Ask Clean Like a Man

Ask Clean Like a Man

Burning questions. Straight answers.

Here’s advice that’ll set readers on the path to cleanliness. Send in your questions too.

Hey C.L.A.M:

What”s up with the 5-second rule? Is it real or an urban legend? Do you follow it?

-Russ Kurth, Clearwater, FL

Hey Russ,

The 5-second rule holds that food dropped on the floor is still OK to eat as long as you pick it up within that brief timespan. No scientific findings on this phenomenon are readily available, but I personally think it”s just a “rule of thumb”, a rough guideline that”s completely situational. Whether or not you follow the 5-second rule depends on three factors: the type of food, the cleanliness of the floor, and your personal tolerance level.

A cookie that falls onto a clean floor is probably fine for several hours, if not days. Just don”t step on it.

Pudding, on the other hand, you”ll probably just want to wipe up with a paper towel and toss away unless you”re extremely hungry AND the floor is relatively clean.

Tic Tacs can remain edible pretty much indefinitely, and the beautiful thing about them, especially the white Wintergreen ones, is that you can pick ”em up and see instantly if they”re dirty or not, which makes your decision easier.

I don”t have many opportunities to use the 5-second rule because I have a fast, food-motivated dog (the incorrigible Coco); she”s always in position in the “drop zone” at my feet to scarf up tidbits that land there.

Hey C.L.A.M.,

How do I clean and deodorize athletic shoes? Is it OK to machine-wash them?

-Jim Specht, Rockford, IL

Hey Jim,

Machine-washing is fine, but you shouldn”t wash leather shoes as often as you can nylon-mesh ones. Remove laces before washing, use cold or warm water, and air-dry only (never use hot water or place in the dryer — heat will break down the adhesives used in shoe manufacture). Other odor-fighting tips: you can wash removable insoles as often as you want, especially when shoes start getting noticeably smelly. And put a dryer sheet like Bounce into each shoe between uses, or slip one under the insole, replacing it as needed.

Hey C.L.A.M.,

I had a terrible problem with leftovers in the fridge, never knowing what was still good and what was long past prime. (No expiration date on that half-eaten hunk of meat!) Solution: the day before trash pick up is “leftovers day”. Anything not eaten gets put in the trash, and it”s gone the next morning. So there”s no old food taking up space in the fridge or decomposing in the garbage!

-Doug Berne, Reading, PA

Hey Doug,

On behalf of freshness-date-challenged males everywhere…thanks, dude! My own pet peeve: covering the refrigerator exterior with taped-on junk…what an eyesore! Find another tip on “fridge management” a couple of letters down from here.’, ”, 1, 13, 0, 59, ‘2010-01-20

Hey C.L.A.M.,

My husband and I fought about mopping last night. He mopped the floor, and I felt we should do a quick rinse because our young children would be playing there. He said he thought I was absurd. The label on the bottle (Mr. Clean) said there is usually no need to rinse but I felt this was one situation where we should. Am I insane for thinking this way?

-Dawn, Cornwall, NY

Hey Dawn,

Good news: you”re neither absurd nor insane! I looked at the label directions on Mr. Clean All-Purpose Cleaner, which said “When diluting for floor cleaning, usually no rinse needed.” It also said “Keep out of reach of ‘Hey

Hey C.L.A.M.,

Your book gives some alternatives to commercial, chemical-based cleaning products, but you mostly recommend products like Lysol, Lime Away, Pledge, etc. as the way to go because they”re easier. What are your thoughts on eco-friendly cleaning products vs. chemical ones?

-Susan LeVine, Milwaukee

 

Hey Susan,

Every light bulb in my home is a compact fluorescent (CFL), every battery I own is rechargeable, I recycle like a banshee, I”ve always owned rescue dogs, and I save spiders in the house to put them outside. In other words, I”m pretty green and I”ve tried many eco-friendly cleaning products. They might be a bit more expensive and than chemical-based ones, but I recommend them because I believe each one of us has to be a steward of the environment. Common household products you can use to clean include baking soda and white vinegar – both are way cheap and very effective.

Hey C.L.A.M.,

I”ve been trying to be a good guy and do my share of cleaning around our home for a while now. But as far as my wife is concerned, my work is never good enough. There”s always a critique and a do-over by her to make it right. I”m getting frustrated…any thoughts?

-Tim, Long Beach, CA

Hey Tim,

Over half of all couples fight about housekeeping, so it”s important that your spouse read this response.

  • I think that women should encourage and praise men like Tim for giving housecleaning an honest shot. Nagging and nit-picking DO NOT help anything.
  • Females” standards are obviously higher than those of guys, but a little patience can pay off here.
  • Try to bite the bullet and give him positive feedback, along with the guidance he needs to get it right.
  • Couples might also divide the housekeeping chores up so that the guy can master certain ones – like garbage duty, being in charge of the dishwasher (loading, unloading, and storing dishes), and sweeping/vacuuming floors.
  • Or, each partner can be responsible for keeping certain rooms clean.

This is a chance to smooth out a serious ruffle in many relationships and live happily ever after. JUMP ON IT!

Hey C.L.A.M.,

This is my analysis of the guy refrigerator disorder (or, how most men interact with this appliance):

1. Open door, stare, shut door.

2. Open door, stare, don”t move head just a little even, and certainly don”t move anything inside, shut door. Then turn around and announce, “there”s no (milk, juice, soda…whatever) left.”

3. Open door, take out container, look inside and determine it”s old, put top back on and return it to shelf.

4. Open door, pour milk, juice, whatever, and leave just the smallest trace of it in the container, return to shelf.

-Jane Pattee Callewaert, Milwaukee

Hey Jane,

OUCH! You are a keen observer of the kind of male housekeeping behavior I’m trying to change.

A simple housekeeping “to-do” list is important for guys.

  • It helps you stay more focused and goal-oriented, so you get done faster.
  • It removes all doubt about what to do next.
  • With a regular routine, you stay on top of cleaning tasks so they don”t get out of hand.
  • You see what needs to be done and realize that your chores are finite.

Hey C.L.A.M.,

THE GUY REFRIGERATOR DISORDER

 I have a husband and two sons, which has given me ample opportunity to observe male behavior at the refrigerator. It usually goes like this:

  • Open door, stare, shut door.
  • Open door, stare, don”t move head even a little, and certainly don”t move anything inside, shut door. Then turn around and announce, “there”s no (milk, juice, soda…whatever) left.”
  • Open door, take out container, look inside and determine it”s way past its freshness date, put top back on, return to shelf.
  • Open door, pour milk, juice, etc. Leave just the smallest trace of it in the container, then return container to shelf.

Jane Callewaert, Milwaukee, June 2013

Hey Jane,

Thanks! This is extremely observant and very funny. Ya might call it “Guyology 101” for a lot of domestically-challenged males (yes, there are still a few out there).

Hey C.L.A.M.,

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF MAYO IS BAD?

I buy mayonnaise and don”t always use it all up. How do I know if what”s left is still good?

Dan B., Orlando, March 2013

Hey Dan,

Mayo is tricky. The labels usually say “Best if used by (date).” That”s open to interpretation because the labels DO NOT say “Don”t eat after (date).” You could eat some – if you soon start feeling nauseous and sweating profusely, it may not be advisable to eat more. If you begin to feel sick, sweat, and then additionally fall down and see visions like gigantic dragons, your ancestors, etc., then definitely stop consuming that mayo. In fact, you should probably throw it away WITHOUT EATING IT if the “Best if used by” date is long passed. But don”t forget to recycle the jar!

And oh, if you want to play it safe and avoid the risky testing methods above, simply don”t use the mayonnaise after its “Best if used by” date.
Hey C.L.A.M.,

A QUICK QUESTION ABOUT BEDDING

Hi Tom, just got your book and it rocks. But I can”t find how often a guy should wash his mattress pads and comforters.

Andrew S., Houston, December 2011

Hey Andrew,

I have a foam mattress pad that seldom needs washing. But for regular ones, maybe once every 3-4 months is fine or more often if you like (sheets should be washed much more often). I”d get a duvet to cover the comforter and wash that about once a month, or any time it gets noticably dirty. TIP: put dryer sheets between mattress pad and bottom sheet to keep your bedding smelling fresher.

 

“DEAR AMY” DICKINSON GUEST COLUMN RIPPED FROM HEADLINES

Dear Amy:

I”ve been dating a guy for about a year. Our relationship got serious very fast. We moved across the country together to be close to his family. When we argue about things like household chores (just one of the many issues we have), he likes to ignore me, tune me out, etc. He calls me childish but I”m pretty sure ignoring me is acting a little like a 5-year old. Seeing a therapist is not an option right now, and I”m on the verge of packing up my things and leaving. My guy does have many good qualities and I do love him very dearly, but my patience is wearing very thin.

Tenuous in Texas – July 2011

Hey Tenuous (from Amy):

Living together and moving across the country when you are still getting to know each other are challenging. The phrase “What were you thinking?” springs to mind. Gauge your guys interest in changing by asking him to read a book with you: “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work” by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver. It notes that communication is key and some couples succeed by agreeing to disagree. Name-calling, however, will never work. You two can work together to change the dynamic between you. If he is not open to talking about this or thinks the unhealthy dynamic is your fault, then get out your wheelie bag.

Hey Tenuous (from C.L.A.M.):

Wow, tough love from Amy! Another solution: since over half of all couples fight about housekeeping, buy him a copy of Clean Like a Man. If he doesn”t change, find another guy and buy HIM a copy of C.L.A.M., too. In fact, buy the book for every male in your life, and tell your friends to do the same. I”ll give everyone a deal.

 

BANANARAMA!

Hey C.L.A.M.,

My boyfriend is a great guy but is “all man” when it comes to housekeeping. That is, not very good at it. Last Christmas his master bathroom was sporting its usual bombed-out look and I spotted a banana peel on top of the overflowing garbage container. It was still there (somewhat browner of course) on February 13, OVER SIX WEEKS LATER! I finally mentioned it to him. When I showed the next day for our Valentine”s Day date, not only was the banana peel gone but his entire bathroom was spotless and shiny. He said nothing but he was a bit smug. Fine with me! I love having a tidy, sanitary, well-lit area to clean up and apply makeup, and I”ll keep rewarding him as best I can as long as he keeps it that way!

Kelly G., Hastings, MN, June 2011

Hey Kelly,

It”s an unwritten and undervalued rule in male housekeeping that no fruit peel of ANY sort should be visible in the trash on two consecutive holidays. Now, thanks to you, the world knows it.

CUT TO THE CHASE

Hey C.L.A.M.,

When me and my now-ex were first starting out, we lived in an apartment where we had to share a bathroom. My ex-wife, a very tidy type, was diligent in cleaning the bathtub and toilet after every use; our neighbors were not. We didn”t give them grief about it, but they felt enough guilt to suggest setting up a cleaning calendar. My ex-wife”s opinion was “Forget the calendar…just pick up a scrub brush!” Maybe we should have applied this “Just Do It” philosophy to our relationship as well!

Eric, Minneapolis, May 2011

Hey Eric,

Not the ideal start to married life, was it? Your ex sounds like she was a blunt, damn-the-torpedos woman – which doesn”t alone mean you weren”t a good match, but I happen to know that your current spouse is much more diplomatic, which I think wears better over the long run. And your home is still spotless!

A TALE OF WOE

Hey C.L.A.M.,

I was married for 30 years. I worked, she stayed at home with the kids and practiced her fiber arts. Every Sunday I cleaned the bathrooms. But instead of getting a pat on the head, I caught grief for it. You see, I used a cleaner for the shower that had a scent. She didn”t like the scent and complained bitterly about it. She eventually divorced me.

-Tom, New Hampshire, April 2011

Hey Tom,

WOW! That”s a grave miscarriage of justice there, home boy. Sounds like the divorce was inevitable: if she was going to put you through the wringer for pitching in on the chores – something most spouses would love – maybe you”re better off flying solo.

 

CATBOX CONUNDRUM

Hey C.L.A.M.,

My husband had his own apartment while we first started dating, and a cat. In that kind of small space, you have to find a spot for the litterbox that”s out of the way and where it won”t stink up the place.  But he had it right in the living room, out in the open.  He cleaned the box frequently so it didn”t smell that much. But he never vacuumed, so there were little granules from the litter mashed into the carpet so it felt like you were walking on a beach. I finally persuaded him to move the box because it didn”t look like he was going to get the idea himself.

-Sara De La Riva Brunzell, Minneapolis

Hey Sara,

What part of “cat shit doesn”t belong in the living room” didn”t he get? I”m glad you got the boy straightened out before the wedding.

“MY EX WAS A HOUSEKEEPING LOAD.”

Hey C.L.A.M.,

My ex-husband was fairly smart, but whenever I”d ask him to help me with housekeeping he”d suddenly turn into a clueless chimp. He couldn”t figure anything out (or so he said) and was so slow, ineffective and aggravating I”d always wind up telling him to go watch his old ball game and let me clean alone. Since then, I”ve heard that some husbands try this trick regularly just to avoid the work.

-Kathy R., Louisville, KY, Dec. 2010

Hey Kathy,

You”re right, he was faking – housecleaning is FAR from brain surgery, yet some guys indeed play dumb to get out of it. And that”s a crying shame, because men who clean, even a little, are really appreciated by their wives. It improves the whole relationship, and it”s much cheaper than marriage counseling!

“AM I INSANE?”

Hey C.L.A.M.,

My husband and I fought about mopping last night. He mopped the floor, and I felt we should do a quick rinse because our young children would be playing there. He said he thought I was absurd. The label on the bottle (Mr. Clean) said there is usually no need to rinse but I felt this was one situation where we should. Am I insane for thinking this way?

-Dawn, Cornwall, NY, Nov. 2010

Hey Dawn,

Good news: you”re neither absurd nor insane! I looked at the label directions on Mr. Clean All-Purpose Cleaner, which said “When diluting for floor cleaning, usually no rinse needed.” It also said “Keep out of reach of children.” I believe that with chemical cleaners you should always play it safe and rinse to protect kids, pets and even yourself. On a different note: you have a husband who cleans???? Keep ahold of that guy!

DIRTY DISH DISASTER

 Hey C.L.A.M. – 

My husband Andy and I are having a dirty dishes standoff. They”ve been piled in the sink for a week. I do most of the housework (just last weekend I deep-cleaned our ENTIRE house) even though we both have careers. So I didn”t feel like rinsing dirty dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. I figured that since I did everything else, I could leave it for him. HE HASN”T DONE A DAMN THING WITH THEM. On principle, I won”t either. The bottom ones are probably starting to get moldy.

-Kristen T., Minneapolis, MN, Sept. 2010

 

Hey Kristen – If you both bring home a paycheck, it”s only fair that you both chip in on the housework. Avoid problems like this by making a list assigning specific chores for each of you. It”s like a “housekeeping pre-nup.”  You know who”s responsible for what, so you side-step sticky situations like the one you describe here. Over half of all couples fight about housekeeping – you don”t have to be one of them.

A GREAT BBQ TIP…

Hey C.L.A.M. – 

When I finish grilling, I turn the heat up to high and then set a timer for 3 minutes.  When the timer goes off I go back out and scrape the cooking surface with a long handled wire brush.  It removes any excess food and the high temperature eliminates any remaining bacteria. The timer is key…otherwise I might forget the grill in the hubbub of serving the food.

Steve S., Philadelphia, July 2010

Hey Steve,

Cleaning grill grates IS easier when they”re still warm, and your method kicks it up a notch.

 

Hey C.L.A.M.,

 How can I get rid of pilling on sweaters?

-Stan, Houston

Hey Stan,

Before laundering, turn the sweater inside out. Use a slower, shorter wash cycle. Remove the garment from the dryer as soon as it”s dry, turn right-side out, and pull it taut over a curved surface. Then go with one of three options in order of my personal preference:

  • Get a comb designed for fuzz-removal at a fabric store. They”re small and thin. Use brisk strokes to remove pills.
  • Cut off the pills with scissors, or CAREFULLY shave them off with a safety razor.
  • Use an AC/battery-operated pill shaver that works like an electric razor (Target, $11-$17).

An urban legend: adding a liberal dose of liquid fabric softener when washing sweaters is supposed to remove pilling. In my test, it didn”t work very well. Why not just own high-quality cotton sweaters that don”t pill – avoid fabrics like (Sophisticated Humor Alert) “pillyester” or “acrpyllic.”

Get more laundry and fabric care tips at fabriclink.com.

Hey C.L.A.M.,

I”ve been trying to be a good guy and do my share of cleaning around our home for a while now. But as far as my wife is concerned, my work is never good enough. There”s always a critique and a do-over by her to make it right. I”m getting frustrated…any thoughts?

-Tim, Long Beach, CA

Hey Tim,

Over half of all couples fight about housekeeping, so it”s important that your spouse read this response.

  • I think that women should encourage and praise men like Tim for giving housecleaning an honest shot. Nagging and nit-picking DO NOT help anything.
  • Females” standards are obviously higher than those of guys, but a little patience can pay off here.
  • Try to bite the bullet and give him positive feedback, along with the guidance he needs to get it right.
  • Couples might also divide the housekeeping chores up so that the guy can master certain ones – like garbage duty, being in charge of the dishwasher (loading, unloading, and storing dishes), and sweeping/vacuuming floors.
  • Or, each partner can be responsible for keeping certain rooms clean.

This is a chance to smooth out a serious ruffle in many relationships and live happily ever after. JUMP ON IT!