Thursday, June 14, 2012


Ask a Clean Person: What's Cookin'? Oh. Ew.

My problem is a strange one: what to do about an oven that smells like pee? Whenever the old gas range in my new apartment gets turned on, the room gradually fills with the smell of urine. Like, stale, nasty urine-stink. At first, I thought it was the fan vent above the stove, but soaking and scrubbing that has done absolutely nothing for the problem. I can only conclude that the issue lies within the oven itself and not the burners, since it seems to be primarily preheating that unleashes the smell. My landlord will throw a fit if any parts are replaced/dismantled, so I need to find a way to sanitize this one into submission.

As is so often the case with the questions you all toss my way, there's some good news and some bad news here. And for you there's actually good news, bad news, and then good news again.

So shall we start with the good news? Yes, we shall! The good news is that this isn't actually all that strange; it's more common than you'd think.

The bad news is that the urine smell? Is exactly that, the smell of urine. Coming from mice. Yeah, sorry. I tried to warn you that bad news was on its way! But if you all require a moment to collect yourselves and/or barf in a handbag I'll be happy to accommodate your need for a time-out.

Right so! It's gross, but it happens. The miceies! They love the heat! So they hang around the oven and you know how it is — when you gotta go, you gotta go. The first thing to do here is to clean the oven. I've gone over oven cleaning instructions before, so I'm going to leave this link here as a reference for you and also take a moment to say that I still love that "(THIS IS THE FUN PART, SYLVIA!)" line a whole lot. You crazy people are a fun lot to write at!

While we're still on the subject of the bad news I've got for you, I also need to tell you that a regular cleaning of the oven is unlikely to completely eliminate the problem. The mice, you see, they umm … they get into the insulation of the oven and do their business there too, not just in and around the body of the oven. And in order to address that, you'd have to take apart the oven, which I'm absolutely not qualified to instruct you how to do. Also, if you have a gas stove please please please be very careful when futzing around, okay? Let's not have any gas line explosions in our family!

The thing that in your case actually turns out to be good news is that your landlord won't abide by you dismantling the oven, which means that once you've tried to clean it on your own your next step will be to pick up the telephone. You call that landlord right up and say, "HEY LANDLORD! Assorted vermin has been piddling in my ovenspace, you get over here right this instant to clean it up and/or replace the appliance. Well, yes of course I've cleaned it thoroughly, what do you think I'm some kind of housekeeping novice?? They must have gotten up into the insulation!" Or say it nicely, if that's more your style.

I have a mouse in my apartment, so the Super came over while I was at the office and helpfully put sticky traps in the kitchen, which I saw when I arrived home that night. What I did not see was the sticky trap he put IN THE OVEN until an hour ago when I was merrily preheating and suddenly toxic smoke started billowing out. So not only were my bulgur-stuffed peppers lunch plans derailed, I now have a puddle of quickly cooling sticky trap glue at the bottom of my oven. I know you did a question on oven cleaning before, and I am happy to proceed as instructed, but will it work on glue? And will I create a toxic nightmare using Easy-Off Oven Cleaner on top of the glue? Help!

See how smart you are, asking about mixing chemical substances before you just go around winging it and suffocating on a toxic cloud? So smart! Wicked smart, even! Your landlord, on the other hand ... woof. That was, um, not a wicked smart thing to do.

So this is sort of too-easy-to-be-true, but the answer is vegetable oil. You'll want to rub a small amount of the oil (you can always add more) to the sticky spot, let it sit for 5 or so minutes, and then wipe away with a clean, dry cloth. You may need to scrape at it a little bit too, and of course you can repeat as necessary.

Somehow, plastic melted all over the oven. I have no idea what it was or how it happened, and both of my roommates claim innocence as well. I peeled the hardened plastic bits off of the racks and scrubbed the floor of the oven with steel wool and 409 (I had no idea what else to use, and it was around) but when I turn the oven on, it still smells like burning plastic and emits enough smoke to set off the fire alarm. Because of that, I'm hesitant to use the oven cleaning setting. What can I do? There are only so many things that I can make in a toaster oven.

Ugh oh ooooof that sounds wretched; burning plastic smells are no fun at all. Also you should consider getting rid of your roommates, seriously, they are revolting. And also no help at all! Jerks.

You've got two routes you can go here: hot or cold. You didn't specify if you had a gas or electric stove, but I do think it's worth noting that if you have a gas stove, you can unscrew the bottom panel of the stove, which will make cleaning it waaaay easier. Just be sure to turn the gas off before you do!

Okay but back to getting the melted plastic out from inside the oven. If you choose to go the cold route, you'll need to get a giant bag of ice and basically plant it on the area where the plastic has melted. Once it's had a chance to freeze, which will shrink it, which in turn will loosen it from the oven interior, you can scrape it up with a sharp-edged scraper. If you do have a gas stove and want to go use the chill method, you really do need to take that bottom panel out, as the heat from the gas source will melt the ice and the plastic bag its in, making an even bigger mess.

The other option is heat, and this is the one you'll need to use if the plastic is stuck to the side walls unless you want to hold the bag of ice against the side of the wall, which I don't think you want to do, right? Right. It's also the way to go if you've got a gas stove that you're not up to disassembling.

To prevent the plastic from smoking, you'll want to turn the oven on to the lowest heat setting possible, usually around 200 degrees, and heat it just until the wax is melted. Then using a scraper tool (it needn't be sharp since the wax is pliable), scrape up the melted wax. If the wax re-hardens during this process, just shut the oven door and turn the heat back on until it's again melted to a point at which you can get back to your scraping.

Previously: Laundry School Commencement Exercises.

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 curious to know if she's answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?

188 Comments / Post A Comment


My only thought is that at least it's not a liquefied mouse in addition to the melted glue. Yuck.

Porn Peddler



@Ellie You, madame, are an optimist of the first order.


@Ellie Yikes! "Dear A Clean Person, I have a partially roasted mouse glued to the bottom of my oven....is it safe to use Easy-Off?"


@Ellie I was holding my breath waiting for that. Phew.


@automaticdoor I subletted from really gross hippies one summer. Our first week there, I was getting ready to roast vegetables and the terrible pee smell started emanating from the oven.

Roommate and I began a frantic clean-fest. Sweeping near the oven, a bit of cotton fuzz came out from under it. Then a bit more. Then a bit more. We opened the broiler drawer and FULL-FLEDGED RAT NEST. The people we were subletting from hadn't noticed and the rats were living like kings.


@travelmugs I'm... going to lie down now. Wow. That made my day instantly better by comparison. Ew ew ew ew ew.


@automaticdoor I have SO many stories from that summer. They made us dinner before we all agreed to sublet, to make sure that we all got along. Midway through our plates of curry, they informed us that all the ingredients had been dumpster dived.


@automaticdoor Then when the sublet formally started 2.5 weeks later, we moved in and found the same pot of curry on the stove, entirely molded over.



(*...and I'm from Austin, man.)


@travelmugs Wait, so that dumpster diving Portlandia skit (AwwWah) wasn't hyperbole?? I will never hang out with people like that.* (*...and I hang out with dirt-poor hardcore punks.)


@travelmugs AUGH!!!!!!


@whizz_dumb there are degrees of dumpster diving. you don't go like untying trash bags looking for half-sandwiches. but friends of mine go to bakeries and supermarkets at closing time and are able to rescue perfectly fine food from being thrown away. smaller homeless shelters do this too. it can be fine!
(i assume the kinds of people who leave curry on the stove for two weeks and let rats nest in their oven would go about it in a NOT-FINE way, though.)


@plonk Yeah, my boyfriend's best friend used to be a security guard, and one of the places he guarded frequently tossed out perfectly good (PERFECTLY GOOD! I am one of Them) pallets of, like, frozen croissants and stuff because the corner of the box got dinged by a forklift or something. We got so much free bread that year, it was great.


@plonk Is the kind of stuff you and @friggy are talking about dumpster-diving though? I mean, I would hella take any bread that Whole Foods or a bakery or somesuch was throwing away, and I would do so with pride. That doesn't really register on my "Die Hippies Die"-O-meter. In my mind, dumpster-diving is like, actually climbing into a dumpster and taking away food that has been sitting there for Idunnohowlong.

(Also, PS, I do not actually think that hippies should die. As stated above, I live in Austin, and love me some hippies. Some people would probably even call me a hippie, since I eat a ton of kale, almost never shave my legs and enjoy composting.)


@wee_ramekin I think so, technically! Because the boxes were in the dumpster, not among rotting food or anything, just stacked on top of each other. So it's definitely near the edges of legit dumpster-diving since the stuff was just tossed each night and he'd rescue them at the end of each shift. I don't think I've ever had, like, mystery uncooked meat from a dumpster. Because yurgh.


@wee_ramekin well, sometimes this involves opening a dumpster and taking stuff out! (because some places are weird about giving people stuff directly, or sometimes you miss their exact food-throwing-out moment.) i think like most things in life, you can go about it with sense and reasonableness, or you can go about it stupidly, and the principle of the thing hinges on the practice of the thing.


@travelmugs RAT KINGS?!?!?!

Porn Peddler

Just here to second all the pro-dumpster-diving commentary. I was once informed halfway through a dinner that most of the ingredients were dumpster dived and I was alarmed for a second because OMG YOU GUYS NEVER PAY FOR YOUR FOOD, DO YOU?! HOLY SHIT LUCKY.


@staircases There is a Rat King in the Nutcracker, no?


@beeline96 There is indeed. And Clara (or Marie, depending on your version) throws a shoe at him to defeat him. If only it were that easy.


Oh man, last time we got ROACHES and now we're getting MICE!? I can't take these heebie jeebies!!


@whizz_dumb Portlandia is a motherfucking documentary.


@frigwiggin Ugh I hate that kind of waste. However, aren't there usually charities that re-distribute that sort of food? (Feeding America and other food banks, church groups, soup kitchens, etc)

I had a volunteer job once that involved me driving around collecting bread from various Panera and Safeway locations to bring to the food pantry at one point. I thought this was a common practice, and that most businesses did it for the tax write-off...?

Also: I grew up in San Francisco, have a hippie mother, etc etc, and would have been so angry at those hippies that someone would have had to hold me back (and, if still in school, would have gone directly to student legal services about breaking the sublet agreement).


@PatatasBravas People who live in Portland: "Are they making fun of us or showing how awesome we are?" Answer: Yes.


@whizz_dumb Both. Brooklyn is having a small crisis, trying to figure out if they should step up their game to out-Portlandia PDX, if they should shrug if off and explore a different ~coolness~ direction, or if they should swallow their pride and continue importing coffee from Stumptown, etc.


@wee_ramekin It definitely is-- I've cooked and eaten dumpstered food with Foot Not Bombs and I got the impression from them that the hardest stuff to get was thrown out by places that deliberately made it difficult. We were able to get fresh produce, including some delicate stuff like tomatoes, that just sat at the store one day longer than the rules or wasn't quite pretty enough for people to buy. We had to throw some of it out once we were cooking with it and got a closer look, but there's actually a lot of perfectly good food that places don't donate.

I don't know if it's true of all the stores, but I had friends who worked at Whole Foods and were having to throw stuff out at the end of the night that they happily would have driven to a shelter. And heard of other stores to avoid because they would compact otherwise good food that they had decided to throw away.


@themmases These hippies dumpster dove the right way, for the most part: knew when Trader Joe's did a big dump, most of it was in sealed packages/easy to wash. Still, like most things, I prefer my consumption of dumpster-ed food to be consensual.

Cat named Virtute

@bocadelperro Some places have laws about what food can be given away to shelters and the like because of food safety regulation laws (I'm thinking specifically of restaurant leftovers, but I believe this can apply to groceries and bakeries and whatnot), hence the need for dumpster diving. Companies can get into trouble if food and safety inspectors know that they're giving away food that hasn't been refrigerated to standard or things that are past their sell-by date, even if they're perfectly safe to eat.

fondue with cheddar

@Cat named Virtute Can't they just have you sign a waiver? I would think that would cover it.

But then, that would mean they'd have to pay their lawyer to draw up paperwork that will allow them to give stuff away for free. I don't see many stores/restaurants doing that.


@PatatasBravas Never been to Portland, but I live in Bushwick and there's this thing I've been noticing about the kids: They are totally try to out-dirtbag one another. Like, who can find the ugliest thing at the thrift store, leave it in the street get run over until it's filthy and has holes, then wear it while being equally dirty and unkempt. It's like an anti-hipster thing, i think.


Do you guys know what a real "Rat King" is? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_king_%28folklore%29

Warning: it is super gross. I actually love rats, but I'm eating lunch right now, and that's gross.


@ba-na-nas Anti-hipster is such a funny thing. I'm pretty sure small-town truck driving dudes scoff and call me a hipster in the town I work. I did get called "city boy" the other day by this dude who asked if I liked living in Oakland and seemed surprised when I said that I do like it.


@Ellie Roast micies for dinner!


@Ellie Cooooooool.

Then again, I managed to read the original post while eating, too.


@all My ex was a dumpster divin' enthusiast. Mostly that just meant he ate a lot of Trader Joe's stuff and gave me many plants that were on their way to wilted and dead because he didn't believe in giving flowers.

There was a lot of fun to be had, I understand, in figuring out how to outwit the make it hard people. You got bragging rights if you managed to dive from the TJ's with the security guard. (eye roll crusty bike punk hippies... bless em)

And I agree. Dumpster diving, whatever. But consensual DD is necessary.

Lastly. Were there rats to be found IN MY STOVE OH MY FUCKING GOD I would seriously let the hippies know there would be Phoning of the Pest Control People and a Mutual Disinfecting of the Kitchen Party or I would manufacture a reason to call the Super and maybe the Health Department.

Because that is not only vile it is a serious HEALTH HAZARD.


@travelmugs Oh no, I totally agree you need to tell people ahead of time. I was not comfortable with it at first and other people have allergy, intolerance, or immune issues where they need to be a lot more careful than, say, I do about where that food has been.

We scored a huge bag of Whole Foods bread (like it was a big tied shut bag of bread and only bread-- it was awesome!) to serve for an Iraq war protest. People were understandably pretty upset when some of the bread, which wasn't all still labeled, had cheese in it. Loooootssss of vegans at the Food Not Bombs bench in Federal Plaza, who'd have thought?


@PistolPackinMama ummmmmm did you date my friend?? That is exactly him down to the partially-wilted plants. And I do love me some crusty bike punk hippies! Mine routinely eat roadkill (ewwww) and have things like plastic baggies full of bird wings in their truck.
But seriously one of my bffs is a dumpster diving pro and gets all the food from TJ's. There was a particularly funny botulism* incident recently where a friend who works at TJ's was telling a story about the entire case of canned oysters they had to throw out because of contamination risk, whereupon said bff turned white as a ghost and managed to squeak out that he had retrieved those 100+ cans of oysters and given them to his boss (who trades him free food from the coffee shop for dumpster food...no joke). So then we spent a frantic 20-30 mins calling the entire family to leave "DON'T EAT THE OYSTERS" voicemails. Anyway. They all ended up being fine, so that's my dumpster story for the day. I often wonder how I can be such a Clean Person with such Dirty Friends, but I like to think I'm a good influence (direct quote from the other day: "Superdreaming, why do you smell so good all the time?" "Mostly I think it's that I shower every day..." "Oh man, I don't know the last time I showered! That's probably it!")

*ask me about botulism! I know a lot about the Arctic and the Franklin expedition!


@superdreaming Oh my lord. I might have done. It sounds... FAMILIAR!


@superdreaming AAH the Franklin expedition. I saw a NOVA about that six years ago and I still sometimes have nightmares.


@bocadelperro Right?!?!?! Oh man, I wrote a series of poems about polar explorers this year (why? who knows! I guess I just wanted to be sad for a year!) and the research was terrifying/heartbreaking/depressing.


@PistolPackinMama Please tell me you're from Virginia (Richmond, specifically)???


@bocadelperro Ahhh for just one time, I would take the Northwest Passage/ To find the hand of Franklin Reaching for the Beaufort Sea/ Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage/ To make a Northwest Passage to the seeeeeaaaa.

(<3 u, Stan Rogers)

And no, sadly not. I am not from VA. But I don't know what to think of the fact that there are DOPPELDIVERS out there.


@superdreaming I mean, I understand why you'd want to write about them--the metaphors practically write themselves. Hubris! Over-confidence in new Technology! The Vicar of Wakefield!
(seriously though, the thought of slowly starving to death in a frozen landscape along with 300 of my closest friends is so terrifying to me I had to close my window the last time I took a polar flight. Looking at the frozen north was just too much.)


@themmases I thought part of the point of Food Not Bombs was to encourage more spending on social programs, in part by offering meals to homeless/itinerant folks? Am I wrong about that? Because if I'm not, then I don't really feel much remorse for vegans who are upset about cheese in free Whole Foods Bread.


@Xanthophyllippa It is. The chapter I volunteered with also fed anti-war protesters in downtown Chicago in March 2003 & 2004, and presumably other times that I wasn't able to attend/had stopped going. That was in addition to cooking meals for homeless folks who needed it on the weekends.

I dunno, I felt bad for the vegans at our bench. They were there doing something legitimately kinda dangerous (I was 15 and was blocked off by the police for over an hour on [I think] Chicago Ave for over an hour while police went into the crowd of our nonviolent protest, picked apparently random people, and dragged them bodily across the pavement in front of me as their way of arresting them. Video of Chicago police beating NATO protestors last month aired on mainstream news like that was just... expected) that not enough people were doing, they were hungry and we volunteered to feed them. They had a perfectly legitimate dietary restriction that our group sympathized with and that certainly ought to have been welcome at an anti-war protest. Some of them found out after they ate that bread. And the food was free to us, too.


@superdreaming I just now saw this and was wondering if you have any of those poems around on the internet for us to see? I read about the Franklin expedition as a kid and can STILL see the book's photos and illustrations in my head. Including the ones of the bodies they found in the 1980s or '90s.


@whateverlolawants Oh man! I am so excited! I don't have any of them online currently (ughhh submitting things for publication) but I will definitely let you/the Hairpin know if I do! The collection is currently called North/South (because it's about Scott, Shackleton, and Greely) and it is sort of about dying alone. Here's the final stanza of a poem from the hallucination sequence (aptly titled "Hallucination IV") as a teaser: "I can see mouths moving through filmy pink silence / waves against my eardrums, the noise of clenched teeth."
Also, literary 'pinners, where are you submitting things to???


@Ellie Please do keep us posted, as I'd definitely dig reading those. (I love poetry and adventure stories, especially when things go horribly wrong)


@superdreaming Sounds really cool. Definitely let us know!


Question Somewhat Related:
STOVETOPS. How do they work, seriously. Because I just went on a cleaning spree of my new apartment and scrubbed the hell out of the stovetop and now one of the burners won't work. It sits kind of...slanted in the hole. I'm afraid to force it in case I electrocute myself (again) ((pro tip: wear rubber gloves when cleaning the fuse area on the stove)).

Also someone else melted plastic all over another burner and GOOD LUCK getting the landlords to replace it. Advice for cleaning plastic off a metal burner element?


@antipretty electric stove, yes? i am not RECOMMENDING this, per se, because i ALSO do not know anything about stoves in general or your stove in particular, but in the past i have just yanked out the burners of electric stoves and then stuck them back in (there are prongs that fit into slots) and have not died in the least.

Genghis Khat

@antipretty Also, perhaps unplug everything before cleaning electrical elements if you've been shocked before?


@antipretty As long as you stay away from the actual...plug hole thing? you should be fine unplugging the burner coils and plugging them back in (just treat them like any other electric thing, and don't stick anything in the socket).

As for getting plastic off the burner, I think your best bet is to just get a new one. Measure the burner, check what model of stove you have, and go to your nearest Target or Home Depot (or preferably, small local hardware store). I had to replace two of ours after I started a grease fire (fire extinguisher goo does not come off hot burners), and they were like $10-$15.


@SarcasticFringehead yes, this is what i was trying to say, thank you. less "yanking," more "unplugging."


@SarcasticFringehead I wasn't even AWARE you could buy new ones! Privately, I mean. I figured landlords had access to some secret hoard of miscellaneous appliance parts.

Any excuse to go to Home Depot works for me.


@antipretty I originally went to this used appliance store close to my place and asked if they had some spare ones (the idea was not to let the landlord know about the fire), and they guy there was like, "um, you can just buy these." That was also when I learned how cheap those metal bowl things under the burners are, which will save me some cleaning when we move out.


@antipretty Turn off the circuit breaker! This is the number-one way to avoid dying by electrocution when monkeying around with home improvement stuff.


@SarcasticFringehead Or just take the burner out and bring it to the store with you. That'll remove any chance of buying one that is ever so slightly the wrong kind. Totally have the stove model number though. I wouldn't be surprised if they can look up what you need based on that like at auto supply stores.


