Since then, I have written about spring cleaning both practically and poetically. Annually, the most popular free printable download in Urban Home Blog's ever-expanding library of them is the Spring CleaningChecklist, even as that article enjoys an annual resurgence of hits. After my cancer diagnosis, treatment and, at press time, cure, I re-evaluated my approach to homekeeping, which led to popular articles on the chemistry of spring cleaning as well as its products.
As noted before, changing households is an opportunity to re-evaluate how we keep our homes. Most of us know the familiar routine of evaluate/purge/organize that represents annual and semi-annual household organization, from setting up the home office in January to changing over the closets at spring and autumn. But it kicks into high gear in a move, and the work, overwhelming as it can get, is also rewarding. As much as we accumulate, it is good to pare down. By volume alone, a move all but demands this, and a large-scale move, such as one to another part of the country or the world, commands it.
Once you arrive in your new home, one of the necessities of setting up homekeeping will be evaluating what you need to do to keep a safe and well-run home in this new environment. The larger lessons of that teach themselves. For John and me, after years of vertical New York City living, the open arms layout of our Los Angeles home afforded us the pleasure of reconnecting with outdoor living. But that's only one example. Any switch of households, whether across town or across a continent, will require practical re-considerations as well. These include everything from learning a new neighborhood to maintaining new appliances and cleaning new surfaces. To that end, here is a follow-up to a popular earlier column on Spring Cleaning products. It is not meant to supercede that original column, but it does take into consideration the needs of a new and different urban home, many of which didn't necessarily apply to the previous one.
SPRING CLEANING PART FOUR: PRODUCTS UPDATED
As with all lists and guides at Urban Home Blog, this is a list of suggestions rather than a comprehensive checklist of essentials. This list is based on my ongoing experience as a homekeeper and lifestyle author, and, as always, none of these is a compensated endorsement..
A fundamental concern for homekeeping, and one we don’t always think about unless something goes wrong with it, is the water supply. The quality of water supplied to your home will be evident at shower and bath time, when you do the dishes, and on laundry day. You can learn the details of your water supply from your water company. It is good information to have, for it affects everything from personal hygiene to kitchen, laundry to plumbing. In all municipalities, you have the right to expect that the water that comes out of the tap is clean enough for human consumption. Always call the water department if the water looks dirty or displays an off odor.
For household use, water is evaluated on a scale from hard to soft, with hard water referring to water with a noticeable concentration of mineral salts, especially magnesium and calcium, and soft water referring to an absence of that mineral salt concentration. One way that hard water announces itself is in the formation of mineral deposits in basins and enclosures, and in lower lather when mixed with water-activated cleansing agents. In addition, municipalities will be affected variously by salt, dirt, local manufacturing, and other factors. It is important to remember that the water supply runs both directions, and whatever you wash away returns to a larger water supply, where it affects the ecosystem.
In the kitchen, water quality affects virtually everything. While, again, you have the right to expect that the water that comes out of the tap is safe for human consumption, for drinking and cooking we use filtered water. This came into sharper focus when we moved west, where we noticed that our city water evidenced a hard profile. We have tried both faucet filters and filtration pitchers and have found that a filtration pitcher works just fine. We use Brita Everyday Water Filtration Pitcher. A counter embedded in the lid advises us when it is time to change the filter, which we buy in bulk at the beginning of the year. We use this filtered water for everything that impacts food and drink, from boiling water to filling the ice trays.
Water quality in the kitchen doesn’t just affect drinking and cooking, it affects preparation and clean up. Since the earliest days of Urban Home Blog, I have tagged every recipe that utilizes fresh produce with cleansing it before cooking and eating with a food-safe produce cleaner. We like both Environne Fruit and Vegetable Wash and Trader Joe Fruit and Vegetable Wash.
I wrote about dishwashing liquid in the previous column about cleaning products. Those recommendations still hold, but how I do dishes has changed now that I have a dishwasher. As with all home appliances, taking care of the appliance with routine maintenance and cleaning both enhances the appliance's functioning and extends its life. CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover can run through most dishwashers, but it's best use is for those mineral-filmed basins and stalls referred to above. For the dishwasher, we prefer Glisten Dishwasher Magic for both its economy and ease and effectiveness of usage. Use it once a month to clean and disinfect the dishwasher. A finish-rinse agent such as Jet-Dry helps the dishes dry nicely by interacting with the rinse cycle of the machine, a need that becomes more pronounced with hard water.
Once you have removed those sparkling dishes from the dishwasher, you will need to return them to well-organized cabinets. We all recall the gummy plastic shelf liners of our childhood cabinets and craft tables, but the best shelf liners are made from natural material. Bamboo liners exist but are pricey and not shock absorbent. We have found that the best shelf liners are made from cork. We use Target Naturals Adhesive Cork Liner.
