Sunday, January 30

How Do We.... Clean

This big old farmhouse is about 4,000 square feet. It is BIG and luckily for me, it isn't all remodeled yet (looking on the bright side here) and so there is less to clean. I am in no way an expert on keeping a tidy home. Like laundry, it is something I am always working on.

So... here's what works.

For cleaning products, I love a few things. I love my Ecover floor soap. It costs under $4 and lasts about six months to a year depending on how often I mop (which I'm sure makes the point that I don't mop often enough). Anyway, dilute a cupful in a sink full of warm water and you're good to go.

For our dishwasher, I use a splash of plain vinegar with each load, regular old "green" dish powder, which my repair man tells me is the same as the non-green stuff on the market now that phosphates have been banned. Because of our hard water, I use Lemi Shine every few loads. I'd love to find a source to buy it in bulk so I could use it always but until then, using it once in a while helps keep our dishwasher clean and that cloudy film off the dishes from our hard water.

I'm also fond of this all-purpose cleaner from Ecover which I dilute a lidful of into a spray bottle from the dollar store and fill the rest of the way with water. I use this to clean every surface in our home. It has a pleasant mild scent and works great.

The bathroom, more specifically the toilet, is the only place in our home where I use bad cleaner. Really bad cleaner. We have very hard well water. I believe most water is considered "hard" at 20 parts per million. Ours is 130 parts per million of hardness.

In my humble opinion, ring of iron in the toilet is pretty unwelcoming and unsightly. I have tried every non-toxic cleaner and now use toilet cleaner from the dollar store. It has horrid ingredients that are probably killing my septic tank. I keep it on a shelf above my washing machine where no child can reach it and it has a child lock cap on it. It works.

Our home has two bathrooms currently, both upstairs, and the one that the kids use is the one I have them keep clean (minus the mentioned toilet cleaning). I've found a wonderful way to have them clean it, from the two yr. old to the ten yr. old. I hand them a pack of wet wipes and tell them how many they can use. For some reason, getting a clean white wipe completely dirty is delightful to my children. Much more than scrubbing with a washcloth would be and it is a (small) extra expense I don't mind.
I keep the dish soap, baby shampoo, scrubbers and such in a basket by the kitchen sink. Addie usually gets a bath by the wood stove in her little tub.

Like many of you, I find the most housecleaning effort is focused on clutter control and crunchy floor alleviation. Daily sweepings are key to my sanity. I really dislike stuff on our floors, whether it be coats and boots or toys or cheerios or cracker crumbs. A few times during the day I'll have everyone work together to pick up their things in a room and I'll follow this with a sweep. I have a pretty broom too. I figure if I am going to be sweeping so often and looking at a broom several times a day, I'll buy the prettiest one I can. right now it is hot pink cheetah pink but I have my eye on a rainbow colored broom corn broom at our local health food store.

I vacuum a few times a week. We only have one rug downstairs in our living room but we have old plank floors where crumbs can slip in between. There is something so satisfying about clearing these spaces between the boards. Our six yr old loves to vacuum and so he usually will ask (!) and I'll have him do in between the floor boards. I have only ever owned two vacuums, our first was an Oreck, which lasted about nine years. I loved how lightweight it was but it never fared well with dog hair. I was a pro at taking it apart and unclogging it. With one dog, it clogged just about every time I used it.

When it was time to purchase a new one, we went with the Consumer Reports best buy which was a Sears Kenmore one. This is a heavy vacuum and I am not fond of carrying it up and down the stairs. It handles dog hair well but somehow kid toys always seem to get wedged in it and so, once again, I am learning the quickest routes to unclogging it. Overall I am very pleased with it.

I should also mention that every time I have been presented with a house with carpeting, I tear it out as soon as possible and I never regret it. It doesn't matter how clean it looks, it always harbors stuff underneath and the off-gasses from the chemicals and petroleums are healthy for no one. If I did need to buy wall to wall carpeting, I would save and buy wool carpeting. For now, I am happy with wool rugs that I can roll up, scrub underneath and put away for the summer.

Perhaps it is to my shame, but I do not have a cleaning schedule anymore. A few years ago I had a schedule in which I cleaned a room a day but now I prefer a few minutes of tidying each room every day. It felt so discouraging to spend a day cleaning one room, have it messied by kids by the end of the day and start all over this way the following day. Now I evaluate which space needs the most attention, take care of it and then work at clearing clutter from the other rooms and keeping them swept during the day.
My favorite book on cleaning is Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck, which you can most likely order from your library. It is chock full of cleaning goodness.
Have any cleaning tips for me?


Jessica said...

I don't like carpet either, but when we moved to our current house we had to move quick so carpet was really our only option. I researched and bought carpet made from recycled plastic bottles (but still looks like carpet). Its all off chemicals!

Jennifer Hoots said...

