Thursday, June 16, 2011


Ask a Clean Person: Barfy Bags and Sappy Cars

Please help save my beautiful leather handbag. My boyfriend made it a party casualty. (What, you shouldn't mix tequila and vodka? and champagne? and so much Franzia? and also whiskey shots?) I was able to deal with the stains by scrubbing the bag with just the sudsy bubbles from a bowl of lukewarm water and a sponge. However, now the leather is kind of crunchy and, well, leathery, and it STILL smells like vom. Febreze didn't work, and I'm afraid to use lemon. Please help save my bag!

Oh no, you sweet girl!!! I’m so sad for you and your handbag!!! I asked Edith to light up the ‘Pin Signal so I could assemble all the A Dudes and all the A Ladies and all the A Polite Persons to commune over a cauldron of steaming white vinegar in the hopes of coming up with a punishment befitting the heinous crime your boyfriend has committed against leather goods.

But before I get to that, here’s how to soften that leather back up: Get some saddle soap (KIWI, which is my preferred brand of shoe polish, makes one but it's a common enough product that you’ll find a selection of brands at a hardware store, home improvement stores, Amazon.com, etc.) and follow the directions on the package. You can also get wild and polish up your boots and/or other non-vomity bags with it!  

As for the smell, try one of the products aimed at getting the stink out of running shoes. (You can find recommendations in the Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! column and comments.) Give the interior of the bag a good blast with it — it may take more than one spray to completely rid the bag of the smell, but hang in there. You could also think about tossing a potpourri ball in the bag for the next few weeks as an odor mask, and also because a potpourri ball is sort of a hilarious thing to have in your pocketbook.

OK, back to that boyfriend. GENTLEMEN, LISTEN UP: Do not barf in our handbags. (This is a thing we apparently need to say now? Were you all aware of the need to say that? Because I assuredly was not!) LADIES, YOUR TURN: If your gentleman friend barfs in your handbag, please clean out the vomit and then fill the thing with bricks and use it to beat him about the head and neck. Jesus.

Ever since I moved into my current apartment a year-ish ago, I've had to park under a large pine tree that sheds its needles all over my car. Worse than that is the sap that it drips throughout the spring and summer. Half of my poor car was covered in it last year, and since I am decidedly not a person who loves to clean, it is still on there today. Any ideas for getting old sap off of a car?

Oh man, I love washing a car! Wanna drive over to my place with a bucket and some old rags? Yeah that might be weird, OK.

I decided to outsource this one, because I have a friend who loves cars and cleaning in equally obsessive ways (of course I do). Here’s what he had to say:

Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover is what we always used growing up.  You use it like a spot remover — dab it on the sap, let sit for a couple of minutes and then rub off using a soft cloth. (It may take a little elbow grease to get it up.) This product is meant to be used after you’ve washed the car, but if you notice a slightly oily residue after usage you might want to spot treat the sap and then wash the car. The thing with sap is that if it’s left on your car for too long, it will chip off and take the clear coat off your paint, so it's important to keep on top of it during the summer months when the trees drip.

I don’t know why the thought of drippy trees is killing me right now but it is. I’m imagining them all with runny noses, I think?

My roommate accidentally steamed some vegetables for too long and the pot boiled dry. It now has scary brown/black residue on its bottom. How do I get this grossness off the bottom of my pot? It is probably the best piece of cookwear I own.

You wouldn’t believe the number of “I forgot about that, um, burner thing? And how it was turned on? You know, with flame? Anyway! How do I get black gunk off the bottom of my favorite pot?” emails I get. I hope you all have renter’s insurance and a fireproof lockbox is all I’ll say about that.

But because it wouldn’t be Ask a Clean Person without a mention of baking soda, here’s a great reader tip for this very scenario that works works works! Sprinkle baking soda — more than you think you need — all over the bottom of the pot and then pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for 30 minutes (and up to overnight) and then wash it. The burnt-on whatever it is should come right up.

Previously: Green Cleaning Alternatives.

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?

Image via Flickr

52 Comments / Post A Comment


Lady #1? I think your boyfriend should buy you a new handbag. Or at least do the saddle-soaping himself.


@Ophelia That is a wise answer. Easier than walking around with pot pourri in your purse.


@Ophelia : also I think he has to limit himself to only drinking shits of potpourri and white vinegar at the next party, just in case.


@sheepfriend Yeah - I mean, nothing against potpourri, but...unless this is a special, sentimental handbag...


@MoonBat : "shots", not "shits". Though that typo is probably appropriate!


@MoonBat hahahahaha. Hadn't even noticed, but now...yes, totally appropriate!


@Ophelia He should do both. And maybe make him carry the stinky bag for you everywhere until it stops being stinky?

