Last week we spent several days cleaning my (Xan) mother-in-law’s apartment.
Before you get all sad on me, this was not because she passed, but because she invited friends from the Old Country, whom she has not seen in nearly 60 years, to stay with her.
Mom’s apartment is the subject of rueful, affectionate…,well, I have to say, disgust in the family. She never throws anything away (we’re talking thousands and thousands of those plastic bags you bring your veggies home in from the market), and she likes to be able to “get at her things” meaning nothing goes into cabinets, it’s all out on counters. She fries everything. Rather than cleaning, everything is covered in little bits of saved plastic and old newspapers, which she changes, oh, once a decade. She’s 87 and frail.
When my daughter was 6, she ran barefoot into that kitchen and had to be carried back out, crying. The level of grease is not to be described.
We had to clean this needless to say. We cannot let people from the Old Country see how she lives. They’ll blame us! We started with her stock of cleaners– 409, Comet, Palmolive, that soap-treated steel wool, sponges. A couple of hours into it I realized these products were not going to work. I was feeling ill from the fumes, and things weren’t getting clean.
So I brought in my REAL clean stock–vinegar, washing soda, rags, brushes. Forgot the castille soap, so I stuck with the Palmolive as a surfactant. Halfway through I knew I would be writing this post, and was wishing I had brought my camera to document the difference.
And the difference was amazing. Easier, cleaner, and I felt like I could breathe. If these things can clean the Superfund site that was Mom’s kitchen, they can clean anything.
So, I’m making the transition. I have my borax. I have castile soap, washing soda, salts and vinegar at both the kitchen and the laundry stations. I have my Ligget’s bar shampoo (everyone’s been complimenting my hair) and I’m going to take Susy’s challenge and find a natural deodorant. I just took out towels washed in Peppermint castille soap, borax and vinegar; they’re hanging on my line in the basement and making the whole room smell wonderful.
Most of the difficulty of relearning the old cleaning skills is in, as I said in an earlier post, establishing a new routine. Instead of pouring out a capful of chemical cleaner, I need to measure, dissolve, and mix. Instead of just grabbing the product off the grocery store shelf, I have to hunt it down a bit. But routines can be changed, and old dogs like me can learn new tricks. Little by little I’ll start removing the old items from the household so that my husband will have no choice but to learn these new old ways as well.
And I think that together, we’ll save the world, one bar of soap at a time.
For me, Jennifer, things haven’t changed too much this past month. I have had loads of fun mixing and experimenting with some new products. Researching has been a blast and I’m thrilled to see so much available on the internet for so many people to access. As for my cleaning supply list, I really didn’t purchase anything new, which I absolutely love! Of course we hope that most of you will purchase a whole lot LESS, but having already kept a basic group of items including Borax, cleaning soda, old boxes of baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap, well, purchasing was easy on me this month.
The few things I did pick up were nice oils for my skin which were absolutely lovely. I adore the rosewater hand oil that I created (which I lovingly coined “hand salad dressing” here at home), but regret not having time to play more with concocting new recipes. I’m hoping we get to do this again in a few months so I can experiment some more ::hint hint::. But my absolute favorite was the Milk & Honey with Coconut scrub I started using! My face feels amazing and the smell is just YUM.
So what does the future hold for me and Real Clean “products” and “not-products”? I am definitely going to take up Emily on the hair washing experiment; I’ve given up for the time-being on finding a recipe that I like for dishwasher detergent; and I will get back to brewing and concocting some more yummy hand lotions and balms.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our “Real Clean” month!
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