Friday, May 18, 2012

Cleaning Up

It's getting harder to buy soap. Maybe it's a guy thing, but once I find a laundry soap that works, I stop comparing. I go to the store and buy my brand, ignoring all the blinky, shiny, orchid-scented, double-concentrated, softener-added products surrounding it.

I made my preference randomly in the first place. My daughter did a little research project in high school and found that one brand of laundry soap actually cleaned a little better, and since I didn't have an opinion of my own, I bought that one and have used it ever since.

Luckily my options are narrow. Because I use a front-loading machine, I have to use "high-efficiency" detergent. Apparently regular-efficiency soap will bubble up into a cumulonimbus cloud of foam. Maybe "high-efficiency" is badly named, since it bubbles less. But the bottom line is that there are only a handful of H.E. choices. I like my choice: it's just soap.

But yesterday it was gone, replaced with "For Sensitive Skin, No Perfumes or Dyes!" My first thought was "why you gotta change everything?" My second thought was "So what – you were poisoning me this whole time?" My third: "Those chemicals that irritate sensitive skin (and apparently not my leathery ass) are probably the same chemicals I trust to get the mustard stains off my shirt.

I bought it anyway. What could I do? Already I feel like a sensitive-skin sissy.

I respect that some machines require "high-efficiency" soap because I leaned the lesson from my dishwasher, on a day I ran out of dishwasher soap.

I was on my way out the door, leaving the country (willingly), and I didn't want the dirty dishes in my dishwasher to evolve into a thriving, self-governing community before my return. I had some regular dish soap. "How different can that be?" I squirted it into the little door cup of the dishwasher and hit "Go."

As I grabbed my last suitcase and headed for the door, something caught my eye, something much like the oozing protagonist in The Blob, only white. Before my eyes it silently covered the wooden kitchen floor in three inches of foam, pouring out the dishwasher door seams like cotton candy.

I shut off the dishwasher, gingerly opened the door. I grabbed a dustpan and began shoveling foam into the sink, which became full after about four shovelsful.

It is nearly impossible to get bubbles to go down a drain. They dance happily above their eminent doom, and all the hand-corralling and cuss words won't make them obey gravity.

On the plus side, my kitchen floor was never cleaner. And I use the proper soap now.

It was like a similar adventure I had after spilling a jar of instant coffee on the floor. (Apparently I'd rather tell this story than hide from you the filthy truth that I once drank instant coffee.) Using a wet mop to clean instant coffee just makes a pot of coffee on the floor. The more I mopped, the more coffee I made. One must respect how much coffee they squeeze into those little brown crystals. Science is amazing.

Ironically, you have to clean up after soap. Seems like soap ought to be self-cleaning, but I hire a cleaning lady twice a month to get "soap scum" off my shower. And what does she use to clean soap scum? Soap.

My face soap comes in a little pump bottle. (Some girl finally convinced me that using a bar of Lava on my face was not right.) It's a nice little bottle, a shame to throw away, so I thought I'd keep it around for, um, something. I was feeling recycle-y. I rinsed the remnant soap out, and it bubbled and bubbled out the top. I rinsed. And it bubbled. A-n-d b-u-b-b-l-e-d. About twenty gallons of hot water and a size-12 carbon footprint later, I gave up and threw the bottle away.

I can be crotchety but I don't yearn for the days where we (Who am I kidding? By we I mean women.) cleaned our clothes by banging them onto rocks. But as I encounter about fifty kinds of soap a day, including body soap, shampoo, toothpaste, face soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry soap and all manner of solvents I have in my workshop, I gotta think somebody out there is really cleaning up.

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