Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sloshing of the Levant הצפת הלוונט

There's only one statement with which I disagree in this excellent article[1] by David Elkan about our water situation (hint: It's bad):
השימוש במים כאן יעיל וחסכוני מאוד בהשוואה למדינות אחרות, הן מבחינה מערכתית והן ברמת השימוש האישי.
English: “Water use here is very efficient and economical compared to [that in] other countries, both system-wide and in terms of household use.”

Has Elkan ever seen a native-born Israeli wash her floor? I recall being dumbfounded when I first encountered this phenomenon in 1978. My roommate at Tel Aviv University announced that being Friday, it was time to wash the floor. She handed me a squeegee and proceeded to pour bucketsful of sudsy water throughout the apartment, instructing me to squeegee it out…out where? Out the door? Into the stairwell? And what about rinsing? I was raised with the foreign notion that soap needs to be rinsed off on order for the soaped-up object to actually be deemed clean. Apparently different rules apply here: Soap grunge accumulated in corners, around the edges of the rooms, and around furniture legs apparently "doesn't exist".

I, a newbie to the system, was confused. Isn't Israel an arid region? Aren't we supposed to conserve water? Then why are people behaving as if they live in Canada, or northern Europe? And don't the majority of Israelis live in multi-storey dwellings? So who invented this rule that you pour water like there's no tomorrow, then squeegee it outside?

This went beyond denial; there appeared to be a total disconnect between "the proper way to wash an Israeli floor" and reality. I theorize that the immigrants in the early days of the state, both European and Middle Eastern, somehow sought to prove to themselves that they were now in a modern country with all the amenities, i.e., if water came out of a tap, there must be plenty of it. It's the only explanation I have for this bizarre floor-washing obsession.

I observed more of the same in the kibbutz children's houses where I worked. On one occasion I was even reprimanded for leaving squeegee tracks on the just-washed floor. It was then that I resolved that if I were ever to be in charge in a children's house, I was going to wet-mop the floor. With plain water. No pouring, no squeegeeing, no soap grunge. I found validation for my resolution in Martha Meisel's householding column in the Jerusalem Post. Remember her? She actually interviewed the manufacturer of the ubiquitous terrazzo tiles that were standard flooring up until this century. She asked the manufacturer what the optimal product is for washing his tiles. The reply? "Water"[2]. Hah! I knew it! We don't need all those suds! Now I had facts to back up my "foreign notions".

My day finally arrived. I was working in the kindergarten and was instructed to wash the floor. I duly stacked up the chairs on the tables and tried to get as much furniture off the floor as possible. I then proceeded to sweep thoroughly, paying particular attention to the edges of the room. Then I wet a floor rag with plain water, hung it over a squeegee, and began to mop. The result looked fine to me. Gong! I was informed that what I was doing was not "washing the floor properly". Exasperated, I resolved that when I had my own house (not shared), I was going to clean its floor MY WAY.

Indeed, for 35 years, I've been sweeping thoroughly, then wet-mopping my floor with nothing but water, after which it dries instantly — clean. While there's no way I can prove it — I haven't done a comparative bacteria count — I raised three healthy kids in a home thus mopped, and the floor looks no less clean than any other. Why, then, are otherwise intelligent householders, in light of the looming drought tax and the Save Water Campaign, willing to dry up their yards and gardens, but they're still sloshing water onto their floors like sailors on a ship's deck? Does everyone else own stock in the Ritzpaz company? How does David Elkan call this profligate sloshing of water throughout our arid land "efficient and economical"?
Someone please enlighten me.

1 couldn’t find link to English version
2 I’m sure the same is true for ceramic tiles; both are a porous mixture of cement and marble.


  1. I heartily identify with that, though I use a minimal amount of soap. No more throwing water around! There were a few *metaplot* who clearly tested the substitutes on our floor-washing skills!

  2. The woman who used to clean the stairway of our 4-story building was in the habit of puttin some laundry-softener in the water. It gave the entire staircase a lovely smell.
    The present floor-washer uses water only, and does not do a good job. Stairs get dirtier than an apartment, so probably do require a bit of detergent or more scrubbing.

