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‘Cleaning’ Category

  1. Trashed

    June 10, 2013 by 25hoursadaymom


    This isn’t really a new way of thinking for me, but from time to time, it really flares up and bothers me more than it was just recently.  We waste WAY too much stuff, people. Cups and bottles and paper and styrafoam containers for macaroni and cheese and bread bags and twisties and post-its and plastic, plastic, plastic, plastic, plastic. It nauseates me.

    What I really love is a closed-loop system that is synergistic and in harmony.  Recently, I became a chicken owner. I could not be happier with my six “girls” – Henrietta, Eva, Red, Maple, Florence and Juliette. The chickens are cool all by themselves, but what I really love about the chickens is that they fit so beautifully into the system of my household.  I grow a garden. For the garden, I make compost. To dispose of food bits, I make compost. The chickens also now eat food bits. They eat garden waste. They poop in the straw that will one day also be compost, which will go in the garden and grow the tomatoes and lettuce. The tomatoes and lettuce will one day partially feed the chickens and make compost.  The chickens lay eggs, which adds calcium to my compost, calcium to my garden, nourishing my plants. Which feeds my family and feeds my chickens.



    It’s really lovely. If you’ve been thinking of getting chickens, you should. They will eat kitchen scraps, keeping that trash out of the landfills. They will produce eggs, which you can eat, give away and/or sell. They will cut down on the insect population around your yard. Get chickens if there is any way in heck you possibly can.  Their bedding is compostable and can help your garden grow. (If you don’t have a garden, you should do that, too.)

    Let’s just talk about landfills a moment, shall we? Some people think of a landfill as a giant compost heap, in which their half-a-ham sandwich, leftover spaghetti noodles and fuzzy oranges just compost away, while the endless fields of plastic crap sits there (for all eternity). This is not what happens. Very little of what is in a landfill decomposes, even if it is organic matter that would compost just fine on the pile at your house. For one thing, food in the landfill is usually encased in plastic bags, which retards decomposition. Additionally, so much new, non-biodegradable material is chucked on the landfill each and every day that last week’s trash is totally buried. There is little oxygen available, which is necessary for decomposition. There are few microorganisms to break things down. This is why you turn or stir a compost pile at home to make it decompose – you need to redistribute microorganisms and add oxygen.

    This alone should be at least a mild deterrent to sending food to the dump when it could be eaten by your chickens and/or composted at home. Is it? Do you care?

    Beyond composting food waste, please give some serious thought to everything else you’re throwing away on a regular basis. Plastic? Plastic never, ever, ever biodegrades. It never becomes soil. It can only get smaller and smaller until it’s a microplastic. I’m thinking of putting this on a bumper-sticker: PLASTIC NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER BIODEGRADES. Each and every piece of plastic you have ever used is still in existence. I can’t remember now where I read this, but someone out there said she imagines what it would be like if, when she died, all the garbage she had generated in her life came with her to meet her Maker. Would the Creator of All be pleased with her trail of trash? I find that a powerful image, no matter what you might think happens when you die.

    Even recycling plastic is only a poor solution. Plastic can only be “downcycled” – turned into a lower-quality plastic that will itself not be recyclable, unlike glass or metal, which can be returned again and again into it’s original state. It also requires energy and waste to recycle plastics into other plastics.  Avoiding it at the outset is a far better plan. Not to say that is easily done.

    Please consider doing something to reduce your own trash. Thankfully, you will not be a total pioneer. There are lots of blogs and websites where you can get great ideas when you are stumped about how to replace a trash problem with a non-trash solution.  For me and my house? We are stepping it up. I am on a campaign to see how very little we can throw away.  Will you join me?





  2. Homeschooling: Fantasy vs. Reality

    August 7, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I have the good fortune of having a “bonus” room in my house, which I currently use for our homeschooling “schoolroom.” (Though you need to lose any idea that we pledge the flag at the back of the room and line up to use the water fountain.) This time of year, I am getting my new curriculum for the upcoming year and organizing it and cleaning up the schoolroom.  In my fantasy, it looks pretty much like this:

    Homeschool Room Fantasy Homeschool Room FantasyHomeschool Room Fantasy

    It does look like that today, but I bloody well know how reality goes. Want to see what it looked like before I started cleaning and organizing it for this fall?

