I mentioned in my last post that one of my personal development goals for 2017 is to become more creative and resourceful in order to run our household at maximum efficiency. As a nursing/pumping and full-time working mother on a minimalist mission, I've come to value pragmatics and efficiency very highly. One of the biggest changes that I've implemented in order to work towards this goal of maximum efficiency has been the transition from a traditional bucket and stick mop to a steam mop, a game-changer that not only frees up the limited space in my cleaning cupboard but also produces the most immaculate, hygienic floors I've ever had in comparatively less time and with little strain on the lower back and knees (pregnant gals, you feel me?). (For a more in depth look at my weekly cleaning routine, check out this post.)
Steam mops utilize less water than traditional mopping methods (about 16 ounces of water covers our 700 square ft tiled floors) as they convert water into hot steam that loosens dirt, allowing the microfiber mop head to remove it with one pass. In addition, steam mops disinfect with high heat eliminating the need to use of harsh chemicals that are neither good for our lungs nor the environment. All this aside, if there's one thing I missed about traditional mopping, it was the clean scent of citrus and lavender that would fill the house as I mopped. Nothing screams freshly mopped floors like the powerful smell of "Mistolín" and "Fabuloso." Am I right, my fellow Latinas? Granted, the lemony lavender scent in most common floor cleaners comes from cheap artificial fragrances that expose us to an unfortunate multitude of respiratory irritants and neurotoxins. But, gosh, did that scent ever reassure me that the house was getting cleaner by the minute! Steam mops are a different creature altogether. Because steam mops clean with steam alone, and their water reservoirs should never be filled with anything but distilled water, meaning no vinegar or cleaning solutions, there are few options for achieving fragranced floors.
As it happens, the steam mop that I purchased, the Bissell 1940 Powerfresh, came with samples of a product Bissell makes for enhancing the steam mop experience, a fragrance disc that diffuses a floral lavender scent throughout the house while the steam mop is engaged. The coordinating microfiber removable mop head even has a tiny mesh pocket on the inside to accommodate this fragrance enhancer should you choose to use one. Given the rave reviews and popularity of these scented discs, it would appear that I wasn't the only member of the steam mopper population who missed that "clean smell" upon making the transition; there is a definite demand for this sort of product.
I'm not one to turn down a free trial so I gave the fragrance discs a shot. I found that they worked well enough at producing a lingering floral scent. Unfortunately, since switching from plugins and scented candles to essential oils and natural soy/beeswax candles, any artificial fragrance, no matter how pleasant the initial whiff, nauseates me after a period of prolonged exposure. By the time I was done steam mopping with the fragrance disc at work (about 15-20 minutes later) I needed a glass of water and a long rest on the sofa. Even if the scent hadn't been so grating on my olfactory system, I just can't justify spending almost a dollar per unit on a one-time use disposable product, especially when you consider that I mop our floors on a weekly basis. Not only is it wasteful but it isn't cost-effective. And so, although I loved the concept, I would not repurchase the product. However, I would take the concept and rework it using resources I already had on hand.
Essential oils are one of the most versatile long-term investments in homemaking efficiency that one can make. Quality oils from reputable distilleries are a minimalist luxury worth every penny; I, personally, purchase my oils (the ones pictured in this post) from Florihana, a top-notch French distillery that produces oils of the highest quality I've ever experienced at a remarkably reasonable price point thanks to the appropriately placed emphases on transparency and eco-conscious cultivation methods instead of pushy, scripted MLM campaigns, but I digress... Essential oils have a long shelf life of several years if stored properly and kept in cool dark environments and a few drops go a very long way because of how highly concentrated these plant extracts are. Initially, I was drawn to essential oils as a natural alternative to popular domestic amenities such as wall-plugins and scented laundry beads, but the benefits of essential oils reach well beyond simply smelling nice. Many of them have therapeutic, medicinal properties. A few of the more common and relatively inexpensive oils have antimicrobial properties which are fantastic within the context of chemical-free household cleaning. Lavender, lemon, and tea tree oil in particular come to mind when exploring ways to disinfect the home environment while making it smell fresh and inviting. And so, with this knowledge in mind, I decided I would incorporate my favorite antimicrobial essential oils into my steam mopping routine.
For this hack, I applied a few drops of lemon and lavender oils to a cotton round. 3 to 4 drops of each oil is enough to get a very full-bodied fragrance going. I sometimes incorporate peppermint, as it a known insect repellent; as a South Floridian, I am always looking for ways to keep ants and critters out of the house during rainy seasons and rather than pay top dollar for a fumigator to bring destructive toxins into my home. And of course, it helps that I truly enjoy the sweet scent of peppermint. A word of caution to breastfeeding mothers and mothers of young children: peppermint may reduce milk-supply if a lactating mother over-consumes it or is overexposed to it via diffusion. Likewise, it is not rated as a "kid-safe" oil as it may irritate a child's respiratory system. Thankfully, the few times that I've diffused it both my children and my milk supply were unaffected.
I used disposable cotton rounds that I had in my bathroom cabinet but ideally this hack can be made waste-free by making your own reusable cotton rounds. It's as simple as cutting up old t-shirts and worn textiles or repurposing old absorbent nursing pads from your last breastfeeding journey. If your steam mop doesn't come with a pocket for a diy fragrance disc, you can either sew your own into the inside of mop head or simply stick the fragrance disc inside the microfiber mop head freely.
I hope these tips are useful for you, whether you are looking to minimize your homemaking routine or not. If you try out this hack, please let me know in the comments below. What's your favorite oil to diffuse while cleaning?
Until next time,
About la maestra:
Bienvenidos! Bem-vindos! I'm Ali, a World Language maestra from Miami who went from hard-core maximalist to soft-core minimalist upon becoming a mother. The flexible form of minimalism that I practice, domestic minimalism, allows me to run my household efficiently and foster a home free of clutter and full of joy for my whole family. This is where I record my experiences as a wife, working mother of two, and homemaker. Thanks for stopping by.