Is there a life without wet wipes?
Buckingham Palace is a huge! 828,818 square feet (77,000 square meters) huge! That’s roughly 15 times larger than The White House and 311 times larger than the average US home. The inner courtyard is large enough to accommodate a house so I have no idea how many square feet of actual floor space there is on the palace’s five floors. But take it from me, it’s a lot. I was told the walking distance around the basement is a mile!
Naturally, there is a very large domestic staff to cope with all the Royal Family’s government, diplomatic, and social activities as well as the maintenance of the building. The Royal Household Staff is divided into departments, or as they call them, branches. The domestic staff are divided into three: F-Branch covers the kitchens and food, H-Branch for housekeeping and G–Branch, general. As a Royal Footman (think butler), I fell under G-Branch and was part of the liveried staff. Amongst my duties as a Footman was table service, valeting (clothes care) and ceremonial duties such as riding on carriages.
Tasks at the Royal Palaces have been performed the same way for decades (perhaps even longer). Each new staff member is an apprentice, trained to a proficient standard in the skills required by a senior member of staff before they are allowed to work alone. We didn’t have any fancy equipment or gizmos. We learned how to perform tasks properly with basic equipment and we practiced. There wasn’t any need for shortcuts, because often it takes the
same time to do a good job as a poor one and in any case we wouldn’t have got away with shoddy work! For instance, we didn’t press and iron clothes on a folding ironing board. Instead, we used a table covered with a blanket and a cotton sheet. No steam iron, just a plain electric model and a water spray bottle to dampen the cloth. With no lint rollers in sight, we used clothes brushes and occasionally wrapped packing tape around our hands with the sticky side out as a last resort for stubborn lint. Shoes and metal were polished with cotton cloths; these were periodically sent to the linen room (H-Branch) along with the ironing table cloth for laundering. The only things we ever threw away were the empty polish cans. And believe it or not, we survived without paper towels and the other modern day disposable items we have today.
I’m not in any way trying to paint a picture of hardship. I’m merely pointing out the fact that you don’t need a vast amount of equipment to keep a home clean, just the knowhow. Disposable products are certainly convenient, but, as we are finding out, today’s synthetic (plastic) products are not biodegradable and are ending up in our waterways and oceans in ever increasing amounts. The larger pieces are littering the beaches or, quite literally, forming islands in the oceans. The smaller pieces are being digested by marine life and, in turn, by us when we consume fish. There is even plastic in the sea salt we sprinkle on our food!
Everyone should be concerned about ecological damage and the threat our “throw-away society” has done to the environment (and thus our lives). Recently, the British government announced it wants to eliminate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042 and will probably start next year (2019) with single-use plastic items such as cotton buds (swabs), plastic drinking
straws and perhaps other items. On the list are single-use disposable cloths, which include baby and cleaning wipes as they contain non-biodegradable plastic to give them strength. These plastics are not only a threat to the open waterways, they also account for 93% of the material blocking U.K. sewers, pumps and water treatment works. It can’t be long before other governments follow suit and manufacturers will have to use other materials, but you have to wonder if microfiber cloths are also doomed as they shed tiny fibers that are now being found in waterways.
Housework is a part of life, so why not be smart about it? Often you can achieve better results in the same (or less) time and make tasks easier. Cleaning is as much about technique as it is about equipment and products. And performing tasks at the right moment often saves time and effort. For instance, I really dislike cleaning my shower stall. So after showering, I use a squeegee (or cloth) on all of the surfaces to remove any soap residue and water, this makes my weekly clean much easier. This also lowers the bathroom’s humidity level. Bacteria, fungi and mold thrive in a moist atmosphere, so removing the water prevents their growth (opening the bathroom window or running the air extractor helps too). This fast and simple task will save you a lot of time and effort removing dried-on soap scum and doesn’t require any toxic or harmful products.
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