    Homeschool Reality Homeschool RealityHomeschool Reality

    I’d like to say I staged some of the messy room photos, but I didn’t; it really was just like that when I took the pictures. The reality of homeschooling is that rooms don’t stay terribly neat when there are kids using them several hours a day. (Several hours a day is another point I’m going to get to in a minute.)

    For practical advice, I’ll tell you a little bit about what makes the difference in these pictures. What did I do to make the messy room turn into the fantasy room?

    1. I gave away or sold some of the books and materials that were sitting unused and cluttering up the place.

    2. I set up new binders for the coming year. I placed any summer work they’ve done in the binders.

    3. I put all the new curriculum for this year into their desk drawers or on the bookcases.

    4. I put away anything that was sitting out in the middle of nowhere, like the vacuum cleaner and a dress in a bag. I folded up the craft table and put away all the crafters stuff.  I threw away some old projects, like a large poster board display of Ancient Rome. I had my husband chuck the broken drawer that goes to the crappy toy cabinet. (I would not be sad to burn the whole cabinet, but I’m settling for throwing away the one broken drawer for the time being.)

    5. I took down all the piles of stuff sitting on top of the bookcases and cabinets. I now only have NOEO science boxes on top of one cabinet.

    6. I vacuumed and dusted. In a perfect world, I would buy and hang curtains that would go on the door at the far end. Currently there is a white sheet hanging on them, by thumbtacks. Redneck design ideas for the do-it-yourselfer. I hung the sheet because there are two hamster cages sitting there and I did not want them to fry from the afternoon sun. So I rigged it up. I recognize this is not going to make it into Better Homes and Garden magazine.

    Okay. So – the room you homeschool in can look better, but it’s probably not going to look spotless all the time. If you require that, homeschooling is not your friend. While I’m on a roll, let me just dispatch a few more homeschooling rumors you might have heard. Newbie homeschoolers almost always think these are true. I did.

    1. Homeschooling is so fast and easy, you’ll be done in two hours a day.

    This is a complete myth, except for perhaps Kindergarten and First Grade with one child. Or perhaps if you have one teenaged homeschooler who works well independently. Or if your main aspirations are that your girls learn to sew and make a good meal, which I hope is not the case, but I’ve heard of it, so I’m allowing for the possibility.

    If you have high standards on what you want your kids to learn and you plan to do it through active teaching (i.e., not unschooling), expect to spend several hours a day working directly with your kids. Part of this will depend how well your children work independently, but even if they do, you can’t just hand them a DVD and consider your part done.

    2. The children will be geniuses, simply because they are homeschooled. (AKA: All homeschooled kids are better off than any schooled kid, by virtue of merely being homeschooled.) 

    This is not true, either, and it partly goes with the “work two hours” myth. There are plenty of homeschooled children who are stone cold average and *gasp* some who are below average. Sometimes, there are organic reasons why the children struggle.  Sometimes, the reason is the parents have not taught them. Some parents don’t teach them on purpose, feeling it is better for the children to learn “naturally.” Whatev. I don’t concur. High standards are one reason I homeschool in the first place. If I can’t be bothered, they are better off in school.

    I do think that higher-IQ parents are more likely to homeschool than lower-IQ parents and they are more likely to have bright children genetically. So, that is one factor that explains the brainy homeschooler image. Also, someone who is sacrificing a lot to teach the kids at home usually values academic excellence. This also explains the preponderance of bright homeschooled children. BUT – they are not going to be super-bright simply because they are learning at home instead of school. Sorry. You don’t get something from nothing.

