I wrote the following after years of struggle, not with dirt or cleanliness, but with guilt that my house was never clean enough. I hope it proves cathartic for those of you raised in homes where Cuban Clean® was a thing. Also, this is NOT a sponsored post. This is The World According to Marta.
This is the time of year when you throw open all the windows and drive the musty smells out of your house. Winter is over. Spring is upon us.
The way the house smells is everything, isn’t it?
But if you’re Cuban, Spring Cleaning may not really be a thing. Because if you were raised in a Cuban household, your house is pretty much spotless year round. Because Cuban Clean® is real. (I registered the phrase, Cuban Clean® – in my mind anyway – back in this post right here, but that’s not important right now.)
The Struggle is Real. Cuban Clean®. photo: Eric Darby
There is an obsession with cleanliness that is very much part of our Cuban culture. Kept alive by our abuelas and very carefully passed along from generation to generation.
Cuban Clean® Rule #1 – No floor is ever mopped well enough.
You have moved all the furniture out of a room and have mopped the floor within an inch of its life. You can actually see your reflection in the dull tiles. No good. Do it again. Because God himself may be coming through that door at any moment.
Cuban Clean® Rule #2 – The vacuum lines on the carpet need to line up perfectly.
Don’t be thinking that moving the vacuum cleaner around the entire room is good enough. It’s not. There must be very distinct vacuum lines. Spaced evenly or it has to be done again. You need to know this important fact or your life will be hard.
Cuban Clean® Rule #3 – Dust must never be visible.
To this end, you must dust Every. Single. Day. You must make it your earthly goal to never see dust. Because those random acquaintances that have never set foot in your home and probably don’t even know your address, might just drop in unexpectedly and you don’t want these people to think you live like wolves.
There’s no such thing as dusting too much.
Cuban Clean® Rule #4 – Everything must be moved or it’s not really clean.
You know, you really can’t just be dusting every day. You must move every single knick-knack and picture frame you have on display. Step 2 is to wipe everything down. Yes, everything.
And then you dust. Because you don’t want people to think you live like wolves. (Who are those judgy people who never come over?)
Cuban Clean® Rule #5 – Cleaning your room means something different to your Cuban abuela than it does to you.
When the Cuban Female in Charge of the Household says, “Clean your room,” (Notice it is a strict command, never prefaced by a “please”), they don’t just mean “make your bed and put things away.” That’s for cleaning amateurs! We are Cuban. Cuban Clean® is not to be trifled with.
The expectation is that you will move things (*see Rule #4), dust (*see Rule #3), and vacuum to where you can see lines (*see Rule #2). Anything less than that is not acceptable.
Cuban Clean® Rule #6 – The house must always smell like it’s been freshly cleaned.
Fabulosa is the preferred fragrance du jour in a Cuban home. It signals to your guests that you are relentless in your struggle against germs and you are a tireless worker in the fight against dirt. Did you just mop yesterday? The smell seems to be fading. Time to do it again. (*See Rule #1.)
Cuban Clean® Rule #7 – It’s not really clean unless you use a wooden mop.
You can keep your heavy-duty-microfiber-new-fangled-swiffer-thing. There is no real cleaning happening unless you use a classic old-school wooden mop. (see Rule #1.)
Wooden mop for the Cuban Clean® win.
Technically this is a crossed piece of wood with an old towel draped over it. But trust your abuela when she says nothing gets your floors Cuban Clean® like a good old “trapeador.” Don’t argue and put your back into it.
Wait? Did you sweep first with a REAL broom? Think again. Your broom must be made from real, honest-to-goodness corn-fibers. Anything synthetic just doesn’t clean like it should. *insert abuela making a disapproving face here*
Cuban Clean Rule #8 – You must use a toothbrush to clean grout.
You may be sweeping with a corn-fiber broom and mopping with a “trapeador,” but your floor and the grout between the tile is not going to be Cuban Clean® enough unless you use a toothbrush to really get in there. And not a used toothbrush, mind you. *crosses herself* A new just-for-the-grout toothbrush. And you have to get down on your hands and knees. Because you can’t be too careful in your struggle against dirt and germs.
Truly, I am a wonderful “home-maker,” but a terrible “house-keeper.” Shut up. I have other skill sets. So, if my mom is going to be coming over or I’m having company and I don’t have time to do the serious Cuban Clean® Regimen, I have an back up…
Marta’s Alternative to Cuban Clean® – Don’t judge me.
- Sweep the floors real quick. (I know it has to be done.) Only if you can find the broom.
- Use a rake to get those lines in the carpet. Because lines. (I may or may not have done this.)
- Quickly wipe down counters with Fabulosa – for the smell.
- Pour some Fabulosa down the drains in the kitchen and bathroom and in the toilets. Let it sit for awhile.
- Sprinkle the sheets on your bed with Violetas. (Shut up. It works.)
- Leave a toothbrush dipped in Fabulosa on the counter. This is a decoy and it works most of the time. “She must have really scrubbed that grout. There’s the toothbrush to prove it.”
- Take the old-school wooden mop thing and lean it upside down just outside the kitchen door, but plainly visible.
- If everything is in place and it smells of Cuban Clean®, call it good.
- I sincerely hope abuela never catches you cheating on the Cuban Cleaning®. If this happens, “arreglate como puedas.” Umm… I mean, good luck with that.
Now that your house is freshly clean (or alternatively clean-smelling), you’re probably hungry. You might consider decorating your Cuban Clean® home with my fabulous Cuban Food Poster.