hand washed and used again. For deep cleaning, the recommend boiling for 10 minutes. Good job, Norwex. 


Which picks up more bacteria, a Norwex Cloth, Clorox Wipe, Bounty paper towel, or cotton washcloth? 

Based on my previous experiments, I don't believe that the Norwex cloth possesses any significant bacteria-killing ability. I have already shown that boiling for 10 minutes is the best way to sterilize ANY cloth. However, I still wanted to know if the Norwex is better and picking up germs off a surface than other cloths and wipes. I have always loved cleaning with my Norwex and e-cloth, and I wondered if they were really doing a better job. So, I did an experiment where I wiped dirt and germs off my countertop. Then I compared how much bacteria was left.

First, I boiled the cotton washcloth and the Norwex cloth for 10 minutes to make sure that I was starting with sterile cloths. I let them cool fully. Then, I made germ water by taking a scoop of mud from the back yard and mixed it in sterile water. I filtered that through paper towel to remove chunks. Then I scrapped colonies of bacteria off of an agar plate from a previous days "dirty hands" experiment. I mixed it all up. This germ water contained a lot of dirt and bacteria.

I used masking tape to section off squares on my kitchen countertop and put 1mL of the germ water into each square using a sterile 1mL syringe. 

Then I rubbed the germ water all around the square and let it completely dry which took about 2 hours. 

Once dry, I added .5mL of sterile water to the dirty control square, rubbed it around, and swabbed it with a sterile swab. 

I rubbed the swab all around on a sterile agar plate. I also took a swab of the clean control square. 

Now for the fun part. After practicing my wiping technique on a different area of the counter, I thoroughly wiped each square with the respective product. These were very dirty squares, and I wiped them 8 times. That means 8 passes. I wiped up and down 4 times, then flipped the cloth over and wiped 4 more times. 

I tested the regular Clorox wipe. After wiping 8 times, I swabbed the square and rubbed the swab onto an agar plate. Then I waited 3 minutes because the wipes say they need time for the chemicals to kill the bacteria, and then I swabbed the square again. 

I tested Bounty paper towel that I got a little wet with water. After wiping 8 times, I swabbed the square with a sterile swab and rubbed it onto an agar plate. 

I tested a cotton washcloth wet with warm tap water and thoroughly wrung out. After wiping 8 times, I swabbed the square and rubbed the swab onto an agar plate.

Then I tested the Norwex Envirocloth. I fully wet the cloth with warm tap water and thoroughly wrung out. After I wiped 8 times, I swabbed the square and rubbed the swab onto an agar plate. 

All the plates were incubated overnight in my warm incubator. I did the entire experiment on 2 different days. 

As you can see, the Norwex cloths do a darn good job removing bacteria from the countertop. They seem to be better than Clorox wipe in my experiments. The Clorox wipe improved at the 3 minute time point after the chemicals had more time to work. However, the Clorox wipe clearly does not pick up bacteria as well as the Norwex. The cotton washcloth and the wet Bounty paper towel do a pretty good job, too. The Norwex does seem a little better, though. So, if you like to do your cleaning with Norwex and avoid the unnecessary chemicals in a Clorox wipe, go for it. I suggest hand washing them and then boiling them for 10 minutes to sterilize them. I would still recommend cleaning up raw meat, vomit, or diarrhea with paper towel that you can throw away because it is difficult to remove germs from any cloth unless you boil it for 10 minutes. And, if you want to spray of the toilets, kitchen sink, and raw meat areas with 3% hydrogen peroxide, I always recommend that. If you want to see more of my cleaning product experiments, visit this page. If you would like to see my laundry experiments, visit this page

Does a Norwex cloth transfer germs to a clean surface?

So, far we have established that Norwex cloths do a darn good job removing bacteria from a kitchen countertop, Norwex cloths themselves do not kill any significant amount of bacteria, and boiling them for 10 minutes is the best way to clean your Norwex cloths. However, people were still wondering if the Norwex cloth transfers germs to a clean surface, so I tested it. I used masking tape to section off squares on my kitchen countertop. I made germ water containing dirt and germs as I did in the previous experiments. I put 1mL of germ water onto each square and spread it around with my gloved hand. I took a swab of this dirty square and rubbed it on an agar plate to be the dirty control. Then I used a clean Norwex cloth and a clean e-cloth (that had been boiled and cooled) to wipe off the squares. The cloths were wrung out but were still wet. I made 4 passes with each cloth on its respective square. This would show me how well the cloth picked up germs. 

Without setting the cloth down, I immediately rubbed the cloth onto a clean square (4 passes). This would show me if the cloth left germs on the clean countertop. (I had already cleaned the countertop square with 3% hydrogen peroxide and swabbed the clean square to make sure it was really sterile.) 

I used sterile swabs to collect bacteria from the dirty squares and the "clean" squares.

I rubbed the swabs onto agar plates.

