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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Reflections on Fish Wrapping

OK, as usual, I feel the need to take a deep breath and apologize after yesterday’s little rant. All evidence to the contrary not withstanding, treppenwitz is not a political blog, so I promise to try and keep political rants to a bare minimum… say one or two a month, mmmkay?

Now that we’ve (hopefully) put that to bed and there are (hopefully) no hard feelings (Ashamed Blogger), I want to share a wonderful cleaning trick (are you paying attention, Weese???) I learned while sitting around at an Israeli carwash.

My office is located in the industrial section of Be’er Sheva, and there are lots of auto repair shops and carwashes within a block or two in either direction. While two of the carwashes are clean and modern with all the bells and whistles of any American facility (one of them even has a cappuccino bar in the waiting room!), some of the smaller carwashes are a bit primitive, consisting of no more than an open concrete slab… a couple of high pressure hoses… an industrial sized vacuum … and a bunch of burly guys armed with soapy rags.

It must be my union background*, but each time I took my car to one of the fully automated carwashes (c'mon... How could I resist cappuccino?), I felt a pang of guilt at the neighboring crews of rag wielders from who I was withholding my patronage.

I rationalized the decision by taking into account my shiny new car and the faster in-and-out time of the more modern carwashes.  However, in addition to my conscience continuing to bother me, I was getting increasingly annoyed that the machine washing tended to miss random spots on my car’s wheels, and leave my windows full of streaks.

So last week, when my car had achieved the appropriate level of filth to justify a trip to the carwash, I decided to throw my business to one of the ‘hand wash’ shops.

I had a seat in a rickety plastic lawn chair and was pleased to see that they used clean cloths to do all the washing, and that they were meticulous about reaching every nook and cranny of my car.

However, at the end I was horrified when it came time to do the final inside-and-out window cleaning.  Instead of dry cloths or paper towels, each man on the crew reached into a box of old newspapers, crumpled a page or two into a loose wad, and proceeded to polish the windows. My horror soon turned to amazement when I saw that the newspaper method cleaned the windows to a perfect, streak-free shine! They used a blue Windex®-like spray just like the finishing crew at the machine-wash places, but for some reason the results with newsprint were infinitely better.

I asked the crew leader about this, trying to find out if the newspaper bit was some sort of cost-cutting measure, or if newsprint was his medium of choice. He assured me that nothing could shine windows to a streak/smudge-free shine like newspaper. He went on to explain that he even used newspaper at home since it didn’t leave any lint or streaks on the windows and mirrors.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… but this old hound has just learned a new one! Up until now, I had assumed that the only use for day-old newspapers was for wrapping fresh fish at the market. It turns out that there is nothing better for making glass and chrome shine like, well, a mirror! 

And as a bonus, I disovered that there really is a reward for giving work to real live human beings (even if I did miss out on my cappuccino)!

Go ahead and try the newspaper trick at home!

No need to thank me… I’m a giver. :-)

*Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians in NYC


Posted by David Bogner on November 9, 2004 | Permalink


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Forgive me for being a bloody spoiling weisenheimer....it's a trick my great-grandparents already knew, though they were applying it to their monthly window washing. In times when there was not much to get, but when people insisted on keeping a decent level of cleanliness nonetheless.

Which actually teaches us that good things are unlikely to cease. And, of course, cheers to the printing press.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Nov 9, 2004 11:24:24 AM

Mademoiselle a. ...Zahava now insists that she's told me about this on numerous occasions during our 13 years of marriage.

Funny how my hearing/memory is selective when it comes to chores at home! :-)

Posted by: David | Nov 9, 2004 11:48:02 AM

Conscience bothering you honey? You asked me not to out you and despite the temptation, I respectfully complied! BUT, since you've gone and outed yourself.... I simply can't resist one good" "FUNNY THAT!" ;-D

Posted by: zahava | Nov 9, 2004 1:14:31 PM

yeah, I hate to say it...but I've cleaned windows with newspapers before (when I worked in a pet store...we had a lot of newspaper for a variety of jobs). This is neither new or an Israeli invention. But! It is one that I had forgotten, and like you, it has once again struck me as brilliant.
Thanks for reminding me, because just recently I was crabbing that I couldn't get the streaks off my mirror. :-)

Posted by: celestial blue | Nov 9, 2004 2:27:06 PM

I just love a good cleaning tip. I keep thinking I should do a tip a week on my blog...
I, also have heard of this method before (there is nary a cleaning tip I don't know). But honestly never tried it. I could never really understand how the ink (which seems to get all over your hands) didn't make a bigger mess.
But for you David, I will give it a go...and let you know my result.

Posted by: lisa | Nov 9, 2004 2:28:45 PM

Zahava... Thanks honey. I love you too. [smooch]

Celestial Blue... I never claimed it was an Israeli invention... I just said I first heard about it here (although my lovely wife begs to differ). Glad to be of help.

