Monday, April 26, 2010

Wool Dusters vs. Swiffer Nation, and other old timey cleaning suggestions

It's Monday and I have the strange sense that going back to work is actually going to be like taking time off. This weekend I embarked on the great journey that is Spring Cleaning.

For the uninitiated, spring cleaning is different than your regular ho hum sweep-and-mop cleaning. It is moving everything (yes, including the couch and the dresser), getting the dust out of the corners and high-up places, throwing stuff out, reorganizing closets and pantries, and really getting the settled winter grime OUT! Two days and two absolutely exhausted evening foot baths later, my living room is still upside-down, books are sprawled everywhere, the fridge is pretty much empty, and the cat is utterly confused about the new state of things. however, the floors are spotless, the pantry is finally sensible, all of the winter's mouse holes in the walls are stopped up with steel wool, and I finally have enough drawer space for my clothing upstairs (read - my clothing's default home is no longer on the floor).

Over the weekend I have, unfortunately, discovered that the world no longer believes in proper wool dusters. Apparently, everyone uses Swiffers now. To be honest, I only know what Swiffers are thanks to a year spent living in college dorms, but I know them well enough to know that they are tacky and disposable, so I am opposed to them on principal. Nothing, in my experience, has ever worked so well as a proper wool duster (on an extendable pole for high-up windows or under the bed). The duster just needs a good shake outside to clean it, and it's good for a generation or so with no need to replace anything. The Swiffer, on the other hand, is just a ploy to get us to buy baby-wipes for the bottom of a fake mop that "dusts" while releasing noxious "Hawaiian Breeze" scent into an otherwise decent-smelling living room. My grumpy old lady tendencies aside, suffice it to say that I truly regret the sacrifice of useful and long-lasting cleaning tools to the god of profitability in the form of disposable parts. If I can't find a nice wool duster at my local barn sale, I'm going to buy myself one at Lehman's, a lovely Mennonite catalogue, and I'll still be using it in 20 years, thankyouverymuch.

For those of you who are about to embark on that gratifying and hilarious task of spring cleaning, I have a few suggestions:

Cleaning Sinks
The best way to clean a sinks while keeping drains open is with that great marvel of second great science experiments - baking soda and vinegar. Scrub down the sink with a good helping of baking soda. Add some extra soda to the drain for good measure, then upend a quarter to a half gallon of cheap, white vinegar over the soda, rinsing it off of the sides of the sink and down the drain for a good ten minutes. In the mean time, boil a full kettle of water. After the bubbling has stopped, dump the boiling water into the drain. I clean out my sinks this way every other week, rinsing with very hot tap water instead of boiling water. I reserve a double course of boiling water for thorough cleanings once a season or when my drains start backing up.

It was to my utter surprise that I discovered that proper broom corn brooms are quaint and old fashioned (a good friend let me know by laughing at my broom as if my life were a quaint caricature of old timey living). For those of you who use plastic brooms instead of proper grass ones, let me tell you, you are missing out! Nothing sweeps like a good, wide broom corn broom (it's called broom corn for a reason!). They last longer and are much more effective than their plastic alternatives when paired with a standard dustpan and small dust broom (or a whisk broom if you are so inclined - though even I use a plastic broom for my dustpan). Store your broom by hanging it off a hook or nail or standing it upside-down. if you stand any broom on its sweeping end, it will bend and become useless very soon. If you vacuum rather than sweeping, I highly suggest trying out sweeping. It's quiet, calm, and just as fast and effective. Vacuuming is an assault on ears and the senses. It was invented by that horror that is wall-to-wall carpeting which should really be ashamed of itself for all of the horror and tackiness it has brought into this world. Go and get out some tension by hanging your rugs on a line or over a sturdy tree branch and beating the hell out of them with the broom handle. It really is the best part of spring cleaning, especially if there's someone you'd rather beat the hell out of for not helping out enough.

Laundry separation
As I'm sure you already know, there are 5 (not 2, 3, or 7) baskets for laundry needing attention in the bedroom (listed from largest to smallest basket) - colors, whites, hand wash, fix (for clothing that needs sewing or patching), and dry clean. It helps to also have a kitchen laundry area for tablecloths, towels, and napkins and a utility room laundry basket for rags (in my case, the "utility room" is under the sink). Despite this careful separation, I tend to wash my whites and colors together in cold water, reserving a "whites only" hot and bleached wash (though I use hydrogen perozide instead of bleach) once a year when things get noticeably dingy (the exception being new colored clothing - which tends to leach color and is always washed separately its first time). I also hand wash my dry-clean only clothes but this has more to do with the fact that there are no decent dry cleaning places around here than anything else.

Washing floors
I don't know who told anyone otherwise, but there is only one way to wash floors - mop, bucket, and soap (usually floor soup). anything else, including Swiffers or floor sprays are gimmicks and they'll probably kill your cat they're so toxic. The reason is quite simple - if your floor isn't wet, forcing you to sit still and not walk, it can't possibly be clean and you can't possibly take a break. Just make sure to sweep before moping (this should go unsaid, but with folks "mopping" with Swiffers I just can't trust what people know and don't know anymore) and carefully plan your route around the house so you don't mop yourself into a corner. I like to hang the rugs on the line, sweep everything, and then mop myself out of the house, thus forcing myself to beat the hell out of my rugs and then either hang the laundry or take a nice long break while waiting for the floors to dry with iced tea in hand. I've also been known to mop myself onto my couch during winter days, where i am forced to lounge while the floor dries. See? Swiffers really were made up by the devil - and they have such a tacky name!

Take a break
At around 6 o'clock, when you've gone through 3 handkerchiefs (translation = half a box of tissues) thanks to all that dust, but before you get terribly hungry, put on something simple to simmer for dinner (rice and green lentils with lots of onion and garlic is my favorite cleaning day dish) and get yourself outside! The fresh air and sunlight helps like nothing else. Just sitting on a bench outside with a cold beer or a pre-dinner bowl of ice cream does wonders to rejuvenate a dustier, more splattered version of myself than I am used to. Taking a break really gives me that kick of energy to follow-through on the dinner dishes and a little evening cleaning before I collapse into a foot bath with a post-dinner bowl of ice cream, tea, and a good book.

I would say this spring cleaning weekend has been a huge (if as yet unfinished) success. it has been utterly lovely, full of gratifying moments (cleaning out under the sink was momentous), and with only one break down moment where I questioned what the hell I was doing with my life, sobbing to a friend that I'm 23 and how can I possibly live such a dull and drab life that housecleaning is one of the most gratifying things I do? I could be traveling, or throwing money to the wind not caring about saving, or doing some other fun and youthful thing that other people my age do who don't even know how to properly mop a floor! I blame this breakdown on exhaustion and spending my whole weekend without company and without a single night later than 11:00 PM. After all, I am only 23 and would love to go out dancing or spend a late night with friends at least once a week. That being said, I have since pulled myself together and reminded myself that it's okay to genuinely enjoy spring cleaning and sedentary life.

In garden news, my ground cherries have started to sprout, tomatoes and peppers all have several leaves, and that's about it.

1 comment:

  1. I just spent a week as a "normal" 23 year old, and let me tell you, it was exhausting. As fun as it is myself (and my bank account) are much better suited to my old lady tendencies.