@SarcasticFringehead Yes! The metal bowls are like $2 and make it look so much nicer. "Cleaning" those is firmly one of the man-friend's designated duties, since "Buy a new one" is his favorite and by far most effective cleaning method.


@antipretty I pull my oven's burner coils out once a week for cleaning, and plug them back in when I'm done. I've never once been zapped and I've been doing this my whole adult life. So my advice is: you're safe.
And yeah, sometimes you will accidentally plug one of them back in wonky (since you can't actually see the "outlet" you're aiming for), and the burner won't work. Just pull the coil back out, square the plug with the opening, and try again. Repeat until it works.


"THIS IS THE FUN PART, SYLVIA" just may be my favorite thing ever posted on this website.

hahahaha, ja.

@sam.i.am: That is actually my name, and I keep getting a panicked jolt of "WHAT DID I DO NOW" when I come across that.


Semi-unrelated, but an oven story nonetheless: one of the first times I stayed home by myself for an extended period of time (a whole weekend...I was 12). My dad had made a strawberry rhubarb pie a few days before and all the sugary pie drippings were left on the bottom of the oven. I didn't know this, and I went to make myself bagel bites for dinner. About 6 minutes into the cooking, the whole pile of pie droppings caught fire, which then caught the bagels on fire, and pretty soon the whole oven was on fire. And I didn't know where the fire extinguisher was kept or how to use it, so I called my neighbors. They came over and put it out, but the moral of this story: teach your children about fire extinguishers!


@olivebee Once when I was a kid I wanted to re-heat a Dairy Queen hotdog (ew) and, as we all know, DQ hotdogs come wrapped in foil paper! I innocently put it in the microwave and wandered away, only to return to flames shooting out from my now incinerated hotdog (may I say again, ew - why was I re-heating a fast-food hotdog in the microwave, I don't know). So again, moral of the story, teach your children about things that burst into flames in the microwave!


@olivebee The moral I took away from that was "Get a dad that makes strawberry rhubarb pie!!! But also that doesn't leave drippings"


@roadtrips Oooh, ooh, microwave disaster story! When I was little my parents used to freeze juice boxes of Yoo Hoo (Yoo Hoo boxes of Yoo Hoo?) and they'd put them in my lunch and by the time I got to lunch I'd have a lovely slushy Yoo Hoo shake. I was home by myself one day and wanted a damn Yoo Hoo shake without waiting five hours for it. SO I put it in the microwave. Before you know it, black smoke, flames, etc. Turns out Yoo Hoo boxes have some sort of foil inside?

I threw the whole thing outside onto the concrete pad of the carport (thought putting it in the trash would be too dangerous--I'm not completely stupid, just mostly), which is where my parents found it when they got home.


@okaycrochet Haha. Too bad that was the only thing my dad ever made, unless it was big, greasy breakfasts for himself. He is of the old-fashioned "hey wife, cook dinner" mindset.

@roadtrips I always microwaved hot dogs as a kid, but I also only ever ate hot dogs that were blackened and crispy, so I would place the hot dog directly on the metal rack in the microwave to get those black lines on it. Hot dogs are disgusting enough as it is and then the added germs of placing it directly on a cooking surface....ew.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher i have set things on fire in the microwave twice. really! twice! you didn't learn from the first time you heard a pop and smoke started billowing out and you saunter over to see FLAMES OH MY GOD THERE ARE FLAMES WHAT DO I DOOOOO

yeah no. to be honest i'm not sure why i thought melting a stick of butter in the microwave was a good idea to begin with ... not taking it out of the foil wrapping was just icing on the idiocy.

(alcohol was the reason i thought it was a good idea)

Alcohol Magurthy

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Oh boy. My one and only Microwave Disaster Story is a doozy. Let me preface this by also saying that at the time, I was not an innocent child, but a grown-ass adult who definitely should have known better.

During my senior year in college, I realized I needed to cut down on using my credit cards for things. So I had the (actually) brilliant idea to put the cards in a plastic ziploc baggy, put the baggy in a small tupperware container, fill the tupperware with water, and then put the whole thing in the freezer. I figured that the time it would take to thaw the container and get the credit cards out would provide enough of a barrier that I would have to think carefully before using them.

All of that is well and dandy, until I legitimately needed one of the cards for a large online purchase. I am an impatient idiot, so I had the (not-so-brilliant) idea: "I'll just throw the tupperware in the microwave to thaw it faster!" Luckily, I realized my mistake within 5 seconds of actually hitting the start button, but it was too late. One of the cards was that AmEx card with the blue metal chip, so it caught fire and left scorch marks on all my other cards. Oh, and obviously everything was demagnetized.

I'm awesome.


@redheaded&crazie "He's twice tried to microwave a Ding Dong while it was still in its foil... twice."

Does Axl have a jack?

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher My saddest microwave disaster was after I left a moderately expensive pot of lip gloss in my car; it melted kinda sideways in the pot then resolidified. So I decided to stick it in the microwave for several seconds to remelt it so that it would go back to normal. It turns out that the metallic lettering on the side of the pot did in fact contain actual metal. It totally caught on fire.


@all I am so appalled by my microwave fire story I am not going to tell it. I am burning with shame.

But I will tell you all, two Thanksgivings ago, the sensitive new age organic free range turkey the host had bought that didn't really fit the foil roasting pan really well started to drip grease in the oven. And caught fire.

Because I am bossy, I wound up being Fire Marshal and tried to pull that beautiful bird out.

Close oven door, flames go down for lack of O2.
Close: Dies.
Close: Dies.

Finally I just said "do you have an extinguisher?" They did. And I seriously called my mom to ask if it would be at all feasible to rinse the turkey of its new coating of fire retardant powder and put it back in the oven and pretend nothing happened.

I got an unequivocal NO, which I think is really only fair.

So off the hostess and I went to Whole Foods in Chicago on T-day, on the edge of tears. The nice WF workers took one look at us as tears rolled down our faces, and said "we'll figure it out."

So I bought the hostess an apron to make her feel better (because I am your Polish mother), we took two small already cooked turkeys home, the oven had been cleaned, and we put them in the oven.

Ten minutes after the hostess called everyone to the table, her father announced his chest and arm hurt and he was going to lie down.

At this point, my SIL the Doctor took over the circus and we could hear her saying "MR. WHATSYERNAME WE WILL BRING YOUR THINGS TO THE HOSPITAL BUT RIGHT NOW I WANT YOU TO LIE DOWN.

It was the Thanksgiving That Is Not Discussed. Except of course I am discussing it here.


@PistolPackinMama The Best Time The Flames of Hell Consumed The Thanksgiving Turkey.

Also, Mr. Father of Host was okay.


I am never using an oven again.


Question for the masses: how do I remove stubborn stains from a stovetop? I have tried several grease-removing kitchen cleaners and none have worked. Neither has white vinegar. Any recommendations (especially handy household item ones, like baking soda paste or something)?


@olivebee @olivebee Magic Erasers. I swear by them. Wear gloves and don't soak the entire block, just kind of dip the working corner in water real quick, then rub away.

Unless you've got a glass stovetop in which case, don't use the Magic Erasers because they'll probably scratch.


