Saturday, January 20, 2007

Old Scrubber

The hubby had to nip to the city for work yesterday which meant Dot and I were stranded at the cottage without a car. I used to be vehemently anti-vehicle but when you live somewhere like this, I hate to say it but it’s more or less essential. Without one, Dot and I had to find a way to entertain ourselves using only those resources to hand.

Fortunately my old mate Catherine saved the day by emailing me a long and detailed article from the Guardian (UK newspaper) about homemade cleaning products (you can read it here). This day seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get round to our long-awaited experiment.

Nothing if not ambitious, we began with the oven - people were coming for dinner and I’d been noticing how filthy the oven door was getting (where do those revolting brown drips come from?). The article said to mix a paste of salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, so we did, although cider vinegar had to stand in for the white that was called for (I can’t imagine it makes any difference). The concoction fizzed in the manner of a GCSE chemistry experiment when the vinegar went in - definitely more fun than just squirting a bottle of something. I spread it over the oven door with a spoon and set to with a scrubbing brush.

Things got off to a fabulous start. The grime was really shifting, especially from the glass window. “That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards,” I said to Dot, who was watching the exercise keenly from her bouncy chair.

Then it was time to clean the paste off. I cut up an old t-shirt of the hubby’s to make a cloth (feeling very pleased with my own resourcefulness and also foresight in having kept it for just such an occasion), dampened it and started trying to remove the now very brown paste from the oven door. This was easier said than done. Firstly, there was tons of it. And secondly there was, I now realized, salt caked all round the inside of the window and stubbornly stuck in the gulley round the door seal (I also noticed that my knees were frosted with white grit which must have sprayed off during the vigorous efforts with the scrubbing brush). I wiped, rinsed the cloth, wiped, rinsed the cloth, and so on about seven times, and still I hadn’t got it all by any means. Neither had all the brown drips gone – about half remained and there was now salty brown gunk dripping down the outside of the oven and brown puddles forming on the kitchen floor. I was getting a bit frustrated (and had the distinct impression Dot was sniggering at me) so I decided to settle for a slightly smeary finish and a slightly cleaner oven and move on (my leggings meanwhile came clean only after brushing with the implement I normally use for exfoliating my legs).

Undaunted I decided to tackle the hob. I went at this with one of the e-cloths the article mentioned. These were introduced to me by my mother and are pretty amazing: you can clean even quite stubborn stains with no product at all, just water. All evidence of my homemade curried carrot soup was soon dispatched, as was the residue of the hubby’s boiled milk from earlier.

So impressed was I with the e-cloths that I decided to give the bathroom a quick once-over. The results were similarly gratifying. I also gave the loo a scrub with the brush and no product, as the article suggested, but then while my back was turned Dot, who was resting on my knee and is now scarily good at grabbing, seized the toilet seat and I realized this no-product loo cleaning wasn’t going to give me the peace of mind I needed as the mother of a child whose hands spend most of the day in her mouth. I washed her little mitts with soap and water and then prodded a bit of Babyganics cleaning spray around with the loo brush. That would do it.

Next up: the kitchen floor. The article recommends bicarb in warm water; I just used water, a bit of old t-shirt and some elbow grease and it seemed to do the job. Mind you, it made me realize how unfit I am – I was panting and sweating by the end of 10 minutes groveling about on my hands and knees.

I finished by sweeping the stairs and landing – no vacuum cleaner to save electricity. (In fact, I do this every day because having just had a baby, my hair is falling out in handfuls; keeping on top of this when your hair is dark brown and all your floors are either white tiles or cream boards is a full time job.)

Overall, the experiment had gone pretty well. No dirt our eco-approach hadn’t been able to tackle. We decided we'd do it again and get a bit more fancy with essential oils next time.

Cut to 8 o’clock last evening and me checking up on the two organic chickens roasting in the oven. I opened the oven door to find it streaked with salt and the window caked with a brown crust like the porthole on a rusty old ship. “What’s THAT?” asked the hubby, aghast. “Er, my eco-friendly cleaning paste?” I said. “BLOODY HELL” he said back.

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