Airport bathrooms have got to be among the most brutal to clean. So what, exactly, does the custodial staff at a major American airport use to get disgusting bathrooms spic and span? According to this cart, it’s a mop, a bucket of soapy water, lots of paper towels, and a cleaner called Bab-O.
Bab-O? I’ve never heard of it. But if these guys use it it must be good.
Today Kish decided to join me at the office and brought along some cleaning supplies. During her visit, I heard just about every synonym for “dirty” you can imagine.
Filthy. Disgusting. Grimy. Ridiculous. Dusty. Obscene. Soiled. Appalling. Squalid. Oh my God, would you look at the amount of dust and dirt on this cloth!!!!!!!!
Well, the last one isn’t quite a synonym, but you get the idea. It was directed at the condition of my keyboard, mouse, and mouse pad, which admitted were looking a bit well used and were caked with what looked like a troll’s earwax. That is not to say that our office cleaning crew does not visit my office, but their once-overs just don’t get to the level of things like bookshelves, door knobs, phone buttons, or computer mouses. And how many office workers really pay much attention to the condition of their workplaces? Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to put it all into the proper filthiness perspective.
Now everything in the office has been cleaned with tender loving care, and my workspace has that brisk, sharp but not unpleasant Clorox disinfectant wipes scent. I feel more productive already.
We’ve got guests coming for a visit later this summer, and the first part of our Glorious Fourth was devoted to projects related to the visit — first, figuring out what we need to do to spruce up the house and grounds between now and then to properly welcome our guests, and second, actually tackling one of the projects.
I’m a big believer in starting with the worst project first, so things get easier as you make progress on your to-do list. That meant starting today with the basement — the municipal landfill of every household, where every item of currently unused stuff eventually finds a home. If you don’t stay on top of the basement, it inevitably ends up as a horror show. So today we threw out, cleaned, organized, and put away . . . and the basement ended up like this. And I only smacked my head against low beams and pipes about five times, too.
So the basement is done, and we can scratch one entry off the task list. We may not voluntarily take our guests to the basement, but if they turn out to be aficionados of old basements and want to see it, at least it won’t be a horrible embarrassment. Now, it’s time to crack open a beer.
But when it does, it always begins with a whispered internal thought. “I’ll rinse off my coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher,” you think, innocently. Then you decide to wipe down the sink, until the stainless steel is bright and gleaming. “That looks nice,” you think.
Then the wave begins to build, as waves always do. The next thing you know, you’re wiping down the countertops, cleaning the range, and sweeping the kitchen floor. “Hey, the kitchen looks great!,” you realize.
You could stop there, but by now the wave has got you and is rushing you forward, tumbling and unstoppable, and you move to another room and then to another and yet another, fussily straightening and polishing and putting away, until no surface in the house is uncluttered and there is a noticeable scent of Windex in the air and you begin to think about reorganizing the pantry or tackling the “messy drawer” that is found in every kitchen. But then a kernel of doubt creeps in, and you wonder whether you really want to spend your whole blessed Saturday on a room or a drawer that is just going to end up in three weeks looking like it does right now, anyway.
By then, the cleaning wave has been spent. It has crashed onto the shores of “messy drawer” reality, leaving you dazed and your place ready to greet the Queen of England — so long as she doesn’t go into the pantry or pull open that drawer. And you think: “You know, every house really needs a messy drawer.”
This morning I am tackling a project that I’ve been putting off for months. (I’m using the word “tackling,” incidentally, because Ohio State has another off-week this week, so I’ve got to get my football fix in somehow.)
It’s my closet. It’s filled to overflowing with stuff, and it’s time to go through the shelves and hanging items, clean it out, and either toss things in the trash or contribute them to the Volunteers of America — a great organization that makes good use of second-hand items.
It’s amazing what you accumulate as the years roll by. A t-shirt that you bought from a street vendor on an overseas trip that shrank down to elfin size after only one washing. A generic “Tucson” sweatshirt that from a long-ago trip to Arizona where you discovered to your surprise that the Grand Canyon State actually can experience cold weather. A polo shirt thoughtfully purchased by a relative that is made entirely of itchy artificial fibers that cause you to sweat inordinately whenever you put it on. A crass bright orange t-shirt that you bought on a beach vacation in the ’80s that now really shouldn’t be worn anywhere. And how in the world did I end up with six pairs of sandals and flip-flops?