    3. Homeschooled children are always good friends with their siblings.

    Okay, this is not a total myth. I do think being home together, rather than separated in different school classes all day gives kids more opportunity to be close to their siblings. BUT – just like the bright kids thing, this is not an automatically guaranteed outcome. Some children just clash with their siblings. Some parents don’t manage the children well and it surfaces in sibling tension. The bottom line is, it will be work just like any other positive outcome you hope to have.

    So there you go. Three fantasies many new homeschoolers think are true that veteran homeschoolers think are laughable. Four, if you count the fantasy schoolroom. Don’t get me wrong – I love homeschooling and I think it’s a great way of life. But go in with your eyes open. Sooner or later, reality comes to roost.



  3. The Catalyst

    May 18, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    Some people assume I was neat from birth. There probably was some latent gene there, but I do remember a point in time when I was not neat. I actually remember THE turning point when I decided to get my act together and become neat.

    I was 11 years old, very nearly 12. Being from a family of 7 living in a 3-bedroom rancher, naturally I shared a room with at least one sibling for most of my years.  At the time, I was sharing the bunkbeds with my younger sister, M.

    There was a boy named Chris who was a friend of the family. He would come over every so often and I would (believe it or not) sit on his shoulders while he rode his bike. Good times. Anyway, I was so pleased to have Chris as a friend. One day, he wanted to see my drawings. I was an avid artist.  So, he walked down the cramped hallway to the hurricane disaster scene that was the bedroom I shared with M. I could not merely lay my hands on my drawings, as they were every-which-where.  I dragged a tangle of paper, gym shorts, odd socks, hair bows and a missing library book out from under the bed, hoping to find some of my drawings in that mess. Which I did, but not before I noticed him regarding my room with an embarrassed horror.

    “So – this is your room.”

    “Well, M sleeps in here, too.”


    *cue chirping crickets*

    It’s the first time I recall feeling seriously ashamed of the state of my room. It was also pretty annoying to not be able to find what I was looking for quickly.

    It was like a switch was flipped. When Chris went home that day, I cleaned that room like my hair was on fire. It was never messy another day in my life. It was the catalyst. Positive peer pressure. Someone on the outside not saying, but obviously thinking, “Good grief, girl! Get your act together! The good people of the world don’t live in a mess like this!”

    I remember reading an article written by a woman who had lost well over a hundred pounds. She had a catalyst situation that flipped the switch and made her decide to get thin. She rode a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, but couldn’t get the safety bar properly seated over her large waist. Embarrassed to mention this, she rode the whole ride terrified she would be flung to her death because she was too big for the safety restraints.  That was her moment. She decided (there’s that word again – “to cut off”) that she would become smaller no matter what. (I no longer recall the source of the article; it was many years ago.)

    If you’re trying to get out from under a mess, or too much padding, or whatever else it is, I ask you, what will be your catalyst? What will be the turning point that makes you decide you must act to reverse an unhappy situation? If you really want to use a scenario like this to your best advantage, don’t wait for it to actually happen, just visualize it. Visualize it until you can fully feel how miserable you would feel if your boss (or your mother-in-law, or your snobby cousin or the lady that heads the homeowner’s association) dropped by unannounced and you had to retrieve a proposal from under somebody’s bed. Or whatever. Just something to make you decide. Then take the next step: decide. Then work on your decision every day. Form a new habit.

    If you do make a new decision, I’d love to hear about it.


  4. How to Keep Your House Clean

    May 3, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    “How do you keep your house clean?” I have been asked this a lot of times in my adult life, especially since I became a mother. There are a few contributing factors besides the obvious one, which would be that I clean it.

    1. Big houses look clean more easily than small houses:  People often think the opposite. In one sense, it’s true that a big house has more surfaces to clean, and clearly it takes longer to clean five bathrooms than it would one or two bathrooms. But in a big house, there are more places for things to spread out or be stored, while in a smaller house, more things are bound to be right in your line of vision, which seems messier. If your house is on the small side, it is even more important for you to reduce clutter in order to feel freer.

