A wise saying by Ghanaian writer Ernest Agyemang Yeboah is “Make hay in May for you may never know what June is coming with, and you may never know what July will present! When you see May, make hay!” If we put on our metaphor specs to read this, it can be taken to mean “seize the day.” As a former Laplacian and current New Orleanian, I take it to mean that we should get all of the chores and projects that become harder when temperatures rise (think cleaning your attic, which becomes a hotbox in the summer) done in May, while the weather is still somewhat cool and not suffocatingly humid, because you might die of heat stroke if you try to “make hay” during summertime here. So anyway, enjoy this beautiful weather. Below is some cleaning advice. Let’s get it on.
How do I get rid of lice on my kid’s head and in my house?
Yikes! I’m sorry to hear that you are dealing with lice. Lice, as many know, are tiny, disgusting, vampiric insects. Adult lice measure 2 to 3 centimeters in length. They enjoy laying their eggs (nits) on your hair, close to your scalp. They love infesting head hair, but they also like shacking up in pubic hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Barf. Eradicating lice requires killing both the insects and their eggs. I’ve had only one experience with lice. In 1995 my friend Samantha, in the wake of traveling with the Rainbow Family for a year (after joining them at Lollapalooza ‘94), showed up at my house. She was with her Rainbow Family boyfriend Glitterbug, and they were both sporting shorn heads. Turns out, her dad had ordered them to shave their heads immediately upon arriving at his home, due to the fact that they were both infested with lice (which they almost certainly picked up whilst circle-dancing at Rainbow Gatherings). So while I’ve been grossed out by my friend’s lice, I have never had a louse on my body personally. Fortunately, getting rid of lice is relatively easy, if time-consuming. You can follow Sam’s dad’s advice and shave your kid’s hair. But if that’s not an option, removing the lice and nits can be achieved by suffocating and then wet-combing the lice out of the hair. You’ll need olive or almond oil for suffocation purposes, a nit comb, and a magnifying glass so you can clearly examine each strand of hair and remove the individual lice and eggs. First, wet the hair, then coat it with the almond or olive oil. Now start combin’! Separate the hair into small sections as you work, and use a hair clip to move these combed sections out of the way. Do this under good light, while using your magnifying glass, so you can see all of the gross lice. Rinse the comb often under hot, running water. After completely combing out your kid’s hair, wash their hair with the shampoo they normally use, rinse, and repeat. Finally, use a hairdryer on the hot setting to dry their hair. Make sure to wash all towels that you used in the delousing process in hot water and soak the nit comb in white vinegar for 30 minutes. Alternately, you can boil it for 10 minutes (or, you know, set it on fire). Another option for treating lice is applying essential oil (tea tree, lavender, neem, clove, or eucalyptus to name a few) to your kid’s head, along with suffocating and combing. Mix 15 to 20 drops of the essential oil with 2 ounces of olive or almond oil. Before applying this solution to your kid’s head, put a small drop of the diluted mixture onto the back of their hand. If there is no allergic reaction, the essential oil is probably safe to use. Now you can apply this mixture to the scalp and hair using cotton balls. Let this marinate on your child’s head for at least 12 hours. In the morning, comb out and shampoo the hair, rinse, and repeat. If the essential oil trick doesn’t completely eradicate the lice, an alternative approach is to use rubbing alcohol. You’ll mix 20 drops of essential oil and 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and saturate the hair with it. Again, leave this on the hair for at least 12 hours. Once the lice have been eliminated, the alcohol spray can be used as a preventive treatment. Next, after all of your nitpicking, you get to tackle your licey home! Thank goodness lice don’t travel far from their food source and nits usually don’t hatch at room temperature, so you won’t have to burn your home down. But you may want to clean or wash anything that has been in close contact with your kiddo, such as hats, pillowcases, brushes, or combs. Place stuffed animals and other non-washable items into an air-tight plastic bag for two weeks to kill the lice or nits. Wash linens and clothing items in hot water that is at least 130°F (54°C), then put them in a hot dryer for 15 minutes. Godspeed.
I used dryer sheets, and now my shirt has a stain. What do I do?
Yes, dryer sheets do help with static cling and also make clothes feel softer. But in my opinion, they leave clothes feeling overly-soft—I call it fake-soft. In my opinion, clothes feel like they’re coated with K-Y Jelly when laundered this way. Well, there’s a reason for that! Fabric softeners and dryer sheets work by coating clothing with lubey silicone! So if you’re softening or dryer sheeting your garb every time you do laundry, there’s a higher probability of getting too much of these greasy deposits on your clothes and staining them. But if you catch the stains early enough, you can remove them. First, try washing the clothes in the washer again, but add 1 cup of white vinegar this time and no detergent. If this vinegar trick doesn’t work, grab a plain bar of soap. Choose a white bar that doesn’t contain dyes, scents, lotions, or other additives (think classic Ivory soap). Next, rub the stain with the soap. Press the soap firmly onto the stain and rub it back and forth so that the soap gets all up in the clothing fibers. Now wash the shirt like you normally would. If you need to, repeat these steps. Don’t put the clothes in the dryer again until the stain is gone; you don’t want it to set in further. Also, stop using fabric softener. All that silicone is bad for the environment and, as you’ve just learned, can stain your clothes. Instead, try pouring a cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine; white vinegar is good for softening fabric too. Another trick is to not overload the washer or dryer with clothes when using softener or dryer sheets. Or ever, because as we learned in my March column, dirt will just be redeposited all over your clothing. Remember, “If you overload, you’re a dirty choad.” Hope this helps.
Why do I feel so physically exhausted after cleaning?
Cleaning works pretty much every muscle in your body—reaching up to dust, squatting to wipe baseboards, bending over to pick stuff up, using your lower back, core, shoulders, and arms to vacuum and mop, etc. After a day of cleaning, I often feel like I’ve been pumping iron. BUT, it is also very, very, very easy to injure yourself whilst cleaning. I tend to get so in the zone while cleaning (I call it a Cleaning K-Hole), that I end up picking things up with one finger, while looking up, while kneeling, while dusting with the other hand, all while on a ladder. And then poof: I can’t walk the next day. After a week of cleaning for 6 to 8 hours a day, I feel like I’ve been doing aerobics classes incorrectly for 100 years. So yeah, cleaning is very physically taxing. This is why you’re pooped after doing it.
Got cleaning questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm