POCATELLO, Idaho — Museums often bear the reputation of being dusty repositories for knowledge, but some break the mold on ordinary expectations.The Museum of Clean in Pocatello is probably the least dusty museum you’ll ever set foot in, and your housekeeping skills will likely improve after a visit.
Opened in 2011, the 75,000-square-foot museum features more than 10,000 items, including a life-sized cluttered garage, a horse-drawn wooden vacuum cleaner and a three-story children’s area shaped like a planet where kids can make beds and wash windows. Hygeia, the little-known Greek goddess of sanitation, would highly approve.
The museum was founded by Don Aslett, the self-made, millionaire owner of the multinational Varsity Contractors janitorial company. Not only has the Pocatello native spent his professional career cleaning (in one of his books he claims to have picked up after the Kennedy kids in Boston), he’s offered decluttering tips on Oprah and authored more than two dozen books with titles like “Clutter’s Last Stand” and “Is There Life After Housework?” Besides his boundless enthusiasm for cleanliness, he was once known for touring the country with a briefcase that looked like a toilet.
Aslett’s quirky sense of humor is found throughout the museum. Tours are offered daily, span two to three hours, and are designed to appeal to all ages. This includes young children because Aslett, a father of six, believes everyone must chip in. Interactive exhibits include the super-fast vacuum, where you can see the path and speed of vacuum suction. Elsewhere you can drive antique floor polishers under a tour guide’s supervision and browse a collection of more than 1,000 vacuums. Other displays feature dust pans, chemicals, windows, irons, toilets and shoes (80 percent of dirt in the home comes from feet, according to one placard).
There’s a kiosk where you can read about Aslett’s rise from Idaho farm boy to claim the title of “America’s No. 1 Cleaning Expert.” It’s possible you’ll even see the King of Clean himself as he’s often at the museum.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a museum without a gift shop, and in this one you’ll find cleaning kits for kids and stuffed toys shaped like different kinds of germs and microbes.
Five Other Obscure Northwest Museums Worth Setting Foot In
The Idaho Potato Museum
It’s common knowledge that Idaho is famous for potatoes, so it makes perfect sense that the state has a museum where you can find the world’s largest potato chip and its biggest collection of potato mashers.
The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot explores the history of the tuber through an eclectic array of artifacts such as a Mr. Potato Head display, the oldest known vessels made for storing potatoes and a burlap tuxedo worn by the state’s first potato commissioner. The world’s largest potato crisp, developed by Pringles, is the size of a pizza and has its own glass case with a certificate from Guinness World Records. Informational displays detail the potato’s path to Idaho, where the southern part of the state offers ideal growing conditions. A giant baked potato outside is the ideal photo opp. www.idahopotatomuseum.com
John’s Beachcombing Museum
In 2015, retired plumber John Anderson opened his Forks, Wash., home as a museum to showcase all the things he’d found beachcombing over 40 years. A tower of junk outside gives a hint as to the “treasures” to be found within, a sample of which includes: a gray whale skull, rusted iron from shipwrecks, more than 25,000 glass floats, fossils, sea glass, tennis shoes and a book full of messages retrieved from glass bottles. Hours for John’s Beachcombing Museum can be found on the museum’s Facebook page.
Oasis Bordello Museum
The Oasis Bordello museum in Wallace is a trip back in time to the day in 1988 when the FBI raided the downtown brothel and the women inside took heel, leaving everything behind.
Today, rooms are as they were, with lingerie in the bedrooms, dishes in the kitchen sink and timers lined up on a counter. Mannequins in various states of repose populate the museum. Hours can be found at the Oasis Bordello Museum Facebook page.
If stiff wooden figures with snapping jaws bring you joy, a pilgrimage to the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Wash., might be in order.
The museum features more than 6,000 nutcrackers, including the famous handmade wooden toy soldiers from Germany, but also cats, dogs, crocodiles, famous personalities and “Naughty Nellies,” which crack nuts between a pair of legs. Besides the history of nutcrackers, visitors will learn many different ways to crack a nut. However, because of nut allergies, any actual cracking is reserved for one day a year, the first Saturday of July. www.nutcrackermuseum.com
Portland brandishes the word “weird” like other cities use “historic,” and its Freakybuttrue Peculiarium revels in it.
The Peculiarium is a little PG-13 museum/gift shop featuring sci-fi art exhibits, urban legends and stories from Oregon’s past that aren’t about its proudest moments. In life-size displays, you can see what it might be like to be the victim of an alien autopsy or feel what it’s like to be buried alive. www.peculiarium.com