Before getting out of bed this morning I was thinking about the traits of residue free cleaning. Normally I do yoga first thing in the morning but today all I could think about was residue free cleaning. Who does that? Me I guess.
When I make cleaning presentations it is usually under the title of green cleaning. But I rarely actually do a presentation on green cleaning. Instead, I almost always talk about residue free cleaning. Green cleaning and residue free cleaning are close cousins but residue free is more of a philosophy than a product or tool.
As a professional cleaner of 23 years and counting we have learned a wee bit about cleaning. Our style of cleaning- or residue free cleaning as we call it, comes from in insane amount of experience, researching, witnessing, the always helpful school of hard knocks, and a slightly odd amount of time thinking about cleaning.
So without further a dew... drum roll... here are the 5 essentials of Residue Free Cleaning:
1. Awareness: knowing what you are cleaning or attempting to clean in the first place is where you start.
Questions: What is your surface? What is your soil? How did it get there?
Example: Let’s say you have white deposits on a glass shower door in a shower with travertine walls. Your soil is most likely hard water deposits and soap scum. Your stone is both acid and scratch sensitive.
Hint: Most hard water removers are usually strong acids and will etch your travertine shower. If you try to scrub off the deposits you may scratch your travertine. This little bit of awareness can save you big bucks by not having to re-polish your travertine after it is damaged
2. Practicing prevention: If damage or soil can be prevented up front then by all means do that!
Questions: Could this soil have been prevented and how?
Examples: Taking off shoes, using effective and clean entry mats can reduce the overall soil of a house by 76%!! It benefits your indoor air quality, minimized your dust and dirt and helps all flooring last longer! Another example would be to have rinsed and dried your shower each day- this would have minimized any white deposits on your shower walls.
Hint: An ounce of prevention will save you a ton of time, energy, money and damage.
3. Start with the mildest and safest means: When you use the safest, mildest procedure and products your damage to both you, surface and environment is greatly reduced.
Questions: What is the very mildest and safest way for me to start?
Often, we find our clients using what we would consider a restorative cleaning product for daily maintenance. These products tend to be aggressive, potentially dangerous, over kill and often damaging to your surfaces.
Hint: Maybe all that is needed is a good vacuum or dust. If you do need to clean start mild, you can always improve your system or increase the strength of your cleaning if the mild means doesn't work. You will find with the right system mild cleaners usually do the trick so start here and then call for help if it doesn't.
Example: In the case of the hard water deposits in your shower… prevention rules. But if you do find yourself with hard water deposits, abrading off with a non scratch pad and a non acidic / mild abrasive product is the way to go. Try baking soda or bon ami. We use a product that contains sea shells which does require our elbow grease but works wonders.
4. Break the surface tension: In our culture of cleaning today, chemicals rule. But the chemical part of cleaning is only part of cleaning and not the whole equation. The goal of cleaning is to remove from the surface what doesn't belong on the surface- such as hard water deposits- without doing any damage- to persons, surfaces and environment.
Question: How would I remove dried oatmeal from my cooking pan?
Hint: There are many parts of breaking surface tension
Know what the characteristics of your surface. Is it scratch, heat, acid, or bleach sensitive?
Remove the big stuff- vacuum, scoop up or blow off the big dirt
When cleaning, implement these four parts of cleaning
a. Heat: Heat usually elevates the cleaning power of your cleaner. By mixing your concentrate cleaners with hot water you can usually use milder cleaners and get way more cleaning power.
b. Time: Leaving your cleaner on the surface/soil for a while helps it break the surface tension-
c. Agitation: This is a lot like elbow grease. In our company we have zillions of different
types of agitators. Our best agitators are: microfibers or terry cloth towels, non scratch pads, brushes- natural hair and nylon, neoprene squeegees.
Chemical: And finally we come to the cleaner. Did you know water is a very effective cleaner? Paired with the agitation and technology of a microfiber, it is brilliant! You don't need a zillion cleaners but you do need a neutral cleaner, an acid, an abrasive cleaner and sometimes a high alkaline cleaner- that is pretty much it.
Tips: One of my favorite neutral cleaners is fragrance free, natural dish washing liquid. Did you know most hand soaps and dish washing liquids were neutral- meaning they had a pH of right around 7. Another great little product is your baking soda- it works as a wonderfully mild and safe abrasive. Vinegar makes an effective acidic cleaner- just don't use it on your travertine shower- it will etch the heck out of it!!! And as far as alkaline cleaner- start with your dish washing liquid- you will be amazed how go of cleaner they usually are.
5. And finally and this may be the most important part of residue free cleaning:
Leave nothing behind!!!
Question: What am I leaving behind?
Hint: Aim to leave nothing behind: soil- chemical- moisture
Do no harm to people or surface
a. Don't spray cleaners into the air- the mist will go places you don't want or expect
b. Always rinse after applying cleaner- cleaners left behind can make your surfaces re-soil faster. They also can become food for bacteria and molds. Residues left behind can give you a false shine and they muddy your surfaces. And of course they might accidentally end up in us people. Clean surfaces that have no residue will be clear - the essence of your surface will be apparent.
c. Always dry your surfaces- nobody likes to go to bed wet and neither does your surfaces. By rinsing and drying you are removing extra layers of both soil and cleaner. Dust won’t stick to your surfaces when they are dry and you will have residue free surfaces.
And there you go: the 5 essentials of residue free cleaning. You will find a residue free home will be healthier, stay cleaner longer, it will save you money and time and it is much better for the environment, for the cleaner and for the surface itself!! Not bad for a little bit of cleaning
I am now free to go about my day. My cleaning writing brain is now residue free!!
May your homes be happy, healthy and residue free,