Many homes are equipped with a garbage disposal. A good garbage disposal is an environmentally responsible way to deal with food scraps provided it is utilized and maintained properly. Locate the usage directions for your garbage disposal unit in the homekeeping records or online and then heed them. Your garbage disposal unit should break down appropriate food wastes such as non-fibrous fruit and vegetable scraps and then send them, almost liquefied, into the wastewater system. Most garbage disposers work best if operated under a thin stream of running water. While cleansing supplies exist for garbage disposals, the best cleansing supply for your garbage disposal unit is a box of baking soda. Pour 1/2 box of baking soda into the unit monthly, and allow the soda to sit in the unit for five minutes. After five minutes, turn on the tap so that the stream goes into the disposal's drain, and run the disposal until it sounds clear, typically about thirty seconds. If your municipality allows, the best way to manage food scraps is a compost bucket. We got our white ceramic compost pail with charcoal filters at Koontz Hardware in West Hollywood, where we knew it would conform to local guidelines. We use the compost to nourish the soil for the plantings around the patio.
A task whose necessity doesn’t change is laundry. Air- and water quality have their effects on clothes. For all machine-safe fabrics we add 1/2 scoop OxyClean per load to the drum of the machine as it fills. For sturdy clothes that see a lot of wear, such as underclothes, we add one capful of Lysol Concentrate Disinfectant per load to the drum of the machine as it fills, and for all laundry except towels we add 1/4 cup baking soda per load to the drum of the machine as it fills. Perhaps we ever will be New Yorkers at heart, for it is noticeable how many of our clothes are black. To clean those, we use Perwoll Black.
Fabric softeners are tricky, as many of them contain irritants to sensitive skins and, depending on the formulations, some of them can harm fabric either by staining it or by leaving residue on fibers. If you use baking soda in the wash water as noted above, you shouldn't need a fabric softener, but if you like the fragrance that fabric softeners impart, the best products are green. We like Seventh Generation Natural Liquid Fabric Softener and Ecover Fabric Softener. Remember that all laundry recommendations must be evaluated against such considerations as contact allergies or other reactions with cleaning products, and for suitability for fabric- and article type.
Of course, skin is at the center of the daily bath. We make our own bath salts in our urban home, but before we clean our skin we must have clean bathtubs, showers and sinks. Cleaning the bathroom must include disinfecting it, but disinfecting agents can be harsh. While most households keep a supply of disinfecting wipes in a bathroom cabinet, these are best kept for touch up cleaning rather than for regular cleaning. For that, measure 1/4 cup Lysol Concentrate Disinfectant into a small waterproof bucket and fill the bucket 1/2 with warm water. Agitate the solution until well-mixed, and, wearing rubber or latex gloves, use that solution and a sponge to clean the bathroom. For hard-water deposits, Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover works well; be sure to follow the label directions, including those for ventilation. Especially for the shower and tub, the Rubbermaid Extendable Scrubber is invaluable for cleaning the bathroom.
One thing I got used to during years of caring for New York City hardwood floors was the "high traffic area" of weekday game shows. In California, hardwood flooring exists in older buildings but in newer ones, wooden flooring when present is likely to be made of bamboo. This material is sustainable, durable, cost-effective and attractive. While not a hard wood, bamboo responds to the same cleaning schedule, process and products. Click here for those earlier recommendations. Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner works effectively and easily to clean and condition the bamboo flooring in our new urban home.
For carpets and rugs, we remain faithful to the Riccar1500S, though newer models have since been introduced. With regular upkeep, carpets and rugs shouldn't require ongoing deep cleaning. If they do, rental machines such as Rug Doctor are available at the home center and often the supermarket. At the home center they should also be able to refer you to a professional cleaner for home textiles, who can not only clean carpets and rugs on site but deep clean the upholstery and draperies as well. This is a worthwhile expense once a year.
Between professional cleanings, use the vacuum to regularly clean carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture. For leather furniture such as the club furniture in our home office, use Lexol Leather Cleaner and Leather Conditioner on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as warranted by the atmospheric conditions in your home. Click here to learn about monitoring temperature and barometric pressure in the home; as a rule, the warmer and drier the atmosphere, the drier leather will become and the more frequently it will require care. Once it is compromised, leather cannot be salvaged, so this care is not only important once you have the furniture but as a consideration before you purchase. If necessary, a tanner may be able to repair small patches or panels in the furniture.
Finally, while it is certainly sobering to hear that your home requires earthquake proofing, in Southern California that is a fact. Earthquakes are unnerving to be sure, but they are our emergency to be prepared for just as surely as a midwesterner has to be ready for a tornado and an northeasterner ready for a blizzard. It isn’t a cleaning product, but this is as good a place as any to remind us of the necessity of a household kit. Pre-packaged kits are available, but the best practice is to decide what is necessary for your household and then assemble those supplies. Place them in an easy-to-carry box with a handle, and place the box in an accessible area of the main floor of the home, such as an entry closet or the broom closet. FEMA has a valuable list of items to consider. Include an index card with emergency numbers, both for you and for emergency responders if necessary. Finally, register your household with both local law enforcement and the FEMA field office. Include pets, children, and the elderly, so stating, and if any of these individuals are housed elsewhere, even short term, be sure that those institutions daily send an updated list of residents and charges to local law enforcement.