Monday, April 14, 2008


When I was a newlywed (back in the early 70s), one of our neighbors had a painted sign in her kitchen that read, "My House is Clean Enough to Be Healthly and Dirty Enough to Be Happy". On my recent trip to Utah, I found this same sign on a shelf at the Deseret Industries thrift store. Of course, I HAD to buy it.

Cleaning--it's something we all have to do, but does anyone really enjoy it (other than my mother-in-law)? And, with chemical sensitivities, what cleaning products are safe to use? (And, if they aren't safe for me, are they safe for anyone?)

Cleaning is a broad topic (since every thing and every one needs cleaning at some time or another), so this is going to take more than one post. We all probably have some general rules we work by, so maybe that would be a good place to start. These "rules" are certainly not a matter of right and wrong--more like a personal "philosophy of cleaning".

My number one general rule of cleaning is: Clean as you go.
If I spill on the kitchen counter, I take a wet rag and clean it up immediately. While fixing a meal, I keep a sink full of hot soapy water so I can wash dishes as I dirty them and set the pans to soak while we are eating. Obedience to this basic rule saves me a lot of time, not to mention elbow grease. Also, if a spill is wiped up or a soiled blouse set to soak immediately, there's no need for strong chemical cleaners after a spill becomes a set-in stain.

A rule my mother used was: Take as few steps as possible.
As you clean one room (or one floor of the house), make a pile of things to be taken into another room (or upstairs) and take it all in one trip.

This leads to another rule: Sort. (aka, The Pile Method)
As you are working on a project that involves papers, or cleaning up clutter of any kind (i.e. toys), sort things (or papers) into piles and then put them away (or file them) all at once. Of course, if the piles on your desk ARE your filing system, that's another matter entirely.

And that leads to another rule which my sister lives by:
Touch every piece of paper only once.
As papers come onto your desk or into your home, handle each one only once. Take care of it, respond to it or dispose of it (recycle, of course). I personally find this rule hard to follow all the time, but it's a worthy goal and leads to my last rule:

Keep a clean rag in every room (including your office).
With a clean rag always at hand you can clean up the spills as they happen and dust any surface during those moments (and in my house they are just moments) that the piles are cleared and you can actually see the surfaces beneath.

So, how do you make cleaning simpler and reduce the need for chemicals? What is your Philosophy of Cleaning?


SharonB said...

I will refrain from claiming any expertise or even experience in the cleaning department but I will say that I have next to no toxic cleansers in my home and if I actually used the non-toxic ones I do have, I would still have a very clean home! I prefer Ecover and 7th Generation brands in the Free and Clear varieties if available. They even have a carpet cleaner! Also I have used vinegar and water in a spray bottle in the past but some people are sensitive to vinegar. Happy cleaning!

Becca said...

I see where I get some of my cleaning habits from! I really like the touch everything only once idea; I've found that if I take care of the mail as soon as it comes in, then it takes 10 extra seconds at the time instead of days of looking at it just sitting on the coffee table.

I will try not to make any references to OCD here . . . ;)

Catriona said...

I agree with the idea of efficiency and cleaning as you go; my grandmother taught me that, and I have followed it closely--
Baking soda and vinegar are my favorite cleaners, but sometimes I like a spray for my daughters to us; I have been able to handle Method--I am using 7th Generation dish soap at present--
I use Method furniture polish; it is almond flavored and very mild--
but some of their things even are too strong for me--
Yes, that is scary that some are sensitive to vinegar--
if it works for me in my home, how do I know that someone else with MCS won't find it hurtful?
Good things to discuss--
I have a dishwasher; I use chlorine-free powder--
but it's the store brand--it works for me, but I can't handle the ones with chlorine in them--

Catriona said...

oops, I had better preview--

for my daughters to USE, it should have been--



CatherineWO said...

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I'll have to look into the Method brand.
Chlorine is REALLY a problem for me too. I love to swim but haven't been able to go to a public swimming pool in years because of the chlorine.