The title pretty much says it all.
However, I will enlarge on the theme, and all of you who just can’t believe that I could have a long post about sponges and dishcloths can come back later.
It’s just that sometimes when I’ve gone to a place you’ve never even heard of and visited a random person whom none of you knows and I go to wipe their counter, I find myself wondering if the things (sponges, towels, rags) are clean enough.
They sometimes don’t look clean (the sponges, not the people, although… And this is no one you know — I hardly know them myself). And it makes me remember how things were before I figured this all out at my house, and it further makes me wonder what my lovely good housekeeping friends thought when they visited me.
Honestly, they probably died a thousand deaths. They probably have whole blogs now, featuring examples on what not to do taken from their visits to me.
I had a couple of dubious dish towels and a sponge. I scrounged for a rag. I can’t remember even wondering if my towels were clean. Once in a while my mother would delicately buy me a couple of new ones. As I can remember, I thought it was somewhat beneath me to worry about such things.
So this post is like when I did my shower post and my mom said, “I can’t believe you would post about taking a shower.”
But some of us are just clueless like that. But we’re on a learning curve, and this is it!
So here goes.
It all comes down to this: there is no point in cleaning something with something that isn’t clean!
Think about it!
Just because it’s your dirty sponge and you are intimately familiar with all the germs that fester there — I mean, they aren’t strange germs or anything, you know them well — doesn’t mean that it isn’t gross!
If you use that sponge to wipe something off the floor, just because you know what was on the floor and your sponge is an old friend, doesn’t mean that it’s all okay!
And you can’t take that sponge and use it to wipe a child’s face!
Every magazine and shelves of books tell you how to keep house. Anyone who really knows me and my house knows I’m not a stellar housekeeper.
But I do know this: we need a system so that we are confident that not only are we cleaning with clean things, but other people will be able to step in and use them with confidence as well.
When you are going through hard times and pinching pennies until they beg for mercy, sometimes you don’t give yourself permission to buy things you need.
Do you buy your feminine products one at a time? Is your toilet paper doled out by the square? Do you run out of soap? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Please get over this.
No matter how poor you are, you are going to have to buy those things in some form. Just stock up.
Find the lowest price and the quality you like and go for it. While you’re at it, buy a supply of sponges and dishcloths.
These sponges are the kinds I like, above. Store brands are fine. Don’t get the dumb kind that are covered with a nylon net. All that happens with those is that the food gets stuck in there!
Don’t get the ones that don’t have a scrubbing side. Everything needs to be scrubbed, honestly, and if it doesn’t, turn the thing over and use the sponge side. (For your big pot that you burned potato soup in, you need that copper scrubber.)
This year I’d like to make dishcloths with my ever-increasing stash of yarn ends, but the dollar store has great cotton dishcloths.
I remember just before we were married, Phil and I were talking about sponges vs. dishcloths in kitchen cleanup.
I know. The romance, it doesn’t stop.
He said something like, “I know you’ll keep house the way your mother does.” It sounded like something he had picked up — you know how you can tell when someone is repeating something they’ve heard? Let’s just say it wasn’t the kind of thing he usually said, somehow.
I thought then I was a sponge person (my mother is a dishcloths person — she doesn’t really like sponges), so I had to laugh, about twenty years later, when I said, “I have to get some dishcloths!” I guess he — or whoever told him that– was right!
Dishcloths are useful because some things need to be wiped with something that’s almost dry, and you can wring out a dishcloths in a way you can’t wring out a sponge. As you are wiping something like the counter, you can refold it and have another clean side.
With a sponge, after a certain point you are just tracking the mess around unless you stop and wash it out. Too many steps!
dishcloths have an open texture which helps pick up bits and pieces. And you can throw them in the wash with the towels. Of course, towels should be washed with at least warm water, plus a bit of bleach. Kitchen towels in particular get quite musty very easily, at least here where it’s damp a lot of the time.
The sponge has to be kept clean too! I think we are all familiar with the studies that show that a kitchen sponge is dirtier than the toilet, ew.
