Cleaning and Organizing

I think, out of all cleaning tasks, cleaning the shower is just about my least favorite.  It is such a thankless job.  For years, my solution was just to not really clean the shower much, but, since we remodeled the master bathroom and have a pretty tile shower in there now, I figure it’s a better plan to actually try to keep up with the cleaning.

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In general, following along with CleanMama’s routine for bathrooms like I shared last week has really helped to keep me thinking about at least spraying/wiping down the shower once a week, which goes a long way toward helping it stay cleaner.  (I LOVE the Method tub & tile spray for that – no rinsing necessary!)  But, one area that still seems to require special attention even with the weekly shower cleaning, is the bead of caulk between the tiled shower walls and the fiberglass tub.

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To be fair, our caulk actually isn’t in great shape and should probably be peeled out and re-done … I just haven’t gotten there.  In the meantime, I’m just worrying about trying to keep it clean.  Probably every month or so I start to notice that it doesn’t look quite as white as the tub/tile and, if I don’t do anything then, it starts to form gray/black spots (like the ones above) that are just icky.

Now, remember how I mentioned I used to not like cleaning the shower so much that I just didn’t clean it.  Well, as you can imagine, that means it needs a really heavy duty cleaning when it does come time to tackle the shower.  For the caulk, I’ve previously used the approach described on this page to clean it up relatively quickly (although I promise our shower never looked as bad as the one in the pictures – yuck).  Basically, you make a paste of baking soda and bleach, spread it over the caulk, cover it with plastic wrap (so it doesn’t dry out) and walk away.  This method does work, although it can sometimes take multiple applications (even with the baking soda, the bleach solution runs down the tub/shower walls) and the whole thing is just kind messy.  It’s fine for periodic shower cleaning, but definitely not something I’d look forward to doing on a regular basis.

So, when I saw a Clorox bleach pen in the laundry section at Target, I thought it was worth a try.  I picked one up and threw it in my bathroom cleaning caddy.  Now, when I see the caulk looking a little less than fresh, it’s a quick fix to clean it up again.

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Using the bleach pen for the shower is super simple – I just trace the caulk line with it and walk away.  I usually let it sit for at least an hour, but sometimes for the rest of the day.  Basically, I just make sure to wipe it off before the next shower/bath.

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And, once I wipe it off, the caulk is sparkly white – never fails.

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Bleach pens usually run between $2 and $3, depending on where you get them, so it is pricier than mixing up your own solution with baking soda, but the convenience is totally worth it as far as I’m concerned.  The bleach stays put (doesn’t run down the shower like the bleach solution can) and the pen is super mess-free, which is perfect considering that there’s usually a toddler right behind me inspecting my work (containers of bleach & baking soda paste are just a disaster waiting to happen).

I’ve also used it to spot clean the grout in the shower before (looking at the pictures above, it might be time to do that again!) and it does a beautiful job at that as well.  Super simple!

Anyway, this has to be just about my favorite cleaning trick, so I thought I’d share – in the hopes that I’m not the only one out there with less-than-fresh caulk (or grout!) in their shower.  (Please say I’m not.)

Throughout my adult life, I’ve tried a variety of approaches to cleaning.  I guess they were all basically successful – the house wound up clean for at least a little while – but I struggled to get into a routine that kept it in a basically clean state all the time.  Especially after we moved to our current house, I would find myself deep cleaning everything from top to bottom (over the course of about 3 days) and then getting burned out and not cleaning again for over a month … which meant another deep cleaning was needed.  So, our house was either really clean … or not.  Usually, not – which was frustrating for me because I love a clean house.

When Haley was born and I quit my job to stay home with her, this was one of the things I wanted to change, but I found cleaning with a baby isn’t as easy as I imagined it might be before she was born.  And, although I love a clean house, it’s not something I wanted to be spending all of my time working toward – who does?  So, I started thinking there must be a better way.  And that was when I found Clean Mama.  It’s a great blog with all kinds of cleaning tips and recipes for super simple (and effective) homemade cleaners, but the part that was totally revolutionary for me was her cleaning routine.  Seriously – go check it out.

