Day 119: Pano de Chao

Today we bought pano de chao, or rags to wash the floor, from a guy in a parking lot.

I actually have some of these in my apartment, I just had no idea where they came from. I’m guessing the MIL brought it in at some point. I suppose someone makes these just for this purpose. You basically wrap the cloth around a mop-like thingy that instead of a sponge, has a squeegee at the end, and mop. The thickness of the weave seems to do the job (I have yet to try it myself). I guess you can use it wet or dry.

It must be where the idea for Proctor & Gamble’s Swiffer products came from.

Also might be why I’ve never seen a Swiffer product here.



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29 Responses to Day 119: Pano de Chao

  1. Becky says:

    The “pano de chão” is probably the first culture shock experience any American has here when they go to clean a floor. I remember the first time I went to help clean up at church and my niece laughed so hard while she watched me try to manage wringing out the pano, slapping it back on the squeegee and then cleaning up without the pano coming off of the squeegee. Every time an American is on their way I warn them about the lack of mops!

  2. I like these “general theories”!

    In a country bigger than the US (without Alaska), 200 million inhabitants and diverse cultures from all around the globe, owner of the 6th largest economy everyone would act the same way.
    I mean, a person living in Rio Grande do Sul would share the same habits of a person living in Pará State. And Brazil would have somehow such a small economy that you will definitely not find any other thing to brush your floor rather than a “pano de chao”.
    Brazil would be very similar to Bulgaria (small, few habitants and small economy), everyone sharing the same traits (physical and cultural).

    I just googled this subject regarding swiping the floor and look what I have found, be startled!

    • Oh, and what a cool watch this fella has at his wrist, LOL!

    • So… what’s your point?

      • Point being that there are millions of brazilians that don’t use “pano de chao” to swipe their home’s floor, neither buy them at the informal market.
        But I was replying to the comment from Becky. I should have adressed her more clearly. Sorry about that.

        • Interesting – you are obviously representing the emerging middle class Brazil who don’t rely on household help to clean. I think most Americans that come here have a maid, because they are expats, or they are in more rural areas of Brazil like Becky living the adventurous life, so this is the mode most familiar. I’m pretty sure Becky wasn’t saying that everyone in Brazil uses this method, nor was I, but in our worlds, it is the way it is done. And it is interesting for us to share.
          Thanks for sharing your links.

      • Humm, I see now…

        I don’t believe I represent the “emerging middle-class” because my father is an engineer who has always worked for a multinational in Rio and my mother owns a store. So I’ve always been the privileged kid in Brazil.
        And the “emerging middle-class” love maids. I mean, EVERYONE loves to hire maids in Brazil.
        Of course my parents have always had the damn maids too! Guess who raised me when my parents were at work? Yeah, them.

        But young people like myself actually prefer to not hire maids, all my friends in their early twenties who live alone do the housework themselves, just like you guys do in the US or in Europe.
        So, I guess in Brazil it’s not something related to some kind of social clash influencing maids’ recruitment, but rather a generation’s clash. Young brazilians don’t hire maids, older brazilians do.

        But please tell me: why do you guys (expats) do all the housework in the US by yourselves, but hire maids when you are living in Brazil or Dubai or Singapore? I don’t believe this is a “noveau riche” kind of attitude because american expats are not really poor when they come to Brazil, at least is not what I see, I know a few of them who work with my father and all of them have maids at their brazilian houses and they had a good financial status before coming to Brazil. I mean, why don’t you guys hire mexicans in the US? Why do you guys hire maids only when you leave the US?

        You said:
        ” I’m pretty sure Becky wasn’t saying that everyone in Brazil uses this method, nor was I, but in our worlds, it is the way it is done. And it is interesting for us to share.”

        Yeah, that makes perfect sense! Specially since “pano de chao” is the cheaper method you can have to clean your own house, and since the “empregadas” are poor, this is how they clean their own houses. So, they apply the same method they are used to to the houses they are paid to keep clean.


        • The house cleaning question is a good one. We had a housekeeper in New York, but she only came once a week and (somehow) we survived. But here, my MIL made sure we had a daily person to clean before we even arrived to live here! Part of it is cultural – it is important for most Americans to be independent. We also have great appliances.

          I’m afraid there are not a line of underemployed immigrants just waiting around to be housekeepers. And darn it, most of my Mexican friends have MBAs and refuse to clean my house. Plus, we have something called minimum wage that makes it much more expensive to have people constantly waiting on you.

  3. Andrew Francis says:

    First of all, let me just say that this isn’t a criticism of your blog in particular, it’s just something I’ve noticed on a number of expat-related blogs I follow.

    I guess what lookatyou is trying to say (in a very heavy handed way) is that some of these “Brazilian experiences” (my words) might not be representative of the majority of Brazilians or a typical “Brazilian way of life” (if there is such a thing). There are plenty of regional differences, just like any other large country, and sometimes the experience itself might be due to the writer’s social class (in Brazil and back home) or expat lifestyle more than anything else.

    Of course, every reader should appreciate that a personal blog is just that: one person’s opinion or experience, but sometimes a post can come across as a bit of a stereotype or a very broad statement of fact (unintentionally, I’m sure).

    • anna says:

      I agree with Frances.
      I have read some expat blogs and some of them talk about how people don’t have household goods / appliances. My friends and family all have dishwashers , warm water in the sink , gas , A/C , drier machine, etc. There are plenty of stores selling all of those items everywhere in Brazil.

      • It’s funny. We currently have NONE of those things!! But it is true, times have been changing. Ray wrote something fabulous for me for an article I write in an expat newsletter:

      • Andrew Francis says:

        And I agree with Anna. (You can call me Andrew, by the way, “Frances” makes me sound like a girl :-))
        Most of those things are available in Brazil but aren’t as commonplace as they are in the US. Over time, things like gas as a utility service will (hopefully) become widespread. Others, however, might always remain as a niche convenience product, due to cultural preferences or things like climate. I don’t think their availability and price is a good indicator of the level of development of the country.

    • That’s what I love about having a blog – getting other views on living in Brazil and learning about the culture. I’m not foolish enough to believe my small world represents the entire country so it’s great to get a variety of perspectives. Keep ’em coming!!

  4. Melissa says:

    lookatyounowandbreath – In response to your comment, “I mean, why don’t you guys hire mexicans in the US? Why do you guys hire maids only when you leave the US?” –

    I’m American and my Mexican-(first generation)American husband is an engineer. I don’t think he will be looking for a job as a maid anytime soon, nor do we have a maid in Brazil.

    As your questions demonstrates, we all make general assumptions 🙂

    • HA! True. Brazilians make as many generalization about life in the U.S. as we do. One of my very good friends is also Mexican and her Yale degree makes her over-qualified to clean my house as well. Darn it!

  5. anon blog fan says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Just had to chime in after reading the discussion in the comment thread above…I’ve never been to Brazil, or anywhere in South America, and maybe if I did I would change my opinion entirely. I love your blog and your observations on the Sao Paulo life, and when I read I try to picture myself in what you’re describing and think about how I would react. However (and I obviously don’t know your entire life), it seems like you’ve spent most of your adult life in big, ‘cutting edge’ cities like NYC and DC, whereas I’ve spent the majority of my life in a relatively small (about 500K), geographically isolated and relatively economically depressed city. I’m definitely not comparing where I live to the favelas, but I think, for example, I’d be way more impressed with some of Sao Paulo’s parks and museums than you have been just because it seems like you’ve had the chance to experience some amazing, world class things that are just not part of my world! I am absolutely not trying to disparage you in the slightest by saying this (if anything, I think you’re so lucky for all you’ve gotten to see!), it’s just the part of me who regrets not sticking with that sociology major who thinks it’s so interesting how our individual worldviews get shaped.

    tl;dr- I love your blog. Please keep writing 🙂

    • Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! I’ve lived in both large and small cities and you are right, my experiences have formed the way I view my current surroundings. As some recent debates show, not only can our views be quite narrow, but our generalizations can be quite wide. The purpose of this challenge to do something Brazilian every day this year was in part to help me widen my view of my current world, as well as to make an effort to absorb more of my foreign surroundings, so perhaps I need to put more effort in doing this (i.e. be a bit more adventuresome, more detailed and more open minded). Many people made some really excellent suggestions in how I can achieve this and I’m going to make more effort to do just that (but not today, because it is raining – HA!) Thank you!

