Clean Person Jolie Kerr’s Cleaning Advice to Pop Culture Icons


For years, when I’ve found myself in sticky domestic situations — clogged toilets, red wine spills, and, well, red wine vomit — I’ve turned to my friend Jolie Kerr. She’s always given me the best advice on how to clean up after myself and feel like a real grownup — and done so without shaming me (I mean, who hasn’t thrown up red wine?). She began to put her handy advice to good use at The Hairpin, in her column “Ask a Clean Person,” which now runs on Jezebel and Deadspin under the moniker “Squalor.” Her columns have proved the need for a friendly, down-to-earth, judgement-free advice-giver, and today sees the publication of her ultimate cleaning manual: My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag… and Other Questions You Can’t Ask Martha. A charming reference for anyone needing some basic facts on cleaning (or, in some cases, quick fixes for embarrassing mishaps), Kerr’s book is a must-read. To celebrate the book’s publication, I sat down with Jolie to speculate on celebrities’ dirty habits and get her advice on how they might clean up after themselves.

Flavorwire: Let’s start with Stevie Nicks. What do you think her problem would be?

Jolie Kerr: Well she’s got all those floaty chiffon clothes, and keeping them floaty, and not crumply, is probably a problem for her. I would say she probably needs a clothes steamer. An iron would be way too harsh for all that chiffon.

What about all her dreamcatchers?

You know, feather duster is probably the best way. Not the actual feathers on the dream catcher.

A standalone feather duster.

That’s probably the best way to keep dreamcatchers clean.

Do you think there would be any odors she would need to get rid of?

I mean, I bet she smells like incense, but that’s on purpose.

So you would not recommend a bowl of vinegar for her.

If she wanted to get rid of the smell and start fresh, then a bowl of white vinegar, for sure. Oh, and then a suede brush for her scrunchy boots. It brushes out the nap. And then there’s a suede eraser for stains. I imagine Stevie doesn’t really get a lot of stains on her… maybe she does get stains on her boots. I don’t know. We should ask her about that. One day I’ll have the opportunity.

How about Miley Cyrus? I feel like she’d have a lot of party aftermath she would need to get cleaned up. Probably vomit stains.

Yeah, I think she should just keep a tub of OxyClean on hand. I’d bet protein stains are her issue. The good news is that all she wears is rubber, so she could just hose herself off. That’s good news for Miley.

What about wall stains, or if she has shag carpeting?

Do you think she has shag carpeting?!

I mean, who knows at this point?

If she has shag carpeting, she needs a good vacuum cleaner. That’s the only way. I mean, unless she’s going to take those things out back and beat them with the back of a broom, which obviously she isn’t going to do. I mean she is from… like, Alabama?

Is she from Alabama? I assume she grew up in Nashville.

I mean, maybe she does beat her rugs.

In one way or another.

I think of Jared Leto as being generally dirty. But maybe that’s just me.

Well, he’s big into the eye makeup. And I know he doesn’t use makeup remover at night before he goes to bed. He’s not taking off his makeup before he goes to bed and brushing his teeth like a good boy — he just falls into the unmade bed. Or maybe he makes his bed every day, and he’s going to read this and be really offended. “I make my bed every day, I’ll have you know.” Anyway, eye makeup is mostly grease-based. The solution for grease-based stains is either Pine Sol or Lestoil, which are two very similar products that are mostly used for cleaning floors, but are also great stain treatments for grease stains. Dab a little on a rag, dab it on the stain, let it sit, and you launder as usual. But in cold water, Jared! And then you have to make sure you checked to make sure the stains come out before you put them in the dryer. Check the stain, Jared!

Do you think he clogs his drains a lot? What if he doesn’t have a drain protector?

He should get one!

Well, he should get one for sure, but if he has let it build up, what can he do?

Well, look, the reality is, he’s gonna have to snake that drain if we’re really honest. I personally do not snake drains. I draw the line there. I have boundaries in my life, and I do not snake drains. But there are two ways that you unclog a drain before you get to snaking it. The first way is kind of the natural, recommended way, which is to use a combination of baking soda and white vinegar, and it will clear the drain. If it’s a really serious clog, that’s not going to work. Once the clog gets more serious you can use a drain opener like Drano, Liquid-Plumr, something like that. They’re not really that great for pipes, so you want to be really careful, you want to make sure you know what kind of pipes you have. Either you have pipes that are metal or you have pipes that are PVC, and there are some chemical drain openers that aren’t safe for one or the other, so you should know what you have. You should know what your plumbing system looks like! Get yourself a handheld mirror. There’s this other thing that’s like halfway in between snaking and not snaking. It’s little, it’s almost like a plastic kind of zipper thing that you like put down there, but it still does the same thing about snaking that I object to, which is that it pulls a giant, hairy, wet clump out of the drain that you then have to look at.

