How to Clean a Blood Stain

When I was a kid, I had, like, two hobbies: listening to music and playing video games. In the summer, when it got hot and I didn’t have a ride to a friend’s house (where we would listen to music and play video games), I’d often spend the entire day indoors watching daytime television.

June 2024: How to Clean a Blood Stain

  • “What the Writer Meant” — Hop Along
  • “Take it Day By Day” — Courtney Barnett
  • “BAD IDEA” — Shamba
  • ”They Want EFX” — Das EFX
  • “Apt 1E” — Vernon ViLLAiN
  • “Devil Inside Me” — Matt Berry
  • “Maggie’s Farm” — Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
  • “Starfish and Coffee” — Prince
  • “Found a Job” — The Linda Lindas
  • “The Nile Song” — 10 Minute Warning
  • “Turn On the Light” — Bad Religion
  • “Winterlong” — Pixies
  • “Aquamarine” — Danger Mouse & Black Thought (w/ Michael Kiwanuka)
  • “Putting Shame In Your Game” — Beastie Boys
  • “You’re the Good Things” — Modest Mouse
  • “Bronze Wound” — Jen Wood
  • “Refugee” — Wynonna & Lainey Wilson
  • “Time” — Dennis Wilson

Listen on Spotify. Listen on Apple Music.

This meant I watched game shows, and when I watched game shows, I also unwillingly watched television commercials.

Networks showed three kinds of commercials during game shows in the mid–80s:

  • Products for older adults. Adult diapers. Fixodent. Temper-Pedic beds.
  • Food and cooking products that claimed they had less fat than the other food and cooking products.
  • Cleaning products.

Ads for cleaning products focused on one of two things: how hard it is to clean grease from a pan, and how difficult it is to get tough stains out of your kids’ white pants. Mud stains! Grass stains!

And even blood stains!

The narrative structure of these commercials formed around a crisis to conquer — a pile of greasy dishes from the family’s attempt at making 7,000 tacos (apparently) or a single pair of (again) white! baseball pants that had been through some kind of Balkan war. The product — the hero! — showed up just in time to solve Issue A, Issue B … AND EVEN ISSUE C!

I keep being reminded of these commercials because I’ve been cleaning up a lot more Tough Stains. There have been a lot of bloody noses in our house over the past few months — partially due to allergen-fueled dry air, partially due to various medications — and despite our house being half hardwood, bloody noses have gravitated almost exclusively to our white carpets. Those years of daytime television taught me that blood stains were in the “even!” category, the featured star of impossible tasks.

This is where I found myself a few weeks ago, facing down a middle-of-the-night mess, frantically searching for a solution to clean dried blood out of a white carpet, prepared to live forever with a weird stain like the final survivor in a horror movie. I was ready to buy a top-tier industrial solution — some hair-burning, skin-melting, color-bleaching solution that I would begrudgingly buy despite knowing that it would somehow lead to the death of an endangered species.

Haha. But, no!

It turns out that the only things you need to clean blood spots from a carpet … are ice water and paper towels.

That’s it! It’s just science. Blood is not some weird substance: it’s a water-soluble protein, like milk or orange juice. Despite being built up as a top-tier stain, only conquered through some informercial-level enzyme destroyer, blood is actually really easy to get out if you have a little patience. Drip ice water on the stain, dab the water away with a dry cloth, and continue until the stain has disappeared.

It will take a while! But it’s not impossible.

As an Overthinking Person, I often assign a similar priority to things that don’t deserve similar priority, seeing everything as a potential crisis. Many of us do, probably all of us at some point. Who can blame us! So many outside forces are trying to convince us that every crisis is a similarly weighted crisis, because that sells products or pushes agendas or confuses us into deprioritizing actual crucial world-affecting issues. But in the real world, outside of those daytime television commercials, not everything deserves a critical eye. Not everything deserves our full attention or our full stress.

More than that, we’re all often living with our own very big crisis, day after day, and we’re just tired. We’re tired, and the small things — the blood stains, the dog chewing up a corner of the couch, the flat tire, the slight increase in the cost of milk; things that, on their own, are really nothing in the grand scheme of things — push us directly over the edge. We can only look at them with the same level of complication as mental health crises — or job insecurity, or gender politics — and assume that we’ll need an equal level of effort.

Not always, it turns out. And that’s maybe the most challenging part about filtering through the cruft in our feeds and our screens and our friends and our lives — to figure out what’s worth stressing out, and what’s actually got a simple fix.

Complicated problems almost always require complex solutions. But complicated problems aren’t always complicated in the first place. Sometimes, you need a little cold water. Sometimes, you need to know that hard things are always actually easy. Sometimes, the world’s been lying to you your whole life, and breaking through is the small win you need for the day.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 30th, 2024