Green cleaning: Boiling hot water for the floors

I’m forever trying to use fewer chemical cleaners in the house. Between having small children always on the floors and knowing how toxic most common cleaning products can be, I have been phasing them out over the last few years. However, I can not bring myself to use green cleaning products, not only are they over-priced, they are not as effective. And with the amount of bodily fluids I deal with on a daily basis, I need to feel like things are clean and disinfected.

I was excited to try a tip I read about on Jezebel. Someone recommended boiling water for mopping. A second jezzie chimed in that you could add essential oils to the mix, leaving your home smelling glorious. Seeing how I already had hot water and essential oils in the house, I was excited to give it a try. On Saturday morning Mr. Applebum took the monkees and I pulled out the mop, bucket and tea kettle and got to work.

So after the jump, I road test a FREE green cleaning solution – really hot water!

Hot water vs. the kitchen floor

Our kitchen floor is old vinyl that is quite dull and stained. There is a lot of build up and oils on the floor. I put boiling hot water in the mop bucket and added a splash of pine-sol. Okay, it was more than a splash, it was too much. I was really pleased with how well it cleaned. I did multiple passes and the vinyl really looked cleaner and brighter than it has looked in a long time.

Hot water vs. bathroom floor

I did a fresh pot of boiling water, partly so it would be nice and hot but mainly because the water was so nasty, I just couldn’t bear to wipe it around on my floors. Yuck!

So a fresh bucket of boiling hot water and (much less) pine-sol for the bathrooms. Again, I was really happy with the immediate results. The floors felt deep cleaned and sterile. My older son has terrible aim in the bathroom, it was the first time I felt like the floors were clean without using a lysol wipe (I know, I have to stop using those, but it’s SO convenient.)

But then, oh no!

The tile had a haze as it dried. As much as I didn’t want to mop again, I just couldn’t leave that chemical film on the floors. Back to the kitchen, more boiling hot water. This time, just water (no cleaner) and I added a few drops of tea tree essential oil (thanks Lymed!) which was really nice.

By the time I finished, I was glad I did a second hot water rinse because the RINSE water came back filthy. Blech. It was  unbelievable satisfying to dump all the nastiness down the drain.

So overall, I give it high marks. But that was with two rounds, a wash and a rinse. We have grown accustomed to “No rinse” formulas, so we have little patience for having to rinse. However, we both know the “No rinse” is formulated to dry with less haze, but there are still tons of chemicals left behind. Plus, I didn’t mind because I only clean like this a few times a year. I shoo the family out, put on loud music and get to work. And again, with all the pee, poo, spit, food and goodness knows what else, cleaning the floors on a Saturday morning is a labor of love and part of what I do for this family.

Hot water vs. the hardwoods

I was a little concerned about damaging the floors with such hot water, but I really wanted to try something different with them, so I did a little research. Turns out, vinegar doesn’t necessarily clean as well as good old soap and water. So again, boiling water and just a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid.

Holy cow, I couldn’t believe how much dirt came off the wood floors! It tooks off years off grimy build-up. It was gross. And by gross I mean awesome. I did a second hot rinse, no soap. Again, the water came out filthy. I just kept dumping out bucket after bucket of the black water pictured. Mind you, that was the RINSE, the first round with soap was worse.

As they dried, they looked and felt really clean. But dry. No worse than after using murphy’s oil wood floor cleaner, but still really, really dry. And as much as I wanted to be done with the floors, I rallied and did another pass with Old English Oil. I got my second mop, the one I use for just for oils, and just started dumping it straight onto the floors and smoothing it in. It took a bit, but I could literally hear the floors saying, Aahhh, as I worked the oil in. When I finished hours later, I surveyed my work proudly. And as tired as I was, it TOTALLY felt worth it.

The next day, was when the real magic happened. Usually when I oil the floors, the oil does not absorb well and it often took days for the oil to sink into the wood. But this time, the oil was completely absorbed by the next morning. I couldn’t believe it, it’s the best they’ve ever looked! And the best part is the only cleaning products involved are dish soap, water and the tiniest bit of pine sol. That is full of ECO WIN!

Buh Bye Tilex

I can’t stand Tilex or any of the bath cleansers such as scrubbing bubbles and whatnot. Mr. Applebum sneaks them in when I’m not looking, he likes the mildew remover best, ugh.

Since I was on an eco kick, I also decided to try a different approach to the mildew in the shower along the grout. I made a squirt bottle with hot water (of course) and bleach. I went through and sprayed and then left it on for a good long while. Time greatly improves the effectiveness of most cleaning products, green or otherwise.

The grout looked amazing. Better than it’s looked in years. And I proudly showed Mr. Applebum the amazing power of bleach water, hoping he won’t replace the bottle of Tilex. But I’m not sure he is completely convinced, we’ll have to keep working on that one.

You don’t have to go green overnight

This is a slow and gradual process. We use a ton of stuff in our homes that is not good for us nor the environment. But don’t feel like everything has to be done overnight. We have to un-do a lifetime of bad habits. And real change happens slowly and over time. So don’t feel bad if you are still using a lot of stuff you know you shouldn’t. Just make small, incremental changes. With boiling water, I can now stop using Murphy’s oil soap. My next step, keeping Mr. Applebum off the Tilex.


Less is the new more

Robot Party – green birthday on a budget


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dagney
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 16:38:24

    Have you looked into steam cleaners? We live in a rural area and have a septic system, so many traditional cleaners are completely out of the question, and I agree with you one million percent, that the eco-safe cleaners are just too expensive and not as effective as their chemical laden counterparts.

    We have bamboo flooring in our kitchen and dining area, the rest of the house is concrete. We don’t have any kids, but we do have three dogs so floor cleaning is a priority. I used to just vacuum the floor, but soon realized that reinforcements would be needed occasionally.

    I was researching steam mops one night, and ran across the little known niche of steam cleaners. They range in price from $75.00 for a basic steam mop, to $2000.00 for a state of the art, high speed, all-purpose sanitizing cleaner. Apparently steam cleaners are all the rage with allergy sufferers who cannot tolerate dust and heavy cleaning smells.

    Anyway, I purchased a small steam cleaner that has a mop attachment, and several other attachments that may be used for the bathroom and windows, etc. I love it! The steam cleaning takes a bit longer, but it really does the job with the worst grime, and you are able to clean without any chemicals.


  2. JJ
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 20:35:34

    I agree with the comment, love love love my steamer. Not as much as the Swiffer people make us think we’re to love our mops, but I do adore my steamer as we have all tile floors and will soon be replace some tile with wood. Can’t believe I made that all one sentence.

    I’d be really careful about the long term effects of water on wood. This can strip the wood (might be why it absorbed the oil better) and can eventually warp as it redries improperly rendering buckling and cracks. That’s all just my thinking out loud. Feel free to ignore.

    I am enjoying your blog immensely! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation. I’m with you on the ‘less is more’ approach. Happy new year!


  3. Jessy
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 16:04:09

    I’m a lurker from Jezebel– I saw your post to groupthink linking your middle class post– and wanted to say that I tried the boiling water method the evil way, with Pine Sol, and it worked out great on the floors in my 96 year old house. My landlord hasn’t touched the floors in this house ever, they’re practically original, and even the 40+ year old linoleum looks beautiful and new-ish.


  4. ginmar
    Feb 02, 2010 @ 11:32:00

    I may have to try this. OMG, you have a green blog! I adore you!

    I just tossed out a horrible roomie because she would do passive aggressive shit like damage my stuff—including my hard wood floors—-when she was pissed off at me for, like, asking her to not damage my hard wood floors. And actually do the chores that paid her rent. She’d stomp all over the damned floors with her winter boots, and a few times I caught her going out of her way to find previously-unmarked-by-salt spots on the floor to put her boots on.


