Equipment I Frequently Use
Let’s face it, most people find housekeeping a chore and would gladly hand over the responsibility to someone else, but short of hiring a housekeeper or living in a hotel the chances are there’s not enough in your budget for staff and you end up doing it yourself. So what equipment do you really need to keep you space clean? I have listed six items you need to keep your home clean, it’s a basic kit and the items are easily obtained and stored. I will go into each item in more depth in further posts as well as add more items you may need.
Wherever possible I purchase environmentally friendly products and equipment. If you take care of your cleaning equipment it should last a long time, after all who likes spending on such mundane items? I also weigh up the environmental impact of my equipment, by repurposing my old t-shirts I completely cut out the environmentally harmful process of producing a new one, and in my opinion there is no better cloth. Fabric production has a negative environmental impact, natural fibers for instance use a lot of water and pesticides and synthetic fabric is often derived from petro chemicals, but unlike natural fibers, synthetics are plastic and not biodegradable. Washing produces lint, we usually see it in our dryer’s vent filter, but a lot of plastic fibers are pumped out of the clothes washer (along with cleaning chemicals) into the water system where small marine organisms ingest it and introduce toxic pollutants into the food chain.
The Equipment List
Bucket or Dishpan
Floor Mop / Floor Duster
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The vacuum cleaner is the most expensive item on this list and it’s well worth investing in a quality machine. Try and imagine your life without a vacuum cleaner. Homeowners used to live without this amazing appliance, but only just! They spent a lot of time sweeping and carpets were hung outside hit with a carpet-beater to remove the dust and dirt. Vacuum cleaners are an easy and highly effective way of removing dust and dirt, especially if they are equipped with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, which insures very little dust escapes the machine and will even clean the room’s air while using it.
Vacuum cleaners are mainly associated with floors, but there are so many other surfaces that benefit from vacuum cleaning:
.• Window treatments, shades, blinds and drapes (curtains)
• Door and Window Frames
• Light shades
• Walls and Ceilings
Basically speaking a vacuum can remove dry dust from practically any surface especially with the correct tool attached.
Basic Essential Tools:
• Motorized brush heads. Large size for carpets and smaller sizes for stairs and removing pet hair from upholstery
• Hard floor tool for flat flooring such as hardwood and tile.
• Mattress tool, great for removing the odor causing debris from a mattress and dust mites
• Soft dusting brushes are especially good at removing dust from uneven surfaces (such as computer keyboards) and surfaces that catch cloth threads
• Stiff bristle brushes are good for stair carpets and doormats
• Crevice tools come in different lengths and some manufacturers offer flexible versions for hard to reach places)
There are more tools and I will write a more in depth piece about vacuums and tools another time. Some manufacturers charge a small fortune for their original tools, but thankfully there are other companies producing basically the same tools for much less, just check they will fit your vacuum. Pet owners can opt for vacuums and attachments specifically designed for removing pet hair from your floors and upholstery, but if you want to directly to the source of the hair there are even attachments for grooming your pet so you can Brush’N Vac your pet!
2. Cloths (Rags)
Natural Fiber Cloths
Natural fiber cloths such as cotton and linen are highly absorbent, but they usually need to be washed a few times to soften and reach their peak effectiveness and become lint free. Good for all applications they have literally been around for ages and if cared for properly can last for many years. They can be washed in hot water and even sterilized by boiling, which is a better alternative to bleaching as bleach rots the cloth, so they are good for unhygienic cleaning tasks. Depending on the weave, natural cloths can be soft or offer varying degrees of abrasion, such as kitchen dish scrub cloths. Linen glass cloths are exceptional for drying tableware. My favorite cloths are my old white Calvin Klein combed cotton undershirts. After a year or two of wear and laundering they are soft, lint free and in my opinion the best and most versatile cleaning cloth. I once read car detailers like to use old diaper cloths for their cars as they are lint-free and very soft and won’t damage a car paintwork so I purchased some (new!) and yes they make excellent cleaning cloths after being washed a few times. However, as they are multi-layered they take a while to dry. If you can find them the best cloths for drying tableware are linen “glass” cloths, but 100 per cent linen tend to be expensive.
Microfiber Cloths (Synthetic/Plastic)
Good Microfiber cloths are made from a blend of split polyester and polyamide (nylon) with tiny fibers approximately 1/100th the diameter of a human hair, these tiny fibers are highly effective at absorbing fat, grease and water, also their electrostatic properties give them a high dust-attracting and retaining power without being abrasive. And it gets better, according to Wikipedia, microfiber materials reduce bacteria by 99%, whereas conventional cleaning materials only reduce bacteria by 33%, and all this when they are dry! No chemicals are needed when using microfibers and they are easy to clean and fast to dry, which is handy if you live in a small apartment. They’re hard wearing and absorbent and don’t have to be “worn in” like most natural fiber cloths.
