Dealing With A Dirty Shower

Our house is pretty old. It was built in 1983 and we have been remodeling off and on since we moved in.  Our master shower is on our list of things to update. Someday we will gut the whole bathroom and redo it.  But for now, it’s roomy and functional, if hideous.  The grout is stained and has been cracking.  We have patched it up but it is UGLY.  My husband said the icky stuff might be the only thing holding the shower together…

I have been neglecting it for a while now, with the vague idea of doing some kind of blog post on amazing shower cleaners.  Sure, it’s nasty, but this is for the greater good.   Ahem.

I’m sure all of you have tried various cleaning methods that claim to be the easiest, fastest, bestest, no-scrub, environmentally friendly, chemical free, blah blah blah…  So far, I have found that nothing is totally scrub free and nothing works on every single type of ickiness.  Soap scum is not the same thing as hard water deposit.  Mildew that has stained your grout won’t magically disappear without some chemical intervention.  (By the way, technically EVERYTHING is chemicals, even water, vinegar, and essential oils, so that whole “chemical-free cleaning” concept is kind of silly.)

That said, I have a few things that have proven to be better than others in my house.  The warm vinegar mixed with blue Dawn in a spray bottle and left to soak is pretty good at getting dirt, scum, and even some hard water deposits but you will still probably need to do some scrubbing.  And it smells like vinegar, which my boys all hate.

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When it comes to the stained grout and caulk, chlorine bleach is my favorite option (gasp!).  I like Clorox Gel Cleaner.  I don’t use this very often because it smells kind of nasty and is not the best thing to have going into a septic tank, but in small amounts it’s fine.   Hydrogen peroxide is milder and safer as it breaks down quickly into carbon dioxide and water.  And it’s cheap!  Put into a spray bottle and apply as needed to your stained areas.  It needs to sit a while to work so you will need to reapply or soak paper towels in it and leave to dry.

For years I have been tempted by glowing commentaries on the joys of steam cleaners and finally got one about a year ago.  I chose a HomeRight because it had good reviews on Amazon and sounded pretty versatile.  I have cleaned several things with it so far, and here’s my honest unbiased review of it for cleaning a really ugly old dirty shower.

This photo shows everything included with the HomeRight Steam Cleaner:

Graphic photos follow.  You have been warned.

My results:  it works well for getting surface dirt and soap scum off your shower tile and grout.  You still need to do some scrubbing.  It doesn’t do much for hard water deposits on its own; spraying with vinegar before steam scrubbing would work better.  I didn’t use vinegar this time for a couple of reasons, one, I wanted to see how well the steamer worked alone, and two, my husband was home and doesn’t like to smell vinegar.

It is hot steam (290 degrees) so it can sanitize without bleach, so that is a plus.  One thing I was surprised about (though I shouldn’t have been) was how loud it is.  High-pressure steam (55 psi) makes a lot of noise.  My kids (who are essentially grown) run away when I am using the steam cleaner.  My husband works from home so if he’s on a conference call I can’t use the cleaner in the kitchen; it’s way too loud even with his office door closed.  If you get one, maybe consider ear protection if you have sensitive hearing.

You must use distilled water, as tap water will cause mineral build up and shorten the life of your steamer.  It comes with several little cleaning attachments.  You might want to order extras of the little nylon and brass brushes as they wear out plus if you are using a brush in the toilet you might want a different one for other things…I don’t use brushes on the toilet, just the jet nozzle.

For the shower, I started with the larger nylon brush and did some scrubbing on the heaviest grime, then switched to the squeegee and went over the walls, door, and floor.  They include one little microfiber cloth but you need more than that.  I used old towels to wipe up the dirty water.

Here are some before shots:

Up close, the true horror is revealed…
More ickiness!

And the after…still in need of chemical intervention but better.

Some staining but way better!

 

The HomeRight Steamer is pretty versatile and I have used it on floors, stovetop, toilets, sinks, and counters and been happy with the results.  Cleaning the oven–not so much.  My oven was horrible though, so your results might be better, and I probably should have tried the little brass brush instead of nylon.  A friend of mine borrowed it to remove wallpaper in her home and said it worked great.  Wish I had had it back when we first got this house, because taking down the wallpaper here was a huge pain!

You should read the instructions thoroughly before using.  Some things should NOT be cleaned with steam, including your dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine; you can damage plastic or rubber seals with the high heat.

I have yet to clean windows with it, but people say it’s fantastic.  I’m hoping for some rain to settle our dust before cleaning the windows.

