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I so frequently feel that there was a fortnight at school where I may have missed the most important bits of my education: a two-week period wherein the teachers discussed – in my absence – how to style one’s hair, how to use hair clips successfully, how to walk in high heels, how to use an iron (though L’il Sis did eventually show me the ins and outs of this, thank goodness), and how to actually clean things in one’s home.

I’ve managed to learn to cope with most of these things by ignoring them: my hair has always been cut extremely short (think five-year old boy’s bowl cut) until very recently when I’ve embarked upon some kind of personal challenge to see how long I can let it grow before losing my mind and shaving it all off. And as far as cleaning goes, I know how to deal with the basics, and as The Mom has always done, just throw a fair bit of bleach at the problem, and hope for the best. That coupled with moving flats ever couple of years seems to be doing the trick.

But now, I’ve been in my flat for nearly three years and things are getting a bit… well, let’s just say that my flat, which had just been refreshed, and redecorated when I moved in, is getting a bit worn out.

Now, living in the UK, and in the south west of England in particular, I face a lot of challenges: mould and lime scale to be precise. The mould that grows in my bathroom isn’t quite as aggressive as the mould that threatened me in Glasgow – it’s not as bright pink, and appears to shrink away when you throw enough bleach at it, but the lime scale… man alive, that shit is tenacious. And it’s bloody everywhere there’s water. The cord on my shower is at serious risk of calcification – I daren’t move it for fear that it will shatter in my hands, like so many icicles.

Because I loathe the smell of most of the cleaning products you can buy at the store, I’m reluctant to try any of them, preferring to have a sort of dirty looking flat to the migraine I’ll get from the ‘tropical’ smell of the cleaner. That and there’s just something a bit odd about having to have a spray, gel, or other liquid to clean each and every thing in the flat. I mean, come on: most of the surfaces are some kind of industrial grade plastic – how different can they actually be? Part of me believes that this is some ploy by the chemical companies to get rich. After all, a bottle of cleaning stuff – branded, mind – costs about £4. I ain’t shelling that out times five just for a bunch of foul-smelling stuff that doesn’t appear to do much good.

Though, I do get to the stage where the mould gets too prominent for even my tastes, and I feel I need to do something. I’ve recently gone out to the big Asda (because if you’re going to buy weird cleaning chemicals, I figure start at the American supermarket) and returned with some kind of lime scale busting stuff. In fairness, my shower cord is now semi-mobile, but the stench of it is ridiculous: to the point that I can only use it when it’s warm and not raining out so I can have my balcony doors open whilst I clean.

I was tempted to go the old-fashioned, ask the internet way of doing things, but my experience with this approach has not been good. When I first moved to the UK I was flummoxed by the range of laundry soap on offer. Back home, The Mom told me what she used, and showed me the box, and told me which supermarket it came from and so I just used that. But of course that same thing doesn’t exist over here so I had to look around. I bought the most hippie-looking soap in the supermarket and it was great, for the most part. I mean, it didn’t smell terribly and I didn’t get a rash, but my clothes aren’t terribly clean. I take them home twice a year and The Mom washes them and I tell you, it’s a miracle: all of a sudden, my clothes are actually clean and don’t have an underlying funky smell. It’s a toss up, you see, and frankly, I’d rather smell a bit… tired than have a terrible rash.

The only other time I’ve tried to use a ‘natural’ method of cleaning was years ago, in my first London flat. Lime scale in the toilet was getting out of control and my flatmate and I had scrubbed and scrubbed and used everything we could think of. Then she heard that if you emptied a can of Coca-Cola in the toilet over night it would get rid of all the lime scale. Which makes a lot of sense: when you leave a penny in Coke it comes out all nice and shiny. So we did. We gleefully emptied the can of Coke into the bowl before bed, and excitedly woke up in the morning for the first flush. And what did we find? The loo smelled like Coke and the bowl was still covered in lime scale.

I don’t know what the solution to any of this is, but I’ll tell you what: in my last London flat, we hired a cleaner who came once a fortnight, and man alive, the flat was so clean. No lime scale, the dusting got done, and the oven was even clean! This leads me to believe that it’s actually me that’s the problem. And I should hire a cleaner immediately.

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