Clean House with Sally's Favorite Household Cleaning Products
How I learned to Clean House
Please don’t tell my mother about this article, because I didn’t learn anything about house cleaning from her, even though she thinks I did. When I was growing up, we had a relatively uncluttered and clean house, but cleaning was not what was important to my mother. To her, the important things were good food on the table, a good job for her, a good school for me, clothes on our backs, spending time with family, and going places. Household cleaning products were not priorities in the household budget.
Some of you may have grown up with scheduled and assigned cleaning chores. Not me. Saturday morning? Let’s hit the beach! Let’s go see Aunt Ronnie! Let’s go clothes shopping! I grew up with dusty surfaces, unmade beds, unwashed dishes in the sink, and lots of stuff on the floors that stuck to my socks. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, taking a bath, wearing clean underwear, ironing our clothes, and styling our hair were inviolable rules applied to daily life.
I Moved into my First Apartment
I got serious about cleaning house when I moved into my first apartment--one bedroom, a living room, and a Pullman kitchen that you closed off from the living room with a set of shuttered doors.
It was while living in that tiny apartment that I bought my first antique with my own money, a late nineteenth-century oak tavern table in need of cleaning. And this is where I turned to Aunt Ronnie for help. She’s an antiques dealer, a compulsive cleaner, and knows all about these things. (Definitely, don’t tell my mother about this article, or Aunt Ronnie either!) What can I use to clean my antique table, I asked Aunt Ronnie.
Murphy Oil Soap was the instantaneous answer.
Murphy Oil Soap
Murphy Oil Soap has a long history in the world of cleaning products. It’s been around since about 1900. By 1950, its slogan was, “cleans everything, injures nothing.” Indeed, from my experience, that’s the truth.
To clean that tavern table, I made a solution of ¼ cup Murphy’s to one gallon of warm water. I took a terry cloth rag, dipped it in the solution, wrung the rag out until almost dry, and scrubbed away. After about an hour and many rinses and wringings of the rag later, I had a gloriously gleaming hunk of red oak and a filthy bucket of disgusting water.
I use Murphy’s on all of my antique wood furniture (I’ve collected quite a bit of it since those early years) about once a year to clean out the grime that dusting and polishing won’t remove. I also learned to use Murphy’s on walls, floors, and painted wood trim. Nothing, I mean nothing, cleans a painted surface or a vinyl or linoleum floor better than Murphy’s. Plus, it smells good. Not antiseptic, not harsh, just kind of clean and fresh in an earthy way.
Long after I moved out of that first apartment, I was lucky to have a wonderful woman help me clean the house I moved into after I married. She, like Aunt Ronnie, was another of my teachers of the house cleaning arts.
Eunice introduced me to Pine-Sol. I’d come home from work after her weekly visit to our house, and my nose would be in heaven. She’d mix about a quarter cup of Pine-Sol to a gallon of water, and scrub every tile, porcelain, and ceramic surface in the bathrooms. Not only was the smell wonderful, but so were the gleaming surfaces.
Pine-Sol’s been around for a long time, too, for about 75 years. It had its birth along with the Great Depression in 1929, when its chemist-inventor used his knowledge of the natural pine forests of Mississippi to create a fresh, disinfecting, and deodorizing cleaner.
Alas, there are other areas of the house to clean, and Pine-Sol and Murphy’s won’t do them all.
A Texture Similar to My Counter Top's
Today, in my current house, I have very odd kitchen counter tops. They are some kind of vinyl, or something, installed about 30 years ago, and they are white and have the texture of tree bark.
I kid you not. I have often asked myself, about these counter tops, “What were they thinking?”
Any kind of dirt gets embedded in the texture of these insidious counter tops, and the only way to clean them is with a scrub brush. At first, I sprinkled a chlorine powdered cleanser on them, added water, and scrubbed away. That worked alright, but it was a mess to clean up and a hazard to my clothes.
Then I learned about Simple Green through a friend at work.
Simple Green is an industrial-strength cleaner, a de-greaser and wax-stripper, which is also environmentally safe. It too has been around for quite a while, about thirty years. I find it harsher on the hands than Murphy’s or Pine-Sol, but rubber gloves take care of that problem for me. It has a fantastic fresh scent, and believe me, there is almost nothing it doesn’t clean (although I would never use it on antique furniture).
To sanitize and clean those ugly counter tops, I dilute the concentrate about 1 part to ten parts of water and put the solution in a spray bottle. I spray those nasty counter tops liberally, wait about 5 minutes, scour them with a brush, and wipe clean with a terry rag dipped in warm water and wrung out. My kitchen counters have never been cleaner.
Weiman’s Stove Top Cleaner
I’ve saved the best for last. This incredible product cleans not only glass stove tops, but anything that is glass, as well as any porcelain, ceramic, or pottery that is glazed. I learned about this product when I bought a glass-topped stove. Along with the stove came a small bottle of Weiman’s, with instructions for use. My glass-topped stove is white, and this cleaner makes it sparkle (yes, you do need to add some elbow grease).
I like antiques and collectibles, and sometimes old glass or pottery items are milky, cloudy, or stained as the result of liquids left in them for too long, so long that the minerals from the liquids leach out and damage the glass or the glaze. The traditional approach to cleaning these damaged pieces is to subject them to an acid wash. However, good news for all of us, Weiman’s stove top cleaner performs miracles. If you have a piece of glass that has sediment stains you haven’t been able to remove, put some Weiman’s stove top cleaner on a paper towel, coat the stain, wait a few minutes, and then scrub with the paper towel. The results can be amazing.
Hubs on Cleaning and Cleaning Products - The Lighter Side of Household Cleaning
Good Links for Learning More about Cleaning Products
The Consumer Specialty Products Association provides an overview of different types of cleaning products, including green cleaning products, and explains how they work. This site does not discuss or feature product brands, only the background and history of how cleaning products work. It is a great site, and I give it all thumbs up.
The US Department of Health and Human Services publishes a great deal of detailed information about the safety of cleaning products.
A Final Thought
Please don’t tell my mother or Aunt Ronnie about this article.
They’d have a fight about who taught me what.
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