Ask Ceil – Clean and Fresh

Dear Ceil,

Isn’t the Arm & Hammer logo a little drastic for baking soda?

Fresh in Freehold

Dear Fresh,

Now let’s be honest. Do you want to get rid of the smell in your refrigerator, or do you want to pound it to death with unyielding force? Because you could get rid of an odor, or you could make it sorry it ever showed up in the first place.

But besides opening the box and sticking in your fridge, or using it in actual baking, what the heck is baking soda for? And why are we so forceful about it?


I can clean those windows with my hammer. Oops.

If you ever decide to look up the uses of baking soda on the internet, you will wonder why you still have some left in the house. (I would tell you to look it up on Google, but before I even finished typing “uses for ba” the internet had not only prompted me with the rest of the phrase, but already did the search and returned results. Um. Thanks Google. That’s really fast. And creepy.)

You can add it to bath water, ease almost any skin ailment, and fix heartburn. But did you know you can substitute it for spackle? (It’s true!) You can get corrosion off a car battery terminal, remove rust and clean your deck. Now that big muscular arm with the gigantic hammer isn’t seeming so inappropriate, is it? When you pick up that little box of baking soda, you’re thinking that maybe you should be nice to it. Respect it. Maybe give it a name. (Don’t call it “Nancy”. Baking soda doesn’t like that.)

Actually, the Arm & Hammer logo was meant to kick butt, representing Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. (I thought that he was wearing a white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Guess it was a long-sleeved toga.)


I don’t do baking, maggot.

But that doesn’t make sense if you’re supposed to throw it on a fire. Maybe that’s what they mean by fighting fire with fire? As a matter of fact, there is a long list of ways that baking soda is like the god Vulcan.

Vulcan v. Baking Soda:

Honored with a live fish sacrifice Removes fish odor from refrigerators
Had a sacred purification of the trumpets Purifies jewelry and other metal objects
Holds a blacksmith’s hammer sometimes contains metals, like aluminum
Patron of trades related to ovens Used in baking
“Volcano” is derived from his name You need it to make those volcano science projects

So they weren’t off with the logo at all. Baking soda is one mean scoop of powder. Respect the dust.


Dear Ceil,

I have company coming over. Where do I put all my junk, so they think I’m good at housekeeping?

Cleaning in Chula Vista

Dear Cleaning,

Well, the important thing here is to limit your guests’ exposure to your house. That’s right; you will want to identify the rooms that you think that your guest will reasonably be in. If at all possible, lock the other rooms.

Now, most houses don’t have rooms that lock from the outside. Apparently people do not trust their housemates enough to allow them the possibility of locking the door forever. And frankly, just shoving everything in a closet is not only too disorganized, but it’s also too obvious. It’s the first place your guest will look. No, you’ve got to be more creative than that.

If you have a room that doesn’t have a bed, try piling up your junk and putting sheets and a comforter on it, as though it was a bed. If you know that the weather is going to be nice and you won’t be needing heat or cooling, you can always put your stuff in the duct work and chimney (protect with a plastic bag first).

If your needs are more drastic, you are going to have to actually create some hidden space.

You can make a fake dormer and temporarily nail it to your house. That should make a handy place for your stuff!

If you have a room that has a little more room than it needs, or one that wouldn’t be missed if it disappeared, then install one of these: a bookshelf that is actually a door.

Don’t think you have a spare room you can give up? What about a closet? If you have a closet under the stairs, you can seal up the doors and use this staircase that actually is a door.

Personally, I have a pretty big garage, so if it’s something that the mice won’t eat, that’s usually where stuff goes. There, and under beds, in closets, and in the basement. So if you ever visit, and you want to know how the housecleaning was before you arrived, check the basement. It’ll tell you all you need to know.


Ceil Kessler is a very tired person. Too tired, in fact, to write a biography. So she’s decided to give you this biography, of Leonardo Da Vinci. And this one, of Vulcan. “He landed in the ocean and was rescued by sea nymphs, who raised him in a cave under the sea and taught him many skills.”

I bet.

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One thought on “Ask Ceil – Clean and Fresh

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  1. My sister is addicted to using baking soda and vinegar for all her cleaning needs these days so I wouldn’t dream of making fun of either.

    I also have a storage problem. But it’s really more a hoarding problem. Lots of closets and never buy any shelves that do not have doors…& no glass doors. Throw everything inside and shut the doors. Out of sight out of mind.

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