By Mordechai Schmutter

Dear Mordechai,

My boys killed my couches. What should I do? Should I replace them?

Yes, definitely. Maybe replace them with girls. They don’t ruin couches as much.

Oh, wait. It just occurred to me that you’re asking about the couches. Don’t do that. At least not until you replace the kids.

My wife and I also have this issue. We have microfiber couches, which we originally bought because the salespeople told us it was easy to scrub spills off of it. But they didn’t demonstrate that in the store. And anyway, it’s not really spills that I’m worried about. I’m more worried about my kids using it as a napkin. Or a trampoline. Or a parkour element. Or a stepstool to get board games off the top of the sefarim shrank, where we keep them because apparently we’re more worried about losing pieces of $10 board games than we are about turning our couch black. Also, one arm of the couch is partially collapsed.

(Sometimes I get the games down.)

Another major selling point on these couches, for us, was that the cushions don’t come off. Our previous couch never once had the cushions on. Also, I know that when I was a kid, I used to take off my parents’ couch cushions and use them to make tents, because sometimes when you’re under a roof, you need a smaller, more fragile roof. My siblings and I used to build a tent and then spend the rest of the day sitting in it and yelling at each other for wrecking it by mistake. But it was fun, because we could imagine that we were camping in there, protected from bears that would come near the tent and wreck it by mistake and then get yelled at and walk away in a sulk.

But having cushions that don’t come off isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Number one, I once lost a cell phone for a year and a half before I realized that just because the cushions don’t come off, that doesn’t mean there aren’t cracks around the cushions, and, number two, when someone spills, we can’t flip the cushion. We also can’t bring the cushions outside and hose them down or try stuffing them into the washing machine around that middle pole and hope we don’t shrink them. And this is pretty bad, because we didn’t stop and think that the only other things we have in the house that are made of microfiber are mops and towels and glass-cleaning cloths, and the reason they’re made out of microfiber is that—get this—it’s proven to absorb dirt.

So now we have two huge microfiber hunks in our living room, picking up every bit of shoe dirt. Sure, we tell our kids to keep their feet off the couch, but they have no memory from one time to the next.

“Take your shoes off the couch!”

They’re not on the couch.”

“They were.”

When?

“When I started yelling. Oh my goodness, get them off the couch!”

Again?

And by then, whatever dirt was on their shoes has already transferred to the couch.

So at some point, there was so much dirt on the couch that the fabric felt like leather. I actually thought that this meant that the outer layer of the couch had peeled off, but then I read up on it and found out that it was the outer layer. The couch had grown a new one, sort of like an outer shell, in an attempt to protect itself from the kids.

So I looked it up, and it turns out that the best thing to use on these couches is rubbing alcohol. Just spray some rubbing alcohol onto a cloth and scrub a given spot on the couch using small, circular motions for like ten solid minutes. Then repeat as necessary until the couch is covered in several small circles that are various different shades of whatever color it was when you bought it, you’re keeling over from the alcohol fumes, and the rag you’re using is black. This tends to happen before you even finish the first cushion. You need a whole pile of cleaning cloths.

It kind of reminds me of the book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, where two kids let a seven-foot cat into their lives for a second time in as many books, and they find that he once again makes a mess—this time it’s a bathtub stain—and that everything he uses to clean the stain gets dirty. (Including, as the narrator says, “Dad’s $10 shoes.” Which I guess was a big deal. I know that if I found shoes for $10, I would keep them forever for bragging purposes.) It’s also revealed in that book that the cat has 26 progressively smaller cats living in his hat, and he didn’t know when he came to the narrator’s house that he’d make a stain, which means they must have been in his hat for the entire first book as well, waiting for their moment. I think this is why my wife doesn’t let cats into our house.

And then, just recently, my 7-year-old threw up on the couch.

Well, not just on the couch. In the middle, he realized what he was doing, so he leaned over and threw up on the carpet. So that’s great—the two cloth surfaces in our house that don’t fit in the washing machine.

The throw-up was not Purim-related. We don’t actually know why it happened, but we were relieved when it did, because he’d been complaining about stomach pains all day, and my wife had been worried that it was appendicitis.

So the first thing my wife did, after she wiped it off, was spray the whole area with rubbing alcohol. Because alcohol cleans microfiber couches, right? But she did it to get rid of the smell. Like that’s a known thing from Purim—nothing gets rid of the smell of throw-up like alcohol.

Hey, this guy smells like throw-up! Give him some more alcohol!

So now it’s a weird combination of the two. It smells like the couch threw up.

So my wife looked it up, and she found an article that said we should spray it with vinegar, because vinegar is supposed to get rid of smells, although I don’t actually believe it. I think it just overpowers the smells so that they now smell like vinegar. I’ve never spilled an entire jar of pickles on the floor and said, “Mm! Smells like nothing!”

So we sprayed on vinegar, and the whole house smelled like a weird combination of vinegar and alcohol and throw-up, which was even worse. Sometimes we thought the smell went away, but that was just because we were used to it, which is a disgusting thought. It’s the people who come into the house who are going to smell it, and we won’t know. So we had to keep walking out of the house and coming back in and sniffing.

But it turned out that the vinegar wasn’t doing it. So then I put on baking soda, and the couch exploded.

OK, it didn’t. But the cushion kind of hardened. And it still didn’t really smell better if you put your nose to it, except that then you’d get a white spot on your nose, plus that cushion was significantly lighter than the others from all the scrubbing, so we had to scrub the whole rest of the couch to make it cleaner. And then the other couch.

We were in a mad rush to do this, because we were having guests that Shabbos, and we were afraid that the guests wouldn’t want to sit on that part of the couch. But it turns out that they specifically sat on that cushion, probably because it looked the cleanest. And when they left, the couch didn’t smell anymore! So I think we transferred our “Cat in the Hat” situation to them.

At least they can shower.

Anyway, it’s been a couple of weeks since that happened, and I’ve been scrubbing the couches ever since to get the cushions to match, because we have a bar mitzvah coming up. And by the time I got to the last cushion, the first one was dirty again.

So what should we do about these couches? Should we have bought plastic couch covers? No one likes plastics, because they’re uncomfortable. You sit there for a while, and the whole couch sticks to you, and then you get up and go outside, and your grandmother chases you out because she wants her couch back.

Because a lot of grandmothers have them. Maybe life experience has taught them that as uncomfortable as it is to sit on a couch that makes noise every time you shift to get yourself unstuck, it’s even more uncomfortable if it’s dirt sticking to you. Or maybe they quickly throw on the covers just before you show up, because you’re their kid. Even if they call you to come over because they’ve fallen and can’t get up, they quickly call someone else and say, “My kid is coming! Quick, put the plastics on the couches!” I think there’s a service that does it. It’s easier than constantly schlepping in new couches at their age.

What did my mother do when I was growing up, making tents out of all her cushions?

Oh, I know—she bought a set of brown couches and a set of black ones.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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