  5. Mandy
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 21:22:53

    I wonder if the bleach/hot water mix will work on soap scum. There are parts of my shower where it is on like concrete…totally gross. It is an aerobic workout just to make a dent in it and usually I run out of breath.


    • Brigit
      Feb 12, 2010 @ 15:11:41

      Bonita, I tried this when you posted it over the weekend @ Jez and it worked beautifully, thanks!

      @mandy: I tried it on soap scum, but found it to fatty/oily/ hydrophobic to get out with only boiling water/clorox (not to mention that hot chlorine fumes are kind of nasty).

      Non-toxic, cheap stuff I’ve had work on heavy soap-scum buildup:
      Moisten the shower and sprinkle baking soda on it until everything is lightly dusted with the stuff. Wait for it to dry a bit – not fully- and then scrub everything with a cloth or brush. The scum will be stuck to the soda and can then be washed away with water.

      Acid to dissolve the scum. You can use white vinegar or any source of citric acid (lemons, grapefruits, the cheap liquid substitute), and a light abrasive like table salt. Spray the acid on the shower and then use the abrasive salt to help the acid get the large chunks out. Or place the salt in you fruit halve and scour the shower with it.

      An alternate thing I’ve done and has left my shower spotless is a mix of the 2 above tips. I use a simple acidic solution to clean a lot of greasy places (water+vinegar+a bit of dish-washing liquid). Sprinkle baking soda generously on the shower, wait for it to dry fully. Use the acid solution to lightly moisten the dry baking soda – a foam will form. This is viscous enough to let you scrub well in higher areas, and your cleaning stuff won’t be running for the drain before you’ve used it.
      What I like about these methods is that I never have to use force when scrubbing the scum out.


  6. Cimorene
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 18:19:35

    Cross posted at Jezebel: You can use vinegar to clean your floors. Also, the vinegar + baking soda trick works well to clean pretty much everything. I use the bs as a scouring agent and use the vinegar to kill germs. It’s a hardcore germ killer. I tend to throw some rubbing alcohol in there too. For a post-shower daily spray, I have about 2/3 vinegar, 1/3 water, and bunch of tea tree oil. It doesn’t matter if you get it on your skin, because it’s all nontoxic (well, tea tree oil is toxic if you, like, drink it) and won’t kill you if you inhale a bit of it, and it’s cheap, and it’s safe for the earth, and it won’t make you dirty right after you shower, and it works really really well.
    Oh, also if you want to clean wood but don’t want to use wood cleaner, mineral oil works well. Depending on the wood, you can wash it first to clean it, then mineral oil it back up (after it’s all dry–totally dry!) to keep the wood from drying out. Mineral oil is also poisonous if you drink a lot of it, but you can also take it for constipation apparently, so it’s not like all the shit you can buy at the store. Plus, if you want it to smell good, you can add orange or lemon oil to the mineral oil and basically have wood polish.

    Oh and if you get any water rings on your wood, if you leave mayonnaise on the white spot for 8-24 hours it really works to make the white disappear, as long as the water spot isn’t really bad. Note: This does not work if you have dogs that can reach the table top.

    I’m obsessed with cheap and non-toxic-evil-capitalist ways to clean. I’m weirdly obsessed with vinegar, baking soda, and tea tree oil. My partner makes fun of me because he says I act like tea tree oil can cure cancer. It works on zits! on cuts! on mold! (also, tea tree oil + gunk from aloe plants + band aid = clean and fast-healing cuts!)


  7. ginmar
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 21:11:29

    I have a kitty with…issues…and vinegar is an absolute lifesaver. It does work wonderfully on so many things. I’ll have to try the tea tree oil too. Do you ever watch…”How Clean Is Your House?” on the BBC? They have a lot of good non-commercial ideas for cleaning—lemon juice, etc., etc.,


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