@olivebee Baking soda paste actually works pretty well for me, especially on grease stains. That and a good scratchy sponge with some traction. When I worked in a print shop, we used a combination of simple green and vegetable oil to get really stubborn ink stains, which are oil based and maybe similar in character to the stains on your stovetop? In any case, the SG/VO combo worked like a dream.


@olivebee I just did this and I got alll the baked on stains off my stovetop. I tried steel wool in the past but it scratched, so this time I tried one of those copper wirey pad dealies? It didn't scratch the paint on my adorable 1970s stove (it has one of those flippy clockradio clocks on it! And fauxbois panels! I looove it!). So I guess copper is softer than powder coating? And also softer than steel wool? But you should try it in an inconspicuous spot first.


@antipretty Ugh, glass stovetops! BANE. They just look so assy after 5 minutes of use. Tips would be appreciated.


@olivebee I really like the powder-based cleaners like Barkeeper's Friend or Ajax which you can make a paste of an apply. It's pretty similar to the baking soda paste but with a bit more oomph.


@all Thanks, everyone! I will give these a try.


@olivebee Thanks! This was my question, too :)


@charmcity I got lazy cleaning my glass cook top now I have burny stains. They can probably come off, I just am not sure how to do that.


@charmcity YES ME TOO!


I use a magic eraser on my glass top. It gets most of the stuff off, though not always all of it, and I'm probably etching the surface so stuff is harder to get out, but it's the only thing I could find that worked.

Grace Anne Boucher@facebook

@olivebee If it's a glass top use magic eraser. That shit is magic.


Oh, sticky traps are the worst! That was my landlord's solution in my old place too but when a mouse gets caught they're stuck on there until they starve to death and they make the saddest little whining noises. Once I realized how terrible the traps were, I got the mice off the traps using vegetable oil (traumatic for both me and the mouse) and set them free in the woods. So I guess that also confirms Jolie's advice for cleaning the mess.

Maybe suggest snap traps to your landlord or buy some yourself since they are cheap and much more likely to give a quick death!


@reburkel Yeah, that seems unnecessarily cruel. And yeah, life is suffering for many creatures, large and small, but still. Poor little mice. :(


@frigwiggin Yes, sticky traps are terrible.

I'm an office manager, and when I had to deal with a mouse problem, I purchased some electronic mouse traps. They are much more humane than sticky traps, they're reusable, and they make disposing of the dead vermin easy and sanitary! I highly recommend them.

Faintly Macabre

@reburkel I wish I had known that freshman year of college! My room had a mouse infestation (1960s crappy dorm that had not been kept in good shape despite students paying $660/month to share tiny rooms), to the point that my roommate and I killed/caught 13 mice over the course of the year and heard countless more. My useless college's useless solution was to put sticky traps all over the place while we were out, even though my parents and I had begged them to stop. If I didn't notice the traps and remove them before I went to bed, at 2AM I would hear piteous crying under my bed.

Before my mom figured out that we could call the cleaning crews late at night (though sometimes we got the campus police instead), my roommate and I had to drown a mouse in a bucket so we could sleep, using my detergent bottle to hold the glue trap down. I tried using no-kill traps, only to have a suitemate throw one away when it caught a mouse and another suitemate lecture me that we weren't trying hard enough to get rid of the mice.

On the plus side, I now have a good reason never to donate to my college, as I figure they owe me a year's rent.


They are the worst. It's not just that they starve to death, it's that they are so intent on getting away that they will rip themselves apart trying to do so.

Is It a Hat?

@reburkel I was coming here to say the same thing. My old boss put a sticky trap in our storage room and I was tasked with taking the squirming, crying little mouse out to the garbage can (WTF?!) So being the soft-hearted animal lover that I am, took it out to a nearby field and used a twig to pry its little feet away from the sticky pad. Obviously this hurt the little guy even more and he bit me!!

Get rid of your sticky mouse traps, seriously they are horrible :(


@frigwiggin I had an apartment that had mice and lizards and a mud dauber wasp infestation. It was a crappy apartment. Nothing is like rolling over to get out of bed and seeing a little mouse looking at you from the floor. I tried to do the nice thing and use no-kill traps, but they just wouldn't work. Ever. So I ended up using these things. They are kill traps, but they did the job very quickly. If I couldn't get rid of the little guys without killing them, the least I could do was minimize their suffering. Glue traps are just cruel.

Faintly Macabre

@WhiskeySour Yeah, variations on the classic mouse trap are the most effective. My dad used to use no-kill ones and release the mice in the woods, but finally decided that he was probably just making the mice suffer. Downside: visiting dogs will try to lick the peanut butter off the traps and look offended when you yell at them.


MORAL OF THE STORY: get cats, everyone! Lots of cats!

je suis un ananas

@wee_ramekin In the amazon link you posted: "...rats have the ability to restart their heart after an electrical shock". HOLY SHIT.

AJ Sparkles

@reburkel Terrible story on the quick death scenario- Unemployed roomamtes with too much time & a South Philly rathole- I came home & found a half alive mouse still stuck to a sticky trap- IN MY FREEZER- NOT EVEN IN A BAG! Geniuses decided that the mouse would just fall asleep from the cold & not suffer a long horrible, torturous death. Blerg, I'm getting all squirmy just thinking about it. I think that I also remember them parading around the house with their shirts on top of their heads proud of their awesome reasoning skills.

There was a hint of "look what I made you! Poop!" -- dog


@je suis un ananas FWHAT?!?!?! That is horrifying, and just proves to me that someday the world will only consist of rats and cockroaches (*shudder*).


@reburkel Little micies on glue traps just about break my heart. Which is why, when I used to live in Mouse Heaven in Baltimore, my roommate and I would catch them on the sticky traps, toss them in a plastic bag and douse them in vegetable oil until the glue dissolved. (At which point we walked the plastic bag with frantically scurrying mouse over to the dumpster of the nearest frat house. Mouse presents!)


@travelmugs but then your house smells like cat pee instead of mouse pee.


@NeenerNeener Or they'll chew off their own feet to un-stick themselves, and then you wake up to a trap full of feet and have to go looking for the body.


@Xanthophyllippa Made easier by the trail of blood?


@NeenerNeener Ha! Fair enough. Though footless mice (and miceless feet) are still an unpleasant good morning. Kind of like the day when I was living at home and went trotting outside with no shoes on and promptly stepped on the liver and feet of a mouse my cat had caught and mostly eaten. She always left the feet.

Faintly Macabre

@AJ Sparkles Putting uncovered mice in the freezer is a bad idea, BUT my when my dad's work used glue traps, he would wrap the mouse in a plastic bag and put it in their (barely-used) freezer to let the mouse die quietly of hypothermia.

(And yes, my poor dad is always the one who has to deal with mice.)


@katward Mouse presents made me laugh for like...a while. Not sure why, but the image of folks carting mice over to a frat house on a daily basis is just too funny.


@travelmugs my cat is either the laziest or most brilliant feline I've ever encountered; she saw a mouse and instead of killing it, scared it and ushered it into a snap trap I placed down. Cross-species teamwork!

