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Ask UfYH: Smoke Gets in Your Blinds

Q: UfYH! I need help. I moved into a house that was shared by two bachelors for a very long time — and now that it’s just my husband and me and no one smokes inside any more, I seriously need to clean all the blinds. There are years of smoke build up on them! What’s the best way to get rid of that?

A: As everyone who’s ever come in contact with cigarette smoke in a house knows, the build-up from smoke can be nearly impossible to deal with. Fortunately, you’re asking about blinds (I’m assuming plastic vertical blinds, the kind that are standard in many homes in the U.S.), which are pretty easy. Lots of people will tell you just to replace the blinds because they’re pretty cheap, but why waste the money and create more garbage when you have the tools you need to clean them?

Take the blinds down from their brackets two at a time and put them in the bathtub. Fill the tub with very hot water (enough to cover the blinds), a generous few squirts of dish soap, and about a cup or two of vinegar. Let them sit for an hour or so, so the water and soap do most of the hard work for you. Wearing gloves, take a stiff-bristled scrub brush and scrub down the surfaces of the blinds. If you find that the grime is stubborn, repeat the soaking process and try again in a little while. Once the blinds are scrubbed clean, rinse them off with the shower head and lay flat on some towels to dry (outside if it’s an option). Once they’re mostly dry, re-hang them, with a towel on the floor underneath to catch any drips as they finish drying. Don’t forget to give your bathtub a good scrub down when you’re done. Good luck!

Q: What is the best way to clean and store your bathroom plunger? I soak it in bleach water after using it but mine is the kind where water seems to stay inside of it so it’s like it never really gets all the way clean and it doesn’t seem to ever completely dry out either. It grosses me out thinking about how germy this thing is but it’s necessary to have in the bathroom. Ideas?

A: Everyone knows I’m not a huge fan of bleach (it’s overused and underdiluted), but here I’ll support it because, let’s be honest, we’re dealing with fecal matter. Just keep in mind that you only need about a quarter of what you think you do (a 1:10 bleach:water ratio is standard for even heavy-duty disinfection). The easiest way I’ve found to clean it is to just stand it up in the toilet bowl with the bleach solution (as long as the water level covers the necessary parts). Then flush the toilet and let the new water rinse it off, and to dry, lift the seat, put the plunger perpendicular so that the handle is horizontal and the plunger head is essentially sideways over the bowl, and shut the handle between the seat and the toilet itself, so the plunger head can drain and drip into the bowl. For storage, you can always use a small bucket, or if you’re really fancy, they do sell plungers with their own covered holder things. Just keep in mind that if you have small children or pets, you don’t want anything that’s accessible at ground-height.

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2 replies on “Ask UfYH: Smoke Gets in Your Blinds”

Another common problem: moving into an apartment with blinds that have never been cleaned. It’s like this nasty, sticky, dusty residue that just gets spread around. This system works great for that, too.

My mom swears by ammonia for cleaning up messes like this. So instead of the vinegar, she’d use ammonia (don’t mix the two together…it’s not as bad as mixing ammonia and bleach, but it’s still bad).

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