Oct 7, 2009

The Self Cleaning House

Unlike the Proverbs 31 woman, nor indeed most middle class women from ancient times through the early- to mid-20th century, I do not have even a single servant. That means common household chores eat up a lot more of my time than they did my ancestors. Which means I shouldn't beat myself up too much when I can't seem to achieve a truly clean house.

Yes, I want a pleasant home my family loves being in. Yes, I want the house organized enough it doesn't cause frustration. No, I don't want it to stay so dirty it's unhealthy. But caring for my children, being a helpmeet for my husband, and running a part time business (which is a need, not an option) take up most of my time and are more important than vacuuming and dusting.

That said, I love a clean and tidy house. So does my husband. So in my efforts to achieve something like a clean house, I've discovered that (in some cases, at least) the house can be self cleaning. Truly!

Here are two products I've tried that promise to make houses "self cleaning." Consider whether they could lighten your burden and give you time for other, more important efforts.

Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner

My husband has his own bathroom; it's just off our bedroom and much too small for us both to crowd into. Before we had children, I kept it sparkling clean for him, but after our daughter was born 3 1/2 months early, I needed to cut down drastically on household chores; the bathroom became his to deal with. But my husband doesn't clean, and his shower stall quickly became a filthy mess.

So I bought this automatic shower cleaning kit by Scrubbing Bubbles. I began by cleaning his shower the old fashioned way, then hung the plastic bucket-like device over the shower head and asked him to push the button once after each shower. The results were amazing! I no longer have to clean his shower!

Later, I bought one for the bathroom I share with the kids, which has a tub/shower combo. The cleaning kit doesn't work quite as well there; I still have to clean the bathtub and shower from time to time - but I do it less frequently than I used to. (Just remember to rinse the tub with some water before giving the kids a bath, even though the cleaning solution is described as "less harsh than other shower cleaners.")

The refills are about $4 dollars (for a single clear bottle that sits in the plastic bucket device), but while the manufacturer says they last only about 21 days, I find ours lasts a bit longer, even when used daily. You only need to use the cleaner after the last shower or bath of the day. The batteries need replacing about every six months or so. For our household, I find this expense well worthwhile.

There are also ways to cut the cost of refills - although they are of course not recommended by the manufacturer. For example, over at Instructables, a writer describes how he refills his shower cleaner kit with shower cleaner from the Dollar Store. Other brands of cleaner may not work as well, however, may corrode the shower cleaner kit, and are probably much more harsh.

When I read there was a robotic vacuum requiring no help from me except to turn it on, I was skeptical, but intrigued. For years, I read reviews on the Roomba vacuum, and finally my husband (a gadget guy) asked for one for Christmas. We love it!

I make sure toys are picked up off the floor, my husband sets the little devices that prevent the machine from going where you don't want it to go, and one of us turns the thing on. Then we leave the room (to, for example, watch a DVD together at the end of the day) and let the Roomba work. The machine detects when the floor is clean (our model works both on carpet and vinyl or wood) and turns itself off. There's even a separate remote-like device you can buy to schedule the Roomba to clean when you're not at home.

Because I don't always have the energy to pick up the house at the end of the day (so we can run the Roomba), I still do some traditional vacuuming. But back when we had only one child and pick up was easy, we used the Roomba every day, and I never had to pull out the "big vacuum."

The Roomba uses a rechargeable battery pack and other than replacing this every few years, requires no more ongoing maintenance than any other bag-less vacuum.

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