Monday, January 18, 2010

PRODUCTS REVIEWED: Utterly dumbfounded by clean

Last July, the girls and I began working on a cleaning schedule that was loosely based on the plan by FlyLady Marla Cilley's proposed plan for keeping one's home free of CHAOS, which wittily stands for "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome." The FlyLady website is in my list of favorite links over to the left and I found her book, Sink Reflections, to be an enormous help in getting things started. Every now and then I dip into it again for some fresh inspiration.

The amazing thing about the FlyLady concept of cleaning, whether you follow her instructions to the T or whether you cobble together your own plan using her basic ideas, is that it really works. What I take from FlyLady is that you don't need to spend a million hours cleaning your house on the weekends, which is when you want to relax and have fun. Well do I remember the days of my youth when my mother would bang the vacuum cleaner against the bottom of my bedroom door to wake me up, insisting that I hit the deck and strip the sheets off my bed and get a can of Pledge in my left hand and a clean cloth in my right and MOVE-MOVE-MOVE!!!!

Geez, it was just terrible. It wasn't how I wanted to spend a Saturday morning then, and it sure isn't how I want to spend a Saturday morning now.

Instead, the girls and I made our plan so that we each do about twenty minutes of housework on the five workdays, with about ten minutes on Saturday and some laundry on Sunday. We start with the upstairs at the beginning of the week, ending with the downstairs by Friday, because that's the area guests are most likely to see.

Home schooling, I've found, is a synonym for clutter and clutter makes me crazy. To that end, we pick junk up as we clean, putting it away where it goes instead of stacking it on the stairs or on the dining room table.

Meelyn and Aisling work on a revolving schedule and I do the same chores every week.

Carrying on in this manner, we have managed to stick to our schedule and keep the house looking very nice for six months now: dirty dishes rarely in the sink, laundry clean and folded -- SHOCK! -- actually put away in closets and dressers, bathroom sinks and toilets cleaned several times weekly, bathtub and shower shiny-clean, stove un-spattered and microwave gleaming inside and out. Dust is whisked off all surfaces and the sofa pillows are attractively plumped -- unless a dog's head is resting on them.

It really has made the most amazing difference, that little bit of daily work. And its amazing how much more high def our television actually is whenever there's not an inch-thick layer of dust covering the screen.

Our success became the most apparent this past weekend when Mee and Aisli had guests over. In the past, the imminent arrival of company would have precipitated a storm of desperate cleaning that would have ended with flaring tempers, tears and exhausted frustration as we tried to dust, vacuum, clean the toothpaste flecks off the mirrors, wipe some spilled soup out of the fridge and try to make the living room smell like something other than wet dog.

Instead, Meelyn went off to work and Aisling and I took a calm, leisurely forty minutes to do our daily chores and a few extra tasks like setting out new hand soap in the bathrooms, pile some freshly-washed bath towels in the upstairs bathroom, stow away the dog toys that Zuzu had scattered all over the place and start a pot of coffee. It was so restful and it made me feel like an actual hostess -- a chatelaine, perhaps -- who had everything running smoothly for her guests' comfort and her own peace of mind, instead of a wild-eyed four-in-hand driver whose horses are careening madly out of control and headed for the edge of a cliff.

And I can't tell you how lovely it was to open the front door and be warmly smiling and free of care instead of sweaty, disheveled and clenched of jaw. Must have been better for the guests, too. Heh.

To help us keep things looking spiffy, check out the picture above:

Front row: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, Satin Smooth fabric softener, Spray-and-Wash Stain Stick, The Works toilet cleaner, Freshine glass cleaner and Tundra bleach.

Back row: Freshine disinfectant wipes, Cascade dishwasher detergent, Tide laundry detergent and Tandril laundry detergent.

Here are some individual comments on these cleaning supplies:

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers -- These things are just, well....magic. I've never seen anything like them. Whether I use them on the fridge, on the woodwork, on the stove, or on the bathtub, they have this amazing ability to clean stuff like nobody's business. I've tried the knock-off brands, but I find that the originals last the longest and work the best. I just wait 'til they go on sale.

Satin Smooth fabric softener -- This is an ALDI product and honestly: I've tried the expensive stuff and I do agree that the fresh scent does last longer with the name-brand products, but that is the ONLY difference I can discern and since this bottle of Satin Smooth comes in two pleasant scents and lasts for a loooong time, PLUS is so inexpensive, I cheerfully buy it instead of the spendy stuff.

