Monday, January 30, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

Long winter storms bring a predictable side effect: the house gets cleaner. Every time bad weather leaves me housebound, I learn again that basic cleaning should be a first priority. Despite the season’s dim light, it’s hard to overlook the subtle compromises in maintenance that result from the comings and goings of an ordinary week.

The kitchen is dominated by a stout, rolling maple cart, and the most straightforward way I’ve found to keep it clean is to abrade the top with a generous tuft of coarse steel wool. I sanitize the wood with a slosh of rubbing alcohol and process raw meat on other surfaces.

I swear that things cooked in a clean oven taste better. I use a spray-on unscented oven cleaner that’s basically old-fashioned lye. It works beautifully on pots and pans, and is the best thing I’ve found to brighten a stainless steel sink. The cleaner’s a good paint remover, too. I use it for the odd bit of hardware or tool handle.

I rummaged in the very small cleaning cupboard and discovered that the combination of ammonia and a teaspoon of dishwasher rinsing aid gets a load of laundry clean in unprecedented ways. Ordinarily, I use the same unscented detergent for everything, but every now and then, I switch products until the new container is used up. Doing so seems to remove a different fraction of soil from the wash, and it’s very gratifying. Ammonia is why housecleaning is one of the more dangerous occupations, so ventilate the laundry room when you’re using it.

The rinsing aid is a secret weapon at the sink. Add a bit to the dishpan when dried oatmeal promises a long soak.


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