THE KITCHEN CABINET – When a lampshade needs cleaning, I turn to Maid in the Shade, my cleaner especially created for this task. Make those pesky dust bunnies flee with Rabbit Transit. Need your dog’s bloodsuckers removed? This is a bottle of poisonous soap, Tick Tox. Here is my broom designed for cowhide rugs, Sweep Steaks. The next can makes no sense: Easy-Off. It’s oven cleaner for my self-cleaning oven. What a worthless product — rather like driving instructions in Braille or an ethics guide for Texas legislators.
Have you inventoried your cleaning supplies lately – like since 1990? Granted, this is not a top priority question. It doesn’t compete with whether Hurricane Sandy finally performed a mercy killing on Jersey Shore, but you should check out all that stuff you have amassed over the years. Unlike our pantries and refrigerators and even our freezers which contain items that grow mold and start to ooze as a reminder that they need to be eaten, our cleansing products don’t rot or rust, they just sit there, gathering the very dust and dirt they are supposed to fight. Only when the containers are empty do we discard them, and I’ll bet you also have a lot of cans on your shelves containing dried-up boot creams and cracked silver polish.
For example, I purchased this can of Brass Ban to polish a brass candlestick holder for the Y2K power grid meltdown. The goo may have solidified, because whatever is in there rattles. Next to the brass polish is a can of silver polish, another for bronze. Why are there different cans for each metal? Are they able to tell the difference? Brick polish. Why did I buy that? Soap to clean up bat sweat. Same question. Some people simply toss away the contents of their dustpans, but we experts carefully pour the refuse into this aluminum foil envelope: Dirt Reynolds.
Joan Rivers once observed: “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.” Environmentalists would love Rivers, because many of your cleansers come in pressurized cans containing aerosol which, the tree-huggers tell us, pollutes the atmosphere. Every time you spray on a deodorant or take the Pledge, another butterfly dies.
In my neighborhood a grocery store has opened, about the size of a dirigible hangar. It’s so big, even children use a Lark. Half of this “grocery” store is not groceries at all, but is filled with the inedible – light bulbs, greeting cards, motor oil and, yes, aisles of cleaning items. We buy them and take them home, and they never go away. Our collections of cleansers grows like the mildew on my Rolling Stone Moss Kit. It sits next to my can of spray-on rust.
How do I lathe thee? Let me count the ways. This is dishwasher soap. You can buy it in powdered form in a bucket and measure it out. Or you can let someone else do the measuring, and all you have to do is grab one of those little packets filled with powder. The latter form costs 50 percent more. From dental floss to vacuum cleaners, from Windex to Clorox, we work mightily to keep ourselves and our pets, pot plants and plumbing squeaky clean.
If cleanliness is next to Godliness, it is also close to Proctor & Gamble. P&G is the world’s largest and most profitable consumer products company, with nearly $84 billion in sales a year and 25 billion-dollar brands. What does a 25 billion-dollar brand mean? I didn’t know P&G was in the cattle business. That company produces much of what you are buying, clean-wise: Tide, Oral-B toothbrush, Ariel washing powder, Head & Shoulders, Clairol, Cover Girl, Crest, Gillette — 53 products. You probably spend more on Proctor & Gamble items each year than you give to your church or bookie.
Here is a depressing mystery: On the label of this container in big print reads, “Resolve,” then in tiny print, “Formerly Spray ‘n’ Wash.” Does this mean that for years I was spraying the very same ingredients on my shirt collars that I was spraying on the dog poop stains on my rug? Like I said, that’s sort of depressing. For laundering money, I use Dead Presidents Delight, but we won’t go there. My can of Pledge Lemon Clean. You don’t want dirty lemons, do you? My favorite: Bored Walk. You spray it on your TV screen and it blocks any mention of Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan or Donald Trump.
On the next shelf is Lysol, which I spray on countertops to kill varmints. It leaves a distinct odor that fairly shouts: Dead bugs! This is Febreze, which I then spray on the countertops to take away that shouting odor. Fantastic, 409, Scrubbing Bubbles — all in pretty containers meant to catch our eyes as we go down the grocery store aisles. Do you get the idea that, like Wheaties and Saltines, the packaging cost more than the contents?
We haven’t even touched the bathroom, with all its soap, shampoo and toothbrushes. Incidentally, the English like to rib Americans for being overly concerned with our hygiene. True, the English invented the toothbrush, but if Americans had been the inventors, it would have been called the “teethbrush.” Here’s my candlewick cleaner and my Mace remover. Do you have a can of Roach Glow? This seems to be a six-pack of Computer Delete. I bought a powder to get rid of unsightly muscles: Ab-Stain. Ah, a product that actually works like it’s supposed to: Wine B’ Gone. I discovered it in a restaurant when the drunk sitting next to me spilled his red wine all over my white shirt. Quickly, the waiter pulled me up from under the table, slapped on this liquid, then slapped me to consciousness, and told me and my wine to B’Gone.
What I need is something to clean out all these cleansers.
Ashby is squeaky clean at firstname.lastname@example.org