Do you know anyone who has a great cleaning tip? Someone who seems to understand the ins and outs of having a super-clean home, who has great little tips that can save a person time and money while they scour counters and windows? Do you know someone who has floors so clean that you could literally serve a meal on them?
Yeah, me neither.
I have literally spent a lifetime, trying to find out some short cuts that could afford me a sparkling house with little effort and a great feeling of satisfaction. I remember when I had my first apartment. I thought sweeping would be enough to clean floors before mopping. The tell-tale pieces of lint that were stuck on the tile until the day I moved out told me otherwise.
Mom always had great tips for cleaning, most of which came from my grandmothers. My dad’s mom always used ammonia and newspaper to polish her windows to a dazzling shine. My mom’s mom used ammonia to clean her floors yet used bleach for her toilets. Mom always used Lysol products, one of which used to require you to open all the windows because of its strong “fragrance.” I used that same brown liquid, years later, to clean my daughter’s room every week when she was an infant. I don’t believe it’s sold any longer.
Washing floors has basically been the bane of my existence. When my husband and I first had our apartment in Plainview, I was grateful that we only had two floors to mop. I used a sponge mop from a bargain store that often required a rubber band to hold the sponge to the metal plate. I learned to dislike washing floors a whole lot after that.
My mother-in-law often used a string mop to clean her linoleum floors. She said they were excellent for scrubbing hard tile, as manifested by her shiny surfaces. My husband’s grandmother subscribed to the same belief in those mops, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.
The mess that the mop left behind required me to mop with a towel beneath my feet. As I soaked the floors, I followed quickly behind with a skate-like motion to dry the excess water. The floors were clean, but I was exhausted afterwards. Also, nobody’s house should look like Lake Ontario after mopping. I had to be doing something wrong.
During my stint as a homecare nurse, I went into the home of a patient who had two folks who were cleaning her floors. One person used a scrub brush that was attached to a pole to “lift the dirt.” The other followed behind with a squeeze mop. The entire house shone so brightly that my eyes hurt. When I asked if they did the same to their own floors, they responded with a resounding yes. As I left the patient’s home, I felt a pang of jealousy. I stopped at the former KMart in Syosset, purchased a squeeze mop and a scrub brush on a pole and resolved to have super brilliant floors that weekend.
That didn’t work either. I felt more exhausted than when I employed the towel method. Mom continued to suggest ammonia and a sponge mop. I went out and bought a Swiffer Wet Jet, which leaked liquid all over my clothing. Swiffer Wet pads aren’t much better, as I found that I went through at least five pads during a regular cleaning day for the floors to get clean. I was ready to give up.
When the pandemic hit, I began to clean in earnest. Every day, I scoured surfaces and frequently touched areas. I vacuumed and mopped the floor daily. When my husband’s slippers literally stuck to the floor as he went to get himself a cup of coffee, I knew we had a little bit of an issue.
Mom thought that I was using too much cleaner in the hot water. I explained that I was using the 1:10 bleach solution, and that shouldn’t cause such stickiness. On the days that I wasn’t using bleach, I was using a similar dilution of Lysol and water. She suggested that either I had product build-up, or I was removing the finish off the floors from my rigorous cleaning. She suggested a hot water wash to remove everything and start again with less product and more water on another day.
The next day, I tried the hot water only trick. The shine was amazing. Mom was right. Product buildup and overzealous cleaning had caused my floors to dull and become sticky.
Hubby and I just finished cleaning the house. He laughed as he saw me, a towel beneath my slippers and a string mop before me when I first began. I literally looked like I was about to swab the poop deck of a pirate ship. He took the mop and washed while I dried behind him. It was a lot less exhausting.
As I inspect the job we did, the floors do look very clean. Alas, no sparkly brilliance but at least I know they’ve been adequately disinfected. I might have to give up the dream of sparkling floors until I can hit on a formula that works. I have an unused bottle of ammonia beneath the kitchen sink. It might be time to take Mom’s advice and give the old tried-and-true a spin. After all, Mom has the cleanest floors on the block. Yes, you can literally eat off them.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.