I got my own apartment in the age of Swiffers, Clorox wipes, and first generation Roombas, and my subsequent homes suffered as a result. Instead of learning how to get things clean, I saw advertisements for ways to make cleaning easier which, it turned out, didn’t actually clean anything. Roombas were new and we got a refurbished version that did collect some dust bunnies but got stuck every time it turned on. It also didn’t even attempt to clean low-pile rugs. I started to think my rugs were just going to look dirty from then on, until I eventually used a real vacuum cleaner on them and was stunned. I had been assured the Roomba was the way of the future! That was fourteen years ago so I’m sure the quality has greatly improved by now, but I have trust issues.
I held on to the Swiffer products a lot longer, which is a shame. It wasn’t just Swiffer either, I also had a steam mop with it’s own patented cleaning solution, and another floor cleaning spray to be used with a different type of mop. I liked the idea of tossing out the dirty mopping pad rather than putting it in my washing machine, but y’all, my floors were NOT clean. When I switched to a homemade floor washing solution and a refillable mop, it took weeks to get the Swiffer buildup off my floors. Blessed be a tile floor, for it will take abuse and not show much damage.
There is this lovely cleaning woman on Instagram, Clean Mama, and she explained how to “wash” floors rather than Swiffer them. Where the Swiffer pad was ending up with a bit of a smudge, the floors felt weird under my feet and when I tried her method the reusable mop head was coming up black over and over again. In my defense, we have dark tile with a faux slate look so it’s hard to tell when they are dirty, but yeah. It was really gross. After weeks of persistent mopping and rinsing and mopping and rinsing, the floors were actually clean. No more weird gunky feeling under my feet, and a more reasonable amount of dirt on the mop. Other than the disposable mop pads being terrible for the environment, the signature floor cleaning formula left layers of residue that had to be exorcised from my tile. Same with the formula for the steam mop. Both mops required these special bottles of fluid you couldn’t open to refill with your own mixture, so I eventually donated the Swiffer. I kept the steamer and use it a few times a year for a deep clean with steam only, no spray.
Clean Mama also got me started on a weekly schedule to keep housework more manageable. One big chore every day and your house will be constantly clean. Bathrooms Monday, dusting Tuesday, vacuum Wednesday, mop Thursday, Friday catch-all chores, Saturday linens, Sunday rest. That way, if you get tied up and don’t do your chore, you are only lacking one thing, rather than planning to clean the whole house in one day, then having some school emergency take up all your time and leaving you with a dirty house. Her homemade cleaning solutions where easy make with things I already had in my home that would be safe for the kids, and they all worked really well. Plus, if you don’t like scented products, you can customize her recipes to be unscented or add in your own oils for a scent you prefer. I had phased out most of my store-bought cleaners when my parents came to stay with the kids while my husband and I went out of town, and I returned to find a cabinet full of new store-bought cleaning products. “Your glass cleaner smelled like vinegar so I bought you Windex,” Dad told me. Sigh.
Once the pandemic hit, I started to worry about disinfecting and deep cleaning with homemade, more natural products. They probably worked just fine, but I discovered GoCleanCo and revamped my deep cleaning style. I still use Clean Mama granite cleaner among other recipes and methods, but for a thorough, deep down into the foundation cleaning, GoCleanCo is the way, the truth, and the light. She explains how to clean your entire house with hot water, powdered Tide, bleach, and Barkeeper’s Friend. I am first in line for a list of products I either already have or can use multiple ways. If I didn’t like cleaning with Tide, I could use it for my laundry! GoCleanCo is my favorite thing on Instagram, with helpful tutorials and the most satisfying before and after photos you’ll ever see. She videos herself making perfect vacuum lines — she is my people. She runs a cleaning company so she has a ton of experience with all different types of messes from the homes and businesses she has tackled.
I have both of their handbooks and use them interchangeably, depending on the size or severity of the mess. The moral of the story is if you are using a pre-mixed cleaning solution to mop your floors, they are probably not clean. If you learned how to care for your own home in the age of Swiffers and Roombas and Clorox wipes, you might not being caring for your home in the best way. I used to use Clorox wipes on everything, including my granite countertops in a previous home, because I just really wanted them to be clean and bleach makes things super clean, right? Turns out bleach is bad for granite over time, but what did I know? I wasn’t cleaning, I was conveniencing. Handy wipes (also bad for the environment) presoaked with cleaning fluid, mops with disposable pads preloaded with a cleaning solution, and a cute little robot that would clean my floors? For someone who had grown up cleaning up after herself, but never a whole apartment, it seemed like a good idea. Now that I’m old and wise, I am relearning how to actually make things clean, rather than mopping because you’re supposed to mop and just assuming the floor is now clean.
Keeping a clean home is important for my mental health, though mine isn’t nearly as clean as I would like. The people who live with me refuse to leave, even for a day, so I can actually get everything fully in order for five minutes before they follow me around to undo my hard work.