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Archive for the ‘Cleaning 101’

Cleaning Easy As ABC

October 03, 2009 By: NB Category: Clean Principles, Cleaning 101

easy as abc

easy as abc

Here’s a tip that will make cleaning as easy as ABC…

well, actually S2W2 – that’s the acronym I remember this methodology with.  S2W2 stands for sweep, soak, wait and wipe and it’s really that simple!

You can apply this method to many different surfaces, from counter-tops, appliances, kitchen tables and floors, to porches, decks, patios, walkways, bathroom fixtures, and outdoor furniture. The cleanser might change with the application as well as the tool (cloth, mop, or squeege) used for the final step – but these four simple steps will handle most cleaning tasks. Here are the basics:

  1. sweep the surface clean of loose debris;
  2. saturate the surface with the appropriate cleanser;
  3. wait for the cleanser to dissolved the dirt and/or grime;
  4. wipe the mess up rinsing as needed.
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The Easiest Cleaning Secret Ever

September 28, 2009 By: NB Category: Clean Basics, Cleaning 101

work less

work less

Sometimes, we, as human beings, limit ourselves by a view that something we know is situational rather than adapting what we already know to a different set of circumstances.  Even though we already know the principle we fail to apply it in other areas.  The easiest cleaning secret ever is just that.  In fact, it’s not a secret at all.  You already know this secret and most likely apply it in at least one set of circumstances – but probably not in many more circumstances where it’s use would make cleaning far less work than we make it.

So, in the interest of helping us as humans develop our adaptive knowledge and ability to apply solutions across domains, I’m not going to just tell you what the secret is.  I’m going to use a literary technique that will lead you to the discovery of the secret for yourself.  I’d like to introduce you to a couple of women who will demonstrate for you the concept of the easiest cleaning secret ever – Lea Schure and Ima Zausted.

Lea and Ima are neighbors.  They both have a son who is active in a scouting organization.  In fact, both of their sons are in the same troup and Lea and Ima quite often volunteer to assist the scout leader with activities.  On this particular Saturday morning both Lea and Ima had a dozen boys each at their homes for a pancake breakfast before a day of fund-raising.  After getting everyone full of pancakes and loaded on the activity bus Lea and Ima both faced the task of putting their disheveled kitchens back in order.

Ima begins with the dishes.  She scrapes any left overs into the trash, including as much syrup as she can, but it’s been a couple of hours and the syrup has already begun drying on the plates.  So she stands at the sink scrubbing all the sticky syrup off each plate before putting it in the dishwasher.  There are 12 plates, plus 3 more where she, her husband, and her daughter also ate, as well as 15 glasses, the batter bowl, griddle and utensils.  It takes Ima 2 minutes to get the gunk off of each plate – so she spends a minimum of 30 minutes just getting enough syrup off that the dishwasher can get them clean.

Next Ima tackles the batter and syrup splattered counter.  She wets a nylon scrubber and sprinkles a little scouring powder on it and begins scrubbing at the dried on splatters.  After a few minutes she has successfully loosened the mess in a small area and walks back to the sink to rinse the scrubber and apply more scouring powder.  Ima repeats this process until the counter is clean and follows the same procedure on the kitchen table and then the stove-top.  Another 45 minutes has elapsed.

Finally, Ima sweeps the kitchen floor and disposes of the loose debris in the trash can.  She gets out the bucket and mop and fills the bucket with hot soapy water.  She proceeds to mop and scrub the kitchen floor with the scrubber strip on the mop as she finds mess stuck on the floor.  After each 2 foot area Ima rinses the mop in the bucket.  Halfway through the floor she empties the dirty and now “unsoapy” water in the bucket and gets fresh soapy water.  Another 35 minutes gone.  At last, Ima finishes the floor and empties the mop water, wipes down the other appliances and washes down the sink – then she collapses into the nearest kitchen chair after the nearly 2 hour ordeal to sort out her kitchen.

Lea begins with the dishes as well.  She also scrapes any leftovers into the trash but Lea doesn’t try to scrape the sticky syrup off.  Lea runs a sink full of hot soapy water and submerges the utensils and glasses and fills the batter bowl with hot soapy water as well.  In the other side of her double sink she runs a half a sink full of hot water to which she adds 2 tablespoons of white vinegar.  It takes Lea 5 minutes to scrape the dishes and run the water.   For the next 3 minutes Lea sweeps any loose particles off the counter, table, stove, and finally the floor, disposing of the refuse in the trash.  Lea washes each of the 15 glasses which takes about 30 seconds each after soaking in the hot soapy water for three minutes.  She rinses each glass in the sink of plain water and vinegar before putting it in the drainer.  Then Lea sets the stack of sticky plates in the sink of hot soapy water.  So far, 20 minutes have elapsed.

Next, Lea takes her dish cloth and spreads hot soapy water from the sink onto the counter, table and stove-top – it takes her about 3 minutes.  By now the hot soapy water has softened and loosened the gunked up syrup on the plates and it washes off easily.  She washes each of the 15 plates and rinses (again about 30 seconds each) and then the utensils (another 2 minutes).  The batter bowl, which has been sitting with hot soapy water in it,  is clean and rinsed in 1 minute and Lea puts the griddle in the wash side of the sink.  Another 13 and 1/2 minutes has elapsed.

Now Lea takes her wrung out dish cloth and wipes down the counter, table, and stove-top – all the dried-on, stuck-on batter and syrup has dissolved into mush and simply wipes away.  She rinses her cloth in the soapy side of the sink as needed and it takes her 5 minutes to clean those three surfaces.  Lea washes and rinses the griddle (1 minute).  Then she takes her mop and  spreads water on the floor from the wash side of the sink, lightly, not huge puddles, but paying particular attention to splatters or spills (about 3 minutes).  Lea lets the water out of the wash side of the sink and puts away the glasses, plates and utensils (another 3 minutes).  Lastly, Lea mops up the water and any gunk on the floor – which wipes up as easily as it did on the counter, rinsing her mop in the rinse water from the dishes after each 4 foot square.  This last process takes another 3 minutes for a total of 15 minutes since she finished the dishes.  Lea pours her self a cup of tea and absconds to the patio to do some reading since it only took her 48 and 1/2 minutes to clean her kitchen.

So what is the secret?  What was it that allowed Lea to clean her equally dirty kitchen in only 48 and 1/2 minutes when it took poor Ima 1 hour and 50 minutes?  You see it, I know you do – but maybe you can’t find the words to describe the concept.  So here is the secret – in a short, easy-to-remember phrase:  Let your products do the work.  Quit wearing yourself out scrubbing and scouring and let the solvents (water), surfactants (soap), grease-cutting and disinfecting (lemon juice) agents do what they do best – cleaning.  And, you know, you’re not only wearing yourself out by scrubbing and scouring – you’re wearing out the surfaces of the items you are scrubbing and scouring as well.  So relax. Let your cleaners clean.  Less really is more.

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Easy Ways To Keep Dirt Out – Part II

September 10, 2009 By: NB Category: Clean Principles

caveat aeris

airborne dirt

The next worst offender in the ingress of dirt into our homes are airborne particles and they enter through multiple sources.  First and foremost are open windows.  Unfortunately, it’s the one we can do the least about except to keep them closed.  I love open windows when there is a nice breeze but screens do nothing to keep dirt, dust, pollen or smoke from entering our homes.  So if it’s nice enough to open the windows I just plan on doing a little extra cleaning.  The other sources of airborne dirt we can take steps to mitigate:

  • Caulk any cracks around doors and windows and make sure they are properly fitted with weather stripping.  This helps your heating and cooling efficiency as well as keeping dirt out.
  • Change your HVAC filter every month, more often if the weather has been particularly dry.  I prefer a permanent washable filter over the disposables for ecological reasons.
  • Vacuum inside the heating and air conditioing duct work a couple of times a year.  Check for cracks, holes or any openings that may allow dirt to enter from under the house.  Seal with duct tape.  While you’re under the house why not insulate the duct work to preserve the heat or coolness of the air travelling through it.  You HVAC unit won’t have to work so hard and you’ll save money.
  • Make sure your clothes dryer and range hood are properly vented to the outside.
  • Always use a splatter cover when cooking with any oils or fats on top of the stove.
  • If you smoke . . . consider quitting.  Or at least not smoking inside.  At the very least, only smoke in one room, preferably one with the least amount of fabric (upholstery, carpet, and drapes soak up tar and nicotine and odor like wicks) and get yourself a negative ion generator.  A negative ion generator is a small electric device that spits negative ions out into the air.  The negative ions attach to smoke and dust particles in the air.  The combined weight of the particle with a negative ion makes it drop straight to the floor where it stays until the next time you vacuum.
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Easy Ways To Keep Dirt Out – Part I

September 10, 2009 By: NB Category: Clean Principles

avoid punch, no be there

avoid cleaning, no let dirt in

Listen to Mr. Miyagi.  If we were to ask him the best way to save time cleaning he would tell us to not let dirt in to begin with.  In the words of an age old idiom – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Makes sense, right?  And a whole lot easier said than done . . .unless you know where dirt gets in and how to stop it.  The truth is that a full 85% of the dirt that comes into your house is transported in through your doorways on the clothing and shoes or feet of people and pets.  The other 15% comes in through windows, cracks, heating and air conditioning duct work, exhausts, vents, and flues or is created inside by cooking, smoking and pet dander.

So if doors are the worst offenders for allowing dirt in our homes how do we stop it?  Well, honestly, you can’t stop every particle of dirt from entering your home unless you hermetically seal the house and nothing or no one ever goes in or out.  But you can eliminate around 75% of the incoming dirt at doorways with one simple thing – proper matting inside and out.  The keyword here is proper.  Let’s explore some outdoor matting choices and find out which one keeps the most dirt from coming into our homes.

Decorative Cloth Mats – While these may be decorative, declaring “Welcome” to your guests or proudly bearing your name they are of limited use in keeping dirt out.  Additionally, moisture will eventually cause them to rot.

Smooth Rubber or Plastic Mats – These might have little knobs to knock dirt off of shoes but the solid base makes it likely that someone else will pick the dirt back up from the mat and carry it in the house.  These won’t rot but they could mold or mildew.

Sisal, Jute or Hemp Mats – This kind of mat can catch a fair amount of dirt. The problem is that the dirt falls through the mat onto the surface below.  When you pick the mat up to clean it you’ll also have to clean the surface under it.  Natural fiber mats, like cloth, are prone to eventual rotting.

Metal Grid, Chain or Rubber Chain Mats – Like natural fiber mats dirt will fall through to the surface below unless the mat is backed.  Even with a backing these types of mats are an accident waiting to happen for someone in heels.

Synthetic Grass-Type Mats – These won’t rot.  The grass knocks a lot of dirt off shoes and boots and it’s easy to clean.  This is the best choice for outdoor matting needs.  If you really don’t like the “fake grass” mat look for any rough, non-perforated, rubber or plastic backed mat.

Ideally, the outside mat should be large enough to cover 3 to 4 strides from the doorway.  But ideal is rarely reality.  Do the best you can given the entry, covering, porch and stair configuration you have to work with.

