Cleaning Rituals and Habits: What Did Your Mama Teach You?

by Melanie Edwards on November 16, 2010 · 24 comments

in home, Latino Culture

Girl Washing Dishes

This post is part of a paid campaign.

Do you remember how old you were when your mother began teaching you how to clean? Or did she? I can’t really remember exactly how old I was when I began to learn. I do, however, have memories of being 8 or 9 years old and coming home after school to a list of chores that included tasks such as sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.

It used to irk me to no end that I was expected to help with such chores, while my 16 year old brother was not. By that age we were no longer living in Puerto Rico, and being influenced by my new peers and their way of thinking, I would sometimes question why I had to clean and he did not. “Porque tú tienes que aprender como limpiar y cocinar para que cuando tengas tu propia casa y marido sepas mantenerla.” (Because you need to learn how to clean and cook so that when you have your own home and husband, you’ll know how to maintain it.) That was the answer I would receive from my mother and yes, I am very much aware how antiquated it was. Even then, it seemed odd to me.

Yet, for all the complaining I did and the old-fashioned thinking my mom had at the time, I now find myself saying things like, “I’m glad my mom taught me how to properly clean and cook.” The husband appreciates it too and will often boast to his friends and family when they compare notes on “the wives.”

So, it seems, that learning cleaning rituals and tips from your mother, is a big part of many Latinas’ childhood, as is true for me. So much so, that a recent study conducted by Garcia Research, found that “93% of Latinas helped their mothers clean as a child with sweeping, mopping and washing dishes.” That’s a lot of little girls complaining about chores, much like I did.

But, even more interesting were some other findings of this study that resonated with me. It’s almost as if they came to my house and observed my own cleaning habits.

  • More than half of Latinas prefer certain elements of old-fashioned cleaning, such as washing dishes by hand instead of dishwasher (83 percent), mopping the floors with a regular mop or by hand (73 percent). Most preferred this old fashioned approach because it’s what they are used to and plus it was “a better clean.”

Yes! I almost always wash dishes by hand. It’s only been in the past few months that we’ve begun to use the dishwasher more. My mother doesn’t even use hers at all and uses it instead for storage. I’m not sure what the other 27% of people are doing for their floors if they’re not mopping with a regular mop. I always tell my husband, “This is how my mom taught me. It’s the only way I know how to do it and it works!” So, yeah. It seems the majority of Latinas are in agreement with me regarding cleaning rituals we learned from our mamis.

  • Music is an integral part of the cleaning routine with Spanish pop being the favorite playlist among 53 percent.

Ok, this one is a little different for me. While music is a big part of my cleaning routine – I always blast the radio to get me going while I clean – I don’t listen to Spanish pop. Well, I guess it actually depends on what this study considers to be Spanish pop. I tend to listen to more upbeat music, including merengue, salsa, and English dance music, in order to keep my energy going. But, still. The fact that research confirms that most of us clean while listening to music amazes me.

It’s pretty amazing to see that so many Latinas have so much in common – even down to something as simple as cleaning. The study also found that “43% of Latinas report their significant others as helping with household cleaning – a surprising find, considering the long-standing myth that cleaning is a role predominantly performed by women.” How great is that? The myths are being debunked, even for Latino households. At first I thought that this finding was reflective of the newer generation of Latinas, such as myself. However, the participants in the study were Spanish-dominant (59%), Hispanic females between 25 to 54 years old living in the U.S.

Because the holiday season is upon us and many of us are preparing our homes for family gatherings and guests, it’s a high season for cleaning. Why not have some fun with it and join Clorox in a Holiday celebration? Clorox is currently hosting the Holiday Health Twitter Sweepstakes, where they’ll be giving away a weekly prize of a $50 American Express gift card for 5 weeks, plus a grand prize of a $100 American Express gift card at the end of the sweepstakes. To enter, just tweet how you’re helping to keep your family healthier during the holiday season, using the hashtag #cloroxfiestas. You can tweet in either English or Spanish. Official sweepstakes rules can be found both in English and Spanish. Good luck if you enter!

What cleaning ritual did you learn from your mom, aunt, grandmother, etc.? Will you teach the same traditions/rituals to your children?

Disclosure: This post was written in conjunction with a paid campaign on behalf of The Clorox Company, but all experiences, thoughts, and opinions are original.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 16, 2010 at 7:32 am

I also wash my dishes by hand and it drives some people crazy!


modernmami November 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

That’s funny! Wonder why it interests them so much that it drives them


Carrie at Tiki Tiki Blog! November 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Hand-washer here too. Maybe because we didn’t grow up with a dish washer?


modernmami November 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm

It could be! I use the dishwasher every so often – and my husband likes to
use it when it’s his turn to clean kitchen – but I find that when I wash by
hand I like the result much better.


