What do you say when you overhear someone state that there is no time of the year in which a cleaner of homes should become overheated, since they work inside of air conditioned houses? “Ju Ly!” Get it?! I am not only a professional cleaner, I am also a lover and writer of dad jokes. And I also know that I’ve almost keeled over in air conditioned homes in the summertime. It’s July, and according to weather forecasters it is 97 degrees outside today, but it feels like 107. Sometimes that a/c just can’t keep up. So anyway, stay hydrated… even inside! Woop woop.

My vintage satin brocade sofa has a big water stain on it. How do I get it out? 

J’adore! How beautiful. Most of us have experienced furniture upholstered in this type of fabric only through plastic, as our Maw Maws covered these prized pieces to keep them pristine. Maw Maw knows that brocade fabric is as lovely as it is delicate. Brocade is created by using a Jacquard loom. This loom weaves thread to create a raised pattern resulting in an embossed or embroidered effect. The Jacquard loom was a real game changer and kid saver when it was invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in the 1700s. Before Monsieur Jacquard invented his loom, kids were required to work long hours weaving the brocade fabric on a traditional hand loom. Bad. But I digress. There are two ways to tackle this, depending on the cleaning code listed on the label of your sofa (I taught you all about upholstery cleaning codes in my September 2020 column). Most brocade upholstery will be listed as “S,” meaning only solvent cleaners are allowed, no water. A good non-moist solvent is isopropyl alcohol. For this method, you’ll need a bunch of cotton balls or a small white towel. You’ll want to test the alcohol trick on a non-obvious area of the sofa first, to ensure that the alcohol doesn’t change the color of the fabric. If it does, leave the job to the pros. If you’re clear to continue, pour some alcohol onto a cotton ball or the towel. Dab the stain using a slight brushing motion, until you see the stain start to disappear. Continue until the stain is gone. Another trick is to use steam. Since steam is a vapor made of water, you obviously can’t use it on brocade upholstery that is listed as “S;” you can only steam brocade upholstery if the tag lists it as “W.” If you are lucky and the tag has a “W” on it, do a little jig, because steaming is actually the most effective way to remove stains. But (and this is a big BUT) only use distilled water in the steamer. Plain old water contains minerals which cause water spots and rings, therefore amplifying your problem instead of eliminating it. I hope that one of these suggestions helps you get the job done.

My dog brought fleas into the house. Help me!

Yikes. Fleas are a major bummer. In fact, aside from maggots, fleas are the bugs that disgust me most. And as you probably know, fleas multiply quickly and their tiny bites pack a highly itchy punch. Also, they carry diseases… so gross. There are a few ways to kill fleas and to keep them at bay. Personally, I use a mixture of water, white vinegar, and Dawn dish soap (Check out the June issue to read why Dawn is a cleaning gangster). FYI—this first remedy is for bare or hardwood floors only; no good for fleas in carpet. To get started, you’ll need a spray bottle. Add half water and half vinegar, then squirt about two blobs of Dawn into the bottle. Grab a wet rag and a dry rag. First you’ll vacuum your floor to remove the live fleas; immediately empty your vacuum into a bag, seal the bag, and put it outside. Now get on your hands and knees and spray, then wipe, then spray, then wipe. If you have hardwood floors, make sure to spray in the cracks really well. You can also create a watery death trap/bog for fleas by making a mixture of half water and half dish soap. Fill a few bowls with this mixture and place the bowls around the house at night (not unlike vampires, fleas are nocturnal). Place some lamps next to the bowls; the light will lure the fleas in the direction of their watery grave. As the fleas dive into the solution, they become trapped by its viscosity. Another really effective way to kill fleas is with diatomaceous earth. This method is good on both carpet and bare floors. Diatomaceous earth is rad; it’s kind of like dinosaurs! This fine powder is made of the microscopic remains of fossilized algae, called diatoms. It’s also non-toxic to humans and animals. Diatomaceous earth kills the fleas by damaging their exoskeletons. The abrasive powder clings to their tiny, hard bodies, sucks out all of their gooey moisture, and causes them to dry up and perish. Wicked. Salt works in a similar fashion, and you most likely already have that in your house. Going forward, a pretty and fragrant preventative measure is to install certain flea-repelling plants around your home. Various plants contain specific oils, compounds, and chemicals that fleas hate. For example, fleas despise rosemary, pennyroyal, chrysanthemums, lavender, and spearmint. Good luck!

I love how Swiffer dusters remove dust, but I’d like to find a more eco-friendly version. Any suggestions?

I love the way Swiffer dusters work too. I used to use them in my business for dusting. In order to make them more eco-friendly, I tried washing them. While the Swiffer dusters didn’t fall apart, they did shrink into little puff balls and became nearly impossible to get back onto the duster wands that come with the Swiffer heads. My solution is to make my own Swiffer-like dusters (I call them Spirit Dusters) using soft felt or fleece, or to buy them online (you can search Etsy, for example). There are many patterns out there for making dusters that will fit onto these wands. Not only do the felt/fleece dusters not fall apart when laundered—they actually work better the more they are washed and dried! So yeah, go buy some felt and fleece!

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illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm

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