Monday, May 16, 2011

What Cleaning Supplies Do You Have?

I found this vintage photo of a woman with her cleaning supplies really interesting...Notice how many brushes and tools she has, the few bottles... Soap and water, elbow-grease, individual tools to clean specific surfaces, shapes to reach the right places, that's how you clean.


I was just discussing this issue with the kids -- how today's so-called consumer products of convenience aren't really cleaning products at all. The easy-peasy Swiffers etc. are sold on the idea that you only need one tool in your cleaning kit -- but that's false.

What these things do, by and large, is just wipe things off. It's like my dad used to admonish my sister and I when we cleaned as young girls: "You girls aren't cleaning; you're just rearranging dirt."

Now dad was a military guy (the navy), and while he did have a few anal requests (such as a particular way his undies had to be folded), he wasn't about hospital corners on beds. But he did want clean. It was part of his work ethic: a job worth doing was worth doing well. This was something both he and my mother instilled in us.

How they did this in terms of cleaning was to teach us how to clean and then supervise us doing our chores. Once they were satisfied we could achieve the proper results, we were left alone to do them. (I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they came back later to check the results; but by then we knew if we had done a poor or rushed job and expected comments on poor performances -- and knew we'd have to go back and do it right. But we might still have gotten out earlier on Saturday night to reclean on Sunday.)

I remember being supervised during my chores... It was unnerving. But it also instilled a great pride too.

I vividly recall one time when my father watched me sweeping the kitchen. It was that texturized linoleum with a pattern on it (in avocado green, of course), sold on the idea of camouflaging dirt. (No, dad didn't buy it; it came with the house.) It was difficult to sweep and wash because the pattern did hide the dirt, and was rather dizzying, nauseating to look at. So I developed a method to ensure I never missed a spot.

I took the broom and began on one side, right up against the wall, and swept down the full length of the room, leaving a pile of the dust & dirt at the far wall. Then I walked back to where I had started and, one broom length away from the wall, repeated the same sweep pattern. Over and over I did it this way until I had done the full kitchen. Then I went back to the far wall and swept along that edge to get all the dust & dirt into the dustpan.

One day while doing this, I was surprised to look up and find my dad watching me. I was in junior high/middle school by this time and it had been years since he'd supervised my chores.  But this was a new house I was cleaning. Was he going to stare at me while I did all my chores?

I (rather snottily) asked him what he was watching me for and he replied that he was fascinated with how I was sweeping.  Still feeling defensive, I told him I couldn't see the dirt on the floor and I didn't want to lose my spot in the busy pattern and miss some dirt. He replied it was a brilliant plan -- and that he planned to use it himself.  Beaming with pride, I then replied that when I scrubbed the floor (because no, we didn't sponge-mop!), I used the same pattern, modified in smaller sections. (That would be harder to describe without a diagram lol). But my point is, I was really proud of being complimented on how well I cleaned -- on not "just moving dirt around."

My other point is, getting back to the photo, that too many people have sacrificed clean for the sake of convenience.  If you don't have at least half of what this lady does (and the mop doesn't count!), if you have a vacuum, a mop, a bucket, a sponge, some Swiffer-esque things (one for dusting and one for floors), and an array of cleaning product bottles and cans, you are not cleaning -- you are just rearranging dirt.

Now, confess, what's in your cleaning kit, what's missing from it?

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