Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tea For Your Floor?

(picture above taken before tea time, picture below taken after tea, sorry no professional photographer was available for the shoot, but at least I kept the puppy out of it!)

I made tea for my kitchen floor today. Really I did. I was inspired by a little organic cleaning tidbit I read about early on in my quest to clean organically. When I overheard it again at the library the other day, I knew I just had to know if it was true. Here’s your organic cleaning tip for the day: Tea cleans wood floors. Today I tested that idea out. I’m sure this post will be one of my husband’s favorites because it necessitated that I actually spend a morning focused on housework. My mom will like it to because when I was vacuuming the floor, I found the pearl she lost from her ring the last time she visited. At first I thought it was the molar my oldest son lost, left in the center of the kitchen table (yuck), and which mysteriously disappeared never to be swapped with the tooth fairy for the traditional gold dollar. (At least gold dollars are the tradition in our house, what is up with these tooth fairies that leave $5 bills? C’mon people – I mean fairies – you make it awfully hard on the rest of us!) The molar still hasn’t turned up. I don’t even want to imagine where it might be. I had my son write an I Owe You to the Tooth Fairy so we could stop worrying about it.

The scrap of paper I was using as my directions simply stated, “2 Tea bags, clean wood floor.” At the time I wrote that cryptic note, I’m sure I understood the concept completely. However, when I pulled out my note to get started, I had a lot of questions. Should I brew the tea first? What kind of tea? Does it need to steep? Just how much floor can 2 tea bags clean? How much water should I add? So many questions, but I was pressed for time so I decided to make it up as I went along. Guess what? It worked. My floor looks great, at least until 3:15 when the first child will enter, dump his filthy backpack, kick off his snow/salt covered sneakers and spill his snack all over it.

I chose Earl Gray Decaffeinated for the simple reason that the box was destined to sit in our cupboard for the next 10 years. I bought it a few weeks ago for my hubby who likes Earl Gray. I figured he could do without caffeine (it being a drug and all). He figured there’s no point to drinking Earl Gray without caffeine. And even though I’m a bit of tea nut, I don’t like Earl Gray. So we’d come to an impasse and the box sat on the counter for a few days before it was crammed in to the back of the cabinet not to be heard from again until somebody comes around collecting food for the needy. It was kind of great to have a purpose for the Earl Gray and I was relieved not to have to sacrifice good tea to my floor experiment.

My cryptic note didn’t specify whether to brew the tea or not, so I compromised. I heated water to almost boiling while considering whether boiling water would melt my mop bucket. I erred on the side of caution and poured it in before it whistled. I used five tea bags even though the “directions” said two because I figured whoever came up with the original plan had never seen a floor as filthy as mine. There didn’t seem to be enough water in the bucket, so I added more hot tap water until I had about 1 ½ gallons of hot water to five tea bags. This felt like the right mixture.

I used two buckets – one for tea and one for clean water to rinse the dirty mop. In only a few swipes both buckets were about the same color (note picture below) and I had to change my clean water bucket four or five times throughout the process. I think the tea did as good a job or better than anything else I’ve used to clean that floor. One area it seemed to excel in was removing scuff marks, so that’s impressive. And it smelled nice, much better than most floor cleaners, although I’m still partial to the scent of Murphy Soap because it reminds me of cleaning tack the night before horseshows when I was a kid.

I don’t know if cleaning with tea is any cheaper than vinegar, I’d guess maybe not, but it depends on your source for tea. Just about everyone has a few stale tea bags lurking around in need of a purpose. I’m all about re-purposing.

As I was mopping the floor, I noticed an especially dirty wall and I took my tea to the wall too. It worked just fine. Made me wonder what else I could clean with tea, but only for a moment. (Sorry, Honey.)


  1. Cole wants to know whether the tea made the floor sticky once it dried. I'm guessing its sugar that makes tea sticky, and since you had no sugar in your floor-tea there was no stickiness. Can you confirm?

  2. Yup. No sugar, no stickiness. Maybe you should brew him up a bucket and set him to work!

  3. When I was a kid, we used to clean our wooden floor with natural tea extracts we got from a neighbor whom had a little tea business. Also, my mother used these natural teas as a mixture for our initial laundry procedures before using a detergent on it. My mother said that teas were like lemons; it’s healthy for the body and for mommy’s chores as well. Now, I’m in my mid 40’s, lemons and teas are one common mixture for carpet cleaners. Long Island’s cleaning always has something to do with natural herbs and local plants―just like these delicious teas. And I agree with you, just keep on cleaning!

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