Welcome back! As promised, I’d like to delve into the nitty-gritty subject of cleaning. After all, we can plan a menu, invite those friends, and pull out those pretty dishes and cloth napkins, but in order to open our home to others and make them feel truly welcome and blessed by our hospitality, we have to clean at least a little bit! And that’s my big secret for you: I only clean a little bit!
Now, my friends would tell you I’m lying, they would vow to you that I spend all my time scrubbing and washing and dusting and straightening, but I just don’t. The reason people have this idea, though, is because I have a cleaning routine that I go through when I expect company, however short the notice and however hum-drum the occasion.
Let me back up a little, though, and reiterate my philosophy concerning all things home-related: Simplify!!!!
I use just a few simple, inexpensive yet effective cleaning products and tools. Some are old favorites, some are new discoveries, and some are just what I’m using until I find something that works better for me, yet they all help me to simplify my cleaning routine.
You may not be a list person, but I sure am (I love lists!!!), so bear with me while I give you a rundown of what I use and how I use it:
- Laundry: Charlie’s Soap. That’s it. Oh, and Shout on occasion to pretreat tough stains. No fabric softener, no searching ads for detergent on sale. I doubt you could beat the price of a 5 gallon drum of Charlie’s Soap powder, especially since most of my loads will come clean with half a scoop. A one tablespoon scoop! It gets my laundry cleaner and smelling fresher than anything I’ve ever used, it can be used on cloth diapers (which I once humored myself I could faithfully use), and it is h.e. compatible.
- Mirrors, Windows, Glass and Chrome: I use Swift microfiber cloths. They are machine washable (up to 250 times), and get glass and other surfaces sparkling clean by just wetting the cloth, wringing out, and wiping down. Done. They supposedly disinfect as well, but I’m not that trusting so there are Certain Areas that I don’t use them. I do use them for windows, bathroom mirrors, faucets, countertops, chrome (such as my tea kettle), appliance exteriors, and woodwork. I try to avoid using paper towels as much as possible, so when I need to wipe down a countertop or table I grab one of these or a washcloth and just use water. Simple and economical!
- Magic Eraser: For my glass cooktop (the best thing ever for it, even for really bad baked on spots when pots spill over), crayon on walls, “oops, I colored on the counter with a sharpie,” and sometimes even fabric if I’m careful.
- Floors: Swift microfiber pads and mop. Again, machine washable, uses just water, rinse and wring out as often as needed, and go to town. For bathroom floors I will sometimes give a spray of disinfectant on the mop pad or directly on to the floor, just to make certain germs are being killed.
- Toilet: This is the only place I use a more expensive product instead of something by far more economical than standard cleaning products. I use Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day toilet cleaner, usually the lavender scent, because it’s strong, safe for both my family’s chemical sensitivities and the environment, and it just smells so nice that it takes a little of the sting out of a most unpleasant chore.
- Disinfectant: Shaklee Basic-G. I know the price has gone up on this, but I’m still working with a bottle purchased over two years ago for $12. I mix up a minimal amount in a spray bottle, and I have an extremely strong and effective disinfectant, which I use for bathrooms (mostly just the toilet exterior) and for cleanup after meat or egg messes in the kitchen. Also effective to spray on mattresses after a child has a bed-wetting incident or anything related to stomach-flu. I use with paper towels to clean light switches and door handles during cold and flu season. Safe to spray on carpets and shouldn’t affect the chemically sensitive.
- Dusting: I use a feather duster for light dusting and a slightly damp microfiber cloth for areas like the piano or light fixtures where dust is “stuck on.” I use the extension tool on my vacuum for ceilings.
- Tub/shower: This has been an issue in the past, I just couldn’t find anything that really worked that was quick and easy, especially during my pregnancies when getting off the couch seemed like Mission Impossible, let alone cleaning a grungy, scummy shower. I have just recently discovered that SOS pads, the orange oil kind that are sold in an 18-pack for $3 or less, do a fantastic job. They cut right through soap scum, yet they are gentle enough to use on the chrome. I recently switched out my shower head for a handheld water saving unit, and so rinsing is a breeze.
- Scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen sinks: Bar Keeper’s Friend, or Bon Ami if you can find it (not available in my area). Safe and very effective. I don’t bleach my sink, in fact I only use bleach as an emergency rescue for stained whites, and we have never been sick from any foodborne related illness or bacteria that could be traced back to such a source.
- Handsoap: Not really part of a cleaning routine, but a way that I simplify and provide for the needs of my son, as well, seeing as how it’s a bit hard to find a reasonably priced handsoap without artificial fragrance or dyes. I order a gallon of castille soap from my food co-op for $13 and add tea trea oil to make it antibacterial, as well as a scented oil such as lavender or lemongrass to provide that nice smell we all like in our handsoap. I have collected some pretty dispensers from tag sales or clearance racks and I estimate each “batch” of soap to cost about 35 cents.
I have already mentioned my heavy reliance on my dishwasher, in which I use Trader Joe’s powdered Dishwasher Detergent (again due to my son’s chemical issues). Don’t forget that you can cut back to half of the recommended amount of detergent! I scrape my dishes but do not rinse them. Using the pot-scrubber setting has not increased my utility bill, especially since I turn the heat dry setting off and let the dishes air dry…the steam from the hot water dries almost everything anyway.
Also, I have already extolled the virtues of my washer and dryer. Having laundry issues simplified frees me up to complete other housekeeping tasks in less time.
My children do most of the picking up around the house. They take care of all of their toys, books, and art supplies. They put away their laundry, and my oldest daughter can straighten the couch cushions to my liking, as well as straighten dining chairs and clean the windows with the microfiber cloths. They are also responsible for their rooms, although I do make up the girls’ bunk beds if we are having guests. When company is expected, I don’t do anything that the kids can do instead.
My husband is also a wonderful help to me at such times. If your spouse has asked how he or she can help you, find one or two ways and allow them to consistently provide that help. My husband takes out the trash most of the time, unloads the dishwasher when he is able to, and divides up the clean laundry into separate baskets so the kids can put it away. It doesn’t take him much time at all, but it’s a tremendous help to me. If we are under a lot of time pressure before entertaining, I make a list on our marker board and he knows to look there for the next task.
Other than that, I have a daily routine of trying to stay on top of the dishes, sweeping the floor, and straightening up. I vacuum once or twice a week, dust and mop about every two weeks. Anytime a mess needs my attention (a spill, marks on walls, dust I hadn’t noticed before) I will take care of it quickly and leave deeper cleaning for it’s appropriated time. I have my weak areas, such as cleaning and organizing the refrigerator and freezer, closets, and at times my bedroom, but for the most part we have a streamlined routine for cleaning house.
If you find that the cleaning element of entertaining overwhelms you and keeps you from extending hospitality, examine your methods and see where you might be able to simplify. If you have too much dust, consider eliminating knick knacks that collect dust. Do you have twenty different cleaning products and sorting through them is confusing and time-consuming? Try to streamline. Could you save up for a purchase that might make cleaning easier for you, like the microfiber products? Cleaning might be unpleasant at times, but it’s a necessary part of home life, even without entertaining in mind! So take some time to think about how you can make improvements in this area. I will, too!
I apologize for the lengthy post, I just didn’t know how to break it up. Next time we’ll talk about getting organized!