A grayscale cartoon illustration of a light-skinned person skipping in a field of flowers and spraying a squirt bottle into a cloud that reads “2021!” The person has long, light hair and is holding a mask in their hand behind them. Their eyes are closed and they’re smiling. There are flowers in the air behind them. Illustration by Ben Claassen III.

Well folks, we made it; it’s now 2021! HALLELUJAH! Hopefully this year brings brighter days… fingers crossed over here. Anyway, as we all know, with a new year comes New Year’s resolutions. Many people focus their attention on getting their homes in order: decluttering, organizing, and cleaning. I am here to help you with that last item. Here we go!

What is the best way to get funky smells out of clothes if you are not in a situation where you can wash them? For instance, if traveling (not that I do that anymore).

I toured with a band as a roadie for a while (shout out to Quintron and Miss Pussycat) and, after a month or so of being on the road, one tends to run out of clean clothes. Also, in some cases, clothes worn by the artists on stage aren’t washable. Often, the only solution to remove the van-stage stink from one’s clothes is to lean on Febreze. But Febreze can be toxic—to the tune of damage to vision, skin allergies and irritation, and developmental and reproductive effects, just to name a few. But there is still hope! Luckily, you can make a non-toxic version yourself. I like to call it GretaThunbergBreze. To make this solution, you’ll need a 16 ounce misting spray bottle (often used in hair salons; I like these bottles for clothes, because they don’t leave water spots, vs. regular spray bottles which sometimes do), a funnel, a fork, two cups of distilled water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and ten drops of the essential oil of your choice. Pour the baking soda into a bowl. Next, add ten drops of essential oil to the bowl and use the fork to mix these ingredients together. Use your funnel to pour the baking soda mixture into the spray bottle. Add the distilled water and gently shake to combine the ingredients. Now, holding the spray bottle about eight inches away, GretaThunbergBreze your stinky clothes.

I have an old cast iron sink. The enamel is chipped in some places, causing it to have rust stains. I use a cleanser on it, which works for a while, but the stains keep coming back. What should I do to remove the stains?

As someone who cleans for a living, I spend a lot of time scrubbing rust stains off of beautiful enamel sinks and tubs; I find that the orange stains usually ooze from the overflow holes. Removing the stains is not hard. But unless you constantly scrub around the cracks where the rust seeps through, you will always deal with this problem. So I recommend cleaning the rust stains, then sealing the cracks. There are a few ways to remove the stains, but I tend to do it one of two ways. First, spray the stain with a mixture of vinegar and water. Let this mixture sit for about 20 minutes. Next, sprinkle some Bon Ami over the rust stain and onto a scouring pad. Use the scouring pad to scrub the stain away. If the stain is stubborn and won’t budge, use pumice (pumice also works wonders on calcium deposits inside of toilet bowls). I use a pumice stone that has a handle because a) I find that it’s easier to maneuver and b) if I am cleaning a toilet I don’t have to stick my hand into poopy water. Let me take a moment to expound on the majesty that is pumice stone. The pumice stone’s ability to disintegrate rust and calcium deposits with minimal effort is, like the Hope Diamond, worth a quarter of a billion dollars. Unlike the Hope Diamond, you’ll pay only $6 for the convenience that it provides. As you can see, this mighty stone really rocks (sorry, I had to do it)! Anyway, after you remove those pesky rust stains, you’ll want to seal the cracks in your sink. You can do this easily. After the cracks are clean and dry, smear some metal filler (such as Devcon 50345 Metal Patch and Fill) over them. Let this dry. Next use 320 to 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the lumpy metal filler. Finally, paint the area using a small paint brush with appliance epoxy. And voilà! Permanently pretty sink!

How the hell does a person get water rings out of a drinking glass?!

I hate hard-water-stained drinking glasses. These rings/spots make a glass look dirty. This buildup is caused by calcium and magnesium ions. Oh, ions. You wash and wash with dish soap, water, and a sponge, and they just won’t budge! Well, don’t worry—there is hope. Soak the glass in a mixture of half white vinegar and half warm, distilled water. Distilled water is better than tap water because it is mineral free and, as we know, the rings are caused by mineral ions. Let it soak for about 20 minutes. Follow this by using a sponge and dish soap to wash the glass. You can use a scouring pad along with the sponge, to add a little extra scrubbing power. Don’t scrub too hard, though; we don’t want to scratch the glass! Finally, dry the glass. If you still see a ring or two, try spraying the glass with pure white vinegar and wiping it with a clean cloth or rag.

I have a fine, blue velvet skirt suit of my mother’s that could use some laundering. Should I make any attempt to do it myself, or is this why dry cleaners exist?

Oh, that sounds lovely! I’m quite a clothes horse for vintage, so I completely relate to this dilemma. The answer to this question depends on the type of velvet that you want to clean. Is the skirt suit made of silk, knit velvet, or fine velvet with plain weave? If so, it should be dry cleaned. If the suit is made of cotton velvet, such as crushed velvet, you can wash it at home. Hand washing velvet is the best idea, if washing it at home. Submerge the item in a sink or bathtub of cool water (H2O, not the ubiquitous men’s fragrance of the same name from the  ‘90s). Add less than a tablespoon of a gentle laundry soap (one that says “gentle” or “hand wash” on the bottle). Baby shampoo also works. Gently agitate the water with your hands to distribute the soap. After this, soak it for about an hour. Finally, lay your fab skirt flat to dry (I like to use a mesh drying rack, so that both sides dry evenly). I hope this helps!

Got cleaning questions? Email

illustrations by Ben Claassen III

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