Lisa... I could go for a tip a week. Y'know, to pass them along to Zahava and all. :-) Seriously though... Zahava told me that it is actually the ink that helps clean off the oils and things that casue streaking.

Posted by: David | Nov 9, 2004 2:43:57 PM

Lisa – I can actually help demystify the whole ink/mess thing! ;-)

When I was studying printmaking my print professor explained that the ink not only is attracted to grease/oil (why it ends up on your hands) but it actually attracts grease/oil.

Newsprint, which is a wood pulp paper leaves no lint residue like other cotton-fiber papers, and is quite absorbent (which is why photographs are much coarser when printed on newsprint than other stocks – it is to compensate for how much ink soaks into the paper – also called "dot gain" – larger dots with more space in between them distribute the surplus ink more evenly and interfere less with the image quality).

A modest amount of commercial glass cleaner (usually contains some form of amonia) doesn't significantly reduce it's ability to absorb, but does significantly reduce the ink's likelihood of transferring to the glass surface!

Voila! A cheap and extremely effective way to clean glass! =:->

Posted by: zahava | Nov 9, 2004 2:46:41 PM

I'm in awe at how much can be written and exclaimed over a simple cleaning tip. Apparently this is an area which obviously is a joy to some, leaves me yawning...

How 'bout a tip on how to make a 4 yr old listen? (and not just when they feel like it!) OR perhaps a way to have the cat clean out it's own litter pan? OR better yet, how to become independenly wealthy????!!!! :-P

Posted by: val | Nov 9, 2004 4:45:54 PM

My dad taught me that when I was in jr high. Vinegar and newspaper works even better.

Posted by: Tanya | Nov 9, 2004 5:01:33 PM

OK... I see that the entire free world seems to have heard about this little trick years ago! Sorry to waste valuable bandwidth with yesterday's news, ladies.

Oh, and I'll try to be more entertaining tomorrow, Val. :-)

Posted by: David | Nov 9, 2004 5:29:33 PM

Yeah, this is an old trick but there's nothing wrong with a timely reminder. :)

When I visited Israel 4 years ago, we spent some time in BeerSheva. I really enjoyed it. We hung out with the Bedouins and saw the crater. Nice area.

Posted by: Stacey | Nov 9, 2004 5:49:14 PM

dot gain! yes, Zahava...I know dot gain.

Posted by: lisa | Nov 9, 2004 7:01:44 PM

Off topic:

Don't think I haven't noticed that you're losing weight. Keep up the good work! :)

Posted by: Jim | Nov 9, 2004 7:34:41 PM

To be honest, I am not able to clean windows without using newspapers. Same with my mother and my grandmother.
Very important: a lot of black letters. Red printing does not work as well. Your glasses get a red then...

Posted by: sandra | Nov 9, 2004 7:45:02 PM

Thanks, Dave. I look forward to your next 'entertaining' entry tomorrow or the next... (no pressure! take your time!)

Posted by: val | Nov 9, 2004 9:32:33 PM

Stacey... I'd heard that somebody like Be'er Sheva... so you're the one! :-)

Lisa... Oh look, their bonding over cleaning tips AND printing terminology! [runs screaming from the room]

Jim... That's why I'm posting it... glad somebody is noticing.

Sandra... I'll add you to the growing list of people who apparently had a far better upbringing than I did. :-)

Val... I'll be here all week for your dining and dancing pleasure. Don't forget to tip your waitresses... and try the veal.

Posted by: David | Nov 9, 2004 10:01:55 PM

Don't be silly. It's good to learn things.

Do you know the one about nail polish remover and sticker residue? ;o)

Posted by: Tanya | Nov 10, 2004 2:23:36 AM

When I was a kid in the other Eretz HaKedosha(in NE PA)we had a cleaning woman who always did the windows with newsprint. I'm surprised I never shared this tidbit of domestic science with you in our predomesticated days in Bklyn.

Posted by: shmiel | Nov 10, 2004 2:35:22 AM

Hi David, I don't have time to read all the comments right now, so forgive me if this has already been said but - You didn't know that? I thought that was how everyone cleaned their mirrors/windows/shower screens.

You mention windex, and yet don't know to use it only with newspaper... astounding.

And here's one of those smiley faces you mentioned yesterday ;)

Posted by: Kay McCulloch | Nov 10, 2004 5:40:54 AM

Tanya... No I didn't... but I do now! Thanks.

Shmiel... I had no doubt that you knew this trick. You really are a bit of a Felix Unger, you know that?! :-)

Kay... You didn't have to read the comments. I am pleased to tell you that nearly everyone in the world learned this cleaning trick while still in utero, and began using it before they actually started walking. I know this because they all told me so. :~<

Posted by: David | Nov 10, 2004 6:32:28 PM

I was a Felix only when compared to my Oscar!!!! nowadays I'm very much the Oscar, but arent we all?

Posted by: shmiel | Nov 11, 2004 3:32:44 AM

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