| Jr. Feature |

Squeaky Clean

Imagine if you had these quirky cool cleaning contraptions! Well, maybe you already do?

Cleaning. Ugh! So. Not. Fun. (Unless you’re one of those who finds cleaning and organizing to be relaxing, and if so — good for you! And when can you come over?)

Like it or not, cleaning is part of life… and especially at this time of year, right before Pesach, it’s inescapable. But there are ways to make it at least a little better (see sidebar for ideas!).

People are always trying to come up with more efficient, better, faster, and more fun ways of cleaning (and we thank them for it). Some of those ideas have resulted in unusual and weird inventions. Imagine if you had these quirky cool cleaning contraptions! Well, maybe you already do?

The Baby Mop

Have you ever noticed how dirty a crawling baby’s knees can get? And if that baby is still doing an army-style belly creep across the floor, that dirt can cover the baby’s entire front! Well, lots of other people noticed that, too. And they decided to capitalize on that baby crawling power.

Enter the Baby Mop, an outfit with mop-like stubby fabric pieces that help crawling babies clean and polish the floor as they scooch around the house. (Uh, what happens if they’re munching cookies and other chometz while they crawl? Don’t think about it.)

The Baby Mop wasn’t invented by any particular inventor that we know of, though it seems to have been inspired by a spoof of a Japanese invention. The idea is that if a baby is crawling all over the house, parents can make the most of it. Most people take the Baby Mop as a joke. But maybe if we get those babies participating in the cleaning from a young age, they can already establish a strong work ethic and make a serious and useful contribution to family life. What do you say?

Baby Mops retail at a variety of prices, averaging $30-$40, and come in numerous colors. Move over, Roomba!

Self-Cleaning Toilets

Cleaning the toilet is one of the worst jobs ever. Agree?

But, thankfully, self-cleaning toilets exist! Hello button-push cleaning!

These recent inventions clean and disinfect themselves after each use, which means that people need to clean them way less frequently. Some contain cartridges or tablets that release a cleaning solution after each flush. Others are even more high-tech and use sensors to measure and dispense cleaning agents according to need. And the most techy of these use UV light to kill germs. How cool is that?

Unlike the Baby Mop, these are no joke and are even being produced by household brands like Kohler and American Standard. Self-cleaning toilets are especially popular in Japan and other parts of Asia, though they are becoming more common in America, too, especially in public restrooms that get a lot of traffic. Of course, they still require some cleaning from time to time, but maybe one day in the future, toilets will be entirely self-cleaning. You never know! A top-of-the-line self-cleaning toilet from Kohler retails for a jaw-dropping $5,500, compared to around $200-$500 for a regular one. But don’t despair, there are less expensive options with some self-cleaning technology that start at about $560.

DrillBrush Power Scrubber Kit

This may look like a joke but it’s actually really cool and super effective. And while it may not be a self-cleaning thing, it’s definitely techier than the old elbow grease DIY method. The DrillBrush Power Scrubber is a set of three scrubbing brushes that you can attach to any old cordless drill. Then you can look extra cool as you deep-clean sinks, tubs, and even kitchen pots with a drill. Plus, just think of how much effort you’re saving your arms and hands.

The Portable Sanitizing Wand

Imagine having a magic wand that you just had to wave and it cleaned everything up? Sorry, that hasn’t been invented yet. But… this is a wand that cleans invisible things, which is still pretty cool.

A portable sanitizing wand is a handheld device that emits ultraviolet (UV) light to kill germs and bacteria on surfaces. Wands that use UV-C light technology (I really have no idea what that is, so don’t worry if you don’t either), have been proven effective in killing up to 99.9% of bacteria, including E. coli (another food poisoning germ) and most viruses. How cool is that?

These wands are generally small and lightweight, so they’re easy to carry around. That means you can disinfect on the go. They’re easy to operate, too: Just hold down the button while waving the wand over the thing you want to sanitize. Some of the models require you passing them over the same surface several times. You can use them on everything from phones to keyboards, from doorknobs to bedding and toys. But you cannot use them on people, pets, or food! Most normal sanitizing wands run in the $40 range, but depending on their function and use, they can be cheaper or a whole lot more expensive.

Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner

This little mama-shaped gizmo, about the size of a salt shaker, releases steam, which loosens all the baked-on yucky stuff in your microwave. Just take off the mama’s hair, fill ’er up with water and vinegar, and pop her in the microwave. Watch the Angry Mama get all steamed up inside. As the steam comes out of the top of her head, that splattered grime in your microwave loosens up, making it much easier to wipe down. The Cool Mama, Angry Mama’s twin, can be filled with baking soda and kept in the fridge to keep it smelling fresh and clean.

