Hey y’all! Where ya been all of my August?! Oh yeah! You were looking at beautiful photographs in this here magazine. I was too. I was also twiddling my fingers so that I could bring my typing A-game to this September edition. I’ve been, as you probably have, worried about how things are going with this frustrating and terrifying pandemic fiasco. To help distract myself from my anxious melancholia, I’ve been spending time cleaning (for money mostly), reading about cleaning, and answering your cleaning questions. I hope that this pithyish column will help to remedy the annoying cleaning issues that you’ve been fretting about and maybe even bring a smile to your face.

I recently moved into a home that smells like cigarette smoke. How can I get rid of the smell?

So the people who formerly lived in your home decided to not only paint their lungs with tar, but to paint the walls with it too? Nice. The first thing you’ll have to do to remove the cigarette smell is to wipe down all the surfaces in your house. This is tedious, but it’s your best bet if you want to completely cleanse your new digs. If the house is furnished with any of the previous tenants’ stinky stuff, you’ll have to wipe it down or air it out (put it outside or near open windows or doors). If you want to give this nicotine-smell-eradication mission its best chance, bring the furniture to the dump or throw it onto the street for garbage collection (that almost never comes now, because the New Orleans Department of Public Works is completely incompetent and hires sanitation companies that pay their workers barely enough to survive). Maybe you’re considering giving this furniture to someone or donating it? I definitely do not suggest gifting stank furniture to Goodwill or to your friends; that’s just rude. Anyway, I digress. To clean the house, mix up a spray bottle filled halfway with white vinegar and halfway with water (I like to add an essential oil to give the solution some umph), spray all the walls, windows, and floors with this spray and wipe away the stench. You’ll also want to air your house out, so open the windows and doors for the day. Using fans is helpful too. If you’re stubborn and keep the smelly furniture, you’ll have to wipe down every inch of it, or saturate any cloth furniture and let it dry. Letting furniture sit in the sun is also helpful. After your vinegar-air cleansing day, place some bowls of vinegar and baking soda around the house; these will help suck up any remaining smell. Also, if possible, using an air purifier or two works wonders.

I have tiny ants all over my kitchen counters. Help!

What happened when the Pink Panther stepped on the ant? Dead ant. Dead ant. Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, DEAD ANNNNT (sung to the tune of the Pink Panther theme song). Now, not only will you know how to eradicate ants, you have a cute joke to tell your friends and family! Boo, you have sugar ants. Sugar ant is a term used to describe a variety of ant species that seeks out sweets in your home. These sugar ants are teensy and annoyingly persistent in their quest to raid your kitchen counters, cabinets, and sinks for food to haul back to their nest. I recently dealt with sugar ants in my kitchen, and I found a way to kill them (makes me feel bad) and to repel them that works like a charm. To kill the ants that are pompously crawling right in front of your face, fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water and saturate the poor cute things. To deter them, grab a lemon and peel it. Place a few pulp-free peels in places where you’ve seen the ants. Because lemons have an acidic oil that is toxic to ants and disrupts their trail, they skedaddle as soon as you put the peels out. To banish the most stubborn of these Formicidae, I grabbed some salt and pepper and sprinkled it around the corners and grout on the counter. Salt absorbs water and vapor from the air, and since ants breathe through their exoskeletons, when they come into contact with salt they shrivel up and die. The pepper is just an added punch in the face; the smell irritates them—seriously. Because of this lemon, salt, and pepper combo, I haven’t seen ants in my kitchen in about a month! Yippee!

Is there an eco-friendly/DIY way to make air freshener for my home?

When the COVID insanity first took hold of our nation, I started making cleaning products. One of those products was an air freshener/air sanitizer. That’s right—my fear of contamination was so deep, I felt that not only wearing a mask and disinfecting surfaces was necessary, but cleansing the air in front of my face was important too. The first thing that you’ll need is an 8-ounce misting spray bottle. The misting spray bottle will nebulise the freshening solution, causing it to become a sassy suspension of liquid droplets that will hang out in the air longer. There are a few different recipes that you can follow, depending on how potent you want your freshener to be. If you’re looking for a solution to add a nice, fresh smell to your home’s air, fill your misting spray bottle with distilled water and add about 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice, or 10 drops of essential oil and a few sprigs, leaves, or peelings from the plant or fruit of your choice. A freshener that I really enjoy is lemon-basil. For this delicious concoction, you’ll add around 10 drops of lemon essential oil and 7 or 8 leaves of basil to the bottle, shake and spray. If you’re looking for more of an air deodorizer, add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to 10 ounces of distilled water. Next, squirt about 20 drops of the essential oil or oils (10 drops each for two essential oils and so on and so forth), then shake and spray. If you are trying to slay air-born bacteria, mix 2 tablespoons of 70% rubbing alcohol or the highest proof vodka (I prefer rubbing alcohol, because the smell of ethanol makes me retch) that you can find with distilled water and add 20 drops of your favorite essential oil or oils, then shake and spray. I hope that one of these potent potions makes your home’s air smell sweet and clean.

Got cleaning questions? Email

illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm

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