Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: Moldy Cookware, Bleach, and Bathroom Basics

Q: I left a pot of rice in the fridge for a few weeks and now it’s absolutely covered in furry mold on the inside. Is the pot salvageable? How do I go about safely removing the mold and possibly rendering the pot safe for use once more?

A: Good news, everyone! Your cookware can be saved. First, put some gloves on. It’ll make us all feel better. Then, remove the moldy food from the pot (use something disposable like take-out chopsticks or plastic flatware), and take the trash right out, because we’re not messing around with mold in your house any longer than it needs to be. Next, soak the pot in very hot water and regular dish soap. Use some paper towels or a sponge you’re about to throw away anyway and scrub out any remaining food bits. Rinse out the pot and fill it with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and warm water. Let that sit for an hour or so. Finally, dump that out and fill your pot with water and put it on the stove to boil, and let it boil for 10-15 minutes or so. Boom! Your pot has been saved.

Please note that this works for metal or glass cookware, but when you’re dealing with mold on plastics, the mold can actually start to penetrate the plastic, so throw that shit out.

See what the EPA has to say about mold.

Q: I really love bleach. I feel like nothing gets truly clean without it. Is this a problem?

A: Kind of. I’d like to talk about bleach for a second here. Bleach is almost always overused and underdiluted. Even government resources say that for mold on dishes, one tablespoon in a gallon of water is enough to sanitize dishes that have been contaminated by flood water. In medical and laboratory environments, a 1:10 bleach:water ratio is the standard for disinfection, so there’s really nothing in your house gross enough to warrant a higher concentration than that. Also, dilute your bleach with cold water. Using hot water makes it less effective and more inhalable, which can cause respiratory problems.

Use bleach sparingly. It’s almost always overkill, and chances are, you’re using it too strong and too often.

Q: Help me, UfYH! Cleaning my bathroom is so overwhelming. I do okay at some stuff, like spraying down my shower after I get out of it, and keeping my mirrors clean. But things like counters (always covered in my makeup and hair stuff), the floors, the toilet (UGH), they just never get done.

Can you help me come up with a plan to: 1) get it into to shape and then 2) keep it that way? I should add that I deal with a lot of depression and health issues so I get overwhelmed really easily and tend to just… do nothing when that happens.

A: Bathrooms are generally two things: 1) super gross, and 2) super small. The second makes the first way easier to deal with. You’re already doing some great stuff. Spraying down the shower will help prevent mildew and soap scum buildup (just use any multi-purpose cleaner diluted to one part cleaner and three parts water, and remember that bleach is unnecessary and not appropriate for this job).

Everything else can be dealt with in five minutes or less every day. You can use disinfecting wipes (easy and disposable but not particularly environmentally friendly), or some cleaner and a reusable rag or cloth. Also, a dry Swiffer (not the wet ones; those are sticky and useless) is helpful. You can either use the cloths that come with it or a washable microfiber cloth.

Would you say you’re in your bathroom at least three times each day? I think most people are. So, on visit #1 daily, wipe down your counters and take a minute to put the stuff on the countertop away. This is probably most useful right after you’ve gotten ready for the day. On visit #2, run the Swiffer over the floor and pick up the stray hair and such. (I shed about an entire person’s worth of hair every day, so I keep my Swiffer tucked away behind the toilet and do the floors when I’m, ahem, seated. Small bathroom and long arms, so I can reach every corner.) On visit #3, preferably the one right before bed, wipe down the toilet seat and put a little cleaner in the bowl to do its magic every night. If you have pets or kids, make sure that the toilet lid is closed or the bathroom door is closed, or use vinegar, which is non-toxic. Give the bowl a half-assed swipe with the toilet brush in the morning, and you’re done.

We’re trying to develop a few very quick daily habits that will prevent you from having to do the dreaded Deep Clean. Mop the floor once a week (or once every two or three weeks, if we’re being realistic), give the tub a good scrubbing, and call it a day.


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