  3. Nina, fabric softener? I'm surprised the residents weren't slipping and skidding all over the stairwell. That one I haven't heard.

    I've always had this sense that immigrants, particularly women, picked up on this sloshing method as the way to show how "genuinely Israeli" they were, and it just stuck to the point that no one questioned it anymore. Until now!

  4. I am a man. I do the kitchen and bathrooms. I spray some special detergent, then mop thoroughly with a wet sponge, wringing it out into a pail. I may then go over it again with a sponge and half pail of clean water, wringing out the sponge in the pail. The floor dries clean.


  5. Ever since my first visit to Israel (when we met!) in 1987, I've been flabbergasted by the Israeli floor-mopping method. Wet mopping with water only is probably okay, but I think some type of soap should be used on occasion -- and thoroughly rinsed off -- with a wet mop, not bucketsful of water.

    I agree that this strange tradition was passed on by immigrants wanting to show how "genuinely Israeli" they were. My American roommates eagerly showed me how to mop an Israeli floor -- with bucketsful of soapy water and a squeegy!

  6. במשך כמעט עשרים שנה בארץ, ובקיבוץ הספקתי להוכיח את עצמי גם כמטפלת בבית ילדים, וגם כאם המשפחה. ומי שמכיר אותי - יודע שאני יכולה ללמד דבר או שניים על ניקיון וסדר. מהרגע הראשון בישראל "שיטת הספונג'ה" מזעזעת אותי. אני אמנם מוסיפה כמות מינימלית של סבון, או סבון מעורב עם חומץ, למי השטיפה, אבל אף פעם, אף פעם לא ניסיתי ולא מתכוונת לנסות לשפוך מים על הרצפה בבית. זה רק יהרוס את הבית ואת הרהיטים. מטאטא או שואב אבק, ואחר כך ניגוב עם סמרטוט רטוב - ואפשר "לאכול מהרצפה" בבית שלי. אסיה.

  7. תשובת המומחה:
    בתור BK וNBA (בוגר קיבוץ, ואין לי BA), אני יכול להעיד על שנים של ניסיון בשטיפה. אני גם יכול להעיד שרוב העולות מארה"ב (מרים תירגעי, *רוב*, לא כול) - אינן יודעות לשטוף רצפה כהלכה.
    גם אני חטפתי צעקות בתור ילד כשהשארתי פסי מים של המגב בחדר.
    המומחיות שלי כוללת:
    א. יותר מ 40 שנה ניסיון שטיפה.
    ב. 3 שנים מוכר בחנות של מרצפות ואריחי קרמיקה.
    ג. התמחות בנושאי המים בישראל.
    ד. שהות של כמה שנים בארה"ב, שם למדתי שMOP זו מושבת חיידקים תמידית.

    א. מספיקים כ 8 ליטר מים לשטיפת דירה של 4 חדרים (95 מ"ר) בירושלים, במקום שסופג די הרבה אבק.
    ב. דלי ראשון (4 ליטר יספיקו; דלי מלא זה 10 ל'): קצת ריצפז, למען הריח הטוב והברק. טיפ למתקדמים: רבע כוס נפט בדלי(כן, נפט!) טובים לרצפות ויוסיפו המון לברק שלהן! ולא, זה לא יסריח ולא יחליק.
    ג. לעבור עם סמרטוט רטוב היטב על כל הרצפה, פינות, פנלים וכו'.
    ד. להוריד את המים.
    ה. דלי #2 - מים נקיים - סמרטוט לח - לעבור שוב על כל הבית, לייבש את השאריות ו"להחליק".

    מרים - ניסיון מדעי מלמד שמעט מדי מים גורמים לכך שהאבק לא יורד עם המגב, אלא יוצר בוץ. כמו בפצצת האטום, גם כאן צריך *מסה קריטית* של מים. אבל לא להגזים ולא בהצפה.

    הצפה גרועה לרצפה בעיקר מכיוון שמים נשארים הרבה זמן בחריצים בין המרצפות ("פוגות") ומחלחלים למטה דרך הרובע (חומר האטימה).

    בברכת "כך הולכים השוטפים",

    זאב, קיבוצניק לשעבר