Judith Slutler

Yeah, letting your boyfriend barf in your handbag is really going above and beyond. He really should treat her to a new purse.


@BethH I like the way you think!


I love this clean person business. Now all I want to do is sprinkle baking soda on EVERYTHING. Yesterday, I basically did.

Judith Slutler

@sheepfriend I scrubbed my shower with a grapefruit and coarse salt last week after my dumb stupid roommate moved out without completing the cleaning tasks he'd had on his side of the chore wheel for OVER A MONTH (!!!!).

I started the cleaning feeling unbelievably pissed off at him, and ended it thinking "The shower is so bright and shiny now! He never would've thought to sprinkle salt on a grapefruit and use it as a scrubbing tool anyway! Whee!" and then I spent the rest of the evening playing foosball and drinking G&Ts in total satisfaction.

So, thank you, A Clean Person!


@Emanuelle Cunt Just had to log in to say that I love your username.


@Emmanuelle Cunt
That sounds simply delightful.. my boyfriend is moving out of his flat soon so I might just have to give that a go. I decorated the hob with baking soda and lemon yesterday, I was delighted with how shiny it made everything.

In case you wondered, I have a lot of time on my hands at the minute.


@Emmanuelle Cunt
Next time I indulge it will definitely include G&T.. I'll have to buy an extra lemon for myself!

Judith Slutler

@Kate Croy oh, thank you! I still need a good picture for it, though.


@Emmanuelle Cunt The chore wheel is the reason why, as God as my witness, I'll never have roommates again.

Jolie Kerr

@Emmanuelle Cunt A CHORE WHEEL??? *swoon*

Judith Slutler

@Jolie Kerr It's actually a chore board. And you can get little points that say "seriously do this chore NOW" on your part of the board. There are 5 of us! That's more people than there are im my office! Management techniques are required.


@sheepfriend Also yes to the baking soda!! Last night I didn't want to take out the trash because I would have to engage with the dude-bros in the apt next door. So I sprinkled some baking soda on it and it killed the smell until I took it out this morning. Wheeee!


I think maybe don't clean out the vomit until after you beat him with the bag. For future reference.


Dear A Clean Person:
My boyfriend puked in my leather handbag, so as you instructed, I filled my bag with bricks and hit him about the head with it. Now I can't get that vomit smell out of my bricks! Also, do you have any tips on how to get blood out of leather?


Wonderful *applauds*


@cherrispryte Good question! Since blood is a protein stain, you'll want to to start with diluted dish soap and water. I'd then suggest calling your local CSI team for tips on those stubborn stains.


I think we may need a Clean Person/Dude collab to answer the question of "how do I get a dude to clean the vom out of my handbag/scrub the bathroom/wash the moldy teacups because seriously dude/etc?"


I tried the baking powder thing with a pot that had a batch of candied ginger simmering WAY too long and it didn't work! I let it sit overnight and everything but the crust that the baking powder formed just washed out without taking any of the burnt residue with it. This is after MANY rounds of soaking with soap/lots of scrubbing/steel wool/trying to chip the residue off. WHAT DO I DO???


@thenotestaken Was it baking powder, or baking soda? You want soda.


@thenotestaken boil some soapy water in the offending pot. make it a little more soapy than usual.


@Ophelia I used baking soda, it was a typo in my earlier comment.


@thenotestaken: Burnt candy/sugar is a different animal than other burnt to a crisp elements. I've never gotten all the burnt candy out of my old candy pot, I just stubbornly go at it with steel wool and chip away at it every time I use it (mainly for making hard boiled eggs or steaming things now). I have successfully cleaned an 18 month old covered in roofing tar, though, so if anyone needs tips for that...

Sorry For Partying

There is literally no acceptable solution for the first letter writer that doesn't involve throwing the bag out. I refuse to believe that any handbag is worth carrying after being vomited on or in. And the BF owes her a new one, obvi. And the new one must be at least twice the value of the ruined one.


My car always gets covered in sap when I go up to the mountains, it's so gross! It's ever worse when it's fresh and you have to touch it and it gets all over everything (that's what she said).


Obvs the bag lady should be crafting some awesome retribution right now, but if not, and she doesn't want to carry potporri in her bag she can carry a bar of nicely smelly soap. Tie it up in cheesecloth or something?

I put a bar of Dove or other pefumey soap also in my sock/panty drawer and it works great to give it a nice pleasant scent.


Also!! Jolie, thank you so much for answering my question a few weeks ago! I have to stop myself from emailing you constantly with questions, because I am a naturally dirty lady. Thanks again!

Ellie Dunham@facebook

Actually, regarding the burned up pot, I have had great luck using cream of tartar. Clean the pot with a mixture of 2 tablespoons cream of tartar dissolved into 1 quart (1 liter) water. Bring the mixture to a boil inside the pot and boil for 10 minutes. It worked for me!