I totally enjoyed this post, thank you. May I ask where to find a "pretty" broom? I believe in liking what you use, so it is good to hear what others like. Thank you again. I am enjoying this "How Do We" series.
Jenn from Indiana

Catherine Anne said...

Love hearing your way of doing things. I dream of a LARGE OLD farm house to clean. lol

Jen said...

I LOVE the wipe idea! I will try this soon with my 18 month old. He so loves to help, I am looking for new ways to include him.

A post on ways young children can help (a great character thing, and something they naturally like) would be a help to me, if you get a chance. People vary so much in what they think is appropriate for a young child to do. I'm inclined to let him do as much as he can and enjoys, and I'm betting we underestimate what that is this days.

Tesa said...

We tore out all the carpets down to original wood, too, when we moved into our little 1926 bungalow. I've never regretted it! For a while we had an area rug in our main living room, but I've since removed that also. Bare wood is just so much easier to clean.

I've reserved your book recommendation on organic housekeeping from my library- sounds like a good one!

I'm enjoying your series.

Mae said...

I love the wet wipes idea. My kids too love them. Now I know what they can do with them. Thanks
:) Mae

Kim said...

Do you like the dish washing soap from Ecover? I've tried a few eco brands and I find they don't cut through grease.
Thanks for the great posts about your life and home.


Kim said...

You can delete this one. I can't get the contact button to work..sorry!

How do you do: meals, spend wisely at thrift stores and groceries to support your husband, and family and personal devotions. I know as a woman that when my time with God is lacking EVERYTHING else seems to be off-track. Any advice on these would be greatly appreciated.
In Jesus,

Jennifer said...

I am sure you probably use baking soda for cleaning already, but it is really a miracle product in my mind. Baking soda and hot water will make baked-on gunk easy to clean off and a mixture of baking soda and dish soap cleans the grimiest of surfaces beautifully. It is a little thing, but I wanted to mention it because I use it almost daily.
Again, a little thing that I would not be surprised if you already do, when t-shirts get too holey to wear, I cut them into squares and use them as rags. I use them for really dirty jobs, because I don't feel bad throwing them away if they get too filthy, because they were destined for the trash pile anyway.
Thank you so much for sharing your cleaning tips with us! Now I have some new ideas for kid-friendly cleaners and I am motivated to clean my house now!

Anonymous said...

We use water and vinegar for most of our cleaning. We too have VERY HARD water so we have to use CLR on the faucets and some stuff occasionally but try to avoid it if we can. Love Lemon Shine for the dishwasher...

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem with our toilet.. We had this rust stain.. At least that is what it looked like.. nothing would touch it.. my brother told me about this stuff called the Works.. They sell it at Wally world, for like 1.10. But I have found it also at Dollar tree. They also have a formula that takes the rust stains off the shower too..Nothing else I have used worked.
sue in NJ

Natural Mama said...

I have made many, many cleaning schedules. They never worked. I'm like you, I focus on the floors and controlling clutter. I wipe up the pee as I see it and mop as I see sticky stuff. I am currently using the BabyGanics cleaning products, but for my floor, it's just hot water.
Since I have become aware of harsh chemicals in cleaners, I don't use harsh cleaners, but I will be the first to say that I sure do miss the smell of Pine-Sol! :)

Anonymous said...

Where do you get the LemiShine stuff? Our water is very hard, too and I deal with orange rings and deposits on everything. I'd like to try that product occasionally in my dishwasher.


Lecia said...

I am really enjoying this series on how you do things at your home. It is so inspirational to read how others run their homes. I always seem to find a little something to add to how we do things.

Me said...

Jenn, I found my last two pretty brooms at TJ Maxx and Christmas Tree Shops.

Catherine Anne, the cleaning is the least fun part, lol. :)

Jen, I like your idea for a post. I teach our children to help from a very young age.

Tesa, I pull up the rug int he summertime too.

Kim, I don't think I've tried the Ecover dish soap. Maybe I have - I recall one that didn't do the grease well. Luckily I don't have a plethora of dishes to handwash. The cast iron ones can't have soap on them, so that makes things easy.

Sue, the Works is what I use too!

Anna, I know Walmart has teh LemiShine and I think I've seen it on too.

Thanks, Lecia!

Vara B said...

If you are looking for 'green' cleaning products, try Norwex. Its sold through home shows, but WELL worth the money. It costs a little more up front, but more than pays for itself as long as it lasts. The biggest thing is the Norwex Anti-Bacterial cloths. No cleaning products required AT ALL. The rag and water. Not kidding! LOVE mine...I have 1/2 dozen of them and would almost give up my internet connection before giving up my cloths. They also carry a great cleaning paste that is made from all natural ingredients. You could eat it, but I wouldn't recommend it. I have hard water too and it works well in conjunction with their descaler. Their toilet bowl cleaner is also wonderful and safe around children and worries about Fido drinking in the toilet. :)