Cleaning up at home and staying canny with my savings
Updated: 2011-07-05 07:58
By John Clark (China Daily)
I was washing the kitchen wall tiles with vinegar (I should explain that I'm a canny Scot who rarely buys expensive domestic cleaning products). There were tiles near the ceiling that I couldn't reach. So I stepped from the chair onto the kitchen sink unit, the front legs collapsed under my weight and I fell backwards.
Fortunately, my wife was standing behind me and I had a soft landing.
However, the draining board was full of glasses and crockery that now lay shattered on the floor. I was concerned that a shard might have entered my open-toed sandals.
Leaving my wife to sweep up the debris, I took myself off for a shower.
Later I resumed my domestic chores. My cloth soaked in vinegar cut through dirt and grease leaving the white tiles immaculately clean.
The kitchen smelt like a fish and chip shop, but who cares? I was cracking on. There was only a small section of tiles left to do. However, the bottle of white vinegar was finished. I reckoned if white vinegar worked wonders, then brown vinegar might also do the trick.
Unfortunately, I discovered that brown vinegar is not to be recommended as a cleaning product. The kitchen wall was now covered with a greasy, brown smear that stank to high heaven.
I cast around for a solution to the problem. My eyes alighted on a half bottle of baijiu (white liquor) which I'd bought months earlier and didn't have the heart to drink.
Actually, I didn't have the stomach to drink it. I've tried, believe me, but I reckon it's an acquired taste. This little bottle was not top-shelf stuff. I gather you can pay any amount for a fine quality baijiu. I suppose it's a bit like a fine malt or a good blended Scotch whisky.
In Scotland I can't afford to drink the good stuff. It's too damn expensive. Anyway it doesn't agree with me. Remember the film Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? That's what my wife says happens to me when I drink whisky.
Better without it, I say. So when in Scotland I stick to Buckfast, a respectable tonic wine for invalids. Famed for its restorative powers, it's produced by the Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon.
What better recommendation is that? Strangely enough, Buckfast, or Buckie as it's fondly known, is popular with Scottish soccer hooligans, yobs, and disaffected youths. They swallow the Buckie and then use the green bottles as weapons.
North Lanarkshire council even appealed to the monks to cease production of their famous tonic, which is 15 percent alcohol and tastes like cough medicine. Why? On grounds of social responsibility. Wisely, the monks ignored their daft plea.
But to return to my half bottle of baijiu. It cost me all of 6 yuan ( 92 US cents) at the local supermarket.
On the one to 10 baijiu quality scale, my bottle was definitely a one. I did consider mixing it with tonic water and adding ice and lemon. But I never got round to it. The bottle lay neglected, gathering dust.
I reckoned vinegar is distilled, and so is baijiu. Surely it would clean surfaces as least as well?
I rinsed my cloth in clean water and then soaked it in the 56 percent alcohol white liquor. My cloth cleft a clean path across the grimy tiled wall. I tackled the windows next.
Now I was in full cleaning mode. Mirrors sparkled; exposed pipes that looked tarnished were suffused with a dull glow. The bathroom smelt like a distillery. It was a heady aroma.
I'd had enough for the day. The bottle was empty, but my biajiu cleaning fluid was clearly a moneysaver.
However, doubts clouded my mind. If baijiu was the national drink of China, would it be considered disrespectful to clean your toilet with it.
Imagine if some domestic goddess such as Nigella Lawson recommended cleaning your oven with whisky, the national drink of Scotland? What an insult, what an outrage. Scotsmen from Saltcoats to Stornoway would choke on their drams, the industry would be in uproar, there would be questions in the House.
I decided to seek the opinion of a Chinese friend. Would Chinese people be offended if I used baijiu as a cleaning fluid? He laughed and assured me: "Not at all".
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