3 January 2008

Green cleaning - the bathroom

Today we're cleaning the bathroom using green cleaners, plus a little bit of bleach if you have a mould problem. Before we proceed though I want you to understand that every single compound you use - including green ones - can cause environmental damage if used in high concentrations. When you start green cleaning don't expect vinegar and bicarb to be as fast and effective as your commercial cleaners. They are gentle cleaners, and they're much safer in our waterways than any spray and wipe concoction you can buy. They are also much cheaper. But even so, they need to be used sparingly.

NEVER EVER mix ammonia and bleach together. It creates a dangerous gas.
Never mix ammonia with vinegar - they neutralise each other.

In my cleaning kit today I have one small bucket (2-4 litres), bicarb in a large salt or flour shaker, cheap white vinegar, ¼ cup grated home made soap - you could also use pure laundry soap, a bar of soap, at least four terry or cotton cloths, a bristle brush, a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket. Essential oil for fragrance is optional. If there are areas of mould, you'll also need a spray bottle containing a cup of water and a tablespoon of liquid bleach.

If possible, open doors and windows to allow a free flow of air through the room. Put on your apron and gloves.

Assemble your cleaning kit, go to the bathroom and check your shower grout. If it's got any mould growing on it, spray it with the diluted bleach mix and then go on to your sweeping.

Sweep the floor. Scoop up your sweepings in the dustpan and dispose of in the compost heap or bin. You will mop your floor later but you need to have all the stands of hair, dust, talcum powder etc. off the floor first.

Remove all the items you have stored in the shower, around your bathroom sink and bath.

Remove all towels and floor mats. Put them in the laundry for washing.

Check the mould on the grout. If it needs another spray, spray again and leave it. Please note: if you've allowed mould to grow on the grout for a while, the mould might have eaten right into the grout. You'll only be able to remove it if it sitting on the surface. There is little you can do for deeply embedded mould. You generally have to remove the grout and re-grout the tiles.

Pour a cup of bicarb into the toilet and add a cup of white vinegar and let it sit. It will fizz, that's okay.

Wipe the mirror over with a clean cloth with a splash of white vinegar.

Then go to your shower. If it's dirty, you'll need your bar of soap and brush. Pour about 1 litre (quart) of hot water in your small bucket, rub soap and sprinkle bicarb on the brush and scrub the dirty areas. Keep the brush wet with the hot water and apply the soap and bicarb when needed. Make sure you scrub around the taps, pipes and shower head. If the shower is not really dirty, just sprinkle bicarb onto your damp (not wet) terry cloth and wipe all the non-glass surfaces. When you're satisfied it's clean, add about 1 litre (quart) cold water to your bucket, and with a clean wet cloth, wipe all traces of soap and bicarb off all surfaces. To clean the glass, get the vinegar cloth you cleaned the mirror with, and add a little more vinegar. Wipe the glass shower screen with the vinegar cloth, making sure you remove all the soap scum. If you have a soap scum buildup, you may have to use your brush and some bicarb to remove it, wipe down with a wet cloth, then wipe with your vinegar cloth. When you've finished cleaning, wipe all surfaces with a dry terry cloth. Pay particular attention to the glass and stainless steel surfaces as they will show water spots if you allow the water to dry on them.

You've now cleaned your shower. You could also clean the floor of the shower at this time if you wanted to but I always leave that until I clean all the floors right at the end.

You have now used three of your cloths - one for soap and bicarb, one for vinegar and one as a dry wiper. Keep these cloths as they are, you'll use them again soon. Depending on the state and size of your bathroom, you might need more dry wipers.

Now go to your bath. We have a spa bath which we never use now. If you don't use your bath it probably won't need cleaning. I tend to wipe our bath over about once a month. If you do use your bath, repeat the same treatments as your used in the shower - if it's dirty use a brush, hot water, soap and bicarb; if it's not especially dirty, use bicarb on a damp cloth. Don't wipe this with vinegar, but wipe off all traces of bicarb and soap with a wet cloth and use your dry cloth to dry off the taps and the top of the bath.

Remember, bacteria generally needs moisture to grow. It's a good habit to get into with all your cleaning to dry off all your surfaces and not leave moisture around.

Go to the bathroom sink and repeat the cleaning as stated above. Use either the dirty or the not so dirty method. Make sure you clean the taps, around the taps and the areas where the taps join into the sink - this is where bacteria can build up so make sure you scrub those areas well with your brush. When it's all clean, wipe over with your dry wiper.

Check the toilet. You've already poured in the vinegar and bicarb, now it will need to be scrubbed with the toilet brush. Make sure you get into every area. If there are stains in the toilet, you might have to repeat this treatment - scrub it and leave it for a couple of hours. Then come back and scrub it with the toilet brush and flush the toilet.

If you used bleach for your grout and have some left over, pour it down the sink.

Take off your gloves, wash and dry your hands.

Now you can put your toiletries back on the bathroom sink. Put out fresh towels.

Your last task is to clean the floor and the floor of the shower recess. Half fill a normal size bucket (10 litres/quarts) with hot water and add the ¼ cup of soap. With a clean broom, yes broom, swish the soap around so it dissolves, drain the broom a little and then start scrubbing the floor. Clean the floor of the shower with this method too. Make sure you get into the corners. If you have tiled floors, make sure you get into the grooves of the grout too. When you're satisfied that the floor is clean, empty your bucket and fill with clean cold water. Wipe the floor over with a mop and the clean water. Make sure you remove all the soap and lather and right at the end, wring the mop out well so that you leave the floor moist, not wet.

When the floor is completely dry, lay down your fresh floor mats.

Now clean up your bathroom kit so it's ready for the next job. You want everything to dry out between uses. If they don't, they will smell and bacteria will build up in your equipment. Rinse the mop and broom off in clean cold water and wring out as much as possible. Stand them either in the sun or somewhere where they can dry completely. Put all your cleaning cloths in to be washed with your laundry. Wipe out your bucket and put in your cleaning kit of bicarb, vinegar, soap, fresh cloths etc and return it to the bathroom, under the sink, if possible.

This routine should take about 15 minutes for the average bathroom. If it's dirtier, add another 15 minutes.

Recycle old towels, cotton tshirts, sheets etc, by cutting them into squares and using them as cleaning cloths. You should never buy Chux or other cleaning cloths. I do like the Enjo products but I think they're too expensive.

This is the way I clean my bathroom. I do it once a week and wipe the vanity and taps over during the week when ever I feel like doing it. Sometimes that's once a day, sometimes it's only once a week. I don't stress over it, I just do it as it suits my mood. I expect you to use this as a guide, I EXPECT you to modify it to suit your ways of cleaning and your bathroom. It's like a recipe, it's just a guide, you change it to suit your circumstances. I hope you see that the emphasis is on elbow grease rather than chemicals. The products recommended here will thoroughly clean your bathroom, if you start out with a dirty bathroom, they might need two or three applications, but they will work. When you get your bathroom clean, you can keep it clean by using these methods once a week.

Whatever you do, make sure you use less and not more of everything - soap, vinegar, water, bleach etc. We are conservers, not consumers, and we try to keep everything to a minimum.

ADDITION: I had an email from Killi today warning of the danger of using bleach of you have a septic tank. I agree that you should never use bleach in your house if you have a septic system. The bleach will kill the bacteria in the tank.
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