Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Brush up on the best cleaning aid

I'm the world's laziest housekeeper. I choose not to see dirt in the house and avoid cleaning whenever possible. I can spend hours tending to my little garden, but ask me to sweep, vacuum or mop and I'll find every opportunity to put it off. I wear house slippers so that I don't feel the sticky floor in dire need of mopping. It's only when I see dust balls flying around or scum building up on bathroom walls that I finally bring out my cleaning supplies. Once I start cleaning, though, it's as if I'm channeling Martha Stewart and I can spend hours wiping, scouring and scrubbing. I turn into a cleaning dervish that gleefully attacks all kinds of dirt. Which is why I love, love, love my faithful scrubbing brush.

Trust me, I've bought and tested almost every kind of brush out there, from cheap plastic thingamajigs which fall apart pretty quickly to sleek steel contraptions that unravel just as fast. Nothing works as well as the humble natural bristle brush. I've had mine for more than a year and it's still as good as new. The bristles don't fall off, it rinses off very easily after use, doesn't trap gunky bits of fluff and hair, and comes in different shapes and sizes to suit every cleaning function. It has a really good feel to it, and has a wire core that also functions as a hook to hang the brush up. It can't get any simpler than that.

Before all these newfangled cleaning tools made from plastic and steel, there was only the coir brush. My mother's generation all used them, and there were always a few lying around the house. Best of all, they lasted a really long time and didn't need to be replaced very often.

I had a good look at mine this morning, and wondered what exactly it's made of and so did some research. I found out that the bristles are made out of coir, the fiber from the outer shell of a coconut. It's strong and highly resistant to abrasion, making it an excellent scrubbing brush. Sri Lanka is the largest suppler of coir fiber to the world, meeting nearly 40% of global demand. In addition to brushes, coir is also used to make brooms, door mats and even fillings in bedding and upholstery.

Coir's eco-friendly characteristics as well as water resistant qualities make it the ideal cleaning material, paired with just about any detergent or cleaning agent on any given surface. I use it to scrub my bathrooms and outdoor surfaces. It's also great for scrubbing pots and pans. In fact, when my friend, S, emigrated to Australia, she was so relieved to find them sold there because she said nothing cleans as well as these coir brushes.

The coir brush is a ubiquitous sight in most Asian households although now perhaps many trendy city dwellers view it as old-fashioned. I was delighted to find them in specialty shops in Tokyo. In fact, there were a couple of shops specializing and selling only these brushes, in every imaginable shape and size, and I've since discovered that making these brushes is a refined art in Japan. Who knew that this humble cleaning aid could be elevated to such heights of awesomeness? Give it the brush-off anytime soon? No way!


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