Man oh man, thank goodness it’s October, because the end of August and September were a doozy. Hurricane Ida was a real Tempestarii (weather witch), bringing with her so much devastation to towns in southeastern Louisiana. My hometown of LaPlace is in that sad number. Another reason that I’m thankful for October is because it brings with it cooler weather that will, hopefully, slow down the putrification of the tons and tons of garbage from pre- and now post-Ida that hasn’t been picked up, due to our stinky local government. At this point, the people of New Orleans are outnumbered by the maggots that have sprung up. They have now formed an alliance, led by their maggot leader Funk LaRott. With all of this said, let’s try not to fret. It’s time for us to embrace easy-breezy fall and leave behind the stench of summer. Maybe this new month will bring higher wages for our sanitation hoppers, less garbage, and hopefully some of our worries will melt away. As a wise man named Jack Handy once said, “If you ever drop your keys into a lake of molten lava, let them go, because, man, they’re gone.” OK, on to the cleaning questions.

I had no electricity for ten days, and all of the food in my fridge rotted. It smells really bad now. How do I remove the smell?

Hurricane power outages have so many of us dealing with this right now. All those pesky microbes (bacteria, yeasts, and mold) are creating chemicals with terrible odors. You open your fridge and are hit in the face with an aroma that one might liken to a sweet, musty fart (or a dead body). Yucky. First, unplug the fridge. Remove all the rotting food and please—I beg of you—contain that rot as much as possible. Place the spoiled food in sealed bags and then into garbage bags. Place those garbage bags into more garbage bags, then place the garbage-bagged garbage into more garbage bags. This containment of the rotting food and masking of its nasty smell is very important. Once the decaying food is placed outside in your already filled garbage can (which is sitting in the sweltering heat), all bets are off. It’s fly party time. Flies looooove the smell of decay, and here’s why: when organic matter (animal or vegetable) starts to rot, it becomes mushy, and female flies know that this mush is the perfect breeding ground for fly larvae (maggots, which make me want to die). Upon seeing this gushy putrescence, the pregnant lady flies lay their eggs in batches (around 50 to 100 in the case of the house fly). Within a mere 12 hours, the eggs hatch, and the maggots burrow their revolting little bodies into this soft material. For the next several days, the maggots chow down on this disgusting smorgasbord, until they grow into pupae (teenage flies). Finally, the adult flies come into their own, and the life cycle begins again. It all takes as little as 10 days to go from egg to adult. I hope this science lesson disgusts you enough that you double-bag. After the fridge is empty, use a dry rag to soak up all the putrid liquid that has seeped out of the food you just removed. Immediately put that rag into a bucket of vinegar and water and let it soak, or throw it away. Don’t use it again for this cleaning—you don’t want to re-contaminate your fridge. Now remove all the shelves, drawers, and vent covers from the fridge. You’ll also want to remove the drip pan from underneath. The drip pan is located behind that vent-looking thing under the doors of the fridge called the kick panel; it’s usually very easy to remove the kick panel and the drip pan. Tip your fridge back slightly and pull the pan out. In some refrigerator models, this pan is accessed from the back of the fridge. Let all of these parts soak in a sink or tub filled with hot water, white vinegar, and dish detergent (I use Dawn). After about an hour, grab a sponge and scrub, getting into all of the nooks and crannies, to get the remaining food particles and juice off. After they’re washed, take them outside, hose them off, and let them sit in the sun all day to dry. These parts will not go back into the fridge until it is clean. Speaking of, spray every inch of the inside of the fridge and the freezer (inside the vent holes too) with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, and let it sit for about an hour with the fridge door open. After the hour is up, grab a clean rag, dip it into a solution of equal parts warm water, white vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, and Dawn and thoroughly wipe the inside of the refrigerator. Make sure to really clean inside, underneath, and around the rubber gaskets that are attached to the door and, as much as possible, inside of the vents on the walls of the fridge. Next, you’ll make a paste of half water and half baking soda. Coat the inside of the fridge and freezer with this viscous concoction and, with the fridge doors open, let it sit overnight. In the morning, spray the fridge and freezer with your water and vinegar solution and wipe away the baking soda paste. If your fridge still smells, and if it is at all possible, take your fridge outside on a dry and sunny day and let it sit in the sun all day long. The sun is a real bacteria killer. If you can’t take your fridge outside, put some pans of activated charcoal and baking soda inside the fridge and freezer, plug the fridge in, close the doors, and let this circulate for a day. This will help absorb some of the yucky smell. If you still smell the funk, try placing an air purifier in front of the unplugged, open fridge overnight. Unfortunately, sometimes none of these remedies will banish the stench. In that case, you’ll need to bring in the professionals or, in extreme cases, buy a new refrigerator. Eek! I really hope these cleaning tips work for you.

My house took on a little bit of water during the storm, and now I have black mold. How do I get rid of it?

