Monday, June 13, 2011

An outdoor spigot keeps indoor floors clean

A simple spigot outside the entry door can help keep flooring dirt free

Simply Living
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel June 13, 2011)

We recently had our carpet cleaned for the first time in 20 years. After two decades of constant use, you'd think the rugs would be filthy, but they weren't bad at all. Except for a small area in front of the fridge and stove (yes, our kitchen is carpeted), we had no noticeable stains.

There are three reasons that our wall-to-wall covering stayed in such good shape for so many years:

•Instead of a plush texture, we chose a commercial-grade, tightly woven carpet.
•All spills and dirt are cleaned up immediately.
•We wash off shoes or bare feet before entering the house.

Residential carpeting tends to be thick and plush, chosen more for softness and appearance than function and durability. Commercial floor coverings are the opposite, selected for ease of maintenance, long life and lower cost. Of course, some carpets have all those characteristics, but they are usually pricey.

When we built our house in 1992, our wallets were thin and our needs were many. Instead of buying top-of-the-line residential carpeting, we bought an upgraded pad to put under an inexpensive, tightly woven commercial-grade carpet. The higher-quality pad provided a plush feel to an otherwise hard surface. Also helpful are the flecks in our carpet's predominantly blue color. The subtle shades of other colors help disguise dirt.

Although our carpet choice was somewhat unconventional for home use, it suited the needs of our family. At the time, we were two adults and four young children plus two (supposedly) outdoor pets. Comfort was as important to us as durability, since we have always spent considerable time on the floor sitting, stretching and playing with the kids.

We haven't been disappointed. Our low-end, commercial-grade wall-to-wall looks and feels good. It stood the test of time remarkably well.

With the right carpet, cleanup is easy. A battery-operated vacuum and damp washcloth work wonders to make messes disappear quickly. We seldom use anything stronger than plain water or soap and water to wash away those inevitable spills, "accidents" and tracked-in grit. The key to successful maintenance is on-the-spot spot cleaning. My cleaning mantra is: Immediate attention prevents retention.

An even more effective way to stop sand, garden dirt and assorted outdoor detritus from working its way into the rug is to make a habit of rinsing off shoes or feet before entering the house. In some cultures, removing shoes upon coming inside is a normal part of everyday life. Our family takes a different approach. We hose away potential problems. My clever husband installed foot-level spigots just outside our two main entry doors.

Ralph's foot-washing device was composed of a piece of PVC pipe tapped into a main water line. The pipe runs from the main line along the house to the doorway. At that point, a 90-degree elbow enables the pipe to turn upward for about three feet. Then, with the help of two more elbows and a valve, it crosses the wall before curving back down. This "U-shaped" design permits us to control water flow from a waist-high lever while rinsing our shoes or bare feet on the ground. It's a natural setup, very convenient and easy to use.

As someone who has owned rental homes for 35 years, I've seen my share of badly abused flooring. A careless resident can ruin new carpeting in a matter of months while a careful person can keep carpet looking new for years.

Living in a carpeted home can be pleasant if the floor covering meets the homeowner's needs. For us, comfort was as important as durability, low cost and proper maintenance. Add to the mix a skillful, inventive spouse and you have a combination too noteworthy to sweep under the rug.


  1. Sherry,

    You may find this a very strange comment, but one of the things I have always loved and remember about your house is that very skillfully placed and simply designed foot wash. I love it and it's cool to understand more of its origins and how great it's been for you guys. Nice nice article.

    Hope family is well, still loving the monthly updates. So many changes and wonderful things in your lives.

    Much love,


  2. hi michele! ralph is so pleased that you like his foot washing spigot! he wants to make a bunch more to put at our rental homes in the hope that our tenants will like using them too.

    i'm heading up to see jenny & brett this weekend. jenny will be 31 weeks by then! hard to believe we're going to have two more grandchildren in a couple months!

    have you been following her newest blog? it is