Some days I get this foolish idea that I can be a domestic goddess, like I imagine other people to be. I never believe the Facebook/Instagram hype of people who post photos of their wonderful lives/holidays/children/cars etc. I totally buy into the fact that you never Instagram the dinners you burn. It’s a no brainer.
I do, however, seem to buy into the idea that everyone’s house is cleaner than mine. Now, there is some justification for this, given that I am not someone who generally rushes around cleaning every day, due to the fact that I only have to turn my back for thirty seconds for someone to have smeared jam over the French windows I’ve just polished. I’m not completely insane, and have no interest in having a cleaning related mental breakdown, which would absolutely happen were I to clean this house the moment someone dirties it.
If there is something that niggles at my guilt synapses in terms of domesticity though, it is this. I refuse to be a martyr to the house, and yet I panic about everything not being sparkly enough. I sweat over the idea of Anthea Turner popping round to run a be-gloved hand across my dado rail and find me wanting.
Even though I wouldn’t let her through the front door in the first place.
This is why, when the Amazon review programme offered me the chance to test a steam cleaner I leapt at the chance. It is a whizzy little gadget, about the size of a satchel, that can either wheel across the floor as you steam your laminate/wood/upholstery or which you can wear with a cross body strap while you steam clean your grouting or your hob or your oven.
I succumbed on a day when I had noticed how revolting the grouting on the splash back behind the oven was and thoughts of Anthea began looming large. Many of my friends swear by steam cleaners and I decided I would succumb to the marketing hype and my insane worrying and test it out.
It arrived over the weekend, and on Sunday night, after having returned to earth after two days of blissfully ignoring the house, I thought I would give it a go.
Oh dear Lord.
Firstly, it took me bloody ages to put the thing together. It was worse than Ikea flat pack. The only relief being that there was no allan key to have to wrestle with. The booklet appeared to be full of useful informations as my friend would say. This was a lie. It was full of very poorly described informations in seventy different languages. Mostly it was full of utterly incomprehensible diagrams.
I was not to be deterred. I wrestled it into submission, filled it with water and pressed the on switch. Everything then lit up green, which I assumed meant ‘Go, you domestic beast! Go!’ This is not so. It meant, ‘The water is not warm enough to make steam, and when you press the nozzle, a huge stream of tepid water will gush out onto your work surface. It will then run off the edge of the work surface and fill your shoe.’ I mopped up and hung around for ten minutes while all the lights went out, which apparently meant we were good to go.
Being obsessed by grouting, I put on the grouting nozzle and set off with great vim and vigour. What seemed to happen was that moving it in near enough to clean also started to wash the grouting out of the wall, and yet leave the dirt behind (which reminded me of my granny’s ill fated attempts at waxing her moustache, when she ripped all the skin off and left the hair behind). I moved it further away and it merely created a light mist of steam that fell on the tiles but did nothing except make everything damp.
By this time I was bathed in a pool of moisture. The work surface was bathed in a pool of moisture which was grey, due to the grouting mix in it, and the tiles looked pretty much like they had minutes earlier, but somewhat looser.
I decided to read the booklet to see where I was going wrong. It basically told me nothing. It did say that the company had a Youtube channel and I could watch a video on there.
I was desperate not to be beaten, so I ensconced myself in front of the computer and stared earnestly at the film I unearthed. It was for the deluxe model of my own, but basically the same.
Firstly it showed lots of pictures of chemicals with a big red X through them. Then it showed lots of pictures of waterfalls with a big tick by them. By now, moist as I was, and with water running all over the shop, I had to stop for an emergency wee. I canoed back to the video through the rivulets of water in the still damp kitchen.
A lady stood in her immaculate kitchen with a terrible twin set on that made her look like the Shake ‘n’ Vac lady from the Seventies advert. She calmly assembled her steamer unit without once referring to the instructions or swearing. Then she misted the entire kitchen area with steam, about thirty seconds after she had filled the unit.
I suspected foul play already, and wondered why she was misting the air. Maybe it was a preemptive misting so that even the particles in the air were clean.
The lady steamed her hob with splendid results, using a tiny towel the size of a napkin to wipe up the excess moisture. Then she did the tiles and the entire rest of the kitchen in the same manner, not once looking sweaty or damp or anything. She proceeded to steam the whole house in the same way, moving from room to room in different outfits, gliding serenely along. She even misted her house plants and her husband’s suits. Eighties porn style pop played in the background. I could not stop watching.
After ten minutes we ended with her cleaning her car and her garden furniture and cut away to another waterfall.
I used the facilities again, and came back to the kitchen, determined to glide serenely through, just like the lady in the film.
I decided to steam clean the hob.
After five minutes, everything was swimming with water, the hob igniter was buggered, due to being under sea level, and I had used four tea towels to mop up the leakage.
I skidded over to the oven. I am nothing if not persistent. I blasted the inside of the oven with a random nozzle I found in the box which seemed like it might do the job. It slightly melted due to the steam and pressure combo inside the oven. Great gouts of rusty water came pouring through the bottom of the door, streaking down the white, shiny cupboards below.
On coming up for air I turned and surveyed my handiwork.
The kitchen was almost entirely underwater. Steam hung in the air in the manner of a rainforest. The humidity was about 120% and rising. The dirt, mixed with the water had travelled from its normal habitat to coat the entire rest of the kitchen. I slammed the oven door shut. I stared into its reflective surface, noticing my frizzy hair, a large streak of grouting that was now drying on my cheek, and the deranged look in my eye. I looked like Martin Sheen when he goes native in Apocalypse Now.
There was no waterfall to be seen.
I packed up the now soaking, slightly melted steam cleaner and threw it in a dark corner of the shed.
It took me an hour to clean the kitchen after I’d cleaned it.