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The Mast-Head: Spring Cleaning

Wed, 04/06/2022 - 12:36

I discovered this week that oven cleaner works wonders on an enameled teapot. It was something of a revolution that my eldest, who used to complain a fair bit about what she did not like about the house, had boiled her list of grievances down to the ancient Le Creuset that had become thick with the splatters of years on the stovetop. Before that, she had succumbed to a bad case of keeping up with the (Hamptons) Joneses, with all their spacious white-on-white modernity, shiny surfaces, and live-in help.

Child Number One’s turnabout may have something to do with her being more or less on her own, living in a shared tiny apartment during a winter internship in Manhattan and, definitely more influentially, with her college sorority while she was on campus. Having been the building manager of my own fraternity in college and responsible for keeping the place moderately clean, I can attest that young women today have reached parity with the frat bros of the past when it comes to beer-slicked floors and general funk. Which is not to say that the house in Amagansett is equal to that standard of stench, but that Child Number One has gained a degree of perspective.

“A new teapot, that’s all I want,” she said a few weeks back while we were driving in my car up to her school for the spring term.

“Pick one out,” I said. But privately figuring that the Le Creuset was going to the dump, I knew it was an opportunity for an experiment.

Of late, I have gotten interested in a psychological aspect of cleaning, which is the conscious decision that one must make to go beyond the perfunctory. Think of the difference between vacuuming a hardwood floor and getting down close to the surface with a razor blade to scrape off tiny splatters left over from the last time the walls were painted, or, when in the fall I hacked for hours and hours at the grass and weeds taking over the sandy spaces in my brick patio and felt my mood soar, and the feeling has stayed with me since. One can clean or one can really, really clean. It’s a mind-set.

So I sprayed a test area on the teapot’s side with Easy-Off and went to work. In the evening, I ran it under hot water in the sink and brushed lightly with a dish scrubber. Le Creuset blue, its signature color, emerged instantly from under the foam. Over several days, I repeated this on different sections; now it gleams like a sapphire, and I feel like a million bucks.


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