Among it all are many perfectly good articles of clothing that are just too small or too big or that I can’t imagine ever wearing again — as well as worn out shoes, belts that are falling apart, overly bulky sweaters, and other assorted bric-a-brac. Out with them all!
I’ve ended up with a closet that is now more manageable and organized — for now, at least — and I hope that some people end up wearing the too-big and too-small items that I don’t need anymore. Finishing this long-deferred job feels good, and liberating, too.
Today I went to wash my hands in the restroom and noticed one of those dispensers of overly scented hand soap. In big bold letters, the dispenser touted the soap as “Deep Cleansing” — which made my teeth grind a bit.
What’s with the trend to replace “clean” with “cleanse”? Virtually any product that approximates the effect of soap and water on human beings now uses “cleansing” rather than “cleaning.” So, you see phrases like “deep cleansing,” or “gentle cleansing.” I’ve even seen an ad in which the actor says she likes “feeling cleansed” rather than “feeling clean.”
Why is this so? “Clean” is a perfectly good word that has been used for centuries. “Deep cleaning” certainly sounds more thorough than “deep cleansing.” So why isn’t it used?
I’m guessing that there are two reasons. First, no doubt advertisers and marketing managers have done studies that show that people will pay more if a product promises “cleansing” rather than “cleaning.” Maybe it sounds more highbrow. Second, “cleansing” has a softer sense to it. “Cleansing” sounds like something that might happen during a gentle spring rain, whereas “cleaning” conjures notions of attacking a dirty item with a stiff wire brush and Mr. Clean. (Of course, “ethnic cleansing” runs counter to this linguistic theory.)
It’s all part of the reason why I like to buy the generic versions of household products. They tend not to be infused with ridiculous scents, they tend not to be packaged in ludicous designs, and if they’re hand soap or hand cleaner, they use those simple, time-honored words. It helps that they’re cheaper, too.
Today Kish and I decided to tackle some deep cleaning projects: the drawers in our dressers, and the drawers in our upstairs bathrooms.
The dresser drawers were bursting. It’s easy to just shove stuff into a drawer, thinking you’ll get to it soon. Of course, that doesn’t happen. You end up, as we did, with dresser drawers jammed with stuff from days gone by, old birthday cards, crumpled receipts for God knows what, stray glasses cases, old laminated cards that show you how to dial into phone messaging systems that haven’t existed since the Bush Administration, and chargers for cell phones that have gone the way of the dodo.
The bathroom drawers are even worse. Tubes of medication that expired in 2005. Single shoelaces with no partners. Empty Band-aid wrappers. Combs with broken teeth. Cotton balls embedded with hair. Oh, yes . . . and safety pins. Lots of safety pins.
Most of the stuff went into the garbage bag with a toss. The safety pins — all of which came from our dry cleaner at some point– I decided to recycle. Dozens of safety pins, joined together and jangling, to be put into the dry cleaning bag.
It’s a beautiful day outside, but sometimes cleaning up inside is a beautiful thing, too. With our chores done and our drawers clean as a whistle, we can go out and enjoy the lovely weather with a deep sense of satisfaction.
The boys are gone, back to their new home bases. It was wonderful to see them, but with their departure the house feels in a certain state of . . . disarray.
There are beds to be stripped, clothes to be washed and dried and hung, clean towels to be folded, and sheets and blankets to be tossed in the air as beds are remade. There are dishes to be gathered and brought to the kitchen, scrubbed, and put into the dishwasher racks. There are bottles and cans to be collected and put in the recycling bin, counters to wipe clean of bread crumbs, and napkins and wrappers and stray debris to pitch into the trash (always thinking, as the hurled item lands in the trash can, “two points!”). When I got up this morning, I began moving from room to room, straightening up and leaving one room clean before moving on to the next.
It is good to hear the clang of the washing machine lid as clothes get placed inside, the hum of the clothes dryer, the swish and swirl of the dishwasher. These are the happy sounds of a house being cleaned and restored to a semblance of order, and Saturday morning is a good time to accomplish that chore.
Now I sit, drinking my coffee and feeling a sense of satisfaction, and I think: what flowers should we get to put in our flower beds this year? The feeling of accomplishment from my early morning clean-up exercise gives me the incentive to tackle a little gardening this afternoon.