Dear Answer Angel: Some of our dearest friends have two very large, very hairy dogs that shed a lot, including all over my friends' furniture since the dogs are allowed on the couches. You can guess the rest: Every time we visit, we return covered with dog hair. I've learned not to wear black on these visits, but what else can I do short of asking them to put a sheet on the sofa before we sit down? They're lovely folks, and my husband and I want to stay friends — just hairless friends.
— Hair of the Dog
Dear Hair: You're stuck. The time to have brought your own couch coverup cloths was early on in this friendship. To show up with a sheet at this point in the shedding saga would just be rude.
If you've got the nerve, you can urge your friends to give the dogs a good brushing before you come over but, as the proud owner of a hairy white (lovable) beast, I know it won't help much.
My best advice (besides always choosing to visit your friends in clothes the color of their dogs) is to wear your rattiest, washable outfits. Or, dress in denim, which attracts less animal hair than most fabrics.
When you get home, lint brushes and those sticky roller things don't work as well as the stickiest tape you can find, wrapped around your hand. The clear, stick-to-the-box label holders that express shipping companies provide make an effective hair removal mitten. Some folks swear by rubber gloves with nubby fingers or Velcro hair rollers. But these work best on long pet hair. And keep them away from delicate or snaggable fabrics.
You can put your clothes in the dryer (with a dryer sheet) and count on your lint trap to do the dirty work. Washing first with fabric softener helps. I'm sure you've already thought about meeting your pals in a restaurant or having them over to your house instead. Otherwise, hairs to you!
In other lint-related news …
Dear Answer Angel: I hope you have a solution to my frustrating problem. I have dark brown bath towels, face cloths and so on. I launder them only with themselves. Yet they come from the dryer full of lint.
I've been scraping the lint off with a plastic kitchen scouring pad so they look presentable. This is time consuming, and I hate it! Do you know what I can do to fix this? Thank you for any suggestions you might have.
— Dorothy S.
Dear Dorothy: That scouring pad trick is a new one on me. Very resourceful! You also could try the dog hair suggestions above. But that lint is going to continue to bug you. I talked to two textile experts who tell me that dark or bright colors are the worst because the dye is abrasive to cotton fibers and breaks them up — causing major lint woes. You're better off with white or ivory. Towel labels offer no clues on whether the towels will lint badly, and price is meaningless. Even expensive towels can be a linty mess. Best advice for future purchases: Buy a test washcloth or hand towel and launder it a few times before investing in a whole set of matching towels.
Dear Answer Angel: Why do I seem to wear one size in one clothing line and a different size in another? If I'm shopping in a department store it doesn't really matter, but it's a pain when I'm ordering something by mail and have to return it if I guess the wrong size. Is there any way to be sure?
— Shifting Sizes
Dear Shifty: It's infuriating, isn't it? You're a size 10 in one manufacturer's dress and a 14 in another. When ordering online or from a catalog, you can follow the companies' measuring directions. But good luck finding a cloth measuring tape around your house, then following the usually too complicated instructions and fingers crossed you get your size right. I can't be bothered. When ordering from a company for the first time, I get three of the same thing: What I think is the right size and then sizes on either side of that. Yup, you have to send two back, but you're set for future orders once you figure out what works.
Dear Answer Angel: On a recent trip I started to wonder if tipping standards have changed and I don't get out enough. I ordered a $6.75 (!) beer at an airport bar, left $1 tip and the friendly bartender turned ice cold. I worried later if I should have tipped the skycap more than $1.
Dear Luigi: Your beer tip was OK but you probably should have come up with $2 for the luggage. The Emily Post Institute (emilypost.com) suggests $1 per drink (with the option of 15 to 20 percent of the pre-tax tab); $2 for the first checked bag and $1 for each additional.
You didn't ask, but you probably should tip the pizza guy too (or anybody who delivers food to your house). There's a good chance that the "delivery fee" doesn't go to the delivery person but to the restaurant.
Rule of thumb is 10 to 20 percent or a minimum of $3. In these lousy economic times, add a buck or two for those whose tips make up a big part of their income. It might not be a big bite for us, but for them it can really add up.
Your tattered, precious outfit: Having trouble throwing out your nasty, beat-up favorite clothes? Send a photo of the item to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me why you can't bear to part with it.