Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Speed cleaning with a rag basket

I hadn't realized until I read a book called "Speed Cleaning" (by Jeff Campbell, Dell Trade, 1991) that a large pile of rags could actually help me clean faster and better than before.  I liked his book a lot, probably because it shows how a bit of up-front organization and foresight can save a lot of effort later on.  That fits well with the way I approach a lot of my own life.

His cleaning system encourages people to take no wasted steps -- in particular, no backtracking or walking back and forth while cleaning.  He relies pretty heavily on a special apron that contains pockets for lots of cleaning equipment.  But the part of the book that had the biggest effect on the way I clean -- miser mom that I am -- was not the apron but his use of a large collection of cleaning cloths.  For me, that's a popcorn-tub-sized basket of rags (mostly cut-up t-shirts).

My bathroom rag basket
Nowadays, when I clean a bathroom or the kitchen, I first get out my basket of rags.  I spray down the area that I'm cleaning with whatever is appropriate (water, bathroom cleaner, whatever), scrub with a brush if that's necessary, and then wipe that surface clean with a rag.  When the rag that I'm using to wipe things down gets dirty, I don't rinse it out; I just toss in on a "dirty" pile and grab a clean one.  I will typically go through about a half-dozen rags cleaning a small bathroom; I'll go through maybe 20 rags cleaning the kitchen (including our kitchen floor).  When I'm done, the pile of dirty rags goes into the laundry.

This method save a bunch of time -- think about how often you might rinse out a sponge mop while cleaning a floor, for example, and how much faster it would go if the sponge were self-cleaning.  But this method also reduces water and energy I'd spend.  Tossing a bunch of dirty rags in a washer uses a lot less water (and also fuel to heat that water) than rinsing out a single rag or sponge over and over again in a sink.  Using a pile of rags, I can clean my entire kitchen -- including the floor -- with less than one gallon of water.  (Admittedly, I have a small kitchen.)

Often, saving water or fuel means spending more time and energy.  This way of cleaning is one of those rare and really wonderful instances where spending less money also means spending less time and effort.  Rah-rah, rags!

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