Laundering of Cloths
With any cleaning of a cloth, avoid using bleach and fabric softener (liquid or sheets) as bleach degrades the cloth causing lint and eventually tears. Fabric softener clogs the fibers which affects absorbency. Most cloths, but especially Microfibers, are great for absorbing grease and other matter, but not that willing to release it, using more detergent is pointless as the fibers cling onto that too, and as the detergent (most are made of fat) decomposes odors form. After using cloths, I rinse and hang dry them to prevent odors and bacterial growth, when I have enough for a washer load I launder them. The best way to clean them or revive old cloths is to soak them in a bucket of tepid water with a tablespoon of enzyme cleaner for at least a couple of hours (overnight is better) and then add a half cup of vinegar and soak the same way before laundering. The enzyme cleaner will remove the grease and any other organic matter, the vinegar will dissolve lime scale and remove other residues and odors. Launder (or hand wash) and hang to dry -the cloth will be softer and odor free.
Brushes are available in various sizes with soft and hard bristles made from synthetic and natural materials for wet or dry applications. I frequently use several types of brush for tasks ranging from dusting to cleaning.
Paint or cosmetic brushes are good for dusting delicate decorative items and my vacuum cleaner’s stiff bristle brush stair carpeting.
Cleaning water bottles is easy with a large bottlebrush and a smaller one for the straw and mouthpiece. Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning as they were originally designed to be easy to hold, but small enough to reach into tight spaces and are invaluable for cleaning around items such as faucets.
Some brushes are soft enough to remove dust from a camera lens and others hard enough to scrub stone, if you are unsure about damaging a surface always start slowly with a soft brush. Bristles can generally be washed in all purpose cleaner or dishwashing liquid to remove grease and dirt, but don’t soak wooden handles.
4. Bucket (or a Dishpan or Bowl)
The trouble with using spray cleaning products is the solution often ends up on areas its not intended for (overspray), also spray bottles release fine particles of chemicals into the air affecting our skin and respiratory systems (do you want soap, or worse in your lungs and on your skin?)
I prefer to use a bucket of water (or a smaller container for small jobs) with either dishwashing liquid or a neutral-ph. cleaning solution mixed in, this way as can transfer the dirt to the water by rewetting and squeezing the cloth in water. The other advantage is I can vary the products concentration by diluting it with water, using as little product as possible means less rinsing.
Buckets come in different shapes, sizes and material, mop buckets are rectangular have a removable wringer so you can use it for cleaning and then mop your floors with one bucket. When the cleaning session is over, the bucket can be rinsed, dried and then used to store cleaning supplies, which saves space in small apartments.
5. Floor Mop/Duster
Flat and smooth surfaces such as wood and tile are generally easy to care for, which is why we like them, but dark floors can show even the slightest dust so depending on how house-proud you are they may need daily attention. The good news is a quick sweep with a floor duster is all it takes to remove the dust from these surfaces. There are two types of “dry” floor dusters, available in both natural and synthetic materials, one consists of hundreds of threads which collect the dust and even larger debris. Depending on the amount of dust and dirt they don’t usually need laundering every use, but as soon as they become less effective wash them. The other type is made of terry cloth (either cotton or microfiber), they also are very effective for dry dusting, but their main advantage is you can also damp dust with them, which is good for removing light soil as well as very fine dust. Lightly spray the bottom with plain water (remember you’re not mopping the floor) and dust as normal. For larger areas you may need additional cloths or if the floor is very dusty.
If you have ever stopped and watched a professional window cleaner cleaning glass, you’ll know how fast and effective a squeegee is at moving suds and water from flat surfaces. The other benefit it works just as well for shower walls and bath tubs. If you dislike the weekly routine of cleaning soap scum from a shower as much I do using a squeegee (or a cloth or both) for 30-60 seconds daily after your shower (while the soap suds and hair products are still wet) and your weekly cleaning is reduced to simply cleaning around the faucet with a toothbrush and wiping down the surfaces with a mild cleaning product. Notice I say mild, no more toxic products that are akin to chemical warfare and can’t be used on natural stone and can affect your skin, eyes, respiratory system and hair. Start at the top and pull the water down towards the drain, with practice it only takes 30- 60 seconds to remove most of the water and there are other benefits. By removing the water, you also prevent water spots forming. Mold, bacteria and fungus thrive in a warm moist environment so removing the water will reduce the bathroom’s humidity level and will curtail their growth.