A grayscale illustration of a whistle in the shower, whistling while it bathes itself. The whistle is wearing a gray, polka-dotted shower cap, and it’s looking up with a music note coming out of its puckered lips. The whistle is washing itself with bars of soap in both hands, and around it are lots of bubbles. Illustration by Ben Claassen III.

One Year ago — jots what?

God — spell the word! I — can’t —

Was’t Grace? Not that —

Was’t Glory? That — will do —

Spell slower — Glory —

Hey y’all! Above is the first stanza of “One Year ago — jots what?” (one of my favorite poems), by Emily Dickinson (one of my favorite poets). Guess why I’m quoting it here? No idea? OK, I’ll tell you. I’ve been writing this column for one year! I can’t believe it! I hope that reading these tips has helped you as much as writing them has helped me. As you know, 2020 was a tough year, and this column gave me something rad to focus on during that doo-doo show. For one-year anniversaries, the tradition is to give your love a gold piece of jewelry. Well, my lovely readers, I’d love to give you all a big, gold dookie chain, but alas, I can’t afford that. Hopefully, the following cleaning nuggets will suffice.

How do I get silicone lubricant off of my hardwood floors?

Ah, I see, so you were “trying to loosen that too-tight screw” in your bedroom, as one does with silicone lubricant? Not to worry, there are a few ways to remove this slickness with the quickness (I’m silly). Murphy Oil Soap is one solution. Pour a few cap-fulls of Murphy’s into a half-filled bucket of hot water. Dip a rag into the solution and wipe the lube spot. Don’t use too much water on the floor; too much water can damage wood floors. If this doesn’t do the trick, you can use a mixture of half white vinegar and half water on the spot. Dip a rag into this solution, and then rub the spot. If the lube is still there after trying the first two remedies, try pouring a little bit of isopropyl alcohol onto a rag and applying this to the spot.

There is food burned onto my stainless steel pan. I think the pan is ruined. Help!

We’ve all done this. You’re making a roux, step away from the pan for a minute, and return to find your smoke alarm going off and a layer of sludge cooked into your pan. Don’t worry, your pan may live to see another day. You’re gonna enlist your old pals white vinegar and baking soda to tag-team this crud. You’ll start by covering the bottom of the pan with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Place the pan onto the stove and let the mixture come to a boil. After it boils for a minute or two, you can pour the mixture into the sink. Let the pan cool, then sprinkle a tablespoon of baking soda into the empty pan. Use a rubber spatula to loosen the baking soda-laden crust and scrape it into the garbage. Follow this up by using a scouring pad, dish soap, and more baking soda to scrub any remaining burn marks off of the bottom of the pan. Finally, wash the pan one more time with dish soap and water, then let it dry.

My wooden kitchen cabinets are coated with grease. How do I get it off?

When I moved into my new pad, cleaning the kitchen cabinets was one of the most annoying tasks. There is no vented range hood above my stove and, apparently, the people that lived in the house before me LOVED to fry food. So yeah, grease-o-rama. As a cleaner of homes by profession, I’ve encountered this sticky situation many times. My all-time favorite tool for tackling this problem is dish soap! I am a green cleaner, but I have to say, I really like Dawn dish soap for this job; I find its grease-cutting powers to reign supreme. It cuts grease so well, in fact, that it is used almost exclusively by the International Bird Rescue Research Center to remove oil from birds after oil spills! Warms my heart. For this job, grab a bucket, warm water, a sponge, and two microfiber rags. Squirt some Dawn into a half-filled bucket of warm water. Dip your sponge into the bubbly water, squeeze the excess water from the sponge, and lightly wipe the cabinet. Periodically wipe away the bubbles with a wet rag and rub the cabinet with your finger. Is the cabinet still greasy? If so, keep rubbing with the soapy sponge. When all of the grease is gone, wipe away the dish soap with your wet rag and, finally, dry the cabinet thoroughly with a microfiber rag. Cheers!

Where does the term “clean as a whistle” come from, and how do I clean my whistle?

Wow. I love this question. I didn’t realize how much I needed to know this, until you asked. I’ve always assumed that “clean as a whistle” referred to how clean, not dirty a surface was. I figured that the idiom was comparing the clean, clear notes of a whistle sound to a clean counter or some such clean object. Turns out that the word “clean” used in this phrase is interchangeable with the word “complete.” And while in some explanations of the phrase the clear pitch that the whistle makes is referenced, most scholars agree that the phrase describes the sound that a sword makes as it slices through the air and cuts someone’s head “clean” off, as in this quote by an unknown author, from 1849: “A first rate shot. [His] head taken-off clean as a whistle.” Gruesome. Some say that the original phrase was “clean as a whittle,” referring to the smooth feeling of wood after it is whittled. Neat. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both: the slippery, smooth surface of a willow stick debarked to make a whistle? I say pick which explanation you like the most, and run with it. Now, on to how one cleans one’s whistle. As you can imagine, whistles get pretty gross. Your lips and spit are all over the mouthpiece, which I like to call the blowhole, and your germ-laden breath and expectorant are pin-balling the cork ball all over the inside of the whistle to create that familiar trilling sound. So yeah, Bacteria Festival 2021. Decontaminating your whistle is pretty easy. Place the whistle in a bowl of mouthwash and cover it. Let it soak in the bowl for about 30 minutes. Remove the whistle from the bowl and run water over it for about a minute. Let it dry overnight. Blow. Boiling your whistle, if metal, in a pot with a half teaspoon of baking soda for about a minute will also do the trick. Happy blowing!

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illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm

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