Cleaning with Mobility Limitations

Long lost cousins are real. I’ve had one, and recently she’s been found. Another Bronner, and not a distant fourth cousin twice removed. A full first cousin, another granddaughter (like me!) to Dr. Bronner himself.

Those of you well familiar with the Bronner family history may have noticed that there are some gaps. One of the most glaring revolves around Dr. Bronner’s oldest child, his daughter Ellen.

Of Dr. Bronner’s three children, Ellen, Ralph, and Jim (my dad), there are numerous anecdotes about Uncle Ralph—friend to all, folk guitarist and singer, one-man sales force for the company for decades. Stories of how he’d fill his van with soap, pick a city, and visit every mom-and-pop health store as well as children’s center, playing his guitar, telling the stories, and handing out soap. Also, stories about my dad Jim abound, how he had the soapmaking mastery and how he and my mom Trudy navigated the business side of things and steered the company through some rocky waters and turned it over to my brother David, later to be joined by my brother Mike and others.

But there’s little about Ellen. The very sad truth is, we don’t know very much about her. While we know all three children were raised in foster care in the Milwaukee area, and that Ralph went off to college and became a teacher, and my dad Jim joined the Navy and ended up as a chemist in California, the information about Ellen is extremely spotty.

Ellen’s story

At some point before graduating, she left high school, married briefly, and had a child named Judith who was raised by paternal family. Ellen had lifelong poor mental and physical health, spent much of her adult life hospitalized, and died in 1988. Almost all of this I learned through research on Ancestry(.com). But why she left high school, what happened after her marriage, why her daughter was raised by others, who and where the paternal family was, why she was hospitalized, how she was treated there, and the details of her death were unknown to us.

Recently, one huge part of Ellen’s story has surfaced. Her daughter. One night, in the Spring of 2020 as we were all stuck at home contemplating the universe, I got a text from another cousin saying someone on Ancestry is claiming she’s our cousin Judy.

This was the moment Ellen’s daughter had at long last been found. She is the oldest of Dr. Bronner’s grandchildren, that we can now number at seven instead of six. Our first cousin.

It is beautiful to welcome so many new cousins into the family. Because Judy didn’t come to us alone. She brought with her two of her own children, her son’s partner, and two grandkids. What a blessing!


In March 2022, we were finally able to bring them out to California to meet in person. They placed their handprints in the family heart on the Uncle Ralph mural at the Dr. Bronner’s headquarters.

Perhaps you’re now wondering what all of this has to do with cleaning and mobility limitations. Through all this, I have gotten to know Judy’s daughter-in-law Claudeanne (my first cousin once removed in-law, if that’s a thing), who has weathered many mobility challenges through her life with great perseverance and spirit. We have had candid conversations about, among other things, Dr. Bronner’s products and cleaning in general. She has taught me much. Claudeanne shared with me her experience trying Sal Suds for the first time, which I share with you below, and other tips for those with limited mobility.

Whether the limited mobility is short term due to an injury or a pregnancy (I remember how far away the floor seemed and how off-balance I was in the late stages of my three) or if the limitations are long term, I hope you will find some ideas that will help you stay strong and still be able to take care of the spaces around you.  

Claudeanne’s recommended cleaning tools

Start by identifying tools that reduce overreaching, bending, and unnecessary or repetitive motions.

  1. Use a dish wand with fillable handle for showers and bathroom sinks.
  2. Use tools with extendable handles (for lightweight work like cleaning walls and windows).
  3. Brush attachments for drills are also handy for scrubbing soap scum, if the drill is not too heavy.
  4. Swiffer style wet/dry mops (not wet jet) work great for cleaning walls (use blue shop towels and a light Sal Suds solution instead of Swiffer wet mop pads!).
  5. Lightweight, cordless vacuums reduce the burden from heavy vacuums. Or a robot vacuum, if you can spring for one, does a lot of the work for you.
  6. Use a grabber tool to pick up clutter and put things away. Less bending over saves your back!
  7. Use a split or standard adjustable saddle stool for kitchen work or on floors where you can roll. These are typically used by hair dressers and massage therapists with mobility or low back problems because they keep your legs below you. This allows you to stay upright, almost in a standing position, rather than a seated, legs forward position where you have to lean forward to bypass your legs in order to do countertop work. If that isn’t possible or comfortable, you can also sit on a rolling stool or even a mechanic’s creeper.

With Claudeanne in front of the label racks.

With Claudeanne in front of the label racks.

Claudeanne’s story: bad back bathroom blessing…

If you had asked me two years ago if I had ever tried Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, my response would’ve been, “You mean that big bottle covered in a million words in the Natural Section? No, can’t say I have. . . . Kinda pricey isn’t it?” Boy, was I wrong! I didn’t realize that the quart-sized bottle I was looking at would stretch so far and do so many fabulous things in my home! But that was just the beginning!

I was raised by a harsh-cleanser-loving family. From Comet to Clorox to Soft Scrub, ammonia-laced window cleaners to Pledge. Everything I was taught to clean with had dangerous chemicals I couldn’t begin to pronounce (or know what some of them are without research).

It wasn’t until my mother-in-law’s life-changing reconnection with her mom’s family that I was introduced Dr. Bronner’s and I realized cleaning didn’t have to be this way! I can have clean hands all day long without them drying out like burlap or feeling slimy! I didn’t need thick rubber gloves or a bleach smell in my sinuses for 6 hours after cleaning! I didn’t need to put so many chemicals down my drains!

(See ★★★ below to cut straight to the cleaning)
Finally getting my hands on some Sal Suds changed everything!

I am disabled, and to make a complex story short, cleaning the bathtub in my tiny apartment bathroom can be a real challenge for me. Using Comet or Soft Scrub took forever and a ton of elbow grease to remove hard water stains and soap scum. To remove the leftover grit, I’d have to rinse three times . . . not to mention having to kneel and stretch, because the tough spots were always in the hardest to reach areas. My back would be in agony for two days just to get the tub clean.

Sal Suds is great for health reasons because of my issues with my back, legs, and balance. I am unable to scrub the tub with any real force without putting my back and hip “out of commission” for a few days because of the awkward angles and having to kneel on the floor to get a good scrub. With this method, I can stay on my feet, reach at careful angles, and still have a clean tub…and I’m not in pain! Yay! Sal Suds is my new 5-star cleaning tool! It’s better than a detergent, it’s a back saver!

This Sal Suds + dish wand solution actually came to me a month before I got my first bottle . . . and was meant for a different product. I saw a video cleaning hack showing how you can use Dawn Platinum to clean your tub and toilet, so I tried it on the shower. The whole process took less time than the bleach products, with less scrubbing, and less rinsing, which was great.

I was about to try it on my walls and door jambs until I read the fine print on the label which explains that you shouldn’t soak things in that formula or leave them exposed to the Platinum formula detergent for long because it can etch or discolor them. I was afraid it would remove or soften our apartment’s cheap paint, so I had to find something else.

There was one other thing from that video hack that I thought was awesome, and that was the method of delivery for the detergent to clean the tub, sink, and countertops, which was one of these handy-dandy dish wands with the solution dispenser in the handle. This one is a DG Home dish wand, and I got a 2-pack of refill sponges so I can use different sponges on different surfaces.

Here’s where Sal Suds saves the day! After watching a few of the Going Green videos, I saw how easily Sal Suds rinses away and I decided to try that instead of the possibly surface etching Dawn Platinum. I just had to get a bottle.

A few weeks later, my mother-in-law and I met two of her newly discovered cousins in St. Louis who gifted me some Sal Suds while I was there! WooHoo! Not only did we have a great visit, but when I got home. . . .

I decided to pour the dish soap out of the dish wand and back into the bottle, clean it out completely, put a clean sponge on it, and fill it with Sal Suds to clean the tub and sink.

I did it like a science experiment because I seriously wanted to see which was more effective. Both the Dawn Platinum and Sal Suds cleanings were after 3-4 weeks of not scrubbing the tub, with significant soap scum on the floor and the wall under the soap dish. I kid you not, 15 minutes later, my tub and shower walls were sparkling, my finger made squeaking noises on the tub floor, and it smelled like Clean, not bleach! Whaaaaat!

I used half the volume of detergent as the Dawn Platinum, AND . . . where the Dawn left the scrub pad all white and chalky, there was no leftover soap scum on the scrub pad! The sponge rinses clean and looks like I didn’t even use it! The tub floor wasn’t slippery, there were no ugly water spots when it dried. I have never worked with a cleaning product that rinses so cleanly and thoroughly, both from skin and fixtures.

As for how long it lasts in this undiluted form, I remind you that the wet sponge dilutes it as you go, and a little bit goes a long way. . . . So far I have scrubbed the tub 3 times and the bathroom sink about 10 times. I started with 3 ounces in the dish wand and it is still about half full.