Lucilla Feliciano November 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I wash dishes by hand and helped mom prepare some meals. I never picked up her talent for cooking. Prior to purchasing an iRobot Scooba (which does a better job at mopping the floor than I do), I mopped the old fashion way. One other task I disliked was ironing my dad’s work shirts. My mother used the same line on me regarding a tidy home and happy hubby. Thank goodness I have a partner who washes dishes, will mop and sweep if need be, pick up after the dog, and iron his shirts when he has too. He has been a big help as I get closer to my due date.


modernmami November 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Lucilla, I had no idea you were pregnant too! I’m due in a couple of weeks.
😉 Congratulations!

Just like you, I too have a husband who does a lot to contribute to our
house and takes care of what he needs to take care of. Sometimes I think he
does more than me! haha


Lucilla Feliciano November 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Thank you Melanie. Next month is when the little one arrives.

My partner’s new toy is the iRobot. Give a man an electronic aparatus that makes noise and loves technology and he will put the Scooba on everyday.


modernmami November 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm

So true! LOL Men and women clean so differently…but whatever works!


Raul Colon November 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I think there is no better cleaning school for men than going into the military. I remember how my recruiters said Basic training was going to be a unique experience. To what I can consider unique where the few moments we where not cleaning. It was a routine of cleaning and maintenance, from our gear, weapons, to our barracks (which where never clean enough for the military instructors.

Ok. I will admit that I am obsessed with the I-Robot I think back and really it would have been great if every private in basic training was given the option to buy one… It could help train soldiers better instead of spending 80% of the time cleaning.

anna November 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

haha – I used to be mad also that my brothers didn’t have to do dishes, all they did was take out the trash & yard work.
One thing I always had to do was the dishes – constantly! I mean it was blasphemy to have a dirty dish in the sink – and I prefer hand washing as well – I can’t wait on a dishwasher to do a medias! lol


modernmami November 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Well, I guess I can consider myself lucky that I never had to take the trash
out growing up. And my yard work wasn’t as bad as theirs – mostly just
raking leaves, but no mowing!


Divina and Eddy November 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I love my dishwasher! Biggest thing I learned was what products to use in my home.


modernmami November 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Divina, so you’re loyal to certain products/brands because they were passed
down by your mom?


@cmdelcid November 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I wash the dishes by hand too, never have used the dishwasher (mine serves as storage) My mami used to say: “hay que lavarlos a mano (y sin guantes) para asegurarse que se les quite bien la grasa”. And when it comes to Clorox… I use it EVERYWHERE! Laundry, bathrooms, kitchen, floors (poco falta que lo use de desodorante) I’ve always loved the smell. To me, smells like clean.


modernmami November 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Sí! Para sacar la grasa y también usa agua caliente con bastante jabón! Hilarious that you use Clorox for everything… I think many people do too.


Amanda November 18, 2010 at 4:30 am

I prefer to wash dishes by hand too!

One thing my mami taught me is to pasar el Windex con un periodico. You’d think it would just get dirtier from the ink from the newspaper, but it actually leaves a better shine than using paper towels, and you dont’ get the little fuzzy residue from the paper towels.


modernmami November 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that! I hate the leftover fuzzies from the paper towels. I tend to use a fabric rag.


Fran November 18, 2010 at 7:41 am

We didn’t have a dishwasher when I was growing up either and it wasn’t until this past year that I lived in a house that had one. I’ve only just started using mine and I have to say, hand-washing dishes is a habit I will easily give up!

On a side note, I watch HGTV’s House Hunters quite a bit and I’m always so amused when a young bride turns her nose up at a kitchen that doesn’t have a dishwasher. When exactly did a dishwasher become an essential appliance? lol


modernmami November 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm

That’s hilarious about the house hunters on TV. I can definitely imagine. But, I doubt you’d see that on the International House Hunters show. 😉


Angelica @ New Latina November 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Saturday mornings in my abuela’s apartment was cleaning time. And not just cleaning the way my teen daughter cleans these days — it was heavy-duty, deep cleaning, with mop and pail, and all other gadgets. But the best part was listening to Julio Iglesias, and dancing here and there when a merengue came along.


modernmami November 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Definitely. Heavy duty cleaning happened way more often than I do it myself these days. I love dancing in between cleaning areas. LOL


modernmami November 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm

We should have basic training for cleaning. 😉


Raul Colon November 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

LOL.. I guess everyone does.. In Puerto Rico we do it the old way. Have a great day!


Raul Colon November 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

LOL.. I guess everyone does.. In Puerto Rico we do it the old way. Have a great day!


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