The routine is ridiculously simple – she even provides a free calendar every month that lists out the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to keep a house clean.  Plus, she posts daily reminders of the day’s tasks on Instagram (@cleanmama) to make it super easy to follow along.

 

I’m certain that Clean Mama has no idea who I am – and she definitely didn’t ask me to post about her blog.  But, seriously – it is such a wealth of information and her cleaning routine is such a welcome change of pace, I figured it was worth sharing.

It’s been about a year now since I started following along:  Bathrooms on Monday, Dusting on Tuesday, Vacuuming on Wednesday, Hard Floors on Thursday.  I spend about 30 minutes or so every day and have a basically clean house always.  It’s so simple and yet so amazing.  Her mantra is progress, not perfection.  And I love that.  Honestly I think I’d always been striving for perfection, spending a solid week cleaning the house – and, after that, who wants to turn around and repeat it the next week.  But, by breaking it down into manageable chunks and doing just a little every day, I’m able to keep a clean house and still feel like I still have a life outside of being a cleaning lady.  I also don’t get so burnt out that I’m not willing to repeat the routine again the following week … and the week after that.  The real beauty, though, is that a basically clean house gets easier and quicker to keep clean.  So, the first few weeks were hard – I couldn’t figure out how to get everything done in the small amount of time that Becky (Clean Mama) said I should be able to.  But, just like she said it would, it’s gotten quicker and easier and I can really speed through it now.  Such a game changer!

Now, I’ll be totally honest – I’ll do really good at following the routine exactly for several weeks in a row.  And then something usually happens and I wind up not sticking with it so great for a couple of weeks.  Sometimes our schedules just don’t make time for it … and other times I get bored or feel like I’m cleaning something that isn’t really dirty and take a bit of a break.  I kind of wind up doing this on-again-off-again thing with the routine.  And I think that’s ok.  Having a routine to come back to when the house starts looking a little rough around the edges again makes for a quick recovery.

The key for me has been breaking the work down into manageable chunks and doing just a little at a time.  Plus, it’s perfect with a toddler in tow.  I usually do my cleaning tasks right after breakfast when Haley is busy playing and I’m able to finish everything up before she loses interest in her toys.

I think, like anything, the hardest part for me was just getting started.  But, once I got into it and was able to look at cleaning as a bunch of small, quick tasks rather than a huge project that was going to take days to finish, it because much more do-able and much less overwhelming.

Now, if only Clean Mama could work the same miracle with all of the painting projects on my way-too-long list.  Ha!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the chandelier in our dining room was nasty dirty and desperately needed some love.  It’s really no mystery how it got that way – we’ve lived here for almost 7 years and I think I briefly attempted to clean it once before realizing how much the job sucked and deciding I could live with it a little dirty.  And since my last attempt to clean it, we have had the plaster in the dining room skim coated (i.e., TONS of plaster dust EVERYWHERE) and the floors refinished (i.e., bunches of airborne sawdust).  Just for kicks, check out this old picture from when the plaster work was done back in 2009 – yep, it’s been that long since the chandelier’s been shined up … and look at the dust!

For some reason, though, the filth on the chandelier never really bothered me until we moved the furniture back into the dining room after the floors were refinished and the new window treatments were installed.  I’m thinking maybe it was just because there were other, more obnoxious things (like the teal green fabric on the window seat) that I focused on instead.  Regardless, the lack of glittery-ness on our chandelier was really bugging me and I decided it was time to finally do something about it.  See the film on all the crystals.  Yuck.

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The problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly how to clean the chandelier.  It’s original with the house and I’d definitely put it in the category of delicate, so while it seemed like I would get the best results by taking the individual crystals off of the chandelier and washing each of them by hand, I was hesitant to do so.  It seemed like the little wire hooks would suffer a bunch of casualties if I tried bending them a little to unhook each crystal and then again when the crystals were hung back up.  Plus, that just sounds like a lot of work.  So, I ruled out that option.  I also considered trying again the approach I’d attempted before, which was to spray down the chandelier with Windex (which I’ve since read is a really BAD idea since it can darken all of the metal on the chandelier) and then try to individually wipe down each crystal … but the last time I tried that, the little hooks for the crystals kept getting snagged in the cloth I was using to wipe the Windex off, which was a major pain.  So, I did what any girl would do … I Google’d it.

And I actually found what turned out to be a really great solution:  Brilliante Crystal Chandelier Cleaner.  It had a bunch of glowing reviews and using it sounded super easy – just spray down the chandelier and let it drip itself clean.  What’s not to like, right?  So I decided to give it a try and ordered a bottle from Amazon.  At about $20 a bottle, it’s probably the most expensive cleaner I’ve ever bought, but I figured it would be totally worth it if it worked … and it did!

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I started by making sure all of the light bulbs in the fixture were completely tight (so that the cleaner couldn’t get anywhere it didn’t belong).  I then put out towels and old sheets all over the dining room table and surrounding area on the floor since I’d read that overspray could be a problem.

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I’m really glad I took the time to cover up more than just the area immediately below the chandelier since it took a bit of practice with the spray bottle to figure out how to get the majority of the cleaner on the chandelier and not flying through the crystals to land on the wall/floor on the opposite side of the room.  In my case, I got the best results when I adjusted the sprayer nozzle to more of a wide angle and then sprayed slightly down onto the chandelier rather than directly at it.

I fully coated the chandelier (with the light off) and let it drip dry for about 20 minutes.  I was really glad I’d placed several towels over the dining room table – it dripped a lot and my towels got pretty soaked.  After the 20 minutes were up, I thought the chandelier looked pretty good, but the instructions on the bottle mentioned a second cleaning might be needed if the chandelier started out really dirty and I figured if mine hadn’t qualified as really dirty, I didn’t know what would.  So, I sprayed the chandelier down again and let it dry completely.  It’s hard to make out in the photo, but, at this point, it was raining all over the towels on the table.

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I would say it took longer than to 20 minutes mentioned on the bottle for the chandelier to completely dry – there were still some drips hanging off the bottom of our crystals after that amount of time (although it wasn’t really dripping onto the towels on the table any longer).  After about an hour, though, the chandelier looked pretty dry.  I was still a little nervous about turning the light on, though, in case any of the cleaner had gotten into the light bulb sockets or something, so I waited until this morning to turn the light on for the first time.  And all I can say is wow!

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I knew the chandelier was dirty, but I had no idea what we were missing out on.  The light is so much brighter now … and so glittery.  I am amazed at the difference.

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As a side note, while I was waiting for the chandelier to drip itself clean, I also decided I should clean the little crystals hanging off of our matching wall sconces.  They weren’t nearly as dirty as the chandelier – I’ve cleaned them more recently, I think – but I didn’t want to spray them directly since I figured there’d be no way I’d avoid soaking the wall, floor, etc.  So, for those, I just sprayed the cleaner on a microfiber cloth and wiped down the crystals individually.

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Although the cleaner worked fine this way (sprayed on a cloth), I honestly feel like the chandelier feels cleaner and shinier after dripping dry as compared to the sconces, which I wiped down by hand.  I really can’t figure that one out.

Regardless, though, I’m super happy with the results.  In less than an hour and with just a little prep work (to lay out towels and sheets), the chandelier and sconces in the dining room are sparkling clean.  It just doesn’t get much better than that!

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I still have a little more than half a bottle of cleaner left and I’m debating giving it a go with the flush mount crystal light hanging in our foyer as well as the chandelier hanging over the stairs … I’m concerned that the drip dry part may be a gigantic mess in either of those locations, though, so I’m still planning my attack.

Overall, I just feel like this is a really neat product and I’m super thrilled with the results.  While I really hope we’re done with plaster dust and saw dust for a long while, I certainly won’t procrastinate cleaning up the light next time around!

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