Well, well, well, it’s November again! We all know what that means, right? It’s time for us to gaze up at the full Beaver Moon! According to The Peculiar Brunette, the big ole Beaver will make its appearance on Monday, November 27 and will be at peak fullness at 3:16 a.m. CST. This moon is named after the Castor canadensis, a.k.a. North America’s largest rodent, because it is by its light during this time of year that these nocturnal, semi-aquatic eager beavers work feverishly to complete their winter lodges. In various indigenous cultures, the beaver is a symbol of resourcefulness, patience, and hard work. Because they diligently and expertly work to achieve their goals, beavers represent wisdom and adaptability. But beavers aren’t just symbolically significant! Ever heard of a little thing called global warming? Well, beavers are “ecosystem engineers” and benefit the Earth big time! The damn dams that they build help to slow erosion and flooding, filter pollutants from water, create habitats for other wildlife, and even prevent wildfires! Do you like to make your bod smell good with perfume? Do you enjoy the sweet taste of raspberry flavoring? Well, you can blow a kiss to the beaver’s asshole (or to the castor gland nestled right next to its anus, to be anatomically precise), because you just might be wearing or consuming its territory-marking, fragrant, and highly versatile secretion: castoreum! Canadians are so fond of beavers that they made them the symbol of sovereignty with the National Symbol of Canada Act in 1975! So this November, if you are feeling unsure of yourself and need some motivation, think of the industrious and determined beaver, and say to yourself “WWBD (What Would Beavers Do)?” Now let’s clean!

My washing machine smells bad. How do I clean it?

Sounds like you’ve got some bacteria and mold hanging out in the gasket, seal, and detergent dispenser of your washer. Lots of body oils, dirt, and scum go through your washer, so it’s the perfect breeding ground for the funk. Because I wash a huge amount of rags tainted by people’s skin and poop remnants on a daily basis, my washer gets really rank. I have to sanitize it regularly. For this job, first remove your soap, bleach, and softener dispensers and scrub them thoroughly with dish soap and hot water. Use a toothbrush and pipe cleaner to get into all of the dirt hiding places. Spray and wipe the areas from whence the dispensers came with a mixture of half water and half vinegar before reinstalling them. If you have a front-loading washer, spray the gaskets around the door with your vinegar mixture, and wipe every inch of the rubber to remove all the icky build-up. For a top-loading washer, thoroughly wipe the underside of the lid, the top area of the clothing tub, a.k.a. inner drum, and around the inside of the mouth of the inner drum. Return all of your dispensers. Now it’s time to sanitize the inside of your machine. Spray the inner drum with the vinegar mixture and sprinkle some baking soda onto a wet sponge. Thoroughly wipe the inside of the tub. Grab a wet rag and remove the residue. Set your washer to the hottest water setting and fill it. Pour 4 cups of vinegar into a top-loading machine (or 2 cups for a front-loading machine). After the washer agitates the water and vinegar for a few minutes, pause the cycle and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, let ’er rip until the cycle is complete. Now for the service wash, which will remove any remaining vinegar residue and complete your sanitization adventure. Some newer washers have a self-cleaning setting. But if your washer is old school, run it through the longest cycle using the hottest water setting. To keep your washer smelling fresh, sanitize it once a month!

How do I remove a sweat stain from a straw hat?

Straw hats are a great summertime accessory down here in Naaawlins; I’m imagining the cast of Oliver Stone’s JFK with their seersucker suits and straw fedoras plastered to their sweaty bodies. Before jumping into this cleaning project, look for a cleaning label inside of the hat. If the hat has one, follow those instructions. If no label is present, you’ll have to cross your fingers and carefully try the following options. If the stain is relatively new, try a “dry washing” of the hat first. Sprinkle enough talcum powder or cornstarch to cover the stain. The powder should soak up the moist body oil. Let this sit for an hour, then brush the powder off. If the stain isn’t budging, you’ll have to move on to option two. Squirt a teensy drop of dish soap onto a moist, white rag. With light pressure, move the rag in a circular motion. Wipe away any suds with a damp rag. Let the hat dry in front of a fan. Do not dry the hat in the sun; it can bleach the straw. If the stain is still visible, grab some hydrogen peroxide and a soft-bristled brush. Make a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 peroxide. Move the brush in a light circular motion. After this, dab the area that you just cleaned with a moist rag and let it air dry. If the stain is still holding fast and the label says that it’s OK, you can give it a hath (hat bath). And again, if the hat has no label, plunge at your own risk; you might damage the hat. Add a teaspoon of dish soap to a bowl (or your sink) filled with warm water. Move a soft-bristled toothbrush in a circular motion over the stains. Rinse the hat under gently running, warm water, then blot it with a dry, white towel. According to my avid straw-hat-wearing friend and proponent of the hath technique, L.J. Goldstein, if you wear the brim of the hat downward-facing, you’ll want to pull the brim down after submerging it, shape the brim the way that you desire, and place it on your head to dry; drying it on your noggin prevents shrinkage. If you prefer not to wear your hat while it dries, put it on a mannequin head or hat form so it keeps its shape and size. If all of these remedies fail, let the professionals take a crack at it. Most dry cleaning services clean hats. Good luck!

Got cleaning questions? Email

illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm
Illustration: Svendsen, G.E. (1978). Castor and Anal Glands of the Beaver (Castor canadensis). Journal of Mammalogy, 59, 618-620.

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