The Home Economist: The Tools of our Trade
Today, we're addressing a topic I probably should have mentioned from the beginning of our Home Economics Project. As with any profession or endeavor, the home economist needs to have the right tools for keeping a home. The tools need to be ready to use when needed, and the tools need to be stored where they can be accessed when needed. The keeper at home may have many different sets of tools: garden tools, kitchen tools, sewing tools, craft tools, office tools, teaching tools, but for today we'll focus on cleaning tools.
Each keeper at home will need to decide how many and what kind of tools she needs to manage her own household. Perhaps, you will decide all you need is a broom, a mop, and one type of cleanser. Or, you may need a wider variety of cleaning items. Just be sure that you think carefully about the products you buy. Note which ones truly make cleaning easier for you and which add little to your work. Otherwise, you may be enticed by the dizzying array of products that promise so many wonderful results and find yourself in my position -- with overstocked and cluttered shelves of cleaning supplies.
Don Aslett has written several books about cleaning and organizing a home. He became interested in this subject when he founded a house cleaning service as a means to work his way through college. He saw that many of the methods used to clean commercial buildings or to clean homes professionally would help the average home manager function more efficiently.
He is an advocate of buying janitorial grade cleaning tools or at least investing in the best cleaning tools you can find. Two he mentions are industrial grade entry way mats and a really good dust mop. Having good mats at your doors -- both outside and inside -- cuts way down on the amount of dirt that people track into your home as they enter. This will keep your home cleaner and help preserve carpeting and wood flooring.
Whether or not you agree with Don Aslett's theory that a homemaker should invest in tools made for cleaning professionals, it does make sense to buy quality tools that will last for a good time. It also makes sense to eliminate and concentrate -- buy only those items which you really do need to clean your home.
So what tools are you likely to need? Here are some suggestions to choose from:
A good vacuum cleaner. I prefer bagless ones, myself.
A good mop and dustpan. You may want two -- one for indoors and one for sweeping porches and sidewalks.
A great dustmop with a washable cover. (I have taken to using Swiffer type products because they are easy and you can use them for a variety of things -- such as dusting walls. However, the most economical option is still an old-fashioned dustmop with a reusable cover.)
A hardwood floor "mop" with a washable cover.
A few great dusting rags.
3-5 utility towels.
A squeege for washing windows.
Bowl brushes for toilets.
A long handled brush for cleaning tubs and showers.
As mentioned, mats at your entry doors.
A cleaning bucket
A utility push cart (a grocery cart can work) to take supplies with you as you move through the house or a carryall with cleaning supplies in it. If you use a push cart, attach a bag to collect bits of trash as you move through the house and another in which to put laundry to be carried to a distant hamper or items that need to be moved to another room. This will save you a lot of walking back and forth as you work. If you need inspiration for this, think of how efficiently hotel personnel clean a room by bringing in a cart with everything they need on it.
Art gum eraser as a gentle way of removing scuff marks from floors and marks on walls -- Rub lightly on walls to avoid peeling paint -- test on a small spot first.
Refrigerator coil brush/long, skinny appliance brush.
disposable sponge paintbrushes for cleaning under knobs on appliacnes, cleanign blinds, etc./old toothbrush to clean around faucets or to clean grout
Deniese Schofield uses a bowl brush resevered specifically for brushing around the edges of carpeting to pick up lint, bugs, etc., that the vacuum might miss, as well as to brush underneath and around furniture between times that you move it to clean under it, to brush carpeting on stairs, etc.
An old-fashioned cotton head mop -- Some people believe that this has never been improved upon, despite all of the tools avialable to us today.
Feather duster -- Some women love using a feather duster, but others believe that these only spread dust around. There are other dusters on the market -- micofiber ones, swiffer type, etc. I am one of those who prefers to use other methods than a feather duster, but you may find that you love one.
A cordless dust buster. (You might find that a whisk broom and a small dust pan will work just as well.)
A small razor-edge tool for cleaning burnt-on sugar off of stove tops.
If you have a two story house, you may or may not wish to have a double set of some items so that you do not have to carry them up and down the stairs. It's easy, for example, to store some bathroom cleaning products in an upstairs bathroom. Or, you might keep an old vacuum upstairs and your newer model downstairs, provided that your old one still works.
Remember, every woman must determine what tools she needs for her household. Again, a good rule of thumb is to have on hand no more than you need and to store it so that you can reach it easily.
If you do find that you have overbought cleaning supplies, force yourself to use up cleaning solutions before buying more and give away any tools that you have not used recently. If you think you will use an item during a bi-annual deep cleaning session, it might be worth keeping. Otherwise, if you haven't used it in two months, ask yourself if you really do need it clutterng up your household.
There are various ways to store your items. Obviously, you need to keep potentially poisonous or dangerous tools out of the reach of small children. You can buy hangers for mops, brushes, brooms, etc. You can also store such items in a clean trash can or a bucket that is large enough and heavy enough to hold them upright.
A pegboard is another option for hanging cleaning tools, as are shelves and hooks in your laundry area.
If you use a utility cart to clean and you have a closet that will hold the open cart, you can simply store your items on the cart. Or, store the items near your cart and use your cart for other things. For example, you might get double usage out of your cart by using it to carry clean laundry to various bedrooms and clean towels to various bathrooms.