How about Katy Perry? I bet she has a lot of whipped cream issues. Let’s surmise that she’s let it build up and it’s become a problem: all over her rugs, upholstery, walls.

There’s a stain removal product called Stain Devils. It’s actually a series of products, so there are nine of them. Stain Devils 1 through 9. Number three is for blood and dairy.

That sounds like a Katy Perry song: “Blood and Dairy.”

It does! That’s why I would recommend that for her. And it’s like a teeny, tiny bottle, and I feel like Katy Perry likes teeny, tiny, little cute things! Actually, if I were Katy Perry, I would just get all nine Stain Devils.

Just in case.

Just in case Miley Cyrus comes over!

Now, I know you don’t know much about One Direction…

I do know one of their songs! That “What Makes You Beautiful” song? That’s One Direction right? I like that song. It’s cute. But aren’t they the ones that have the crazy fans? Are you gonna sic the fans on me on Twitter? They’re going to be like, “You think they smell bad?!”

No, you’re helping them! They might not smell bad, but they may have a lot of dirty paraphernalia that needs to be cleaned.

Do they use paraphernalia?

I assume they smoke a lot of things. They’re, like, 20-year-olds!

Well good! Twenty-year-olds should smoke things.

Let’s say they have dirty bongs and bowls and vapes and all kinds of accoutrements…

Well for bongs and bowls — for anything that’s glass — the secret is denture tablets. I mean, there are other ways. You could do white vinegar and salt, put it in a Tupperware and shake, shake, shake, shake it up. You could do the white vinegar and baking soda and make the volcano, which is fun after you’ve smoked.

Especially if you put food coloring in.

Right, but then you might have to clean up the food coloring, so quickly, food coloring stains, if they have them: rubbing alcohol. Don’t ever use water when you’ve got a dye stain, ‘cause it’ll make it spread. It will make it worse. But back to bongs and bowls, those can definitely be done with denture tablets. And denture tablets are really fun, too, because they do fizz. Vaporizers should be wiped off with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab. Or — this is so American for me to say — you can go to the pharmacy near where they keep all the diabetes paraphernalia, and they have packs of individually packaged alcohol wipes. Moist towelettes, basically. So those are the best thing for vaporizers and one-hitters, although I don’t think the kids even use one-hitters anymore, but it sterilizes them. That’s definitely something you want to do when you’re sharing it around, because, you know… herpes.

I think Robin Thicke would probably have a lot of protein stains.

Yeah, I think he and Miley could go in together and just get a lifetime supply of OxyClean, maybe share it. He wears a lot of synthetics though, right?

Probably. I bet his underwear is really nice.

Do you think he even wears underwear? Yeah, I think he’s not wearing anything under those suits. So if he’s not dry cleaning them in between, and he’s free-balling, he should be spritzing the crotch and the pits. He’d want to get one of those spray bottles you can find at the pharmacy for 99 cents. You can fill it up with white vinegar and then spritz, spritz — lightly, you don’t want to go crazy. It’s going to dissipate, so you won’t smell like salad dressing, but, you know, don’t overdo it. And he’ll probably like this, ‘cause he’ll have it around at all times, but he can also spritz with vodka.

Oh! But do you think he’d want to waste it?

What does he care? He’s rich. It’s probably in the tour rider. He probably gets it free from the venues.

How about Prince? I feel like Prince is pretty immaculate.

I’m not worried about Prince. That’s my answer: I’m not worried about Prince.

Especially nowadays, he’s not worried about sexual stains. He’s over that. But velvet?

Well, similar to Stevie’s suede brush, there are velvet brushes that you can get. They look like a regular hairbrush, but instead of having bristles, it’s just flat and it’s actually covered in velvet. They’re usually red. I remember my mom having one of these in the ‘80s, because velvet was huge in the ‘80s. You just brush it, and it restores the nap and it will pull any lint off. Pretty simple. I think Prince has a velvet brush.

Yeah, or a human being who he refers to as Velvet Brush.

Or that. But really, I don’t worry about Prince.

You told me recently that you read that Jennifer Lawrence’s Cheeto stains were a problem.

Yeah, there was this thing about how she got Dorito dust all over her American Hustle costumes. From what I heard, the costume designer was really crazy about those costumes, because they were all vintage or they were reproductions or whatever, and they were really crazy about keeping them a certain way and not cleaning them throughout. I guess they thought it could damage them? Which I disagree with. I feel like Hollywood costume designers should know their cleaning techniques well enough that they should know how to keep costumes fresh without having to make the actors wear smelly clothes every day. I heard that about Downton Abbey, that the costume designers won’t allow any of the costumes to ever be washed in any way, to preserve them, and I think that that’s such foolishness. They should know the vodka trick.