While outside matting will help reduce the amount of incoming dirt it is only half the battle.  The other half is inside matting.  Yes, outside AND inside mats.  There is ony one type of mat worth your time and money acquiring and when I explain why it’s the only one worth it you will understand why any other type is not.  You want a commercial grade vinyl or rubber backed nylon mat.  The nylon creates a static charge the pulls dirt from shoes and clothes and absorbs mud and water into the roots of the mat.  They can be vacuumed regularly or washed when needed by hosing them down, brushing a little cleaning solution on them, rinsing and hanging to dry.  They last for years and are available in many colors in widths of 3, 4, or 6 feet and any length.  No other throw rug, runner, or mat will come close to keeping as much dirt out of your home as one of these.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re serious about keeping dirt out of your home so you can spend less time cleaning and more time living, you want inside and outside mats at every external door including the garage entrance.  Wait . . . don’t these mats cost a lot?  I thought this site was about saving money too.  True.  These mats are not your local discount mart $14.95 door mats.  But even if one good 4 x 6 commercial nylon mat costs you $80.00, if it lasts for 10 years then the cost per year was $8.00.  And because less dirt is getting into your house you’re not having to clean as much.  You’re also not having to have your carpets and upholstery cleaned as often, or your drapes.  Do you know what the biggest source of damage of hard surfaces, like floors and walls, in your home is?  Dirt and grit.  It grinds into the surfaces and destroys the finish – so you won’t have to wax and polish your hard surfaces as often with good matting.

So you’re saving time by the tasks you don’t have to do as often as well as the cost of outside services, tools and supplies.  Is all that worth $8.00 a year?  An unequivocal “YES” in my book.  It really is true . . . you get what you pay for.

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Where Dirt Comes From

September 10, 2009 By: NB Category: Clean Basics

Our love-hate affair with dirt.

dirt happens

Dirt.  A four-letter word that is both a blessing and a curse.  Without dirt, life on this planet would be shockingly different if it existed at all.  Dirt is the matrix for a large portion of our plant life.  Plants that provide us with food for ourselves and our livestock. Plants that take in carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and produce oxygen.  Plants that provide us with materials for building, clothing, medicines, furnishings, tools, and hundreds of other items we use on a daily basis.  On the other hand, dirt, by it’s very nature can be teaming with micro-organisms, both helpful and harmful.  Dirt can become contaminated with a variety of natural and man-made elements – radon, landfills, sewage, and nuclear wastes to name a few.

Where does dirt come from?  The inner core of the earth is believed to be primarily a solid sphere  of an iron-nickle alloy about 758 miles in radius and may have a temperature similar to the Sun’s surface.  The liquid outer core that surrounds the inner core is believed to be composed of iron, nickle and trace amounts of lighter elements.  Surrounding the core is the earth’s mantle which contain silicate rocks rich in iron and magnesium.  High pressure and temperature in the mantle allow the rock to be very ductile, which is the ability to be deformed plastically without breaking.  Movements of this “plastic” rock cause the movement of the tectonic plates.  When tectonic plates collide large volumes of rock, and sometimes molten rock, push up through the earth’s crust and form mountain ranges.  Exposed rock is broken down by a variety of natural processes.  Wind blasts the rock with sand (smaller pieces of rock that have already been broken down).  Water in the form of rain and rivers wear away small pieces of the rock.  Freezing and thawing cracks and crumbles the rock into smaller rocks.  Plants grow roots into cracks in rocks and help the elements break them apart.  All of this takes time of course, a very long time, but eventually a rock is reduced to tiny particles that we call dirt.  As more dirt is deposited on the earth’s surface, in it’s streams and rivers and the bottom of the ocean, lower layers of dirt can form new rocks and mineral deposits due to the higher pressure and temperature in the upper mantle.  Some scientist estimate that the majority of dirt on the earth’s crust is about 2 to 5 thousand years old.

And while we understand that dirt is a necessary element for life as we know it we don’t want dirt in our homes.  We don’t want to sit in it, sleep in it, wear it or eat it.  We don’t want harmful micro-organisms and toxic contaminants threatening our homes and very lives.  And so we wage a war on dirt.  But everything in life comes with a cost. We don’t have time to clean constantly even though the enemy infiltrates our abodes constantly.  We have a need, in this day and age, to be financially economical.  And we have a responsibility to our fellow humans and, by default the planet we live on, to subscribe to the Hippocratic concept of  “first do no harm”.

Here then are the tools, guides, principles, and resources to create and maintain a clean home.  Win the war on dirt and save your time, your money, your health and our planet while you clean your home.

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