Ask a Clean Person: Sprouting Windows, Moldy Teeth, and Dirty Tea

My boyfriend and I found what I like to call a Unicorn Apartment, a roomy rent controlled 1 BR in Kensington, BK. But tonight what I thought was a dead bug (ew) on the top of our windowsill turns out to be a mushroom. Growing out of a sizable crack in the ledge. Ew turns to WTF? There’s always been water damage to the wall by the window — we live on the top floor and it’s been unusually rainy to boot — but we’ve never smelled anything peculiar before, or had any mysterious symptoms. But this is the weirdest thing I’ve encountered. When I lived in Boston, I had similar water damage to my top floor apartment and ended up with some decaying, then falling, ceiling tiles. It was inconvenient and led to an unfortunate plumber’s butt situation starring my landlord’s brother, but there wasn’t like a Super Mario Bros.-level festering in the walls. Since we never had any drips or leaks in this apartment, I didn’t really bother to complain about the visible water damage because, hey, rent control. But now I’m flipping out.

Of course we will be talking to the landlord and super. But on a scale of 1 to 11, how freaked out should we be? And is there anything we should do in case our notoriously slow landlord takes forever to solve the problem?

Short term, you will be fine health-wise. But long term that’s a big no-no — mushrooms can be dangerous in the same way mold can be. So it needs to be taken care of thoroughly if you’re going to continue to live in the apartment.

This really isn’t something, as a renter, that you want to take into your own hands. You can remove the mushroom and treat the area, but honestly you’re really better off asking your landlord to bring in — and pay for — professionals. There is likely some pretty major structural damage going on that your landlord will need to take care of, in addition to bringing in a mold expert to remove the mushroom. Stay on him about this; you may want to call the your local Housing Authority to ask about the laws regarding landlords and mold removal and be nice, but find a way to mention that call to your landlord. The last thing a landlord wants is a visit from the Housing Authority inspectors, and the mere whiff of trouble might be enough to spur him into swift action. Just be like, “I wasn’t sure how to find a mold expert, so I called the Housing Authority for help!” or some such. There is clearly a MAJOR leak if enough water has collected that fungi can grow, and the mushroom will keep coming back and worse if it’s not fixed.

Ugh. I’m so sorry this is happening in your Unicorn Apartment. Mushrooms in the house. Dear God. I wouldn’t blame you if you were taking bleach showers by now.

I got custom tooth-whitening trays from the dentist, and all was well until the time I must have put them away in their plastic zippered pouch before they were quite dry. They developed a mildew smell that is barely perceptible — unless, of course, you put them in your mouth, in which case the smell fills your entire consciousness. I tried soaking them for a long time in hydrogen peroxide, with no improvement. What else can I try? The plastic is delicate, and I worry that anything strong enough to work will melt it. In the midst of all this, I had a dream that I was producing a Broadway musical about a heroic young Mexican woman who worked as an itinerant tooth-whitener. The show was to be called “Blanqueadora!” True story.

I gratefully await your reply in a state of catlike readiness.

You know what I love best about writing this column? (Other than forwarding emails about mushrooms growing out of window frames to Edith and laughing myself stupid when she inevitably takes to her fainting couch from the horror of it all?) That you ladies (and gents! You too!) are so fantastically weird. I mean that in the best possible way, Blanqueadorable.

And hey, this is a pretty easy one but first I have to remind any of you with fancy orthodontics to never never never experiment with cleaning products on your retainers and such. When in doubt, call your orthodontist’s office to ask what will be safe on the very fine plastics used to fix your fangs.

OK, but back to your poor smelly trays. Try soaking them in Polident or Efferdent or any other of the many –dent products out there designed to clean dentures. That ought to do it! There are also products specifically made for retainers, but the denture tablets should work just fine and be easier to find, and also are cheaper.

Bonus: You can use any leftover tablets to clean your diamonds. Baller.

I’ve been using a very nice glass Bodum Cool pitcher to hold my homemade iced green tea for the last few springtime months, and it seems to have gained a vague discoloration. I’d really prefer to not have forever messed up my pretty pitcher, but also I’m afraid to scrub at it too hard with the wrong thing or use too much soap since I seem to get a weird residue on the top of beverages (tea and coffee) that I brew using this pitcher.

Alternately or in conjunction with this question, can you tell me what might be wrong with my electric kettle? I’ve boiled diluted (and not-so-diluted) vinegar in it more times than I care to count to get rid of chalk and any other grime that could be building up. Doesn’t seem to help. Every time I make tea, there’s a weird layer of grossness on the top that I can almost just peel off. I usually pour the liquid through some sort of strainer and then back into a pitcher to store it sans film. What the hell is up with my water and/or kettle and/or glass? Is this why my glass is kinda dirty and I can’t get the faint brownness to go away? Could these things be unrelated and I just don’t know how to wash a pitcher? Again, I’m afraid using soap makes the film happen. I just want to drink not-gross iced tea!

You’re going to think I’m yanking your chain but I’m not: Try using Polident or Efferdent or any other of the many –dent products out there designed to clean dentures. You need fizz in that pitcher! Maybe drop in two or three and fill the pot up all the way with water. If you’re really devoted to the notion of vinegar (and who wouldn’t be??), combine it with baking soda (mm-hmm) to create the amazing cleaning volcano effect. You could also use a product designed specifically for removing deposits from glass, like CLR, but if you’re anything like me the idea of putting something vaguely chemical-y in your drinking vessels gives you the squicks. Because you and I are both crazy and irrational, yes indeed.

In terms of your kettle scum, methinks your H2O is the problem; you’ve got some hard water, girl! Using filtered water to brew your tea should take care of it.

Previously: Get Rid of Your Cats, Seriously, They Are Disgusting.

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! Are you looking for a green alternative to the suggestions found here? Because we’ve got some! More importantly: Is anything you own dirty?