    2. Reduce visual clutter: “Messy” and “dirty” are not the same thing, but they are close buddies who travel together.  Some people think that if a room is messy, it’s okay as long as it’s not actually dirty. This is a myth. If it’s messy, it will soon be dirty by default, because it is so hard to clean in a mess, most people don’t do it. When people remark on my house being clean, the main thing they are responding to is lack of visual clutter. It’s not like they went around sniffing the toilets to see how clean they are.

    What contributes to visual clutter?  The state of your horizontal surfaces factor into this heavily. Do you have a lot of knick-knacks? Do the kids strew their belongings everywhere? What happens to their school papers, hats, jackets, baseball gloves, books, water bottles and stuffed animals when they walk in the door?  You must train them not to walk in like a tornado of junk and shed it everywhere. (This is not easy. If they are already teenagers, you might just have to bide your time for a few more years instead.)

    Process papers quickly. Throw away the junk mail very soon; pay the bills very soon; process everything to complete.

    3. Reduce hidden clutter: 

    This means your closets, drawers, pantry, etc. Just focus on one if it’s too overwhelming to consider them all. Pick one closet that would greatly improve your life if it was not stuffed to the rafters. Spend 30 minutes (or two hours) pulling down everything and deciding whether it’s giveaway, throw away or keep. If it’s throwaway, put it in a trashbag and take it out of the house. If it’s giveaway, put it in the car to take to a charity, or call a charity right away for pick-up. Or list it on Freecycle. Whatever. Just get rid of it instantly, so you don’t start thinking about what you banished and let it creep back in . Aim to have at least one shelf completely clear. Remember that Feng Shui thing I said before about keeping an open shelf.

    4. Use routines to keep clean going: 

    Set up a particular pattern you can stick with pretty closely for when you will empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, pay the bills, make the bed, and so on. I empty my dishwasher in the morning, so it will be ready to accept dishes throughout the day. We run it in the evening after dinner, no matter if it’s full to the top or not. If I waited until it was always totally full before running it, then it would run at odd times and be full of dishes at times inconvenient to empty. I do the laundry on a regular pattern, too; usually Wednesday and Saturday.

    5. Train the kids: 

    I have a friend whose philosophy is that the children have their schooling and their sports and activities and therefore should not help with the house or the meals. I disagree with this view. Children will one day have a place of their own (sometimes it may seem that day will never truly come…) and they need to know how to take care of their things and prepare food. Besides, even with schooling, sports and activities, kids still have some time to contribute to the household, even if it’s mainly on the weekends.

    It can also be a problem if you are too picky about how everything must be carried out. Don’t do that – and that’s coming from someone who is a perfectionist with a smattering of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  If it’s going to make you nutsy, give them jobs that won’t make a gigantic big deal to you.  My boys sometimes have jobs like pick up all the branches and sticks in the yard, fill the birdfeeder or groom the pets. It’s not going to make me crazy if they don’t do it exactly perfectly. I leave bathroom mirror cleaning strictly to myself. 😉

    6. Make it simple to clean

    How many times have I heard this in my life, “Well, I’m not spending hours a day cleaning my house; I’m out taking my kids to the park or reading to my babies or going to Disneyland.” In other words, the speaker feels badly that they don’t keep their house orderly, so they create a false dichotomy as if there are only two possible choices: enjoy your family and have a trashed house or be a militant shut-in who scrubs the floor 10 hours a day.  Though my house is pretty clean and orderly most of the time, I spend a minuscule amount of time actually cleaning it during the week (more on the weekend) and I still go on many park days and library runs. (Although I’ve never been to Disneyland.)

    If you have obeyed the clutter rules and you have trained your kids to help, you will only need to spend about 30 total minutes a day during the week and perhaps 2 hours on the weekend to have a house that looks good and is reasonably clean. If your house is small and you’re very ruthless about clutter, it could be less. If you’re determined to dust around a ton of stuff, it will be more.