  6. I don’t see twenty-something Brazilians of middle class upbringing doing house work at all. If anything I’ve noticed that cleaning companies started buying those “upgraded mops” for their employees and then households started purchasing them – for their maids to use. I could be wrong but I find it hard to believe that someone who hasn’t developed the habit of cleaning simply does so overnight. Usually twenty-something Brazilians hire help referenced or related to those that work at their parents household, or they just have their parents maid do some extra hours at their new place.
    I also don’t think that the emerging Brazilian middle class is able to afford maids. Actually, since they actually have developed a habit of cleaning their own homes I seriously doubt they will be hiring help anytime soon. Specially since a maid’s salary is quite costly in relation to average household income of said emerging class.
    On a sidenote: we need decent Mexican food down here, not Mexican engineers, nor maids ( although Mexican construction workers would be a BLESSING in Brazil’s labor market).

    • Andrew Francis says:

      One of the problems with your idea of twenty-somethings using their parent’s maids is that a lot of them move to different cities to go to university or find jobs. Just think how many people living and working Sao Paulo are from the countryside or other states.
      I think the younger generation still uses a cleaning lady because it’s convenient and affordable (that’s will probably change over time). What I believe has changed to a very large extent from the previous generations is the use of full time live-in maids. I think that’s really a thing of the past.

      And just for laughs, would construction workers from the US even know how to work with bricks? Aren’t most houses in the US made from flimsy plywood that blows away every time there’s a hurricane? 🙂

      • I don’t think that those who moved from another state are going to import help. I hope my comment did not convey this. I was referring to people who remain in the same town they grew up in.
        Regarding construction I have found the Brazilian labor force in this segment to be quite bad. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that familiarity with material dictates good craftsmanship in this case since even brickwork and masonry are better executed in the United Sates. I have observed that, across the board, construction workers in the American market are just much better educated. Perhaps this has to do with a more hands on attitude to fixing things by regular folks. I believe that construction in the US just starts off at a higher level (skills and consumer expectation). This to the point that those who aren’t delivering must make an effort to learn and improve. Contractors for instance usually encourage new arrivals to brush up on their skills to be able to meet different demands. In Brazil it seems that workers are usually trained on the job, which would be great if those teaching were knowledgeable themselves; but that isn’t the case. Unless a company decides to train workers on the specifications of a product they want to sell what you see is an older worker teaching an apprenctice what he was taught, long ago.

      • Yes, many of the housing developments seem to have homes made of plywood. I’ve seen a couple go up and it is a bit scary to me. Maybe a developer would have a different view, one on how beneficial it is to use cardboard to build a house…

      • Andrew Francis says:

        Gritty, your comment didn’t convey that but it also didn’t sound like you had considered that many young people move around. As for my construction comment, it was only meant as a joke. Sorry if I hit a nerve. 🙂

  7. An observation I failed to mention previously: has anyone else noticed that pano de chão prices established by street vendors seldom are cheaper, or are slightly less so than what supermarkets charge? If you take into account that street vendors don’t really have operational costs, nor pay taxes then I think these dudes are making a killing. Unfortunately money doesn’t always equal aesthetics, hence the watch from Maison Mr. T that our friend is wearing in the pic.

    • I’ve noticed the same. I’m pretty sure it is because these street vendors don’t have a relationship with a wholesaler… they just walk into the store, buy the product, and then sell it on the street for their own profit. Just a guess.

      • Humn, much like many a pirated Dvd salesman: they just sell the dvds and do not copy them on their own.
        A pano de chão dude with a wholesaler behind him would do really well I imagine).

    • It’s just that I’ve had my fair share of experiences in this matter. It is very frustrating to organize construction projects in Brazil, and it is definitely a segment that reflects the overall flaws of Brazilian society: a minority of good engineers, and a majority of non-educated laborers (people who lack basic knowledge which in turn are in charge of building, in a society that frowns upon manual work and does not encourage specialization in each of its segments – regardless of how essential it is for the everyday life).
      It is very frustrating, and given the mindset behind it extremely sad. Specially to see young men who are probably never going to excell in their field of work, and even if they do will never be recognized for their efforts.

      • What you said is exactly what I said again to my wife (who’s Brazilian — we live in Porto Alegre). I have more and more difficulty to bear my entourage that show so much disrespect for manual workers (and yes, I agree, a lot of them are really bad… but they’re bad because nobody is encouraged to do this; so you get all the bad people that NEEDS to work while the other ones stays with their parents until they hit 36 and finds a job after winning a concurso). My sister-in-law recently said « she would never let her husband works unless he gets something that pays well (ie. lawyer for the government) ». I mean.. What the hell ?

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