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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: July 15, 2011

Submitted by on July 15, 2011 – 10:03 AM13 Comments

I'm hoping you and/or the Nation can help me out here. Last year I lost a ton of weight, met a great man and so a few weeks ago for the first time in my adult life, I bought some gorgeous spring and summer clothes. I'm talking about cute and fun designer dresses, some of which are one-of-a-kind.

Now I need help in choosing the right garment steamer that will do the job, but be gentle on these clothes. I've done some preliminary research and they seem to come in a variety of sizes and qualities, from the very cheap/breaks after a few uses/didn't work in the first place, to the effective, but disgustingly expensive.

No one I know uses this type of product, so appeals to friends and family have been fruitless.

I'm looking for something portable that I can take with me when I go on holiday this summer (first one in 4 years — yay!) and I'm looking to spend $100, maximum. Also, I live in Canada and am not averse to online shopping, but will need a supplier that sells and ships up here.

Any help you could provide would be so appreciated.

Girly for the first time in my life


Hi, Sars –

Got an Ask the Readers for you. Thanks to a recent job promotion, I just upgraded apartments. My new place has these really nice wood floors. Unfortunately, it wasn't 20 minutes after I'd gotten the final box unpacked that one of my cats projectile kicked her litter a good 8 feet out of the box, covering as many square feet as she possibly could.

I vacuumed up as much as I could, and then tried to wet-Swiffer up the remaining dust. Bringing the dust in contact with moisture was a bad idea, however, as this turned it into a massive cloudy gray stain. I have tried everything I can think of to get it off — even things that I know aren't safe for the finish. Warm water with a little bit of vinegar, Magic Eraser, 409: all any of these seem to do is spread the cloud further.

Does anyone know how to sever the powerful and unholy bond between clay litter dust and wood flooring?

Just to be clear: I am not asking for alternative litter recommendations. Every time I've brought this problem up with friends, they have insisted (demanded, really) that I go out and buy organic litter. I have tried every single one out there, from World's Best to Swheat Scoop, and none of them have been effective enough at odor control in a small space with two cats.

Much obliged,
A-litter-ative Alias

(Sorry. Couldn't help myself.)

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  • Meredith B. says:

    @Alias – Have you tried Windex? That's what I've always used on wood floors…

  • CJ says:

    We have Pergo floors, and I swear by Bona Hardwood floor spray. Use a soft terrycloth towel, and swipe from the edges of the cloud toward the center.

    You can also use it with a Swiffer-type mop, but if you're trying to clear one spot, it's better to clean it by hand and follow with a general mopping. Good luck!

  • Sue says:

    Murphy's Oil Soap? That's done the job for me with wood floors and a variety of stains including pet- and mold-related ones.

  • Sarah says:

    Is your apartment really old? Cloudiness in reaction to water sounds like the floors may be waxed instead of polyurethaned. Apt Therapy how to care for waxed wood flors

  • Bridget says:

    Girly– Congratulations! I don't know about a portable steamer (I feel they don't have enough power), but I have the Conair Deluxe Steamer at home and really love it. It retails for around $80 US. We use Jiffy steamers at work, but they're expensive. If you have access to an iron while you're traveling, you can take care of most of your prep needs by using a pressing cloth with the iron. Any ol' piece of clean white cotton will do–just put it between the iron and the garment and press on the lowest effective setting. If you're worried about sleeves, roll a towel and stick it in the sleeve–you can press the sleeve without leaving a crease. Have fun!

  • Another Sarah J says:

    i love the Mrs. Meyer's products. we also have 2 kitties that love to send litter flying onto our newly refinished hardwood floors. our landlady wrote a clause in our lease requiring the use of Bona on the floors, but it didn't get the cloudy film you are talking about. Mrs. Meyer's with a damp paper towel seems to clean it all up and leave a nice scent.

    good luck!

  • Vicky Lee says:


    I second the Conair Deluxe. I got mine at Home Outfitters (am Canadian too). It goes on sale periodically and we got ours for about $100. It was a stand up model, but came with a small travel model. They both work great. Actually, the portable is awesome to use on new drapes and shower curtains fresh out of the package. LOVE!

    I'm addicted to steaming instead of ironing: and haven't touched the iron since I got the steamer.

  • --Lisa says:

    I've never found a travel steamer that worked for me, so I finally forked out for a and I love it.

    Good luck

  • --Lisa says:

    Wow, that didn't work out how I wanted. Here is a direct link to the steamer page:

  • Kris says:

    I second Bridget’s recommendation: get a travel iron instead of a steamer, and use a towel to protect the garment. You can even get the towel slightly damp and increase the steam power. That’s how people have been dealing with delicate garments for years, and an iron will be much cheaper and easier to pack. Or hang the garment up in the shower, and use the iron as a steamer. It’s not quite as easy to use, but again, cheaper and smaller. Rowenta has at least one good travel iron.

  • Carrie Ann says:

    I used my friend's Jiffy travel steamer last weekend on all of my dresses for a wedding. It's tiny, light, easy to use in a hotel room. Her husband brings it with him when he travels for work to steam his suits, so you know it works because lawyers don't put up with ineffective tools!

  • Sarah says:

    Not quite a lawyer yet, but I will echo Carrie Ann–the Jiffy travel steamer is awesome. (I used it to steam suits before job interviews, for pete's sake, after they were folded up into a carry-on.) Bonus: when disassmbled, it fits into a gallon-size ziploc bag!

  • ADS says:

    I agree that it sounds like the issue with the floor has nothing to do with the litter, and instead has to do with getting the floor wet. You're not supposed to use Swiffer Wet on waxed floors.

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