To tell the truth, it was getting so hard for me to get the tub clean that it was almost embarrassing. I have been trying to find ways to keep my house clean without pain, and little “hacks” have been amazing for that. Using the diluted Sal Suds All-Purpose Spray (1 Tbsp. [15 mL] Sal Suds in 1 quart [1 L] water) is great for the toilet seats and rims and rough spots on the floor and many other things, but here is the “How To” for my little dish wand bathroom hack:

★★★ For a clean, non-toxic, faster-and-better, safer-than-bleach, sparkling clean bathtub and shower in 15 minutes or less:

  1. Rinse off the shower and tub walls with hot water. Then plug the tub and fill it with an inch of water.
  2. Fill the handle of a refillable wand dish brush with Sal Suds and saturate the sponge head with water.
  3. Start at the top of the walls, and positioning the wand upside down, press the scrubby pad lightly against the wall only enough to start a bit of suds. Cover the walls lightly with a thin lather, adding more water and a little bit of soap as needed. I can’t stress how little is needed, just a few drops does all 3 shower walls! Do not scrub. Let the lather soak in and do the work. 
  4. Do the same for the tub but add a thicker layer of suds on soap scum and hard water areas…don’t scrub, just coat everything with a little bit of Sal Suds. By the time you’re done soaping up the tub, the shower walls have had about 5 minutes to soak in suds.
  5. Then soak the sponge with more water, add a drop or two for spots that feel rough under the scrub pad. Start at the top and lightly scrub in a circular motion back over the areas covered in lather. It barely took any effort for most of the tub and shower, and a little extra scrubbing on the rough spots where I had to add just a few more drops of soap. The whole tub was lathered up and then scrubbed clean in about 12 minutes!
  6. Rinse thoroughly, starting at the top again. This is the best part, because with other products, it takes forever to rinse the soap residue off the tub. This stuff rinsed off easily and quickly, leaving no residue behind, it was Squeaky Clean under my thumb! The first time I cleaned it I was kind of shocked because it really was that clean!

With a regular standard shower setting, I rinsed the entire tub and shower in a minute!

I also used the dish wand to scrub our anti-slip bath mat and the suction cups that hold it in place. That took about 2 minutes. I let it soak in that inch of water while I cleaned the rest of the tub. I scrubbed it a second time while the water drained out, right before I rinsed everything, and cleaning that tub mat was included in the 15 minutes!

This method works beautifully because Sal Suds does the hard work for you! For economical AND ecological AND health reasons, it’s a triple win! The dish wand lets you dilute as you go without needing to keep a spray bottle nearby, and it hardly took any elbow grease to do the job. It’s better than a scouring cleanser!

To do the sink, switch sponge heads and use the same method. You’ll be done in less than 5 minutes. I love this stuff!!

I know a plastic dish wand with plastic scrubby sponges isn’t eco-friendly when compared with natural loofahs, but they are considerably more affordable than the natural alternatives, especially on a tight budget. These affordable sponge “cartridges” last much longer. If you can find a dish wand with an all-natural loofah sponge to use, give it a go and let me know how it works!

Thank you for reading! Sal Suds is a household blessing, making cleaning easier and safer, even for people with health issues complicating things.

Other tips from Claudeanne

  1. Do short-burst cleaning. 15 to 20 minutes per burst. Force yourself to take breaks so you don’t increase pain.
  2. Be mindful of your balance when going from high to low areas.
  3. Do one or two tasks a day so as not to overdo it. (If your pain increases when you stand for too long, set a timer on your phone for 15-20 minutes. Work for 15 or 20, then sit down and do light stretches for about 10, then go back to work again. For big projects, expect those times to change and work time to get shorter, but that is perfectly okay!
  4. Respect your disability, despite “really wanting to get this done,” in order to avoid making your pain or injury worse. Pay attention to your body’s signals now to avoid days of pain later.
  5. Declutter. Less to clean and less to maneuver around. (Find someone to help you do this if at all possible . . . someone with no sentimental attachment to your objects and who is not family. Throw things away!)
  6. Avoid bending over as much as possible: use wands on vacuums to clean baseboards and corners. Put a microfiber cloth in a grabber, use a duster with an extendable wand, use a broom.
  7. If you do need to bend over to pick up lightweight objects from the floor, use the golfer’s lift. It is a huge back-saver!
  8. Instead of handwashing, use the top rack of the dishwasher for glass objects like vases, microwave turn tables, and lighting fixtures; sturdy plastic like drawer organizers, certain toys, switch plates, hair brushes and combs; metal items, like manicure tools; as well as toothbrush holders, soap dishes, and pet bowls. Use a low/no heat dry, and avoid putting wood, cast iron, painted objects, copper in the dishwasher.
  9. Use the washing machine for lunch bags, reusable grocery bags, oven mitts, mop heads, small rugs & bathmats, shower curtains, some pillows. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice on washability. It is best to air dry these items on hooks or lines, unless machine drying is specifically recommended on label.

I have learned much from Claudeanne’s insights. All of these tips add up not only to clean spaces, but also to strength, independence, and well-being. While I too have found Sal Suds to be every bit as easy and effective as Claudeanne explains, if it is not available to you, Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Pure-Castile Soap is an excellent alternative.

And for all my new family, I can’t imagine finding out later in life that you’re part of this crazy wild ride of a family and soap company. We’re so glad to have found each other. It just goes to show that you never know what’s next in life’s bending road.

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