Saturday, December 02, 2006

cleaning tools - mops, brooms, and sundries

If you have a great canister vacuum and you keep it in a place where it is easily accessible, you may never need a broom again. (At least not for indoor work.) But if you still want a broom or other floor-sweeping device, read on.

The Swiffer dry mop is God's gift to those of us who clean. With a few reservations:

1) The disposable dusting sheets are wasteful and not terribly eco-friendly (being made from non-renewable petrochemicals). I know they are supposed to be electro-statically charged so that they catch lots of dust, but I have never noticed them to be any better than a simple cloth. So for the sake of our planet, by all means use a Swiffer dry mop, but fasten your own washable cloths onto the bottom. I use old cotton terrycloth rags that have become too thin to use for other cleaning jobs. They work great on floors.

2) The Swiffer doesn't to a perfect job (of getting up all the dust and stuff). But it's better than sweeping with a broom in many cases, because a broom can stir up dust, and leave a lot of dust behind.

I live in an apartment with a hardwood floor. For everyday touch-up sweeping, I use a Swiffer dry mop with a washable rag attached to it. Once a week I move my rugs and most of my lightweight furniture and do a very thorough sweeping, again with the Swiffer. I have a high-end corn broom, but I hardly ever use it. It would be great for messes of big chunks of things that the Swiffer has trouble pushing around.

I also have a dust pan (metal) and corn whisk. Very handy for scooping up and disposing of whatever dirt you've been collecting. I choose metal or natural materials over plastic whenever I can, but you may prefer the lighter weight of a petrochemical product.

The Swiffer dry mop is great for other things besides floors, by the way. I routinely use it to catch cobwebs on walls and ceilings. Because I'm taller than average (5'7"), I find the standard handle length is a little too short for comfort, so I've bought two mops, and use an extra piece of the second mop's handle to make the first one longer.

You may be wondering, since I've been talking about Swiffers, whether you should also have one of the Swiffer wet mops. Don't go there. I've cleaned for clients who used them regularly on their floors before I came along, and the residue left behind from the Swiffer solvents took (literally!) weeks and weeks to get off the floor. Plus the floors were really dirty - the mops never actually washed away the dirt, they only pushed it around and around.

The Swiffer dry mop (with a washable rag attached) can be used as a wet mop if you like. Just re-wet and wring out the rag often.

A better wet mop is a sponge one - my favorite is Vileda's sponge mop, either the Bee Mop Classic or the Bee Mop Multi with chammy and scrubby. If you really like string mops (I find they leave the floors too wet, and are more difficult to control), Vileda also makes washable string mops with buckets for twist wringing, and if you want something a bit more durable than the Swiffer dry mop for dry mopping, Vileda has flat mops with washable pads.

Regarding buckets: I use one for most of my cleaning - a gorgeous stainless steel bucket from Lee Valley, that is sold with a lid as a compost bucket or ice bucket. I had some galvanized steel buckets that I used before that, but some of the cleaners I used (like TSP and borax) corroded the inside of the buckets, so I only use them for plain water now.

If you like plastic, plastic buckets are definitely lighter in weight - and quieter! I have a few plastic buckets I use for soaking stains out of clothing (they're easy to move from sink to counter because they're so light and because they have handles - and the stain removers don't react with the plastic), but that's about it.

I've mentioned cloth rags several times - they are the most wonderful and necessary things that I use in my cleaning! I make my own out of old cotton towels; I cut up the towels up so that each rag is the approximate size of a face cloth, and finish the cut edges on the sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch so they don't fray in the wash. I have a large basket of them that I use only in the kitchen (for wiping up counters and messes; the used ones get hung to dry, and then put in a bucket until there are enough to make a washing machine load), and others I use for general housecleaning.

I love my rags. Call me insane, but they are more dear to me than some of my relatives! In past summers I have hung them to dry outside after laundering, and the gorgeous line-dried smell of them made me so happy every time I used them.

Speaking of laundering rags: don't use fabric softener (liquid, or dryer sheets) on them. (You shouldn't even use fabric softener on your clothes, but that's a whole other post.) Fabric softener leaves behind a waxy residue on the rags that smears when you are cleaning glass or mirrors, and makes the rags less absorbent.

Next time I'll talk about the eco-friendly cleaners I use, including laundry ones.

copyright 2006, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow