Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

After two miserable years of 4,000 mile long distance, I finally moved in with my girlfriend (yay!). Now this woman possesses many outstanding qualities, including a lustrous mane of dark brown hair. Unfortunately, I am reminded of this fact EVERYWHERE I GO IN THE APARTMENT. It boggles my mind how her hair strands manage to populate every nook and cranny of the place. It would be one thing if the hairs stayed on the floor where they could be swept up, but they seem to enjoy winding themselves around structures such as the toilet lid hinges and chair legs. What can I do about this? I find it hard to believe that all long-haired persons are plagued with such a never ending struggle against their own filamentous bio-material. There must be a way out! So far I have avoided scheduling a weekly brushing as if she were a sheepdog, but she is also talking about us getting a cat...


Ahh, the dreaded hairbleweed. I don't know if this will make you feel better or not, but yeah, pretty much all of us—myself absolutely included—who have long hair leave deposits of it all about our homes.

(I've been staring at a blinking cursor for 30 minutes because I don't want to tell you this next part.)


You have two choices, my friend. You can learn to live with the hair, or you can commit to a life of constant vigilance. I suppose there are other choices, like shearing your girlfriend's mane under the cloak of darkness, but this is as much an advice column as it is a column about cleaning and I do not advise that you shear your partner.


Prevention-wise, there's not really a ton you can do about the shedding, though I do very much appreciate the notion of scheduling weekly brushings! I've seen talk of certain kinds of supplements that can help reduce shedding, and something about using black tea as a rinsing agent, but the reality is that it's normal to shed hair to the tune of 30 to 100 strands a day, depending on hair type, health, and environmental factors. If your beloved can get in the habit of brushing her hair slowly before she washes it and then giving it a combing while it's wet, that might serve to contain the shedding a bit. The idea is that a slow brushing, pre-shower, will weed out any loose hairs that can then be cleaned out of the brush bristles (going too hard or too fast will result in the hair flying everywhere). The same theory applies to gently combing the wet hair. Also if she blow dries her hair, it's best to do it in the bathroom, where there's less furniture for the hair to wind itself around. On the flip side of that, the amount of moisture and humidity in the bathroom serves as sort of a glue that causes the hair to adhere to surfaces more stubbornly than in drier rooms in the home. I dunno. It's not really good news, is what I'm trying to say here.

Getting back to those choices, let's put aside learning to live with the hair and talk about a life of constant vigilance. I lead one. It's really not that bad, but it does take a bit of getting used to. Heavy sighing is acceptable. Just try to remember that, as you're getting used to this new reality of living with your girlfriend and her runaway pelt, she's likely also getting used to some similarly distressing personal messes that you're unwittingly causing. I say that not to be all, "EWW YOU'RE GROSS TOO," but because I want you to be kind and gentle to one another when it comes to negotiating the gnarled and matted underbelly of cohabitation. So: heavy sighing, yes. Excessive heavy sighing, along with muttered comments and the banging of the vacuum cleaner about the house? No.

Speaking of vacuum cleaners! You should get one. Actually, you should maybe even get two: A handheld model and an upright, canister, stick, whatever model. The handheld vac should be used regularly, meaning every one to three days in particularly hairy areas. We keep ours right in the bathroom so I can grab it post-styling and give the floors a quick once over. Doing so takes, no joke, 30 seconds. But of course that sort of daily cleaning commitment does take some getting used to, so if you need to take to your bed with booze and pills upon reading this advice I'll understand. The larger vacuum should be brought out once a week to keep the hair that's gotten around the rest of the home under control. If you find that the hair is getting stuck on the brush attachment, either cut it out using small nail scissors or switch to the hose attachment. The hose attachment will also be helpful when it comes to getting into corners, where hairs like to congregate and gossip amongst themselves.


These purchases need not break the bank, either. A good handheld vacuum can be found for about $30, and there are excellent uprights, sticks, and canisters that cost under $100. Do a little comparison shopping—both Good Housekeeping and Consumer Reports regularly update recommendations for all manner of vacuums, so check those out for the best brands and models to suit the needs of your home. I personally prefer a lightweight vacuum, which makes it less cumbersome affair to get the thing out from its storage space. I mention that as it might also be a factor you want to consider given how often I'm suggesting you vacuum. I also mention it so that I can point you to this Dirt Devil vacuum I found while noodling around on Amazon, because 1) it looks to be an excellent deal—a 3-in-1 number for about twenty bucks?!?—and 2) well, read the reviews. You'll know it when you see it.

Brooms are kind of a bummer when it comes to hair, because the strands get stuck in the broom's bristles and then you have to pull them out. Vacuums are better (or a rubber bristled broom). Swiffers aren't a bad alternative, but replacing the cloths can get expensive, and if the floors you're Swiffering are damp or wet the whole operation will become a terrible mess. Avoid wet mops entirely. Wet mops + stray hair = disgusting mess.


One last note regarding the division of this labor: You're on your own in terms of figuring out if this is a chore you're going to take on, or split, or ask your girlfriend to perform. There's no right or wrong answer, though the "you make the mess, you clean it up" people will insist that you subscribe to their newsletter, while the "you care about the mess, you clean it up" folks will invite you to an indoctrination session. From my perspective, they're both equally valid schools of thought and you should choose the one that's right for you.

Do you have any advice for cleaning rock salt out of leather? I'm in the navy, stationed in Connecticut, and one of my duties is snow removal. As I work, I inevitably get salty slush all over my boots and it eats away at the polish and kind of soaks in to the point that when I add polish it bleeds through. I've used a leather cleaning/refreshing kit with no luck, so any advice you have would be immensely helpful!

Back in October, I wrote about winter shoe care and quipped that February was probably a better time to take on the subject of salt-stained shoes. (What can I say? I wanted folks to be prepared!) Well, here we are in February and you know? I think it's time for a refresher.


As it so often does, my advice to you on the matter of salt-stained shoes begins with white vinegar. Shall I pause while you all holler about how I'm clearly a shill for Big Vinegar, or have we driven that joke into the ground by now? Right, thought so. The good thing about going with the white vinegar in this case is that it's cheap enough that using it as regularly as it seems like you'll need to won't break the bank. On the other hand, it may not be tough enough to eliminate what sound like pretty stubborn salt stains. If that turns out to be the case, there are stain-removal products specifically designed for treating salt-stained leather. Kiwi makes one, as does a horse and leather care products company called Feibing's. So tuck those names away in the event the vinegar trick doesn't do it for you.

The vinegar trick goes like this: Mix equal parts white vinegar with water; apply the mixture sparingly to the leather using a soft cloth, rag, cotton ball, or a paper towel. Sparingly is the key word there—you don't want to saturate the leather. Rub at the stains vigorously with your cloth, and once they appear to be gone, go over the leather with a dry soft cloth. The drying process may reveal remaining traces of the salt, in which case you can simply repeat the process. If the salt is still there after (let's say) three goings over, it's probably time to bite the bullet and go in for either the Kiwi or Feibing's salt-stain remover.


Before I leave you until we next meet, I'm so excited to share with you guys the trailer for my book, on sale February 25. I hope you enjoy it! And, um, I hope you buy the book! (Please buy my book.)


Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, February 25, 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr. Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.

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