    Here’s another thing that matters: pets. Blue Collar Guy grew up on a farm, so in his mind, there was a place for animals. It was called the barn. He did not grow up with dogs and cats sleeping on the bed. When I first met him, it was pretty weird to me. After a couple of years living without indoor pets, though, I could really see his view clearly. Pets should be outside as much as possible, if you live in a space where it’s possible. Our dog and cats sleep in the garage at night, or during inclement weather.  The rest of the time, they have a yard and ten acres to explore. I don’t need to clean cat hair or muddy footprints off of anything. I will say, though, that I know people love their pets and I have no expectation that you’ll turn your pets outside if you were sleeping with a Labradoodle on your bed up until now. That’s fine. Just know that there’s a price to be paid in cleaning for every pet who spends times indoors.

    7. Lastly, be realistic:  The people who remark about my house are invariably seeing it when I was planning to have guests. It doesn’t look that way 24-hours-a-day (or 25! 😉 ). I do maintain the house with a continuous eye to order, but it’s not neat as a pin from sun-up to sun-down. There are five people living here and two of them are not going away for school every day. There are constant minor messes from food preparation, science experiments, lego engineering and artistic inspirations. And mail. God, how I hate coping with the mail. Just know that because someone’s house is clean when they have you over for dinner does not mean it looks exactly like that all the time.

    If your house is not neat or clean right now, decide to make it that way. Once it’s clean, it’s easy to keep it that way. I expect to be expanding on any or perhaps all of the topics above, so if there’s anything you’d especially like me to speak to more fully, just let me know.


  5. Don’t Throw it All Away Part II

    January 21, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    If you enjoyed my long rant against cleaning with wipes, you’re in for a treat: I have so much more to say on the subject of disposable products. Unsurprisingly, I don’t typically eat with them, either. Years and years ago, I went to using cloth napkins for our family meals.  Using cloth napkins is simple and more pleasing than paper napkins.  I own about 36 or so and I keep them folded on the Dining Room table in the adorable basket in the picture. (I made that basket, btw!)

    January is often a good time to buy cloth napkins because a lot of stores have “white sales” (sales on linens) in January. Cotten or linen is best, but avoid white or light colors. Yes they will wrinkle some in the wash. No I don’t care. The napkins you can see in the photo are not linen or cotton; they are some sort of blend that doesn’t wrinkle. They are fine, but not super absorbent, so they won’t really help much when your seven-year-old knocks over his glass of milk for the seventeenth time. Bigger guns will be needed.

    As far as the added laundry of cloth napkins (and all the other cloth items I use), I don’t find this to be any real inconvenience at all. I keep a hamper in my front closet for the napkins, terry cleaning cloths and dish towels. (That hamper is also handy whenever Blue Collar Guy comes in with a muddy sweatshirt or someone has a towel they used for drying the dog.) When I do the laundry, I just take that hamper to the laundry room and wash everything as normal. I generally employ the kids for folding the clean, dry napkins, but even when I did all those things myself, it wasn’t much extra work.

    Now that I’ve gone out on a limb and declared my alien habits, I might as well surprise you further by telling you I have a box of washable cloth handkerchiefs that I use instead of throw-away facial tissues. I bought them on-line here, several years ago. I own the pop-up box and yes, I do actually launder, fold and restore them to the box on a regular basis.  I admit that I only have one box that I keep only for my use, by my bedside. I have not converted my family to using them and I don’t have remotely the nerve to inform guests that they must use them. In case you’re wondering, I also don’t use them when I am ill on the chance that the virus survives the wash, not to mention I would go through them all in half a day.

    It is true that I am not saving some incredible amount of money using the handkerchiefs, nor do disposable tissues add up to much trash. Still, the cloth tissues are exceedingly pleasant to use; they are gentle, yet strong. They create no dust when pulled from the box. Considering how often my sons wipe their noses on their sleeves, there’s obviously some intuitive desire we humans have that prefers cloth. I have no financial connection to the Hankettes company I linked, but I openly endorse the handkerchiefs. If you can stand to be that crunchy, or if you can hide a box in your room so nobody will know, consider trying them. You will reduce waste and will most likely find cloth tissues to be far superior to disposable tissues.

