Ask a Clean Person: Behind the Bleachie

While a Clean Person is away, we’ll take a look back at the stories behind the columns.

Silver, Baking Sheets and… Wine Vomit

Do you want to know how this column came into existence? Sure you do! At The Awl Hawliday Bawl last year, I wailed and gnashed to my great friend Tyler Coates that I was having a hard time coming up with something really great to do for The (fairly recently launched) Hairpin. He suggested I write a cleaning column! I thought he was OUT OF HIS DAMN MIND! Because, ugh, what could be more boring than that, and who would ever want to read such a thing? But when I mentioned it to The Lady Edith, she was waaaaaay into it. So I emailed a group of friends to tell them I was kicking around a new project, and did they have any cleaning questions for me? I expected two, maybe three, replies — mostly from my pals who took pity on me. But oh no no! My email box BLEW UP. The questions were good, and also hilarious! Which meant I didn’t need to worry so much about being entertaining, I could let you all make the funny and I could just bleat things like “OXICLEAN” and “BAKING SODA” in response.

Still though, I wasn’t convinced. That first column I wrote was, I was sure, going to be my last. But then! You all loved it! You really, really loved it! And thus, a Clean Person was born.

The Stain Trifeca

The second column pulled from the pool of questions sent in by my friends, and because LW#1 and I know each other IRL she wrote, “Having the tits I have…” knowing I’d know. But for publishing I had to offer some explanation of what “the tits” meant. And I mean? This girl has KNOCKERS. So I went with “i.e. enormous” and in about T-minus five minutes of posting got a “LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL ‘I.E. ENORMOUS??!?!?’” email from her. Bless, she’s such a good sport.

Also, thus marked the glorious introduction of the “protein stain.”

Stinky Bedding, Tiny Vacuums, and More Vomity Things

And y’all just kept on barfing.

The Answer Is Always Bleach

I am a horrible bleach monster and everyone hates me, and we’ll just never speak of this one again.

Mouse Turds, Copper Pots, and Onion Smells

Alex Balk is a horrible mouse-maiming monster and everyone hates him, and we’ll just never speak of this one again.

Stovetops, Used Bike Shorts (Yup!), and Yellowing Sheet

Ooof. The used bike shorts, you guys. You wanna hear how it went down? I was at a party with a bunch of people who do blog things for a living; the used bike shorts question had come in earlier that day, and I sort of stared at it dejectedly, like, “I could run this and I know it would go gangbusters in terms of comments and pageviews, but that success would be at the expense of the question asker, who would undoubtedly be mocked terribly.” So I asked the crowd what they would do in my shoes, explaining that to me one of the things that makes The Hairpin so special was how nurturing, how positive, how funny-without-being-mean it was. And that I didn’t want to do anything that would be at odds with that.

Um, yeah. They basically all laughed in my face and screamed “PAGEVIEWS, JOLIE. ALWAYS THE PAGEVIEWS. Also he’s a gross person who buys used bike shorts, he doesn’t deserve your kindness.”

So yeah. Used bike shorts. Jesus.

The Smoker’s Dilemma

So yeah, sometimes I let people smoke in my home.

Toilets, Ovens, and the Importance of Rubber Gloves

The photo that accompanies this column is of my actual kitchen and my actual utensils after a bath! This also marks the first appearance of Scrubbing Bubbles, the most life-changing product ever.

Spilled Nail Polish and Mysterious Smells

I get at least one nail polish-spill question a week. Ladies! Motsenbocker’s.

Smelly, Scuffy, Dirty Shoes

A shoe cleaning column, just in time for Memorial Day and its attendant whites.

Green Cleaning Alternatives

The very first Special Episode of AaCP, in which I try to make up for being a horrible bleach monster. (I’m actually not really sorry. Shhh. Don’t tell the hippies.)

Barfy Bags and Sappy Cars

We all have favorites, even though moms aren’t supposed to, and my all time favorite is “my boyfriend barfed in my handbag.” Now you know.

Get Rid of Your Cats, Seriously, They Are Revolting


Sprouting Windows, Moldy Teeth, and Dirty Tea

One of the great joys of writing this column is that it offers no shortage of opportunities to absolutely HORRIFY Edith. The mushroom-sprouting window frame was the best of all of these and I still randomly burst into laughter (often while in public) when I think about the complete and total emotional meltdown I caused when I forwarded the original email to be all, “lollll eeew gross lolllllllll!!”

Gunky Le Creuset, Grungy Silpat, and Grody Disposals

In another act of favoritism, I ran the yellow Le Creuset question because it was asked by our very own Janie!

Hard-Cleaning a Kitchen, a Very Special Episode

I love it when you rush to my defense.

The War on Bugs

I still don’t think I’ve recovered from the research this column required. Pretty sure I scratched an entire layer of skin off in pursuit of this one.

The Basics

The first of the checklist posts!

Butt Marker, Cast Iron, and Hood Grease

Since you know that “my boyfriend barfed in my handbag” is my favorite, you should know that “my friends markered my butt and then I sat on my toilet and stained it” is Edith’s poison. Fair is fair!

Why Haven’t You Gotten Rid of Your Cats Yet?


The Move-In, Move-Out Clean

I think we can all agree that moving is THE WORST.

Radiators, Freezers, and Fridges

La la la, don’t mind me, just hanging around the house, fingerbanging the radiator.

Grease Stains Everywhere!

Cute lesbians on bikes and fancy messenger bags — what could be more Hairpin than that?!

It’s Time to Talk About Your Floors

An epic on floor cleaning.

Bras, Sex Toys, DivaCups, and Leg Waxidents

I don’t even need to say it. You already know. Because you get it and you get me and that’s why this is the greatest job in the world.

Laundry Basics

Now that you know how to do laundry, will you consider helping others to do theirs??

Get Rid of Your Men, Seriously, They Are Revolting

The Jizzcliner heralded my first 300+ comment post. Lady communes are clearly the answer.

Let’s Clean Our Beds and Then Take to Them for the Entire Winter

It’s so great when someone sends in a question that has helpful advice for the rest of us, which is why we’re all sleeping on satin pillowcases now.

Jacuzzi Jets, Shoe Polish Stains, and Glass Pipes

Bathtubs and Boy ‘Pinners and weed. So necessary.

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?

Photo by photosil, via Shutterstock, edited by The Hairpin