Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Does Clean Smell Like?

My husband came home with a gift for me the other day. Nope, not flowers. Not chocolate. No gift certificate for a massage. It was a…..steam mop! I’m woman enough to know that this is not a comment on my cleaning abilities, but a man who knows how to get me excited. I’d heard of steam mops. But in the interest of keeping my cleaning closet uncluttered (and staying stuck in my own rut, thank you very much), I hadn’t gone in for one. Now before you think my hubby is all that and a stick of gum, here’s the real reason he brought it home. It was free. A coworker is developing the product for their company and wants some feedback. I’m good with feedback. We all know that.

So I put the steam vac through its paces, but not before noting (and maybe whining a little) that it isn’t cordless. In my opinion a newly developed steam mop really oughta be cordless. Heck, it’s not like other companies haven’t already made these babies. But taking my task as a product tester seriously, I assembled it. Without the directions. I figured no sense in acting out of character. Normal people don’t read directions, at least not for a mop, do they? It snapped together nicely and only took a few head scratches to figure out. That’s a plus. I filled it with water to the big giant “fill to here” line and set to work.

The first room I tackled was the kids bathroom. Ew. Figured I should start with the room that needed sanitized the most. Other than wishing it was a vacuum too, I was very happy. To a point. When I was finished, the bathroom looked pretty clean and the mop head looked pretty filthy. But the room didn’t smell clean. It didn’t smell like anything. Tiny disappointment here. The steam mop is great at being green – no chemicals, no phosphate laden detergent, no fumes. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed that fragrance of vinegar or Murphy soap or lemons that tells me the room is clean. I wondered how clean it really was. No way of knowing. It looks clean. But does clean have a smell?

Which led me to put down the steam mop where it lay (actually on the handy little pad that came with it for parking it) and head for the computer. I looked up what gives cleaners that lovely clean smell and discovered something not so lovely. The smell comes from fragrances in the cleaner. And the word “fragrance” on any label could mean anything. In fact, manufacturers don’t even have to tell you anything beyond “fragrance”. The fragrance could be made from all kinds of chemicals and apparently the powers that be are not worried about how those chemicals might affect us. They could be natural chemicals or petrochemicals or synthetic chemicals. Really, they could be anything. So now I’m wondering if the smell of clean isn’t actually – nothing. No smell. If you want more information, check out the blog, econovice. There you’ll find more specifics on what exactly could be in the “fragrance” found on cleaning products, deodorants, air fresheners, and detergents and how they can affect your health.

So I’m all about appreciating my steam mop and have used it on tile, vinyl, and wood, all with wonderful fragrance-free results. Great idea for green cleaning. Glad I thought of it.

I guess he was on a roll, because my husband soon appeared with another eco-friendly, fragrance-free cleaning tool - a squeegee. When he first came home with the giant green window washer thingee just like the one the kids fight over at the gas station, I was skeptical. Really? Wipe down the shower every time? At first I skipped my share of turns, figuring he was already out of the house and he’d never know I didn’t squeegee today. But then curiosity got the best of me and I had to try it out in earnest. You know what? It’s great. Wiping down the walls of the shower, all the way down to the caulk, leaves them clean and only takes a moment. It’s kind of a thrill to be cleaning in the nude. Plus there’s no scrubbing, no smelly cleaners, nothing. The caulk even lost that pink sheen it had been developing.

I’m sure Nick is going to need to go split some wood or watch some football or find some other manly task to take on as soon as he reads this. But for a guy who dodges the cleaning bullet whenever possible and teases me about my green efforts, he sure did score big this week.


  1. Cleaning is my least favorite household task - much more like my mother than I like to admit. However, I do like a clean "smell" even the vinegar I use to clean with is okay. Peroxide after disinfects and cuts the smell. Have learned that the squeegee does cut down the moisture in a bathroom. If you have a windowless bathroom like in my apt it is a help.

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