    Okay. So now that you know I’m out there enough to use cloth tissues, napkins and cleaning cloths, it’s sure to be no surprise that I used cloth diapers when my kids were babies. In the interest of full disclosure, only my second-born child wore cloth diapers nearly all the time from infancy to the end of diapers. With my firstborn, I didn’t even know there were people who still used cloth diapers until she was around one and a half years old, and with my youngest, I had laundry issues that drove me to abandon cloth (more about that later).

    Once I decided to try cloth diapers, I did what I always do: I read a book about it. The book was called Diaper Changes and I’m not entirely sure it is still in print. In any case, I’m sure there are new products and information to be had that would not have been included in that book, unless it’s been updated. I used Chinese Prefolds with Bummis covers and made most of my purchases at Green Mountain Diapers.  They also have tons of useful, up-to-date information at that site, so you can wash and use cloth diapers with few mistakes.

    Cloth diapers are so lovely, sometimes it’s hard to see why more people don’t give it a go. Here are the main benefits I saw in using cloth diapers:

    • No chemicals
    • No trash
    • No need to run out and buy diapers all the time
    • They feel lovely
    • They look cute
    • They save money over time, especially with multiple kids
    • When they are done being diapers, they are good cloths

    Alas. Nothing is perfect. Cloth diapers come with their own set of issues. Here were the drawbacks I saw:

    • They were bulky
    • They were puzzling to anyone else who might be caring for my kid
    • I encountered laundry problems

    It was this last point that drove me to abandon them with my youngest. When my second-born was in diapers, I had an old, junk washing machine that was literally salvaged by Blue Collar Guy decades ago. It didn’t even have knobs, for Pete’s sake; I kept a pair of channel locks in the laundry room so I could turn the nub that should have had a knob on it. It used something like 100 gallons of water per load. It sounded like a Boeing was landing next to the kitchen. But man, did it wash those diapers!

    We moved into a new house when he was nearly done with diapers and I bought an expensive, “efficient” Whirlpool Calypso washing machine. I soon came to rue the day I bought that horrid machine. When Little Man came along, I tried every possible strategy to make that machine wash the diapers, but it just would not get it done. It did not use enough water and there was no way I could override the machine’s “efficiency” and command it to do more than dribble a teaspoon of water on my dipes. (I also hated it for regular laundry, but the diapers made its shortcomings glaringly obvious.) I gave up before he was a year old.

    I don’t have that machine any more. If I had another baby (ha!), there is a good chance I would try using cloth diapers again. Even just linking Green Mountain Diapers to this post gives me warm-fuzzies again, seeing those babies in their fluffy, cotton dipes. *sigh* I miss it.


  6. Don’t Throw it All Away, Part I

    January 15, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I was reading the mildly amusing book, “How to Cheat at Cleaning,” by Jeff Bredenberg. He does have a few ideas I agree with, but I was not at all pleased that he encourages disposable cleaning products as a time-saver. You know – wipes for every purpose under the sun, Swiffer everything, disposable toilet cleaning wands and so on. I could not disagree with his position more! These products fail my acid test of Doing a Job Well on five counts:

    • They constantly cost money
    • They are inferior in feel
    • They amount to nothing but trash
    • They are inferior in performance (usually; I’ll expand on that in a minute)
    • They do not greatly reduce cleaning time

    Let’s look at some disposable products one at a time, and examine its relative merits and drawbacks, shall we?

    First, the wipes.  I despise these for my own cleaning at home. Windex Wipes, Armor-All Wipes, Dusting Wipes, Chlorox Wipes and so on. Not a fan. Consider economics. From a quick Google search, I find Windex wipes are $5.99 for a package of 28 wipes. That is a hair more than 21 cents per wipe. By way of comparison, I can buy a one-gallon size refill container of Windex cleaner for $12.99. A gallon of Windex in a spray bottle lasts for thousands of cleaning applications.