That’s why I say, get a supply, because we all know we hang on to things if we think there’s no more left. When your sponge gets a little worn out and not clean enough for kitchen work, let it dry out and then use it in the bathroom to clean the toilet. It’s okay to demote your cleaning tools! Let them seek their own level, and eventually, throw them away.
And while it’s in the kitchen, throw it in the dishwasher at night or give it a mild bleach bath every couple of days (since I have to bleach my white formica anyway, it works out). An easy fix is to pop it in a bowl and pour boiling water over it while you are making your tea.
When we had babies around, we always had a stack of those nice thin baby face cloths for wiping faces and hands. Paper towels are harsh on a baby face and it’s a bit wasteful to use them. At the first sign that baby was done and about to start clambering out of the high chair, we deployed the “crack clean-up team” — one person removed the tray and the other was ready with a warm clean facecloth to wipe down those greasy fingers and that messy face!
Your whole entire house will stay cleaner if you don’t let that little stinker loose to grub things up.
Please understand this! I have no problem with small children getting a bit messy with their food (babies get a lot messy!).
But commit yourself to cleaning them up when they are done, and you will spare yourself that layer of grime and scent of faintly souring milk that settles on a house where the parents think it’s too much trouble to form their own crack clean-up team. When you get down to it, the problem is they don’t have a supply of clean cloths! So the whole house gets dirty. Wouldn’t it be a good investment to lay in a supply of washcloths for the baby?
Also, a clean baby is a baby everyone wants to cuddle, whereas a gloppy baby gives babies a bad name!
As for rags, I favor old flannel that I’ve torn into the right sizes for dusting and wiping down. I have a sizable stack of them, and they are kept clean, no matter what they’ve been used for. If my husband needs one for wiping up hydraulic fluid after testing the plow, I give him a really raggedy rag and then I throw it away.
Just convince yourself that you can wash your rags separately in hot water if need be, although I just throw them in with the towels.Don’t get into the habit of sort of designating a rag as “already dirty” — you just end up with nasty rags hanging off of pipes and shoved into corners.
Your life as a housekeeper becomes trying to assess just how dirty a rag is when you need one, which is too much of a drain on your already overtaxed mind. (And of course a really greasy toxic rag is a safety hazard, as it could spontaneously combust. I feel like now in the age of latex paint people don’t talk about not leaving greasy rags around, but maybe they should!)
Just keep all the rags clean and that’s one less thing to worry about.If it’s too dirty to clean, throw it away. If it’s not that dirty, put it in the hamper! Knowing you have a stack of clean rags to go to, you’ll quickly get into the habit of not letting the dirty ones sit around.
Now, since your towel that’s hanging on the hook is very clean, for wiping clean hands, and the dishcloth and sponge are pretty clean, for washing dishes and wiping counters, and the baby cloths are very clean, for cleaning baby’s faces, what happens when something spills on the floor?
Here’s another laundry point: Sometimes a towel is clean but it doesn’t look clean, so on the one hand people (well, me) are reluctant to use it (and might grab a paper towel instead, which is wasteful), and on the other, they use it for something really dirty, like wiping dirty hands on it, or wiping up the floor.
So using a little bleach means that your towels look as clean as they are, and then are used properly.Use the towel that was for hands and is now drying on the drying rack (preparatory to being put in the wash) to wipe the floor! Or grab a rag and then hang it on that rack so it doesn’t get used to wipe a counter.
These are my faded washcloths. Faded, but perfectly clean! Soon I will get new ones, but they are fine. I like the top ones better than those white and blue ones on the bottom, which are a little too “towel-ly” for me.
If the towel is hanging here, it’s clean. I do use paper towels for draining bacon and the occasional wipe-up, especially when the dog barfs (because who wants to use a real towel on that, gross), but since I know my towels are really clean (are you getting the theme here?) I don’t use very many paper ones at all.
Things on the drying rack = dirty. Things on a hook or at the sink = clean!
So I guess I’d say that the key here is to make sure the things you clean with are cleaner than the things you clean by cleaning the things you clean with!