I did this experiment a few times. On this particular day, I used the water from a bag of iceberg lettuce for the bacteria "germ water". It did not have dirt added or additional bacteria. This is similar to wiping up some spilled salad off your countertop. I also compared a Norwex and an e-cloth. Here are the results.

The plates on the left are the dirty countertop before being wiped. The middle plates show the bacteria left on the countertop after being wiped off. The plates on the right show the bacteria that was transferred to the clean surface. Both the Norwex and the e-cloth picked up a similar amount of bacteria and transferred very little. I was never able to determine if Norwex is better than e-cloth. My experiments are not sensitive enough to pick up small differences. (Let the Norwex consultants compare the Norwex and e-cloths and see if they can show a difference in their chicken tests or whatever.) Both cloths transferred just a few colonies to the clean surface.  

Here are the Norwex results from a different day where I tested the Norwex and Bounty paper towel. There was actual dirt and extra bacteria added in the germ water for this experiment. 

The paper towel seemed to have transferred more bacteria than the Norwex. You may wonder why the cloths are leaving so many germs behind when the cloths did better in my last set of experiments where I compared the Norwex to the Clorox wipe. The reason is most likely because I did not flip the cloths over. When I did experiments to show that Norwex was a little better than a Clorox wipe, I wiped 4 times, then flipped the cloths and wiped 4 more times. In these experiments, I just wiped 4 passes and did not flip the cloth, so they did not pick as much up. 

I did another experiment with the Norwex during actual house cleaning. I used a Norwex cloth to wipe up my entire kitchen floor. My in-laws were coming, and it needed cleaned anyway. Then I rinsed the cloth thoroughly in warm water to remove debris, but it was still visibly dirty.

I wiped the Norwex cloth on a clean sterile square on my countertop. I made 8 passes over the square. (I had cleaned it with 3% hydrogen peroxide and swabbed it to be sure it was sterile.)

Then I used a sterile swab to collect any bacteria that may have been transferred.

I rubbed the sterile swab onto an agar plate.

Then I took the dirty Norwex cloth and pressed it directly onto an agar plate.

Here are the results. The first plate on the left is the one that I pressed the dirty Norwex cloth on. The middle square is the swab of the square when it was sterile. The last plate on the right is the swab of the square after I wiped the dirty Norwex on it. There is only 1 colony on that square.

From all of these experiments, I conclude that a Norwex cloth CAN transfer germs, but germ transfer from a Norwex cloth seems to be very small and insignificant as long as the cloth is not too germy. A dirty Norwex cloth balled up with food debris in a laundry basket for a day is too germy to use again without boiling. So, keep those cloths boiled! It is still never a good idea to wipe up raw meat and then continue using that cloth. Also, I do not trust any cloth to clean up after someone with a stomach virus. 10% chlorine bleach water, Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray, paper towel, and disposable gloves are your safest choices in that situation. However, if you want to use Norwex or e-cloth for your everyday cleaning, you have my blessings :) I love using them! I always wipe up my floors with a Norwex or e-cloth. 


I have many more exciting experiments to do. If you would like to suggest an experiment, please post on my facebook page. I also really need to earn money from this website in order to keep doing experiments (agar plates, essential oils, and cleaning products are expensive). If you want to contribute, please use my Amazon affiliate links. Just click on any of my links that go to amazon, and buy whatever you want. You don't have to buy what I recommend or even the product that the link goes to. Here is a link. I'll get a small percentage of the sale and use the money to buy experiment supplies. Thank you.

--Annie Pryor, Ph.D. 

--Annie Pryor, Ph.D 
phd.annie at 

Viewer Comments

I did my own very simple test with the Enviro cloth that told me it wasn't killing any bacteria
I have a daughter that's been in a coma for 16 years and she got a serious staph aureus infection from her weakened immune system brought on by a fungal infection (after antibiotic use). I cleaned up the staph with the cloth, took it to the bathroom and poured hydrogen peroxide 3% directly on a small area. There were no bubbles on the surface of the cloth, but you could hear a lot of noise from the bubbling inside the cloth. I immediately washed and agitated the cloth with hot water (no soap) wrung it out and hung it up to dry for 24 hours. Then I poured more hydrogen peroxide on a small area of the cloth. This time I expected no bubbling, but instead I heard bubbling inside the cloth but about 60% less than the day before. So I washed it out with hot water again (no soap) exactly as before, wrung it out, and hung it out to dry for another 24 hours. The next day I poured more hydrogen peroxide on the cloth and there was only a very faint bubbling sound inside the cloth. I didn't repeat it again. 
Next I took another contaminated Norwex cloth and boiled it for several min. and found the same bubbling happened to it also. Then I went to 10 min. of active boiling and had no Hydrogen Peroxide reaction when poured it on the cloth. Then I tried the 200 degree water soaking the cloths for 10 min. cooling down to about 160 degrees and found that the cloths bubbled from the Peroxide.Since then I always recommend boiling contaminated cloths for  10 mins (or longer if the cloths are not agitated or stirred long enough). 

Anne Pryor,
Jun 26, 2015, 7:14 PM