Mold is such a bummer. I am extremely allergic to it, so I understand how much of a buzzkill this problem is. I actually tackled this musty problem in last April’s edition of Tips. Let’s revisit, shall we? Firstly, I really, really, really recommend hiring a professional to remove black mold. Attempting to remove black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) yourself can be detrimental to your health and can exacerbate the problem if done incorrectly. Since Hurricane Ida has been such a money-sucker, many of us will be tackling mold remediation ourselves, so let’s get to know this spawn of Satan and learn how to send him back to hell. Mold is a monster that usually cloaks itself in splotchy, black patches, but can also appear gray or dark green. It releases mycotoxins, which are toxic chemicals present in its spores and are released into the air. If the spores are chillin’ on your walls, you are bound to inhale these mycotoxins. So yeah, tackling this in a willy-nilly manner is a recipe for chronic coughing and sneezing, respiratory irritation, skin disorders (including rashes), headaches, chronic fatigue, and even bleeding lungs! If you decide to go it alone, please follow these instructions—to a T! First, you’ll need to protect yourself. Get a respirator rated to protect you against spores that can lead to black mold poisoning, and clothing that will cover all of your skin (long-sleeved shirt and long pants are essential). This might sound like overkill, but I recommend buying a cheap hazmat suit from a hardware store. Protect your pretty peepers with safety goggles and your hands with rubber gloves. Discard the gloves and get a new pair each time you take a break or when you finish your work. Once you’re wearing protective clothing, you can prepare the area for cleaning. Here’s what you’ll need to do: Turn off your air conditioner or heater. You don’t want the air flow to move the black mold throughout your home while you’re attempting to remove it. Grab a heavy tarp and painters tape and seal all doorways or other openings that lead from the moldy room to the rest of your house. Borrow or buy an exhaust fan and place it near outdoor openings; the fan will help to move any airborne spores out of your home. Now test the area where the mold is hanging out for moisture; a moisture meter is a good tool for this. Since you can’t touch the mold with an ungloved hand, this meter is a safer option. If there is no moisture in the area, spray it with water. The water will wrangle black mold spores and prevent them from becoming airborne. Now it’s time to treat the area. Since I prefer going the eco-friendly route, I suggest filling a spray bottle with one part baking soda, five parts white vinegar, and five parts water. Spray the area where the black mold is squatting, and let the solution sit for 30 minutes to an hour. After this time is up, scrub the area with a sponge. Let the area dry, and repeat if you still see mold. Finally (phew!), clean the area where the mold has been eradicated. Throw away any debris that may contain black mold, and thoroughly clean the room: Wipe all the walls, wipe any light fixtures or fans in the room, clean all windows, and mop the floors. Now you can unseal your doorways. You’ll want to leave the exhaust fan on for a few hours—or even a full day if you can—so as not to welcome black mold into your home again. To prevent the mold from coming back, you’ll definitely want to control the moisture in the room. Air it out whenever possible. Also, regularly clean and disinfect areas that are prone to wetness. If you have a leak, repair it ASAP. Always dry wet items prior to storing them. Good luck!

My garbage can is disgusting. Any advice for how to clean it?

Walking through the streets of New Orleans right now is like taking a leisurely stroll through Fresh Kills. Stanky. If your garbage is ever picked up, you’ll definitely want to decontaminate and remove the rot smell from your garbage can. Remember my maggot rant? Well, prepare yourself; you’re about to enter the belly of the beast. Since this job is so heinous, I suggest wearing rubber gloves, a face mask, a hat, long sleeves, and construction goggles. Garbage juice and maggots are repugnant to me and the thought of them touching my skin is terrifying, so I feel that these measures are warranted. I’m not usually a bleach person (I own an eco-friendly cleaning company for Christ’s sake), but desperate times call for desperate measures. If the garbage can wouldn’t melt and toxic smoke wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere, I’d suggest lighting the can on fire. Instead, I’ll tell you to pour a gallon of bleach into the can. Make sure to spatter the inside of the lid and sides of the can as you pour it in. While this nightmare mixture marinates, close the lid and take a 30 minute vomit/cry break. OK, time to get back in there and pour the grubby brew out of the can. Grab a garden hose with a sprayer head on it, and adjust the sprayer to the “jet” setting. Tilt the garbage can at a 45 degree angle, lid open, and stand to the side of the can. After the remaining devil juice is out of the can, spray the inside of the garbage can. Spray the lid first, then the sides of the can and finally the bottom. There will probably be some dried-on maggot corpses in the can (so much barf), so you’ll have to hold the hose closely over them to loosen and wash them out of the can. Once all of this disgustingness has been sprayed out, pour another gallon of bleach into the can in the splatter motion mentioned above and close the can for about an hour. After the hour is up, spray it out one more time. Turn the garbage can upside down with the lid opened and let it drip dry. After all of this fun, you can turn the can right-side-up, leave the lid open and let it sit in the sun all day; the sun will help to kill bacteria and the foul odor it produces. Voilà, hopefully less stink! P.S. If you want to go the eco-friendly route (which I normally do), you can substitute white vinegar for bleach. With this option, you’ll need to allow the vinegar to sit in the can for double the time as the bleach. I hope this helps!

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illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm

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