Oh for the pot, rhubarb! Stew some rhubarb! It's in season and takes off burnt-potness.

Jillsy Sloper

One morning I discovered a half-eaten bagel with lox in my bag (I know, gross). At the time, the obvious solution to fish-smell-bag seemed to be to go to Gristedes at lunchtime and buy an orange and a jar of cloves, make a pomander, and carry it around in my bag for a while. My friends were like "why does your bag smell like fish and Christmas?" In retrospect, a potpourri ball might have been the simpler solution.


Oh, also - for tree-sap person, we had the same problem, but with disgusting ginkgo berries (that we clearly let sit on the car for an eternity before dealing with them). Run the car through a car wash, THEN put the bug-and-sap goop on it, wait 5-10 mins, and run it through again. It somehow helped loosen stuff up to take advantage of the car wash (and we had $5 car wash coupons, but...)

oh, disaster

I'm Super Distracted Sally when I cook/boil water/pretty much do anything in the kitchen, and I thought I'd have to live with those burnt pot stains. Thanks Clean Person!


Re the burned up pot: One time, I made candy (bacon brittle, long story, it was delightful), and had a very sticky pot afterward, and of course didn't wash it immediately, because I am not A Clean Person. And then I had the bright idea of filling it with water and simmering it on the stove to loosen the stickiness so I could wash it. Which would have worked great, if I didn't then totally forget about it on the stove and leave the house for two hours. Did I mention that this was my good All Clad pot? It was blackened and horrible looking, let me tell you. You know what got it shiny and new looking again? Our old friend, Barkeepers Friend, and lots of elbow grease. You would never know! So that is my recommendation.


smelly purse girl, I agree on all sentiments that your bf totally owes you a new purse, BUT I may have another solution for you. I cracked a bottle of perfume in a very expensive leather handbag, and it smelled awful (in the small bursts that you wear perfume smells amazing, depending, but all at once it is an olfactory invasion). I found a clear zipper bag that you get sheets/comforters in, and put the handbag in there with a bowl of kitty litter and changed out the litter every couple of days. In a month my bag was back to being non stinky and wonderful!

Lisa McCain Cole@facebook

You can remove vomit and blood with pet stain removers. Go to a pet supply store and look for Simple Solution or a similar product. They work great. Don't just spray a little on, soak the area, rinse, let dry, reapply if you still smell something. After it's clean, saddle soap is good, but Lexol is better. You can find it at a tack shop. You can also find riding crops at the tack shop, which I find better for beating men with, since I don't care if a whip gets bloody.


About the old sap- nail polish remover takes sap off of cars! I have no idea why it works, but it does.

PostCollegiate Blog@twitter

I accidentally vomited on my best friend's Coach purse. We tried a lot of different techniques but eventually, as the vomiter, I had to replace the bag. This is what people do in polite society (or in a society where you occasionally vomit on each other's things.) Luckily, I was able to find it like-new on eBay at a reasonable price. I'm with the commenters who believe he owes her a new bag - salvaging a leather purse from vomit is very rarely successful.


I'm late to this party, but I couldn't resist sharing this one: butter takes sap off cars. And hands! Just rub it on and it should come off with a cloth.

Nanci Larouere Ostrosky@facebook

Ok, this is my first post, so please forgive me if I am posting my question in the wrong place. I have an inground pool, and even an automatic cover, so cleaning the pool is not a huge job.....EXCEPT for one thing: my steps. When it was opened this spring, the white steps had stains that were kind of rust looking. I used "Off the Wall" cleaner that is specifically for cleaning pool sides and steps, and it helped a little. I scrubbed them for two hours but they are not white yet. One of the issues is that it is a pool with a vinyl liner, so the pool does cannot be drained. (steps that are not underwater would not be the issue to clean) I looked it up and someone suggested Mr. Clean Eraser, but my pool uses Chlorine, and the directions on the Eraser says do not use with bleach. Any ideas????


The same way that a girl does not want her boyfriend to barf into her bag, the guy also does not want anyone to vomit in his car. That is a definite no-no! there are professional cleaning services where they help you to clean your leather items, but i think those are kind of expensive.


I'd just invested in a Mulberry when my boyfriend very kindly decided to run over my bag - these are the tyres he uses and they were filthy at the time. It cost me (well him!) about £50 to have the bag fully cleaned... but it's never felt the same since :(


The individuals not reading your blogs stuff are missing out much qualitative contents.DMV test bank


I genuinely value your work vigrx plus results


A person necessarily assist to make severely posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this actual put up incredible. Wonderful task! vigrx plus ingredients


I like what you guys are up too. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website :). vigrx plus coupon code

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account