Shower door soap scum, greasy dirt on lamps and kitchen cabinets…some things around the house just don't come clean. We talked to professional house cleaners and got them to spill their best-kept cleaning secrets. Use these tips to simplify your housecleaning—and save time and effort.
Grease and dirt build up on kitchen cabinets
over time. To clean your cabinets, first heat a
slightly damp sponge or cloth in the microwave
for 20 to 30 seconds until it's hot. Put on a pair
of rubber gloves, spray the cabinets with an all-purpose
cleaner containing orange oil ($4), then wipe off the
cleaner with the hot sponge.
For stubborn spots, let the cleaner
sit for five minutes first. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain.
Rinse and reheat the sponge as it becomes saturated. Then wipe
the cabinets with a cool, damp cloth. The orange oil leaves a
shiny coating. This works for any wood or metal surface.
Keeping shower doors clean and
streak free is a challenge—unless
you know the pros' secrets. Start by
cleaning any mold, mildew or streaks off the glass
with a glass cleaner. Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
($1) to get into the cracks in textured glass. Scrape off
tough buildup with a razor blade. Dry the doors with
Treat the doors with a product like Aquapel ($8;
autobodydepot.com) or Rain-X ($5 at auto parts
stores and home centers). These glass treatments form
an invisible film on the glass to increase water repellency,
causing water and soap to bead up and run off
the glass. (Squeegee off the water after bathing to keep
soap scum from building up again.) Spray or wipe on
the glass treatment, then wipe it off with a microfiber
cloth. Overspray won't harm surrounding surfaces.
The products repel water for six months.
Every pro we talked
to was a big fan
of Swiffer Sweeper
products, particularly the Wet Jet
($20). It lets you throw away the traditional
mop and bucket and clean your
hard floors in less time and in a more
sanitary way (mops are often full of
bacteria, which get spread on the floor
during cleaning). Three cleaning solutions
(for different floor types) are
available for the battery-powered Wet
Jet. The solution is automatically
sprayed onto the floor with the push of
a button. Disposable, textured pads
absorb the spray as they clean. Since the
Wet Jet is very portable, it's great for
spot-cleaning spills. The downside is
that it doesn't work as well as a mop on
extremely dirty floors or on mud that
gets tracked into the house.
Throw out the old cotton rags and the paper towels and
use microfiber cloths instead. These cloths are composed
of ultrafine synthetic fibers that are woven together to
create a “microfiber.” The fibers rub together during
cleaning, creating a static charge that attracts dirt and dust, so you can tackle
dusting chores without using sprays or chemicals (although you can still
use them if you want). The tiny fibers have sharp edges that scour well, but
they aren't abrasive, so they won't scratch surfaces.
Use the cloths for cleaning appliances, sinks, and TV and computer
monitors, and for drying dishes, washing windows and any other chore
that requires a
cloth (wet or dry).
($20 for a 10-pack
at discount stores)
leave a streak- and
lint-free finish, are
and can be washed
Forget the broom—clean
out the garage with a leaf
blower. It's fast (about
five minutes), you don't have to move
heavy stuff, and you can clean work surfaces
and shelves along with the floor. First
put away papers or anything else that you
don't want blown away. Open the overhead
door. Put on a dust mask, earplugs and
safety glasses, then turn on the leaf blower
and blow out the dust and debris. Use the
leaf blower to get under workbenches and
to clean off the benches themselves. If you
don't own a leaf blower, you may be able to
use your shop vacuum by connecting the
hose to the exhaust port. This cleaning
method works great for screen
All-purpose cleaners won't remove
rust stains from sinks, tubs and toilets,
even with a lot of elbow grease.
The trick is to use a stain remover
like Super Iron Out ($10 for a 5-lb.
jug). Look for a rust stain remover or a product that
contains diluted hydrochloric acid (also listed on
product labels as hydrogen chloride, HCL or muriatic
acid). Be careful not to use a product containing
bleach—it'll set the stain.
For toilets, add Super Iron Out to the water in the
bowl, then clean with a stiff nylon-bristled brush. For
sinks and tubs, first wet the surface with water. Apply
Super Iron Out to a damp sponge (wear rubber gloves
and a mask—this stuff is powerful!). Wipe the stain
with the sponge until it's gone. Rinse the surface with
plain water to completely remove the Super Iron Out.
That's right. We've found another use for
duct tape—cleaning. The stickiness of duct
tape makes it perfect for a makeshift pet hair
remover and this method is faster than vacuuming.
It also works on seats in vehicles. A sponge or
cloth wrapped with duct tape works great for getting into corners.
Wrap duct tape around a paint roller cover, sticky
side out. Roll the paint cover over furniture or carpet to pick
up the pet hair. Add more tape as the surface gets full of hair.
Soap has a nasty way of forming a hard-to-remove film
on tile in tubs and showers. You won't get
rid of it by rubbing. Instead, wait for the
surface to dry, then scrape off the scum
with a 4-in. plastic putty knife.
For grout lines and textured
surfaces, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
To prevent soap scum buildup, stop using real soap
and start using a synthetic. Chemically speaking,
any soap in a liquid or gel form, and some bar
soaps (Zest and Ivory), are actually synthetic
soaps and much less likely to leave a tough film in
your sink, shower or tub.
The best way to prevent stains is to treat spills immediately.
That's why pros love stain pens, like Tide to Go
and the Clorox Bleach Pen Gel, which are designed to
remove small stains from upholstery, grout, caulk,
porcelain and clothing (avoid the
bleach pens for colored fabric).
Just press the tip into the stain
to release the solution, then rub
the tip across the stain to remove
it. Inexpensive ($3) and portable,
they're great at removing food
and drink spills.
Before applying a cleaning
solution to an entire surface or
fixture, first test it on a tiny area
to make sure it won't damage or
discolor the finish.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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