When you’re talking about anything vintage or anything delicate, and you’re really not sure, there are no care tag instructions that you can look at, the safe thing to do if you’re really unsure is to use a baby wipe, because it has a little soap in it but it’s very mild. It’s going to be safe on basically every fabric out there. In the case of any clothes that have fur, faux or real, you would put it into a giant paper bag or a garbage bag with cornmeal. And you would shake, shake, shake, like it’s Shake-N-Bake, and the cornmeal will remove oil and dirt and will also like fluff it back up.

Does the cornmeal like stick to the fur? Do you just shake it out afterwards?

Yeah it just shakes out. You can kind of brush it off with your hand. You might need to swat at it a little bit, but it’ll come right out. So if you just kind of shake the thing back over the bag, it’ll knock off.

I know you love the Real Housewives franchises. I bet you care about some of those women.

I care so much about them.

Who’s do you think might need the most help? I would assume Kim Richards would be the most in need because she’s not going to have someone to do it for her.

Kim Richards must have dog shit all over that house. She has a pit bull who’s out of control — named Kingsley, naturally. And she clearly has a strange relationship with the dog. It’s, like, uncomfortable to watch her talk about it. So I’m not even sure I want to even touch that one. I don’t think I could handle it. Caroline Manzo, though, needs to stop the hoarding in her kitchen, and needs to knock it the fuck off with the MacKenzie-Childs. It’s out of control.

Wait, what is that?

MacKenzie-Childs is this brand of like, high-end whimsical ceramics and such.

So it’s clutter and organization for Caroline.

Her kitchen is so cluttered! She’s got like stacks of red Solo cups out on display in her kitchen. Why? Flip-Cup? And yet, she hates the Ham Game.

What’s the Ham Game?

You don’t know about the Ham Game?! So her kids play this game in the kitchen, called The Ham Game, where they just throw ham at each other. It’s the Ham Game. The frickin’ Ham Game is so great. This is easy actually: ham is greasy, and she has, I think, wooden cabinets. So the best thing really for grease in the kitchen, especially on wood, is to mix a small amount of ammonia with water, and then use a rag or a sponge to wipe it down; it’ll cut through grease really well. Some things about ammonia: open the window, use gloves, and never mix it with bleach — because you’ll make mustard gas!

Let’s talk about some fictional characters on TV shows. We both love House of Cards. What do you think Frank Underwood’s biggest problem is?

Blood on the hands! There are actually a lot of ways you can do blood stains. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the common ones you’ll find. Salt, saline. If you’re on the run and you’re a contact lens wearer, saline solution.


Totally weird, right? This is like the weirdest one for blood — it works, but it’s so gross: your own saliva.

In a pinch.

Although it might be more helpful for, like, Doug Stamper.

How about Marie Laveau from American Horror Story: Coven? I bet she has some gumbo stains.

Gumbo stains. Well, and blood stains, in general, for ritual sacrifices and all those things.

And cleaning her bones. How would she clean that altar? Her throne? Her bone throne?

I think you use lye… Wait, that might melt bones. I might be confusing The Sopranos cleaning advice. Yeah, how would you clean bone? I think I would just use dish soap. That’s mild.`

Here’s my last one. I don’t know if you watch Scandal. I don’t, but I know that Olivia Pope has a lot of white in her apartment, and wears a lot of white attire, but she drinks a lot of red wine on the show. And I imagine, with how crazy that show is, she’s gonna get some red wine stains.

I’ve got two things for red wine stains. If you can get to it right away when it happens: table salt. Like, you just pour table salt in a mound over it, and it sucks it up. It’s the coolest thing to watch, too, because the salt turns red, and then you just sweep it up, or vacuum it away, and then you can treat the residual stain with a bit of dish soap or liquid laundry detergent. It should come right out, right away. If you don’t, there’s a product you can use. I tend to not love single-use products, but this one actually really, really works — it’s called Wine Away. It’s a great product.

What if she passes out with a glass of red wine in her hand? Not that anyone would ever do that…

Never happens. I’ve never fallen asleep with a chocolate bar in my hand or anything and woken up with it all over my sheets. I’ve never done that.

Let’s say you have a fabric stain with red wine that has sat for maybe eight to ten hours…

The Wine Away would be good for that.

OK, and let’s say she drinks too much red wine, runs to the bathroom to throw it up, misses the toilet, hits the wall…

Not that anyone would ever do that, Tyler

…and then goes to bed. Let’s say that she wakes up and goes to the bathroom to brush her teeth in the morning and discovers what appear to be bloodstains, but really it’s just red wine vomit. Very specific hypothetical situation, but…

It’s amazing how you came up with that. You’re so imaginative, Tyler. So, two things: the first thing you want to do is try to get as much… debris off the wall as you can. You can go over it with dish soap and a rag, just to try to get as much as you can off of it. For the stains, you could either use OxyClean (just add a little bit with water and scrub, scrub, scrub) or a Magic Eraser. Magic Eraser is really fast, so that’s probably the best way to do it.

Good to know. For Olivia Pope, I mean.

Yeah, she should file that one away.