The SlobStopper

Are you always dropping food on the floor (or down your front) when you eat? Well, worry no more, and help your household by getting a SlobStopper. This is a wearable adult bib that catches food and spills before they land on your clothes… or the floor. As the company’s motto says, “Bibs aren’t just for babies!”

Made with two layers of high-quality polyurethane laminate fabric, the bibs are durable and protective. The front is covered in a spill-absorbent material and the back is waterproof. The original retails for around $15, but there are many brands producing similar products in a bunch of designs.

The Toepener

We don’t often think about cleaning door handles (though many people give them a wipe-down on Erev Pesach). But if we don’t clean those door handles very often, they can get very germy. And if you touch those germy handles, you can end up picking up all those delightful microorganisms. Eww.

In fact, one study found that 1,323 bacterial colonies were living among 27 door handles. And 15 percent of those bacteria can cause skin infections and other illnesses. While some, like salmonella (which causes food poisoning), can only live on a door handle for about four hours, others, like MRSA (a type of infectious bacteria that resists several antibiotics) can last several weeks, and C. difficile (a bacteria that can cause major stomach issues) can survive for up to five months on such a surface!

That’s where the Toepener comes in. It’s a foot-operated door opener. While the Toepener isn’t technically a cleaning gadget, it does prevent us from needing to clean door handles and it keeps our hands clean from all those germs, so that counts as a win in my book! (I mean, our hands aren’t really clean… studies show that the average person’s hand carries more than 3,000 bacteria from at least 100 species! But at least the Toepener lets us avoid collecting more and different ones.)

The Toepener is a stainless-steel door opener that’s attached to the bottom of a door with screws, and is easy to operate with any shoe. These are primarily marketed for public spaces, like restrooms, offices, and schools, where doorhandles are frequently touched by hundreds of people a day. They became especially popular when coronavirus began spreading. A Toepener costs about $28.

Cleaning Gel

Remember the whole slime fad? Maybe you still love slime. Well, now you can clean with slime — at least if it’s slime made for that purpose. Cleaning “gel,” which is like a kind of cleaning goo or putty, can be used to pull dust and crumbs out of hard-to-reach spots. Squish it down on the computer keyboard — no more crumbs! Press it into the car vents — no more gunk! Rub it on your phone — all clean! Spread it on your calculator — presto, all done! Cleaning gels and slimes sell for around $8.

Window-Cleaning Robots

It can be so nice to live in a house with lots of windows, because lots of windows bring in lots of light and air. But lots of windows also mean lots of window cleaning — on the inside and the outside. And that takes a lot of energy! But fear not, a robot can make the process much easier.

Actually, there are a number of different kinds of window-cleaning robots designed to stick to windows and clean ’em till they sparkle. They’re especially useful for tall and hard-to-reach windows. Now, before you go picturing a robot-shaped robot — you know, with arms and legs and a face, and so on — you have to realize that these robots are pretty small and just look like a little device, often shaped like an oval or a rectangle, that clings to the window.

They use ultrasonic sprayers (sounds cool but don’t ask me what they are!), microfiber pads, suction, sensors, and more, to move across and clean glass surfaces from end to end. In addition to making windows sparkly, these robots keep us a lot safer. No more standing on chairs or climbing ladders to get to those tough, out-of-the-way windows!

The Scrubba Wash Bag

No washing machine? No sink? No bathtub? Dirty clothes? No problem — at least it’s no problem if you have a Scrubba Wash Bag.

A Scrubba Wash Bag is a portable, super-lightweight washing “machine” designed for travel, camping, apartment living, or other situations where you need to wash clothes on the go. With one of these bags, you can clean your clothes anywhere that you have access to water (stream, water fountain, etc.). And they use way less water than you’d use if you tried washing your clothes in a sink or bathtub.

So how do they work? The bags contain a flexible inner washboard that has hundreds of scrubbing nodules that clean your clothes in just a few minutes. According to tests, it is twice as effective at laundry as handwashing, and it gets your clothes just as clean as a traditional washing machine. And when you use one, you’re helping the planet because they use so little water.

Are you ready for the world’s smallest washing machine? It weighs less than five oz (as much as a baseball) and can be rolled up for storage, though it might not be the most efficient. After all, it can only wash two to four pieces of clothing at a time. They cost about $55.

The Roomba

By now most of us have heard of, seen, or even encountered a robotic vacuum cleaner or two. The Roomba is one of the most famous. And believe it or not, Roomba is already about 21 years old!

What makes Roombas so cool is that they work autonomously (meaning, by themselves, without you having to operate them) and they can navigate around furniture and other obstacles to keep those floors clean.

