How to clean up in an Instant

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The Independent Online
The faster technology advances, the more cleaning problems it creates, as Dr Johnson would have said if he had thought of it. There was a time (Dr Johnson's time, actually) when getting candle grease and coal dust out of things was the worst pollution problem you could expect, but now there are examples of soiling that would turn our forefathers pale.

So today I have hired cleaning expert Mavis Lapointe to deal with some of the knottier of the cleaning problems that land on my desk. Take it away, Mavis!

I have recently been trying to make a fortune by scratching those cards that fall out of newspapers and newsagents' shops, but all I have managed to get so far is a deposit of yellow stuff on my door-key that builds up every time I scratch a card with my key. How do I get rid of it?

Mavis Lapointe writes: As far as I can tell from tests carried out in the privacy of my own laboratory, this yellow stuff they use for the scratch cards is the same stuff they make double yellow lines out of on the roads. Now, as you may be aware, the yellow stuff they make double yellow lines out of is supposed to be highly toxic, which is why you don't see many people down on their hands and knees licking the stuff or, if you do, they're dead, and the first thing I have to say to you, unless it's too late, is: Don't lick your key! Don't suck your key! Don't even absent- mindedly chew your key! Above all, don't lend it to your small child as a dummy!

The second thing I have to say is that the way you clean your key is the very same way you would deal with the problem of double yellow lines on the road, ie you would have to use one of those big lorries that belch flame on to the road and pass along the main thoroughfares burning everything beneath them, rather like a short-sighted dragon. I am not, of course, recommending that you go out and buy one of those machines that pass along main roads burning off the top surface like children taking icing off a cake - I am merely recommending that you keep your eyes open until you pass a roadworks section on a motorway or somewhere where they are using such a machine, and ask if you can just slip your key under the corner of it to get that yellow stuff off. I am sure that they will be only too pleased to oblige, as they do not often get people stopping to talk to them, especially on motorways.

Of course, if you do manage to win a fortune with one of these cards, none of this will apply, as you will be able to have your key recut at no particular expense. Meanwhile, for future scratching of these instant cards, with their possibly highly toxic yellow residue just below the surface, I cannot recommend too highly the use of a special tool. The best one comes on the model of the Swiss army knife that has recently been developed specifically for the use of gamblers, and contains numerous gadgets to aid your betting, such as an implement for getting a horse out of a list of runners (a pin), a thing for getting money out of a bookie (a corkscrew), a device for dealing with unwanted and unsuccesful betting slips (a small shredder), a thing for invoking divine aid to make your horse run faster (a rosary) and other gadgets for marking cards, laming horses, producing double-headed coins, etc. One of these is a small spike reserved for the specific purpose of scratching scratch cards.

I was recently in a McDonald's restaurant ...

Mavis Lapointe writes: Careful. We can't afford too many court cases here.

No, I think this is all right. Anyway, I was recently in a McDonald's restaurant sitting quietly at my table engaged in some ruminative digestion when I noticed several people handing out leaflets outside. I was about to go out and get one, to have something to read with my food, when suddenly from nowhere a gang of highly qualified lawyers rushed through the restaurant towards the leaflet carriers, waving injunctions, writs, affidavits, final decrees and heaven knows what. As they passed my table, jostling to get there first, one of the lawyers fell heavily and cut himself, letting one or two drops fall on my coat. How do I get lawyer's blood out of something?

Mavis Lapointe writes: You could try suing. I enclose instructions. But remember the old Confucian proverb: It is easier to get the teeth out of a dragon than blood out of a lawyer.

How do I get chewing gum out of a cat?

Mavis Lapointe writes: You don't. You get it out of trees in Latin American forests.

Mavis Lapointe will be back soon to tell you how to get rid of llama spit, Brent Spar, unwanted heirs, etc.