How to clean a floor in Israel (as taught to me by my husband)

Step One: fill a bucket with soapy water – fairly obvious, although back in Chicago, with my hardwood floors I often used spray-on cleaner that you squirt from a bottle just before you wipe with a mop.

Step Two: get out your “smartoot” (a large cloth made a packaged expressly for use in cleaning the floor – but really I think any cloth would do, however since I’m no expert there maybe magical qualities associated with a smartoot). Also find your giant, industrial-sized squeegee, which is on a long broomstick, usually its kept in the shower – no tubs here in the kibbutz – because after you shower you have to squeegee the water off the floor into the shower drain so the next person to use the shower doesn’t slip and fall and break their neck on the tiles. While there has been no neck breaking (thank goodness) there has certainly been slipping in our bathroom. As a side note, one of my daughters always walks in the bathroom with her toes curled up because she doesn’t like to touch the wet floor.

Step Three: drop the smartoot into the bucket to get it properly soaked in soapy water – but DO NOT WRING IT OUT

Step Four: remove the dripping wet smartoot from the bucket, spilling copious amounts of water all over the floor, and drape it over the business end of the squeegee. Then use the squeegee to rub the smartoot all over the floor, spreading soapy water everywhere (I hope you’ve thought ahead and worn your flip flops – known as “kuff-kuffeem” because of the noise they move was you walk – kuff, kuff, kuff, kuff…)

Step Five: When the rags seems to run out of water, or falls off the end of the squeegee, or looks dirty, repeat as needed from step three. Leave all the soapy water sitting in puddles on the floor as you move through the room.

Step Six: when you have finished wiping down the floor in the room you’re in – or part of the floor – drop the smartoot into the bucket and move the bucket out of the way. Then use the squeegee to squeegee all the water (and gunk in the water) towards the shower drain (or the front door if you live on the first floor). My patient husband explained that all the houses in Israel are built with a drain in the floor (usually the shower drain) that is, of course, just a little bit lower than the rest of the house so you can clean the floor.

Step Seven: repeat steps three through six until you’ve done the whole house.

Step Eight (to be completed only if you really like using a squeegee, or you are an extremely thorough person): Rinse and wring the smartoot thoroughly, drape the damp (but not soaked) smartoot over the business end of the squeegee and wipe down the floor again to rinse one more time and wipe up any extra water and soap. No need to use excessive amounts of water as this is only a rinse phase.

Tips (learned from personal mishaps):

*This is a game of strategy – your task is to figure out the best order to complete the job so that you work always progressively toward the drain, and don’t have to walk back over the slippery, soapy floor to refill the bucket or wash distant parts of the floor.

*This method works because everything here is made from ceramic tile, cement tile, or cement – floor, walls and ceiling.

*Don’t squeegee out the front door if you don’t live on the first floor.

*If you’re slow when you first do it, your husband might accuse you of being “thorough”.

*Don’t forget to pick up anything that is sensitive to water before you start (including whatever you are wearing on your feet, because you are going to splash water all over everywhere, and anything below ankle level WILL GET WET.

*If (or when) you spill water all over your cloth couch – or anything else- it will dry within a few minutes – the humidity is often below 20% here, and stuff dries FAST.

*Keep the number of the guy who cleans out the drain handy because, even if you are careful to sweep first, and pick up the gunk as you’re cleaning, its amazing how much sand and hair and other gunk gets washed down the shower drain. I think we are all loosing more hair here than we did in Chicago. Maybe its hot and we’re shedding. Definitely its hot, maybe we’re shedding.

*Be sure to do the floor when the kids aren’t around for at least several minutes after you’re finished. Its really satisfying to see the tiles look all smooth and shiny before they walk all over it again. Like a clean mirror, one print mars the whole thing.

Big squeegee with bathroom sink as size reference
Squeegee with “smartoot” draped for cleaning

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