Spray-and-Wash Stain Stick/OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover Spray -- I use both of these products interchangeably for stain removal and they both work really well. If I had to pick a fave, I'd probably plump for the OxiClean, but the Stain Stick is no shirker. These are both name brand products, of course, and you can find knock-offs that are cheaper, but these two friends are the ones who have stuck with me through chocolate and blueberries, spaghetti sauce and mustard.

The Works toilet cleaner -- I find this stuff to be amazing. Now mind you, it smells just terrible, just exactly like those sanitizing disks that go in the men's room urinals at interstate rest stops. Utterly dreadful. But if you can just kind of, I don't know, hold your breath a little, you just won't be able to find anything to make your toilet cleaner, especially if you have hard water like we do. Seriously, our water is so hard, we practically suffer from internal bruising when gulping down a cold drink on a hot day. The Works removes and and all hard water deposits and here's my big secret -- it not only does this on toilets, but will also do this on sink or shower fixtures.

Listen up, though -- I use it VERY CAREFULLY on my sink and tub fixtures. I don't go squirting this stuff with wild abandon all over my marble tile surround, mostly because I don't have one, but even if I did, I'd know better than to use a caustic substance like an alkaline toilet cleaner on porous stone. So be careful, you know. Test the area with the hard water deposits beforehand. And wear gloves, okay?

The best thing about this product? You can buy it at Dollar Tree for yep, you guessed it, one slim George.

Freshine glass cleaner -- Yes, you can buy the name brand product and we all know what it's called and it works great. But the thing is, so does the Freshine, which is another ALDI product. And it is so very, very inexpensive. Give it a try!

Tundra bleach -- Bleach is bleach is pretty much bleach. Chlorine bleach! Very simple! Smells kinda yucky! Makes stuff white again! Disinfects all kind of germy junk! Don't spill it on your favorite black pants! Tundra is an ALDI product and super-cheap, works just great.

Freshine disinfectant wipes -- Oh, the ten kazillion happy uses for these little cloths. They're about the size of a baby wipe and come in a similar canister-style container. We use them to wipe down the outside of the toilets several times a week. We also use them to wipe out the sinks. I wipe down the kitchen countertops with them. If someone has a cold, I use them on the computer keyboard, the phone, the doorknobs. You get thirty-five wipes in two different fresh scents for about $1.79, which seems a little bit cheaper than the name brand or store brand products you can get at the more expensive chains. Maybe not, but they're convenient to grab when I'm picking up the rest of the ALDI cleaning stuff.

Cascade dishwashing detergent -- Because of the aforementioned hard water, this is the only kind of detergent that works well in our dishwasher. If we use cheap stuff, whether liquid or powder, the plates and glasses have a nasty streaky residue left on them that is just really unappetizing. The Cascade is really expensive, although it is slightly more reasonable at Wal-Mart than at the chain grocery stores. But it cleans the dishes, utensils, glasses, pots and pans better than anything else, so I'm willing to pay the extra.

Tide laundry detergent -- Ditto everything I said above about the Cascade, except substitute "clothing" for "dishes, utensils, glasses, pots and pans." It is 'spensive, but it works so well, I can't complain.

Tandril laundry detergent -- I use this ALDI product to wash the bath towels, kitchen towels, sheets and dogs' bedding; the Tide costs too much to use for the second-tier laundry. This was actually Kayte's idea because she washes so many towels, what with Matt being part fish and all with the swim team. It has really cut down on our laundry expenses, and everything gets clean and smells fresh and although I don't think the Tandril has quite the quality of Tide, it is a reasonable facsimile.

Do you have any favorite cleaning supplies that have stood the test of time and toughness? Please leave a comment if you do, or if you don't want to do that, email me at InsomniMom at live dot com.


Kayte said...

MY word you have a whole lotta cleaning going on there. Lemon juice, water, baking soda, ammonia (how do you spell that?)stand ASIDE! It helps when kids get older and understand the value of clean, doesn't it. Mine didn't see that value for years and years. Picked up, yes, but actally clean down to the shine eluded them. Still eludes one of them and the other one, well, enter his room and be amazed, cleanest place in the house, I kid you not.

Shauna said...

I should try and adopt the flylady cleaning habits. I hate cleaning on the weekends. Now that I'm working I am gone from 6:30am until about 6pm, and when I get home I have to check the mail and cook dinner and do dishes and wash laundry (some nights) so it's hard to see how I could get any cleaning done.

It's a bit overwhelming now, though, because we have to do a major clean tomorrow. I don't want to. At all.