Preservation
observations pragmatic historian preservation tips

The Places We Rarely Clean

We have needed a new kitchen faucet for a few years now. We got some fancy-dancy spray faucet the last time and eventually lost water pressure because the aerator was blocked. We tried cleaning it with vinegar and were unsuccessful. We also attempted to remove the aerator so we could replace it without replacing the entire faucet. We didn’t want to have to throw the faucet in a landfill. Unfortunately, the aerator was not removable (not that we could figure out anyway) and the manufacturer didn’t have replacement parts.

Fancy-dancy kitchen faucet with tall, curved neck and spray faucet over a sink full of dirty dishes. Sunlight is reflecting off the metal surfaces of the faucet and sink, causing a double halo on the wall behind the sink. May 3, 2016.
Fancy-dancy kitchen faucet with tall, curved neck and spray faucet over a sink full of dirty dishes. Sunlight is reflecting off the metal surfaces of the faucet and sink, causing a double halo on the wall behind the sink. May 3, 2016.

With the blocked aerator, it took us forever to wash dishes or fill the dog’s bowl or a pot with water to boil noodles. But, we put up with this irritation for too long because it was one of those small chores we couldn’t ever seem to get to. We were dragging our feet over buying a new faucet and calling a plumber to install it.

Finally, we’d had enough and went to Home Depot to get a faucet. We weren’t going with fancy this time. Instead, we wanted a well-known brand of a simple faucet, one with an old-skool aerator that could be cleaned or replaced if needed.

I called a plumber and got him scheduled to come within a few days, which meant cleaning all the stuff out from under the sink.

I removed all the cleaning supplies and chemicals, dog grooming tools, and miscellaneous detritus that had accumulated over the years and was left with this:

View of inside of cupboard under kitchen sink. Shows staining along the back bottom of the cupboard. September 20, 2021.
View of inside of cupboard under kitchen sink. Shows staining along the back bottom of the cupboard. September 20, 2021.

Not only was there all of this gross staining from what we had stored in the cupboard, I also found mouse dirt. Yuck.

Dirty interior of cupboard under kitchen sink with a dustpan on the floor filled with mouse dirt. September 20, 2021.
Dirty interior of cupboard under kitchen sink with a dustpan on the floor filled with mouse dirt. September 20, 2021.

There was no way I was going to leave this dirty for the plumber. It’s hard enough to deal with the goop in clogged drains; a plumber shouldn’t have to crawl around under our disgusting cupboard.

As I cleaned it up, I got to thinking about all the spaces we rarely clean, the nooks and crannies that are too hard to reach or too much bother. These spaces include behind the toilet, under sinks and counters, inside and on top of cupboards, most unfinished basement spaces, under stoves and refrigerators, inside garages and sheds, and in closets. Often it’s difficult to get around to cleaning such spaces because we have to empty them out in order to get to the dirt, and who wants to spend time doing that?

It’s only when we are forced, like when the plumber is coming over or we’re remodeling or moving, that we tackle the task.

Cleaning under our kitchen sink wasn’t terribly onerous, but I likely won’t do it again for years. Thing is, after having spent years cleaning vintage items in order to get them ready for sale, I’ve learned that cleaning is a critical part of preservation. Not only does the filth eat away at things, leaving stuff dirty makes people think it’s not good enough to save and they’ll be tempted to toss it rather than take a little time to clean it for continued use.

Any true preservationist will start with a good cleaning in order to save something.

Here’s the cupboard after cleaning:

Clean cupboard underneath kitchen sink showing drain and water supply and dishwasher hoses.
Clean cupboard underneath kitchen sink showing drain and water supply and dishwasher hoses.

And here’s the new faucet. Ahhh, that lovely water pressure!

Water pouring out of a stainless steel faucet into a stainless steel sink. September 20, 2021.
Water pouring out of a stainless steel faucet into a stainless steel sink. September 20, 2021.

Thoughtful comments welcome.