Tag Archives: cleaning

Städdag (aka cleaning day)


Today was “städdag” at work, aka cleaning day. Apparently, next week we will have inspection and everything should be clean and tidy which, in a biochemistry lab, isn’t exactly… easy.

Many people have this idea about scientists and their lab where it is always dirty, with dust piling up on old equipment, mold growing in the fridges, bacterial cultures and reagents which have been standing there for years, desks piling with articles and grant applications, … .

I will tell you this: it is all true.

My working space... it only looks this nice after cleaning day.

I have worked in 4 labs until now, and it has been the same everywhere I went. In theory everything is perfectly organized, but reality shows a different picture … . I don’t know where this stems from: whether we are just so occupied with our work we don’t have time to clean, whether we are immune for dirt and just ignore it, or whether it is simply because we have to clean our own desks. The thing is: in most companies there are cleaning ladies/gentlemen who take care of the hygienic situation at work and who clean the desks etc. In a lab, however, that is not possible. You cannot simply throw everything out in the sink or the bin, go over it with a sponge and that’s that – there’s some toxic substances around, which should be disposed of properly, and other substances which are not exactly toxic, but could cause trouble when mixed. Basically, you need a masters degree to be able to clean up a lab. In others words: we need to do it ourselves. And thus, every so often, a day is organized on which everybody puts on their lab coats, disposes of molded cultures, old buffers, and cleans up a drawer or two (the rest is for next time).

We had to be in the lab at 9. I woke up at 9.45. I’ve always been great at making good impressions on crucial days. So, to make up for my being late, I took on the kitchen. And whoever thinks that was the easiest part in the lab, think again. We found cereals that expired in 2002 (I must have been in kindergarten when those where bought), and some Tupperware boxes have been thrown directly in the bin: there is no way they could have been sanitized ever again, and I’m pretty sure inhalation of the spores of whatever was inside would have had us landed in hospital had we dared to open them.

Anyway, we survived (and got free pizza from the department for lunch!), but I just hope the inspection here is not half as strict as it was back in Ghent, cause I don’t think we would pass… .

But best of all – tonight I finally managed to ask my professor about Christmas holidays: I was planning on taking the last week of December and come back January 3rd because he didn’t seem too happy on me taking a week of to be with T last time, and I didn’t want to piss him off… but he suggested himself I’d take the first week of January also because, well, nobody would be in the lab anyway. So I’ll actually have TWO WEEKS of Christmas holidays! Yey for me!

Open letter to the former tenant


Dear mr. Alvaro Gutierrez,

We have never met, but allow me to introduce myself: I am the person who is currently renting the apartment which you lived in last year. I am taking the liberty of writing you because I feel there is one or two things about keeping an apartment clean you might have misunderstood.

Take the dishes. I know that, as the perfect cook that you are, you only ever get the inside of the pots and pans dirty, but sometimes -just sometimes, against your will- it so happens that a drop or two of whatever is INside escape and run down along the OUTside, or some sizzling oil in the one pan sizzles its way onto the pot next to it. This is why it is custom to wash pots and pans inside AND out. While I am aware you are somewhat above that, I still suggest you would try to adopt this habit, since not only are clean pots and pans more aesthetically pleasing, they will also save you from many a food poisoning. And while we are on the subject of the kitchen, may I also suggest you consider to clean the area around the cooking plates? I realize the many yellow spots might have been mistaken for a pretty wallpaper pattern but really… it was grease. (I do agree with you an apartment painted all in white is pretty depressing, however, a wall covered in greasy yellow spots does not do much to undo that. More on the contrary, even… .)

I know you were also wondering about the bathroom – was there really so little light coming through that window? Wasn’t the shower hose white when you moved in? And most importantly – how come the joints between the tiles in the shower turned black over time? The answers to these questions are no, yes, and mold.
It is a bit crazy to install a shower next to a window, I agree, since it results in regular exposure of the inner window to drying drops. Think rain and outside windows but more frequently – they get dirty (but oh… I guess this is new for you too?). My traditional cleaning product couldn’t quite handle the lime deposit on the window, but it was easily enough removed with pure white vinegar – you’d be delighted at how much brighter the bathroom is now! On the hose – I’d have thought the stickiness would’ve been enough indication that a sponge was needed, but I can forgive you for not noticing: after all, I too have a hard time to keeping my eyes open during my morning shower. And admittedly, wet joints do look darker, which may be why you missed the mold slowly taking over. But no worries, they have these special products these days and it barely took me 2 hours to get the whole shower clean.

So while I understand you not washing the windows, the dishes, the toilet, the shower and everything else, and I wholeheartedly forgive you for these honest mistakes, there is one thing I do not grasp. Is this really snot that you wiped off on the bottom of the chairs?

Yours sincerely,