All told, I would definitely buy it again.   What’s your best shower cleaning method or tip?

 

Four O’Clocks

A flower that doesn’t open until late in the day might seem a little pointless, but the four o’clock (Mirablilis jalapa) is a nice addition to your flowerbeds.  When the flowers open in late afternoon you will notice a lovely fragrance, and the little flowers are worth the wait!  They originate from South America but grow well nearly everywhere.  They are perennial in warmer climates (7 and higher) and also reseed freely.

When I was a kid my mother grew four o’clocks in her east facing flowerbeds.  (Actually, she still does.)  They were all one color, kind of a fuschia purple, and the blooms closed during the day.  The bushes got huge over the course of the summer and would crowd out other plants in the process.  So I wasn’t really a fan of this particular plant.

Four o'clocks
The original color of our four o’clocks

Imagine my joy when after moving to this house I discovered the very same four o’clocks, same boring color and everything, all over the flowerbeds!  Squee.

Landscaping was not a priority for the first several years after we moved here, with small kids, homeschooling, and interior remodeling.  So I let the boring flowers go crazy.  They were flowers at least, and they were pretty tough (benign neglect, right?).

Finally, we got roses for the main bed, and I started taking a little more care with our landscape.  At this point, I was pulling hundreds of little four o’clock seedlings as they sprouted because this is a very floriferous plant, and each flower makes a black seed that looks like a tiny grenade.

Four o'clock seeds
Four o’clock seeds

I left some in the north end because it’s pretty shady and I hadn’t planned anything for that area yet.  These flowers do attract sphinx moths, hummingbirds, and butterflies, so that’s kind of cool, and I planned to keep a few plants even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the boring flowers.  But about four years ago something interesting happened…

Four o'clock yellow bloom
Four o’clock with yellow bloom!

One of the plants had some yellow flowers on the same plant with the fuschia flowers.  That was really neat!  The next year, more of the flowers were yellow or streaked.  This kept increasing, until last summer I had several different colors of four o’clocks.  I saved some seeds to give to friends; who knows what they will produce?

After some research, I found that this is not at all unusual with Mirabilis; the thing I don’t understand is why the different colors took so long to show.  Perhaps one of those nice moths brought pollen from different colored flowers and got us some genetic variation going.  Regardless, I no longer dislike the four o’clock flowers.  I will still judiciously pull hundreds of seedlings as they show up where I don’t want them, but I will be sure to leave several plants.  I can’t wait to see what they look like this summer!

If you decide to plant some four o’clocks, now is the time.  After danger of frost, plant the seeds in the garden and water regularly.  They prefer full sun (6 hours minimum).  I don’t fertilize, but some garden sites do recommend a little fertilizer.  They can get up to four feet high and wide–mine usually top out around three feet, but I don’t water as much as they would probably like and we have a lot of wind.   You can trim back if they get too enthusiastic.  They start blooming mid-summer and will go until frost.  The seeds are considered poisonous.  Most pests don’t seem to bother them, but in seriously bad summers, we have had grasshoppers eat some of the flowers and leaves.   Give them a try!

Cleaning Utterly Filthy Window Tracks

When you live on the edge of the windswept Great Plains surrounded by wheat fields and home construction, dirty windows are a given.

Along with our dirty windows, we get heavy dirt building up in the window tracks, especially on the west side of our house.  At times it’s so thick I think we could plant lettuce in there…obviously, I don’t clean often enough.   This is real life and it’s dirty.

The best way I have found to clean these tracks is very simple and you probably have everything you need on hand.

This process works with DRY dirt, don’t try it when it’s wet and sticky.

You will need:

One old toothbrush

Vacuum with small nozzle

Window cleaning solution

Rag

Qtips

Open your window to allow access to the track.  Scrub the dirt with the toothbrush to loosen it, then suck it up with the vacuum nozzle.  Scrub as much as you can and keep vacuuming until you can’t get any more dirt up.

As you can see, the track is full of dirt, don’t judge me.
Start scrubbing with a toothbrush to loosen the dirt.
Vacuum window tracks
Use your vacuum nozzle to suck up that loose dirt.

 

Now it just needs a wipe with a rag and some window cleaner, and some Q tip for the corners.

 

Our windows have little square holes at the bottom to allow water to drain out.  This is a good time to make sure those aren’t clogged up.

Now use a little window cleaner and rag to get the last bits of dirt.  You may need a Q tip to get into small crevices, depending on how picky you are.

There you go!  Shiny clean window tracks to go with your shiny clean windows (assuming you cleaned those too)!