Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Over the years, I have heard this expression many times. My Grandmother, who was the fountain of cleanliness and saving/recycling (she even reused wax paper), never preached this to me, nor my Mother who was also very thorough and clean. I think they just assumed that we would know this fact and follow their examples. Well, they were right. I like order, I like cleanliness (although I would not characterize myself as obsessive) and hate waste.

I bring up this subject because I have come to believe that Honduras is the mop capital of the World! No matter where you go, you will see women swishing the floors over and over again with their trusty mop. Airports, hospitals, hotels, markets are all places where you see these women pushing their mops back and forth. Why, on my last trip to the States wherein I had an 11 hour layover in the San Pedro Sula airport, the same woman must have mopped 5-6 times in front of my area where I sat within a 4-5 hour period! I am not exaggerating! Now, while I applaud this practice the thing that brings it down a notch is that I have never seen them change their mop water in the bucket and sometimes they are mopping with a dry mop. While the dry mop will get up the dust, I’ve never seen them shake it out! But, I must get them an A for effort, they are relentless in their job.

The other thing I have noted that Hondurans have a passion for is Bleach (also known as Clorox here - no matter what the brand). If there is a stain, if there is dirt, if it is dingy, bleach it. No matter if the fabric is colored or white, no matter if the particular fabric should not be bleached. They pour bleach into their container in massive quantities and directly upon the item. Then they take their bar of laundry soap (there is a specific bar here they use for that) and scrub the tar, blood, stain, dirt out of it. Of course, the item may come really clean but usually the item in question does not last through many more washings. Bleach is also used on floors and floor tiles which, of course, ruins the finish of these items.

We have few clothes dryers on the island (very expensive to run and/or buy) and therefore you see laundry hanging out in the breeze. Well, not always hanging. If they don’t have a laundry pole with ropes they use barbed wire fences, trees, bushes and even the ground to spread their drying articles upon.

They also sweep a lot. Brooms are a big there here and they seem to be very picky about the type. A lot of the new brooms consist of artificial fibers making up the wide majority of brooms one finds. I see very few natural fiber brooms but I am sure that the people in the rural areas probably make their own out of various plants. Sweeping is a daily thing. I know I do it daily in my house. When one lives close to the sea and has a lot of breeze, there is a lot of dust in the air and with 4 dogs and 2 cats my porch seems to always need sweeping, sometimes twice a day or more not to mention the feather fluff caused by the birds in the house. I have yet to see a vacuum cleaner in homes, mainly because of the expense both of the product and electricity. Many floors are wood not carpeted and there is no need.

There is a cleaning agent that everyone seems to use, Azistín. This product seems to be their all purpose cleaner and comes in various fragrances from Apple, Potpourri, etc. It costs about $1.85 in U.S. dollars for 900 ml. It does a good job and I don’t know of a household without it.

They seem to shy away from dish detergent, instead preferring a semi-hard soap sold in a small round tub. and which sits on the sink in every home I‘ve ever been in. Very few people here actually run a sink full of water with dish soap. Instead, they run a steady stream of water under which they wash the dishes with a rag containing the semi-hard soap. I don’t understand the aversion to filling a sink with water and using dish soap as, in my mind, it would save on water and the dishes would have a pre-soaking before the actual scrubbing. This type of soap, however, is great for getting stubborn, crusty food or burnt on items off pots and pans and a must for this type of removal is a Scotch Brite Pad which we refer to as a “scrubbie”. This is used on pots and pans and even to clean boat bottoms. Here, again, there is no home without this item.

99% of the clothing detergents are dry powder. We have seen a small influx of liquid detergent (which I really prefer) but it is rare. The problem with the dry powder, and the Hondurans do not seem to grasp this concept yet (at least from my observations), is that they pour the powder directly onto the clothes and then add water. Even if they add water first, they put in the clothes and dump the detergent on top of that without giving the powder sufficient time to dissolve. Of course this results in a weakened fabric and clothing that suddenly has holes in it.

Overall, however, they are a clean society who strongly believes in this adage and even the poorest of homes is kept neat and tidy.

So, I guess besides living in “Paradise” I am also close to Godliness!


  1. After college, I moved into my Great Uncle's house as he lived close to NYC where I wanted to pursue a career and he welcomed the company. At the time he was
    80+ and I can remember after dinner washing the dishes in exactly the way you describe, the way he taught me. Never filling the sink. Rather, soap in the cloth and a steady stream of hot water from the faucet. I washed and rinsed, he dried. Interesting similarity from 2 totally different backgrounds. To this day, when I forgo the dishwasher, I use this method. Interesting...


  2. Yes, it is interesting. I thought the people here did it because they can't really afford the liquid dish soap and this method seems quicker to them. They, however, do not have hot water so there is a steady stream of cold water and they use the little tub of solid soap and a rag. I also thought since they did not pay much for water and everyone that is hooked up to water pays one flat rate no matter how much you use. This tends to lead to a lot of waste.
    The dishes get clean either way, I just felt my way was more economical. Now, I do rinse under a steady stream of water, but it only runs when I turn it on to rinse.