"This," he said, waxing lyrical, "is the godliness of cleanliness. Take away the filth. Like you take a shower."
Volunteers grappled with grime all over Philadelphia after Mayor Nutter, wearing a T-shirt and 1,000-watt smile, launched the event at 9 a.m. on the apron of City Hall by huddling with a crew from Ready, Willing and Able, a recovery and reentry program for released convicts and recovering addicts.
Nutter praised them for cleaning up their lives while helping to clean the city a day at a time, a block at a time.
"It really makes a difference that you're involved," he said. "Now let's go out there and get a little trash."
For the next five hours, crews at nearly 200 sites - from Fishtown to Fairmount, Queen Village to Queen Lane, the Greater Northeast to the lower Southwest - hit vacant lots, commercial corridors, the shoulders of roadways, city parks, and recreation centers.
They used tens of thousands of donated brooms, rakes, dustpans, gloves, biodegradable paper bags - and sweat equity - to tame mountains of trash.
In a West Philadelphia alley next to a liquor store, businessman Abdul Salaam slammed a shovel into a knee-deep pile of bottles.
"They ought to close that damned store," he said, gesturing toward the liquor store. "I don't drink no way, so it don't make me no difference."
Cousins Nisha and Priyanka Patel, both 18 and students at Temple University, were among Delta Phi Omega sorority sisters who volunteered to help Salaam cart the bagged bottles to the curb, where sanitation trucks would later pick them up. They stepped gingerly over the dead cat - "Yuck!" - as they carried away an infant's car seat and broken toys.
City Water Department workers, deployed in a skimmer boat to pick up floating litter, discovered the body in the Schuylkill at 9:38 a.m.
"It was part of the cleanup," department spokeswoman Laura Copeland said, adding that the police marine unit pulled the body from the water.
By noon, police also had towed 97 abandoned cars, and cited 180 others as part of the effort to bring order to the city.
"We tow every day but put in a little extra effort today," said Richard Bullick, chief inspector for special operations.
"Any effort like this that mobilizes people and gets them engaged is a positive thing," Center City District director Paul Levy said. "There really is a debilitating effect that litter and graffiti have on any area. It sends the message that things are not well-managed, that things are not in control."
Trying to bring some control to the 4000 block of Lancaster Avenue, business association president Aisamah Muhammad, a petite woman in a black head scarf, led a crew of 30 volunteers. They cleared most of the junk from a narrow lot between two buildings but had to leave behind the oversize debris dumped by a shameless remodeler.
"Unfortunately, when they do rehab in these buildings, they dump on the back part" of the lot, Muhammad said. "We are trying to get them to stop."
Nutter, accompanied by his staff, tore around the city in his black, hybrid Chevy Tahoe SUV, making stops for media photo opportunities.
At the Wynnefield Residents Association, in the 5300 block of Overbrook Avenue, near his home, he joined neighbors to fill some bags with leaves and toss already filled bags into the hopper of a waiting sanitation truck.
"I want people to think of the city as their own home. Nobody would throw trash down in their home," he said.
He added that he also wanted to "step up enforcement" for litter-code violations and have more city trash cans in public places provided the sanitation department can empty them on time - and residents don't use them for household trash.
To show appreciation for the volunteers, the Eagles sponsored a picnic from 2 to 5 p.m. that drew 3,000 people to the parking lot outside Lincoln Financial Field.
Businesses donated hot dogs, hamburgers and snacks. Two bands played R&B hits.
Carol Black held a digital camera in one hand and a Tastykake in the other while describing the junk-food wrappers - and a car fender - she found in an alley near 56th and Vine Streets.
Now, she said, hoisting her camera to show the results of her cleaning, "this is the most beautiful alley that you'll ever see."
Vernice Bradley herded 10 children, ages 6 to 12, into a "junior block captains" group portrait. They had, Bradley said, started a cleanup at 27th and South Marshall at 8 a.m. and worked into the afternoon.
"Teach 'em young, and when they get older they'll teach the next generation," she said.
The chairman of the Lower Moreland Township Commission, Steve Pollock, showed up wearing a yellow T-shirt emblazoned "I cleaned City Hall March 14, 1992," a reference to former Mayor Ed Rendell's scrubbing of the bathrooms after he took office.
Rendell cleaned the Hall, and Nutter has "expanded the scope to clean up the whole city," said Pollock, who pitched in at the cleanup of the Fox Chase Playground.
Nutter roused the crowd outside Lincoln Financial Field by shouting that Philadelphia "is going to be the cleanest city in America," and that the cleanup was the start of "taking this city back" from filth and danger.
"Welcome to the renaissance," he said. "This city's on the way back, and you're a part of it."
After the crowd headed for the lot's exits, Angelo Irizarry, a stadium maintenance supervisor, stayed behind with his broom to sweep up.
"Everybody went out and cleaned up, and then they made a mess for me," said Irizarry. "I don't mind cleaning it, 'cause that's what I do."
Contact staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541, or email@example.com.
Staff writers Derrick Nunnally and Mari Schaefer contributed to this article.