Roaring Girl

@Xanthophyllippa My cat would just eat the head and leave the body. On the carpet. In my bedroom. And I would find it by stepping on it EVERY DAMN TIME.

Roaring Girl

@Xanthophyllippa Also: dealing with wild rodents is actually my job this summer, and their tendency to go batshit when trapped is a constant source of sadness for me. If you aren't too scared of rodents and would like to let them live on in peace far away from your house, and also have some cash to spare, I heartily recommend Sherman traps.


@Roaring Girl
Question: what do little mousey heads look like in poorly lit places?
Fact: tiny craft pompoms. I know this because I was once about to leave for vacation when my mom sent me down to the laundry room to grab something and I reached down to pick up a little craft pompom that had somehow mysteriously gotten on the floor and it had EYES and UGH it was a mouse head and UGH there were like 10-20 scattered all over the floor because my cat was a startlingly efficient mouse killer but also a lazy asshole and couldn't be bothered to group them all together in a funeral mound. Cats and mice, man...


@superdreaming OMG EW EW EW
That is terrible and also such a beautiful description.
My parents have mice and last weekend I was home and saw one scurry past in the kitchen. When my dad got up I told him (because I am ten years old) and he got this serious look on his face and announced it was time to take action, and he started unwrapping the packages of snap traps he'd bought the day before. He got some cheese out and started preparing them, and I got distracted by something and was very surprised when a couple minutes later I returned to find my dad eating the cheese himself and saying - out loud - "MMM, this is good cheese." When I shot him a quizzical look he explained that he was trying to lure them with the power of suggestion.


@Roaring Girl I'd be down with that except that I live right across from a pretty big forest, and if rodents are in my apartment to begin with then they're not likely to stay there if I toss 'em back in the woods. Since there isn't a mouse shortage that I can tell, I don't really feel too bad about not taking them across the street to run free.

I thought I read somewhere, too, that squirrels that are relocated in that way generally don't survive very long since they're in other squirrels' territory -- is that true?


@reburkel Snap traps definitely seem to be the best. I usually don't bother with catching mice but last year I was staying in a wall tent for work and I TOLD the mouse we'd be fine if he just stayed off the bed but NO he had to RUN THROUGH MY HAIR WHILE I SLEPT. I freaked out and put out traps the next morning.


@MilesofMountains Here lies Mousy. He wouldn't stay out of her hair.

Jen Alien-Spouse@twitter


That is such a reasonable compromise and if the mouse couldn't accept those very humane terms of co-habitation, well, he was a bit of an arse and clearly deserved to die.

I have a similar blanket statement out to the earwigs of the world - Please live free and happy anywhere else that you choose, but if you come in my house I will have no choice but to kill you. I hate earwigs. It's the pincers.

Lady Mondegreen

@reburkel Glue traps! :( I got mice two winters ago, and tried every type of humane trap imaginable. The mice were not interested. After the no-kill ones, I went to the snap traps (at least it's quick!) but the mice would eat the peanut butter without setting the trap off (HOW?!) I knew their home base was in the bathroom, so eventually I gave up and lined the entrance to the bathroom with glue traps. Within a day I caught all three mice, and since my boyfriend was at work for 2/3, I had to drown those in a bucket all by myself. :( I felt so bad.


Many years ago an old roommate's completely psychotic cat jumped on the stove and peed on it, while the oven was in use, baking dinner rolls for thanksgiving dinner. The pee ran down the vent and into the inner workings of the stove and oven.

I moved.

Cat named Virtute

@sony_b I lived with a horrible peeing cat for six months (it peed on my bed SO MANY TIMES and also shat on my blanketed feet while I was sleeping once), and it was mildly traumatic, but that takes the cake.


@sony_b My friend's cat also peed in the burners of her range, and she didn't know it until she turned on the burner. Burning cat pee, yum yum! She bought one of the glass-top stoves, figuring she could clean that easier. Me, I have no interest in having pets anyway, but even if I did, I sure wouldn't have a cat after THAT, but I'm kinda funny like that. My house doesn't smell like cat pee, I'll tell ya that. :-/


This post makes me want to write a column on mouse removal. The first thing is that I don't think having just one mouse is every really true :(

Carrie Ann

@muffalutta Unfortunately, I could totally write this column, as I've had mice in almost every place I've ever lived. Which is torturous for me, as rodents are my biggest phobia.

It is sometimes true that you can have just one mouse! But only if the little mouser got in through an open door or something, and does not have a consistent means of access to your home. But yes, when you see one, assume there are many. Don't pick up your traps after you've caught just one. The only way to actually get rid of them permanently is to figure out where and how they are getting in, and eliminate that entrance. Then you have to get rid of the ones who are already there and just hope to God that they don't have a million babies in the meantime.

Worst mouse experience time! Mine was living in a newish apartment complex that had been built on an open field. Mouse heaven! I saw my first mouse a month after moving in, and that guy spread the word to his buddies, and within six months (and five visits from a worthless exterminator), there was not an hour that went by that we didn't hear or see a mouse in our common space. Luckily for us, the mice didn't "live" in our apartment, they just came and went as they pleased through a heating vent (we saw them plop out of it and scurry back in). We'd tried blocking it every way we could, but nothing worked.

Finally, we got so fed up that a) my roommate wrote an article for the student newspaper about pest problems in the campus area, citing our management company specifically, and b) we called the company and wouldn't get off the phone with them until they sent a different exterminator in to fix the problem (the previous one just put down traps that the mice never bothered with). This dude came in and put in six layers of rat poison and steel wool in the heating duct, and that was the end of our mouse invasion.

fondue with cheddar

@Carrie Ann This begs the question: what is your biggest phobia?


@Carrie Ann sometimes when I'm drunk, I tell people all my mouse stories. When I moved into my current apartment I watched a repairman open my stove to fix something and when I saw that there was not even the smallest little mouse dropping, I squealed and hugged him.

@Carrie Ann I love the way you think. Mouse problem? PUBLIC SHAMING TO SOLVE IT. No seriously, that is also the way that I deal with things like that, and it's great.


@muffalutta I don't have to be drunk to tell my mouse stories. Walking in on mice having sex in my kitchen? The mouse who got caught in a snap trap and ran around my room wearing it like a hat? The babies that ate their mom?

I could also write a column on Waging Mouse War. Steel wool is your friend!


When I was working in elder care, I accidentally melted a plastic cutting board onto the glass-topped stove my client had; I turned off the burner, but forgot it would still be hot because it didn't have normal burners like the stoves I was used to had, and voila, I had melting plastic on my hands. I think I just scraped it off with a knife, but I felt terrible and also like an idiot. Don't hire me to work in your kitchens, people, I will ruin everything!


@frigwiggin I think that is the beginning of the story of the Best Time You Became A Mutant Supervillan Coated in Plastic.


