Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays: dressing up in costumes (I dressed up like Freddy Krueger twice as a child, and I don’t want to toot my own butt, but they were the most entertaining Freddy K costumes probably ever), trick-or-treating (not so much as an adult), and celebrating cool, spooky things (witches, black kitty cats, razors in candy!). The origins of Halloween are, in my opinion, even cooler and definitely spookier than all the things mentioned above. We should all give the ancient Celtic people a standing O since it is thanks to their pagan rave-ish-eerie-fun festival, Samhain (pronounced sah-win), that we now have the fantastically fun All Hallows’ Eve. The Celts believed that the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest on the night of October 31st, allowing hang-time between humans and ghosts. Because the Celts believed that ghosts, including their own ancestors, would be roaming the Earth during this time, they left offerings and lit bonfires outside of their villages and dressed like animals and monsters to prevent these specters from strolling into town and kidnapping them. The festival took place at the end of the harvest season, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Samhain was considered one of the most important of the four quarterly fire festivals and lasted three days. Participation was mandatory: Failure to join in on the party could get you haunted by evil spirits for the rest of your life (at best) or lead to death (at worst). Some texts claim that the festival lasted six days and was a full-on, bacchanalian free-for-all, during which people stuffed their faces with rich foods and drank plenty of beer. Being that Samhain takes place at the end of the harvest cycle and leads from the light to the dark parts of the year, it’s a great time for cleansing rituals. Since it’s such an ideal time to cleanse things, you should probably continue reading to get some cleaning advice.

My house smells like my dogs. How can I get rid of this smell?

First off, good on you for being able to smell your own home. Have you ever noticed that you don’t really know what your abode smells like? That you can’t distinguish any specific odor? The house simply smells like… your house? I, as a professional cleaner, definitely notice the odor bouquet that makes up the smell of each home that I clean, and the dog odor flower is usually the most diSTINKtive. The first thing that you should be doing to lessen the dog smell in your home is to make sure that your dog’s bodily detritus (hair, saliva, and dander to name a few) isn’t covering all of your furniture and floors. That being said, you should also be vacuuming often. I’m a pet owner (shout-out to Dingle the dog and my cats Hedwig and Mignon), and I vacuum my house at least once a week. I’m not saying that my house is completely devoid of animal stank, but I do my best to make sure that it’s not too too rank. You’ll want to thoroughly vacuum your bare floors, any carpet or rugs, and your furniture (as always, I recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional; it comes with attachments that make it great for cleaning bare floors, carpets, rugs, and furniture). For a little added oomph, you can incorporate a homemade carpet powder into your vacuuming routine. This powder is really easy to make, banishes odors, and smells great. Grab some baking soda and an essential oil that you like. I personally find that orange essential oil packs a punch and kicks pet odors’ ass. Mix about a cup of baking soda with about 20 drops of essential oil, then use a whisk to mix it together. You can add a little diatomaceous earth to kill any fleas or other pests that might be in your home. Now you’ll sprinkle the mixture generously (You can sprinkle it by hand or put it into a lidded container, poke holes in the lid and sprinkle it this way) onto your floors, furniture, and pet’s bedding. Wait about 15 minutes, then vacuum up all of the powdery mixture. You’ll also want to wash your dog’s bedding regularly. Throw the bedding into your washer filled with hot water, a cup of white vinegar, and your favorite laundry detergent, and let ‘er rip. After the wash, put the bedding in the sun to dry.  If you sleep with your pets, as many of us do, wash your bedding and any other linens that are washable (think couch pillows and throws) regularly too (not in the same load as the pet bedding). It’s also important if you have bare floors to mop them. I suggest doing this after you vacuum: two birds, one stone. You know what’s pleasant and good for your bod and soul? Fresh air! Open up those windows and let some in; it’s an easy way to circulate the air and push out that pet odor. Another important step in having a fresh-smelling home is to clean (if you have a window unit) or replace your a/c filter regularly. To add a cherry on top of your now lovely-smelling home cake, you can make your own air freshener: Grab a spray bottle of your liking (I suggest using a misting spray bottle) and add 3/4 cups of water, two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, and around 20 drops of your favorite essential oil (Add a few different kinds of oils to create a new and exciting smell!).

I can’t get all of the hairs out of my hairbrush. How do I get the remaining hair out of the brush?

This is often the case in life, right? Everything is running smoothly, and then there’s that teensy little butthole of a problem right at the end. I like to pull the hair out of my brush about once a week, and I usually just forgo getting the little, annoying ones close to the base of the brush. Recently though, I’ve started getting a little bit more anal with my hair-removal game. You can use any pointy implement (rat tail comb or chopstick), but I find that toothpicks are really great for picking small things out of small places. Makes sense, since they were created to remove food particles from in between teeth (I can’t not pick food from between my teeth after eating; the thought of food rotting between my teeth really skeeves me out). So anyway, grab a toothpick and run it across the base of the brush, under the stubborn hairs and pull up; the hairs should dislodge readily. Also, I just read that I should be disinfecting my brush regularly (about every two weeks), otherwise scalp oil and sloughed-off skin cells, which create bacteria and fungus, will chill on the brush. So basically, you are dirtying your hair during every brushing sesh. Great, glad I didn’t know about this brush-washing necessity until now! Ew. OK, grab a toothbrush, some gentle soap (I’d use Dr. Bronner’s, it’s eco-friendly and gentle), and fill your sink or a bucket up with warm water. If your brush is synthetic, you can dunk and soak the whole hairbrush. If you have a wooden hairbrush, swish the bristle side of the brush in the water for about 30 seconds. After the soaking or swishing, use the toothbrush to scrub in between the brush bristles. You’ll probably need to use your fingers to yank any stubborn gunk that’s stuck to the base and to the bristles. Now rinse the brush in warm water (dunk or swish), squeeze all the excess water from the brush base, lay the brush bristles down on a clean towel, and let it dry overnight. Yay, clean brush!

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illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm