The Futility of Floor Washing in Winter

Reader Contribution by Carmen Horton
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The other day I had the crazy idea to wash my floors. I have been watching as a thick layer of mud, muck, and mire has started to build up in my laundry room. Now, I am not a slack housekeeper, but I have so much to do that housecleaning — and especially floor washing — seems to get put on the back burner. My daily schedule leaves very little time for the mop. Take a look at my daily agenda:

• 7:00 AM: Get up.
• 7:30 AM: Feed dogs. Feed cats. Make coffee.
• 8:00 AM: Drink coffee. Put dogs out.
• 8:30 AM: Get dogs in. Drink more coffee.
• 9:00 AM – 4 PM: Think about housecleaning.
• 4:30 PM: Decide it is too late now to clean.

So, as you can see, I am far to busy to be able to clean house and wash floors. Yet, from time to time, it becomes painfully obvious that drastic measures must take place. This happened to me just this week.

Living on a 6th-generation family farm in Maine, I am very used to pails in the laundry room. Often they are thawing, or sometimes they hold a mash or soaked grain for some variety of animal. These pails often accompany a frozen hose or two and a never-ending supply of muck boots, shoes, gloves, hats, and mittens.

The problem for me is that it takes an hour’s worth of work just to get ready to mop the floor. I have to lug said pails back out in the barn. I have to wrangle that frozen hose like a cobra trainer and muscle it out the door. I have to handle the 12 pairs of cruddy, nasty, muck boots and take them all out and place them on the boot trays outside the house. Then, of course, I have to pick up the boot trays inside the house and carefully chuck the cruddy tray out into the snowbank.

Then … it is sweep-the-floor time. Hay, manure, dirt, mud, and unknown “stuff” gets swept out of every corner and cubbyhole and into a huge pile in the middle of the floor. I think to myself, as I always do, that I really need a broom designated for that room only. I make a mental note to buy one, then promptly forget to do so until it is time to clean again.

I sweep it all into the dustpan (if only it was ever really used for dust …), and toss the foul mixture out into the trashcan in the barn. Now at last, floor-washing time. I dig out my floor pail and mop from behind the door on the back porch, dust off the cobwebs, and place it in the sink. Out comes my good old friend, Mr. Bleach, and with a little squirt of soap, we are ready.

I lug the mop and pail to laundry room and commence washing floors like I’m a swabbing a pirate ship’s deck. I slop the water on and start mopping. The smell of bleach permeates the air, and I plunge and wring, plunge and wring. I even go crazy and move the box of winter squash on the floor, getting behind and under it. I am a mopping machine, only pausing to let the dogs out … then back in. Oh, I had a swig of my lukewarm coffee as well.

At last. The floor is spotless. It smells like a hospital it is so clean. I consider eating supper off it that night, but decide once I get down, I might not get back up. Mopping isn’t easy, ya know. So I drag my now-filthy pail of water out to back porch and dump it off the steps. A few minutes later, I am sitting back at the kitchen table with a fresh cup of coffee, the smell of bleach on my hands overpowering every time I raise the cup to my mouth. However, the sense of accomplishment is worth it. My floors are pristine. I sit there drinking coffee and ponder maybe even busting out the vacuum, until I come to my senses. Might as well spread all the cleaning fun out over the rest of the week. Don’t need to go crazy or anything.

Suddenly, the laundry room door bursts open and in comes the farmer, dropping his boots by the door. Shortly after him my daughter comes in, lugging a chicken that has a frozen comb and needs to be inside for the night because it is going to be negative 10 degrees. The hen is quickly set up in a cage with food and water. Oh, and shavings. Shavings and hay. Shavings and hay that are soon everywhere but in the cage, as the hen — who is mighty tickled to be inside — starts to flutter around, flapping her wings in joy. Oh joy.

Four pails are then plunked on the floor: mash, apples, and warm water soaking to make a tasty treat for the animals in the cold morning. I stand and look at the once-pristine laundry room. In the background, I hear something about an alpaca that isn’t well, and something else about setting up a pen for her on the back porch. I decide coffee isn’t nearly strong enough. Go looking for stronger stuff. Vow to wait until spring to wash floors again. Oh, and put the dogs out.

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