Roombas are made by the iRobot company, which was founded by three roboticists from MIT (a college known for math and science). Roboticists are professionals who specialize in the design, development, programming, construction, and testing of robots, which means they know a lot about various types of engineering, including mechanical, electronic, computer, and systems engineering. And they generally focus on developing robotic systems that can perform tasks that are either too difficult or dangerous for humans to accomplish.

Vacuuming isn’t really dangerous (at least not that I know of) but it can be difficult and it can definitely be boring, so we have to thank those roboticists for making this task a whole lot more interesting. Now, instead of vacuuming, we can just watch a robot do it.

Many people love their Roombas so much they even name them! In fact, one study (a small study) showed that 76 percent of people named them, and many people even thought of their Roomba as a pet. The most popular names are Roomba, Rosie, and Alice, but some people can get quite creative. What would you name yours?

Sweater Stone 

As we’ve seen, not everything “cleaning” related has to involve a mop, broom, spritz bottle, or vacuum. The sweater stone is laundry related. It’s basically a pumice stone for your sweaters, upholstery, and other fabric that gets pilled. It’s supposedly very easy and satisfying to use. Just think of it as giving a spa treatment to your favorite clothes! They sell for around $12.

Sliding Door-Track Cleaning Brush

It’s only about $5 and it looks like a pipe cleaner, but it supposedly works wonders at cleaning all the dirt, dust, gunk, and grime out of the tracks of sliding doors (which your Roomba can’t reach and your window robot can’t handle). If you’ve ever tried to clean those tracks, you know what I’m talking about. It can also be used in window tracks and shower tracks. And people who use it say it really works… and wonder why they didn’t get one sooner. Who knew?


Can Cleaning Be Fun?

We have to do chores anyway, so we might as well make them a little more tolerable by having some fun while we’re at it. Here are some ideas can you do by yourself, with your family, or with friends to gamify your cleaning. And don’t forget to turn on some of your favorite music to get you moving!


Hunt for treasure. Hide a note, cheap prize, or a treat (just not chometz!) among the mess that your buddy will find when she cleans that area. And ask her to do it for you. Won’t it be so much better to know there’s something waiting for you when you get through it? You don’t even have to buy anything new. You can make the other person a coupon, write a funny letter, give her something of yours that you no longer need, and so on.


Play pretend.
Dress-up isn’t just for little kids! You can dress up like a fancy maid, formal butler, school janitor, or whatever, and get your sibs and friends to do it, too. Then it’s like Purim and Pesach preps combined! Don’t forget to speak in your poshest butler voice.


Bingo it. Make bingo boards for your family and friends. Include different jobs on the bingo boards, like making your bed, putting away laundry, ironing, wiping down the counters, etc. (Ask your parents what needs to get done.) Don’t forget a “free” square! Each time someone completes a task, she crosses off a square. Whoever calls “bingo” first gets… another board? Another job? How about a break?!


Scavenge it. Scavenger hunts can make everyday life so much more exciting. Create a list of items to be found like: chometz, odd socks, money, random game pieces, something that’s been missing, something everyone forgot about, dust bunnies, and so on. Then divide into teams or work individually to find the items and cross them off your list. Whoever finishes last gets… an odd sock. Just kidding. I’m sure you’ll think of something good.


Make art. When you’re cleaning in spaces that lots of little things fall into (under and around a couch, your backpack and pencil case, your coat pockets, your closet), collect all the found objects and debris in a bag or box. When you’re finished, use some glue or double-sided tape to stick everything to a piece of cardboard. You can arrange them in the form of a face, the outline of a shape, or even in neat rows — whatever speaks to you! If you like, draw arrows to the objects and add funny labels and names for things (“the shoelace I thought was lost forever,” “the gum wrapper I kept cherished in my pocket,” “the note I don’t remember writing,” “the bead from a necklace I threw away a long time ago,” and so on).


Time it. Take a list of jobs and then write down your predictions for how long you think it will take you (and the other participants) to do each thing. Then have someone time you (or time yourself) to see how close you were. You can also race yourself to see if you can beat your expected time. (Just don’t forget to be thorough!) Compare your times with your family’s and make a “world records” list for your wall.


Relay it. Relay races are when one person starts off a race and runs to a certain point, passes a baton to the next runner, and then steps aside while his teammate carries on with the race. See if you can turn any of your tasks into a relay. Maybe you could carry folded piles of laundry to the next “runner” who will then deliver them or put them away. Or you can do this with bags of garbage — one person brings it to the door, the next person takes it out, and so on. With a little thought, a lot of jobs could be “relayed,” and that just makes it so much more fun, doesn’t it?


What do you do at home to make cleaning more pleasurable? Be sure to share your tips with us and other Jr. readers!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 955)

Oops! We could not locate your form.