Let's Talk CleaningJanuary 28, 2012
No, really, let's. I've been meaning to get to the post for a long time. In fact, sometimes when I can't sleep, I lie in bed and think about cleaning products, and I think, I've got to tell the blog this! They'll love it! And then I realize that normal people sleep when they're in bed; they don't fantasize about scrubbing the tub.
Back when Harriet (RIP, best dog in the world) was, shall we say, on the somewhat graceless but cute nonetheless slide downhill, she became incontinent. Well, it wasn't as much incontinent as she made very clear decisions that yes, she had to pee, so that must mean she was outside! Let's pee outside in the living room! Doggie woot! It was fun for her, I think. Not so much for us, but it was one of those things you work around. You know. Love is love, and pee isn't a very big deal.
But it still needs to be cleaned up. (Pictured: Harriet in the living room.)
We don't have much carpet, only in the bedrooms, so during the better part of every day she was on either tile or hardwood (thank god). I was like most people, and had always loved my paper towels even though I knew they were dead trees. But when you suddenly transition to using SO many paper towels (seriously, a roll a day some days), and going through bottles and bottles of Nature's Miracle and 409, it starts to take a moral toll on your faintly green soul.
So I poked around on the internet and found an idea as old as the hills: Towels.
Towels? Hell yes, we had tons of them, and they were beaters already. Somehow, though, it grossed me out. I was used to cleaning messes and then throwing the whole mess in the trash.
Turned out it was awesome. And MILES easier. A large puddle takes lots of paper towels, but just one real towel.
I was on to something. Surely there had to be something cheaper and better than buying bottles of 409 all the time.
I'm pleased to tell you that I found and still use THE PERFECT RECIPE for household cleaner. It cleans everything, hardwood, tile, counters, bathrooms, and even mirrors. Even the greasy stove! The only thing you might find a little unpleasant about it at first is the smell of vinegar, but that dissipates to nothing as it dries (really!) and now, years later, I find that faint smell of vinegar to mean The House Is Clean.
My favorite cleaning things.
Rachael's Household Clean It Up Recipe
1. Get a great spray bottle. This is harder than it sounds! Know the best place to look? Your local nursery or the plant section of your hardware store. The plant spray bottles are built to last -- don't ask me why.
2. Fill the bottle 1/3 of the way with white vinegar. I get mine at our local CVS in the gallon size.
3. Add a good dollop (about a tablespoon, if I were to measure it, which I don't) of Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap in your favorite flavor (I like lavender, but Trader Joe's only carried the big size in peppermint, which is a nice cheery clean scent). It will go cloudy when it hits the vinegar -- don't worry, it should.
4. (Optional) Add a few drops of tea tree oil. I like it for its disinfectant qualities, and I like the smell, but your taste may vary.
5. Fill the rest of the bottle up with water, and Bob's your clean uncle.
What I like about this stuff:
You can spray it on everything, everywhere, and not worry about a thing. Spray the table and hit the fruit bowl lightly on accident? Who cares?
And this: It flipping WORKS. It gets everything soooo clean and shiny. I use rags for cleaning now, big ones for floors and little ones for counters (and knitted dishrags for dishes! Nothing better!). I love taking a clean rag and making it dirty and then throwing it in the washer (it strikes me that this cleaning method wouldn't work that well if you had to throw the dirty things into a clothes basket if you don't have in-house laundry and I'm sorry about that). And then, when you do your regular laundry, just throw it on top and wash it all together (unless you've got seriously grungy greasy rags, which deserve a wash on their own).
Other Favorite Cleaning Tricks
Bathtub: Oh, my gosh, did I come up with a good recipe for this. This is cobbled together out of things I've found on the internet over the years, refined by something I read recently on Crunchy Betty's site (if you enjoy this kind of thing, hop over there and lose a few wonderful hours).
This is great for a grimy tub. I hate our bathtub (it's rusted on the bottom and is an awkward shape so I tend to ignore it until I can't live with the grime anymore).
1. Fill tub with the hottest water you can run. Add a pot of boiling water for extra oomph. Add a cup (or two!) of white vinegar.
2. Let it sit for a while, until the water is cool enough again for you to pull the plug (but still warm).
3. While tub drains, mix together: 1/2 cup of baking soda, one large squirt of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, a little tea tree oil, and enough water to make a good thick paste.
4. Use a rag or your favorite plastic scrubby (I have one a friend knitted me out of plastic twine that I LOVE), and liberally apply the paste. Swirl, and BAM. That grime is lifted away. It's awesome. (Obviously, check somewhere to make sure this doesn't ruin your tub's coating. It makes mine shiny and clean again, but I don't worry about ruining mine very much.)
Floors: I recently got one of those steam machines (a Monster -- that thing cleans HOT) and I love it. But for a quick floor clean? Nothing beats walking around, spraying the heck out of your Clean It Up bottle, followed up by standing on a large towel and dancing around, using the weight of your body to clean. Fast! Easy! Remarkably satisfying! Towel gets dirty? Throw it in the washer and start with another one!
(There is something in me that thinks this is, somehow, cheating, and that I should be ashamed of it. I'm not sure why. A cleaning cheat that works can't be wrong, and I'm proud to share.)
Using fabric instead of paper is the BOMB. Making your own cleaning products is dead easy, and dead cheap. And cleaning is, truly, satisfying.