@frigwiggin Once I was making hash browns in college, before I had grasped the basic physics of being an adult who cooks real food for herself, and I left the plastic spoon I was using to stir resting in the hot pan. I did something absurd, like made myself a drink or smoke a cigarette, and when I came back the spoon had melted almost completely into my potatoes. AND I STILL TRIED TO EAT IT. For a minute. For a minute I actually tried to pick bits of melted plastic out of my food. See also the time (embarrassingly recently) when a pyrex pan exploded on the stove top and I tried to pick the glass shards out of my dinner until I wisely decided it was worth it to me to spend $6 on a burrito instead of lacerating my stomach wall.


@okaycrochet I should be clear that I did not, literally, have melting plastic all over my hands, thank god. Poor choice of metaphor.

@roadtrips Oh, I have definitely done this. Fortunately I haven't died yet, but there have been moments where it's like, I can salvage this, right? Maybe? (Both with bits of distinctly non-edible matter and also maybe a tiny bug or two that got into the pasta-boiling water.)


@frigwiggin I did that once in my own apartment with a stoneware baking dish. I had just closed the kitchen door when I heard the thing explode--one of my luckier breaks in life. Glass stoves=the worst.


@roadtrips I once half-melted a spatula, and continued to use said spatula for months until it finally broke apart in the dishwasher.


@roadtrips I have done that, sort of. I was making scrambled eggs with a plastic spatula, and noticed that the spatula looked a bit misshapen. Eating the eggs, I came across a weirdly hard bit. I ate it anyway. It was, I assume, a bit of plastic that had become detached from the melting spatula. What is wrong with me?


dear clean people: i put in my laundry hours ago and forgot to turn on the machine. i have wasted my life.


@plonk You don't even want to know how many times I've done this. My most often "durr" is forgetting to shut the washer lid, so I just have a machine full of water and clothes. An hour later when the dryer's done, I find that lid open and hate myself.


@WhiskeySour also: forgetting to turn on the dryer. sealed metal box full of damp rags!


@plonk I do the dryer thing all the time and it makes me so angry. I did it once and forgot stuff was in it for a whole day and a half. I re-washed it twice after that just to be safe.


@WhiskeySour Oh god. Me too. That and forgetting to turn on the dryer. I am so glad I am not alone.

Also I smashed the hell out of my finger when the washer lid dropped on it recently. It hurt. I have a delicate detente with my appliances right now. But I think they want to kill me.


@PistolPackinMama I recently managed to slice my finger in my washing machine from the little holes on the sides of the drum? (What are those for, anyway? I think on high-end models they are recessed a bit, but on mine they have sharp edges like a cheese grater. Finger grater.


@plonk I do the opposite. Since I started mixing the detergent into the water before adding in the clothes, I have TWICE run a complete washer cycle WITHOUT THE CLOTHES.

I am a freaking genius, obviously.


This is probably more suited to an earlier column (Make Your Bed Month? Laundry School?) but last weekend I finally got fed up with sleeping in my own filth and decided to clean my pillow top mattress cover for the first time ever. In almost 5 years (yes, I am revolting and should probably get rid of myself). It was sooooo gross! Some of the period stains were so huge that they'd soaked through the 3 inch mattress cover and into the mattress itself. It took all weekend to wash and dry the cover and spot clean the mattress, but I felt the hugest sense of accomplishment. I even joked to my boyfriend that I'm finally becoming a Clean Person.

Porn Peddler

@srs Sounds like you need a menstrual cup...oh wait or are they period sex stains, in which case, girl, black towels.


@Porn Peddler The for reals only reason I don't have a menstrual cup is that I don't want to clean it. I do almost no cleaning, ever, and don't want to be responsible for maintaining level of cleanliness required for something designed to be inserted inside me. My boyfriend laughed so hard when I joked that I was turning into a clean person that I thought we'd have to re-wash the mattress cover.


You guys, I am not even joking when I say this: last night I dreamed that I saw Jolie's face.

But now in the daylight, I don't remember what she looked like! #hairpinproblems


@wee_ramekin Her name always makes me picture her as Jolie Holland, but ...punk-er.



Also I cleaned out my fridge guys! But I may die from inhaling so much fungus.


@Megano! Just don't open anything with moldy meat and you'll be fine. But seriously: Gladware with moldy meat products? Let it go. Just toss that shit. You are made of meat, too. No good will come of this.

Porn Peddler

I am being a clean person today, for once. I have been too busy hating myself much of the last few weeks to clean/be a person/all that good shit. I am washing things and then taking them to Plato's closet! and then maybe cleaning my bathroom! And hanging up all my clothes and vacuuming and maaaaybe changing the layout of the bedroom (will have to consult with mister on that one first)


@Porn Peddler I frowned at the thought of you, vegan baking sex educator, hating herself. Please stop that.

Porn Peddler

@laurel As it turns out, there are not a whole lot of full time job openings for vegan baking sex educators. At least in my neck of the woods.

(job related letdowns etc)


@Porn Peddler Yeah, I had one of those letdowns yesterday too. They suuuck. Still not reason to treat yourself unkindly, m'dear. In fact...


@Porn Peddler !!

Love the rename.


I am sorry about the job letdowns. :( Employment these days is just the worst for everyone. My neighbor across the hall just graduated and got a gig working for AndersonSmithJonesAllianceAmerican ConsultingSolutionsCompanyBusiness LLCInc (or something).

And I thought... I am so excited for her to have a... soul crushing... cube farm... job? I guess? Because jobs. They are just not a good thing to have to worry about right now.


(Move to Mpls and open a vegan bakery and sex supply store? I'd come and check out all the glazes and frostings and donuts and longjohns and... stuff. All the stuff.)


@Porn Peddler *squoozle* (That's when you hug somebody really firmly, and sort of rock back and forth with them, while patting them on the back.) We love you!


Apparently we had a mouse in our apartment a few weeks ago. He probably got in through the window (no screens!). Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for the mouse, my cat is a good mouser. Thankfully, though, my roommate intervened and took the little guy outside before he became cat food.

Cats! The solution to all your mouse problems.


@meetapossum my friend's gorgeous kitty hunted a substantial roach and left it in friend's roommate's bed to show her she liked her and would look out for her interests.

It was equal measures cute and vile.


@meetapossum this is tangential because it is sort of related to animals and Bon Iver, and I wanted to share it with you, I will not apologize:

Bon Iver has a nasty bite from a llama. He tried to feed it a gingersnap through the fence. ‘That’s what you get for putting your hand near a strange beast!’ I say, clicking my tongue as I replace the bandage.

He looks at me, shocked. ‘I won’t stop feeding llamas through fences,’ he says quietly. ‘I’ve made some of my best friends that way.’



@PatatasBravas Meanwhile, the llamas probably have the shits from eating human food their stomachs can't handle. Or is that only ducks?


@PatatasBravas I can't thank you enough for introducing me to that Tumblr.


hahahaha how do you turn off the gas though



do you just...not turn on a burner

that can't be right


@melis In my kitchen, there's a pipe pointing up out of the floor behind the stove that the stove's hose screws onto. There's a little valve on the pipe. If the handle of the valve is pointing parallel to the pipe, gas is flowing. If it's perpendicular to the pipe, gas is not flowing (though if you disconnect the hose you might smell a bit of gas that escapes from the hose. Open a window or something).


@laurel i know those are words but they don't mean anything to me. Twisting valves?? Parallels? I'm not a lithographer! (what is a lithographer)


@melis I am also not a lithographer (that I know of).


@melis Call a friend who knows about pipes. Because if you don't feel confident about dealing with gas stoves and their valves... just don't deal with them. Really. That is what pipe-competent friends are for.

A lithographer is a person who writes on ballet dancers. Or on women's music festival of the 1990's attendees. I can never remember which.

Lumpy Space Princess

@melis oh! oh! I'm a lithographer! Well, sort of. I'm studying printmaking, and lithography is a type of printmaking (a type I took a class in last semester). Toulouse-Lautrec did lots of lithography. /beaming from being able to organically bring up printmaking


ElDub1: When I had to clean my stove of micepee, etc., I also lifted the stovetop (it popped up like a car hood, complete with one of those little rods to prop it up) and cleaned under there (/gags slightly). It was awful. I guess the li'l varmints like the pilot lights? And the errant pennes that escaped the pot and fell beneath the burner?

After stuffing steel wool around every pipe and nook I could find to no avail, I finally figured out the mice were coming in under the poorly fitted kitchen door. I glued a strip of that copper V-shaped weather stripping upsidedown under the door and that was the last of my mice invasion.


@laurel I moved into a new apartment in March, and last month some of the gas burners weren't lighting very well. It's an old stove, so I just Googled how to fix/clean/re-light them, and then I propped up the lid to find a whole lot of sooty mouse droppings under that bad boy. I vaccuumed them up and proceeded to fix the stove, but REALLY MICE, running around live pilot lights and such? Were the previous tenants not big cooks?

What's strange is that I already knew the apartment had mice, as one cupboard in the kitchen had mouse droppings (though it was empty) when we moved in. We cleaned it out, and Terminex came by to lay traps, but I've never seen/heard/found evidence of another mouse since we moved in. Am I just cleaner than the previous tenants? (I know that's a yes.) Would the mice have relocated? Am I just delusional and they're plotting their triumphant return?

Evidence-based decision-making

@Stevie Every spring at my cottage I was designated mouse hunter. Because there was always a dead mouse someplace weird. And I was the one who could track them down - by scent! A sickly sweet gag-inducing odour of mouse decay. Once I stood in the middle of the kitchen with my eyes closed, sniffing, and following the scent, and I wound up with my nose pressed to the top of the back of the stove, where there was an electrical outlet. And we took the back off the stove and yes, there WAS A DEAD MOUSE - kind of spreadeagled in amongst the wires, where he was when he electrocuted himself.
Mice. Don't talk to me about mice.


one line in I knew it was the mice. I remember we were baking sweet potato fries and we were like...hmmm, this smells strangely like B.O....we were horrified to find out later that we had baked some critters below the oven. BARF

Roaring Girl

@loulou My sister did that--to a whole mess of baby mice. Most horrifying thing ever ever ever.


I just got this new little tiny cat that falls off the couch a lot and I didn't really anticipate that she would be any kind of hunter because she's really not the smartest but then I realized I haven't seen a single bug since she moved in? And she drops her stuffed shrimp on my face every night while I'm sleeping with great pride? And suddenly I'm horrified that the stuffed shrimp could be replaced by an actual mouse at some point. This is really making me want to clean my kitchen.


@christonacracker My kitty is completely toothless, but damn if she's not a fine huntress....of realistic-looking toy mice. She will hunt that thing down for hours on end. The cutest thing ever was when I came home from work and went to the bedroom to see the "dead mouse" laying on my pillow like a gift. But, like you, I fear the day that she traps a real formerly-living creature.


@christonacracker We have three USELESS mouser cats. We had a mousey friend scurrying around for maybe a week? Two? Laughing at both traps and cats. Eventually I found it dead on the floor of the foyer. I am not convinced it did not die of ennui.


Question 2 was my issue and I can confirm that vegetable oil cleaned up the melted glue nicely! And thanks to Alex Balk's suggestion on another Ask A Clean Person column, I finally found the crack they were using to get in and filled it with steel wool. Not a mouse since.


@alison Some of those sticky traps have POISONED GRAIN on them, and your oven might be contaminated. If I were you, I wouldn't use the oven until you found out for sure about that. Make the super tell you what brand of traps they used, so you can contact the manufacturer yourself and find out for sure. Me, I'd contact the owners of the building and scream my fool head off about it. What kind of moron DOES that without telling you there's something in the oven?? And why did he put it in the oven in the first place? Did he see evidence of rodents in it? In which case, the thing probably needs to be replaced anyway. Ugh. So disgusting! Please be safe!


My mouse tips:

- They don't like the smell of peppermint oil. It won't get rid of the problem entirely, especially if they're already established, but it should help a bit. You can get one of those reed diffusers, or just put drops of peppermint oil on cotton balls. They have to be refreshed every few days, which sucks.

- As mentioned, glue traps are awful and cruel. The snap traps (or fancy variations thereof) are really the best. I use pieces of ferret food (yeah, that's why we have mice) glued on with peanut butter. But! Another thing to consider is that mice aren't always searching for food -- sometimes they're searching for bedding for their little hidey holes. So covering up some of the traps once they've been set with shredded up toilet paper, yarn, dryer lint, whatever -- all good ideas.

- However, sometimes the mice are too clever for the traps, or they have too light of a touch, or whatever black magick they use. So another thing that I read on the internet, felt really bad about, then got desperate enough to try: mix ground up pet food, cornmeal, or flour -- something dry that they like to eat -- with quick set cement powder, 1:1. It's also sometimes called patch cement. You can usually get it in a gallon bucket. Make sure it says on the side something about how all you have to do is add water. Anyway obviously don't put this anywhere where pets or kids could get to it. Also, if you're not quite desperate enough, this likely means they will die in your walls. I read that like, the cement fossilizes them so they don't rot, I don't really believe that, but I ceased to care. The thing that is nice about this over buying poison pellets is that you can mix it with a food that you know they like because they are already eating it out of your house. I feel like they always leave behind the poison pellets for something tastier.

- Get your boyfriend to repoint the fieldstone basement.


Guys, I feel it is my duty to say that one time I really did catch a mouse with one of those little plastic no-kill traps! I took it a block away to a presumably mouse-snack-rich schoolyard and let it go. It can be done!


Yeah, I used those in my parents' house to great effect! I'd take them deep into the woods out back until I found an unoccupied rotting log or berry bush to release them into. Nature walk pest extermination.


I'm just logging in to say that this inspired (frightened me into) cleaning my stove and oven thoroughly last night. My stovetop was disgusting, but luckily I found no mice or signs of mice anywhere I do not know how I am so lucky.


That vegetable oil for the trap glue one reminds me of my father's trick for getting price tags / old tape / assorted adhesives off of basically anything. Just rub on some butter and let it sit for a while. I don't remember how long, but it seems to vary based on material. Like, cheap paper price tag on a book cover, maybe five minutes, ten. Nasty old Ronald McDonald stickers that won't come off the dresser you just got for like $3 at Goodwill, leave it on overnight.
(We know the secrets of butter because we're Swedish.)


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