    Okay. So maybe you’re a descendant of Sam Walton and you couldn’t care less if you’re throwing two dimes and a penny in the trash every time you wipe a mirror.  There is still my second point: they are inferior in feel. When I clean glass, I use a terry cloth towel (not a “rag” and not – heaven forbid – a scrap of Uncle Bob’s underwear). A terry towel fills the hand and provides a large surface for cleaning. A wipe feels like cleaning with a tissue.

    Third point. You’re buying trash. You’re just buying chemically treated paper to throw away, 21 cents at a time. I once owned a residential clean company (fancy way of saying I was a maid). I still own and use the terry cloth towels I have used many thousands of times.  I still use cloths I bought at Costco in 1996. When I clean any surface, I use my terry towels and the appropriate spray solution (sometimes glass cleaner, sometimes neutral cleaner, sometimes disinfectant). Then, I throw them in the hamper for the next laundry day.

    My fourth point is debatable, according to the circumstances. There are instances where a disposable product makes more sense. Hospitals, for one. And I have to confess, nothing cleans hair off the bathroom floor half so well as Swiffer dry cloths, so I can’t claim purism. But wipes? Except for some public uses, or to keep in the car for desperate measures, wipes are inferior in performance.

    Wipes do not save time. If you can take a minute to go fetch the wipes, you can take a minute to retrieve a spray bottle and a terry towel. I have them stationed in several locations, so I never need to go far for cleaning tools. In actual use, spraying a surface (or the towel directly) takes no longer than wiping the surface with a wipe.

    If I’m not a fan of cleaning with wipes, it stands to reason I’m not a fan of cleaning with paper towels. I do use paper towels for some purposes – they are hard to beat for cleaning up a really gross, gloppy, multi-textured mess. They are good for covering spaghetti sauce in the microwave so it doesn’t splatter all over kingdom come. But they are not the best option for merely drying your hands (get a hand towel for that), wiping up every tiny thing off the counter and, least of all, cleaning. Terry towels are the thing for cleaning.

    Okay, so maybe you’re convinced but you’re wondering what I mean by “a terry cloth towel.” The terry towels I use were meant to be washcloths. I bought them in bulk at Costco. Other good choices are microfiber cloths (not my personal favorite, but a lot of people do well with them) or former cloth diapers.  The requirements are that they are absorbent, don’t shed lint and are not raggedy. Raggedy rags are impossible to launder and being able to launder them is the entire point. You must always use a cleaning cloth for one application, then into the hamper it goes. I fold mine into quarters and re-fold them as I go, so I’m using a fresh surface. When cleaning the bathroom, use the cloth first on the sink and counter, last on the toilet. ALWAYS launder next!

    Shew, this is getting long and I still have a ton to say. Maybe I’ll call this Part I. Tune in shortly for more ecological and economical ranting.


  7. About the Grout

    January 8, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I was recently cleaning some stained kitchen utensils with a homemade solution I read about on another blog.  The magical homemade cleaning solution is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You put a half cup or so of baking soda in a bowl and add hydrogen peroxide until it’s a little wetter than a paste. It’s great for reviving stained cookware and pans. So, anyway, as I was standing at the sink, using it on my vegetable peeler, I looked down and mused about whether this would make the grout on my ceramic tile kitchen floor look better. I decided to try it.

    Wow, did it ever work! Not only did it get the grout very clean, it also raised an amazing amount of ground-in dirt off the tile itself. My ceramic tile has an earthy, mottled pattern to it (camouflage!), so I didn’t notice it was getting…earthier and more mottled over the years. Soon after I started working on that perfectly reasonable sink area, my OCD kicked in and I continued working on the entire floor of the kitchen and entryway from the garage – no small feat. I destroyed two entire sponges and a fair portion of my anterior deltoid before I decided I could go no further with it at the moment. I still have just a half of the entryway floor and another portion behind the kitchen table to finish. Fortunately, running out of supplies gave me a very good opportunity to illustrate with a photo what a difference the homemade solution is making:

    It should be immediately clear to you that the left side of the entryway is where I have worked and the right side is yet to be done. See all that ground in dirt? Who knew?

    My floor does look incredibly clean now, but I can’t make any promises on how soon this feat will be repeated. I’ve been living in this house for nearly nine years now, so I’m thinking…2021?

    Now, for the technical details should you be insane enough to want to do this to your own kitchen. As I said above, you need Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda. I had a large bag of Baking Soda from Costco and two large bottles of Hydrogen Peroxide and I used almost all of each. My kitchen and hallway are about 250 sq ft. total. So, I made up the mixture in a bowl, then used a spoon to pour it into the grout line. I worked in one area at a time, letting it sit for a couple minutes on one area. I used a small scrub brush to really scrub into the grout and tile surface. Cello sponges and a small bucket of water mopped up the messy grey sludge that came up. (GAK!) I changed my cleansing water frequently, as it doesn’t make sense to rinse tile with black water. In the end, I also had to clean the floor to remove any white residue remaining from the Baking Soda.

    It was a ton of work, but man does my floor look good!

    Happy scrubbing.


  8. Out! Out, Damn Spot!

    November 16, 2011 by 25hoursadaymom

    Spots have caused trouble since before Macbeth failed to banish them from his mind. With the birth of  light-colored carpeting, our troubles have only multiplied. (Which, by the way, is why my family room carpet looks like this:)

    Do you know how much coffee has blended into that pattern over the past eight years? Camouflage is a lovely concept.  But, assuming that you do have light-colored carpeting somewhere in your home and assuming that people and/or animals regularly assault your carpeting with coffee, mud, hot chocolate, pee and vomit, you need a strategy for removing stains. A lot of folks use expensive carpet cleaning solutions or frequently have their carpets professionally steamed (which I think is the worst possible solution), but the truth is, most organically-based stains are not hard to remove at all and you don’t need a stick of dynamite to accomplish it. I’ll demonstrate how easy this is with a stain one of my dear crumb-crunchers laid down in the hallway. I’m not sure exactly what made the stain, but I’m pretty sure it was a beverage that went AWOL.

    In order to clean this stain, I use a dilute solution of plain neutral cleaner in a spray bottle. The particular cleaner I use is the incredibly odd Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, complete with the weird, All-One-God-Love proselytizing all over the label.  Whatever. The soap works anyway.

    I spray a little cleaner over the stained area, enough for it to be wet, but not sopping. Then I use a clean terry cloth, soaked in warm water and wrung out, in a blotting, pressing fashion over the stain. (Do not rub furiously!)

    At this point, you probably have not eliminated the stain, but it may be a bit lighter. Now comes the magical part. Lay the warm, damp terry cloth over the stain, cover with a dry cloth and weight it with one or two large, heavy books.  Walk away for several hours.  I’m not much of  a scientist, but it’s something like “capillary attraction” or some such thing that draws the rest of the juice, mud or pee out of the carpet.  After five hours of capillary attraction, I removed the books and cloths and my stain was gone. Witness:

    I will grant you, this method will probably not work for a serious and non-organic stain, such as marker pen or automotive oil. But it has worked for me even with stains I never imagined would come out, such as the time my daughter, who was a toddler then, threw up a sippy-cup-worth of Prune Juice onto my light grey carpet. (That was my old family room, see? Live and learn.) Prune Juice vomit? The size of Manhattan? I never imagined the humble Dr. Bronners-and-capillary-attraction method would work.  But it did. The sins of an upset stomach – vanished.

    Incidentally, this is also a good method for removing furniture indentations from carpeting if you have rearranged a room or are moving out. Just put warm cloths, covered with dry cloths and weighted down onto the indentations overnight.

    In the morning, remove the books and cloths and…

    Hmmm. Okay, I see what you mean. They are not completely gone in my example. I think it is because this was a Berber carpet, which has very tight fibers. I have used this method with complete success on typical pile carpeting, though. It’s still an improvement however.

    So, there you go. You don’t need to buy a steam cleaner or spray chemicals all over the house because families are messy things. Arm yourself with the strange-yet-effective Dr. Bronners, a spray bottle, some terry cloths and a dictionary or two and your carpet can be stain-free.

    Let me know if this helps you.