Ask a Clean Person: Mouse Turds, Copper Pots, and Onion Smells

I’m not sure if this counts as a cleaning question, but it’s definitely household maintenance. My roommates and I have had a mouse problem for months. There’s probably only one mouse, but I guess there may be many that look the same? We try to keep our kitchen generally clean, but the stove is weirdly not attached to the counters, so it’s pretty difficult to clean between the two. We’ve put out two different kinds of sticky traps with cheese, with no mouse-catching luck. Every morning there are little mouse poops on the stove top/elsewhere on the kitchen counter … gross! What’s the most reliable and humane way of catching mice and/or discouraging the mouse population from pooping all over our kitchen? I just came back to the apartment from a week at my parents’ house and there’s SO much mouse poop on the counters : ( :’ (

I’ve been lucky to have never had a mouse problem, which means that sometime tomorrow I can expect a family of Fievels to move into my home, so I consulted noted vermin removal expert Alex Balk for his thoughts on mouse combat techniques. Quoth Balk:

The best I can tell you is to get some glue traps and put them out where you see mice. This will unfortunately result in your having to cart dead (or worse, living) mice to the trash, but, you know, that’s the way it is. More importantly, you need to figure out how they’re getting in (it’s usually through the pipes in the radiators; infestations tend to happen when the seasons change) and patch up whatever hole they’re entering through. Steel wool usually does the trick; they can’t get past it or eat through it. Most NYC apartments have an exterminator who comes through once a month. Check with your super and get him to do it.

Good luck! I hope you’re not too creeped out. You WILL spend the next six months thinking that you’ve just seen something scurry across the room out of the corner of your eye, but eventually you will recover.

Now onto your stove; the gas line on stoves is usually installed with enough slack that the stove can be pulled out from the wall. You’ll need to grip either side of the unit and sort of shimmy it forward until it clears the counter enough for you to be able to angle it and crawl into the space you’ve created to clean things up.

Fill a bucket with the cleaning solution of your choice — you can dilute glass cleaner, countertop cleaner or just plain old ammonia (columnist’s choice because of its grease-fighting prowess but not without controversy due to an extreme case of OMG DANGEROUS CHEMICAL WARNING WARNING) with warm water, grab a sponge with a scrungy back, and wipe down the sides of the oven and exposed cabinetry. Once that’s done, turn your attention to the floor space. You’ll want to tackle the floors last, because as you clean the other surfaces gunk and dirty water is going to fall on the floor. I know how obvious it sounds when you see it written out like that, but paying attention to the order of things is important when discussing cleaning, and I operate under the assumption that the rest of you don’t spend your days thinking about this sort of stuff.

Once you’ve gotten everything cleaned up, shimmy the oven back into position. Remove any turdlets from your countertops, then spray the surface down with a heavy dose of an all-purpose cleaner (something like Fantastic or one of its ilk) and wipe down with paper towels. If it’s going to make you feel better about things go ahead and give it two spray’n’wipes, I’ll understand.

My mother has had this full set of copper pots and pans for as long as I can remember. So they’re at least 18ish years old. I absolutely love love love copper, but this set just looks blah. (I once had a friend over in middle school and I remember her asking “Why do you guys have a bunch of dirty pots displayed?” THEY ARE CLEAN!)

I notice when I cook certain things that spill over, when wiped away we’re left with a bit of shiny pretty copper. Is there a way to make ALL of these shiny and pretty? My mother isn’t really one to cook, so they sit in a lower cupboard. I want to offer to take them off her hands and then shine ’em up, if possible.

Ah copper. It’s the beautiful but temperamental silk shirt of the cookware world.

Copper, like silver, tarnishes quickly and therefore needs to be polished to retain its shiny loveliness. There are a number of copper polishes available, any one of which will do the job, but since Martha Stewart uses Red Bear that’s what I’m gonna tell you to go with. If you have a hard time locating it, Twinkle also makes a good product. In terms of application, you’ll follow the same basic steps as you would when polishing silver — use a soft rag, polish in a circular motion, rinse with warm water, etc. etc.

You can also use either vinegar or lemon juice if you’re looking for a cheaper-slash-greener alternative to commercial copper polish; the acid will counteract the copper oxides that cause tarnishing.

Would love some assistance with the following quandaries:

1) How to remove the scent of raw onions from a wooden cutting board; and
2) How to remove lingering food odors from reusable plastic storage containers.

You’re on lady! Actually this is one where I’ll ask the commentariat to wow us with their weird and wonderful methods, but in my official capacity as A Clean Person here are two tried and true approaches:

1. To get the smell of onion out of a cutting board, sprinkle baking soda and kosher salt on the stinky surface and then rub it down with the juicy side of a half a lemon. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then wash with warm soapy water.

2. To get the stank out of Tupperware, fill the container with white vinegar, let stand for 30 minutes — longer for really strong smells — and then wash as usual.

OK your turn now!

Previously: The Answer Is Always Bleach.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Is anything you own dirty?