December 06, 2006
The white cloth
I know that some of you are looking at that photo and saying, "Why is jo(e) posting a photo of a cat on a Wednesday? Doesn't she know that Friday is cat blogging day?"
Of course, others of you are shocked to see a cat on the kitchen counter. You are thinking – how unsanitary, I am never eating at jo(e)'s house. But let me reassure you. Come to my house and there's a good chance that you will be eating delivery pizza out of a cardboard box. The habits of my cats will not be a factor.
And to get back to that original question, this isn't a photo of a cat. Look closer. It's a photo of a white cloth.
The white cloth is the answer to a question that several readers asked me a few posts ago. I had casually mentioned that I don't buy paper towels, that I don't like using disposable products, and other parents emailed me to ask, "What do you use to mop up spills? With all those kids, you must use something! Don't your kids spill stuff?"
In fact, spills happen all the time in our house. I think teenagers are worse than toddlers when it comes to spills. First of all, no self-respecting teenager will use one of those little tiny sippy cups. No. A teenager will pour a huge quantity of weird red juice, like maybe a gallon or so, into a tall glass (or a vase if every glass is dirty) and then leave the glass on the floor near the feet of some other teenager who is practicing a Jimi Hendrix move with an electric guitar. In our house, someone it always eating or drinking something, and when you combine scattered half-filled cups and bowls with bizarre ideas like, "Let's throw lit matches on the floor and see if we can blow them out before we burn holes in the carpet," well, spills happen.
When inevitably, the mug of hot cocoa gets knocked over by a kid standing on a chair to tack blankets over the window for an extra-dark game of Monster, someone yells, "Get some white cloths!" And one of the kids (usually an extra, not one of my own kids) will grab a handful of white cloths from under the sink, toss them on the spill, and jump up and down on them until all the liquid is absorbed. The white cloths then get thrown into a big plastic bucket that looks suspiciously like a diaper pail. When the pail is full, one of us (okay, usually my husband) dumps them in the washer with some detergent and bleach and washes a load of white cloths in exactly the same way you would wash a load of diapers.
Diapers are, of course, the origin of the white cloth habit. For about twelve years, our household had at least one kid in diapers so we always had plenty of diapers on hand. And a thick cotton diaper is maybe a thousand times more absorbent than a paper towel. Who would use a paper towel when you could use a diaper instead? And besides, as I've mentioned before, I don't like to buy disposable products.
When the kids were little, we washed diapers every other day, but then even after the last kid stopped wearing diapers, I saw no reason to get rid of the diaper pail. We went on using the diapers in all the ways you would use any kind of rag – to clean a sink, to mop up a spill, to wipe snot from the face of a toddler, to tuck into a kid's shirt as a bib, to toss on the floor when dripping wet teenagers come in from playing Ultimate Frisbee. When some of the diapers wore out completely, I replaced them with generic white cotton cloths sold at a wholesale club. We stopped calling them diapers, because white cloth just sounds so much classier.
When we go on car trips, we grab a stack to toss in the car with us so that everyone can put one on their lap when they are eating sandwiches that drip with salad dressing. When I carve a watermelon, I toss white cloths underneath the cutting board to absorb all the juice that runs off. When a kid comes in with an injury, I put ice cubes in a white cloth. When we bring in our icy snowboards and prop them in the hallway, we put white cloths underneath to absorb the melted snow. When I accidentally give a plant too much water, and water comes pouring out of the bottom of the pot, dripping down onto the carpet, I grab some white cloths. When the kid who is standing on the table to duct tape toys to the ceiling fan knocks a bowl of soup to the floor, I grab some white cloths.
I don't know how any household manages without them.
Posted by jo(e)