100 Essential Cleaning Hacks for Your Home
Speed up home cleaning by putting into practice some of these 100 essential cleaning hacks for your home. You won’t believe what a dryer sheet can do.
Don’t Forget the Doormat
Doormats are your best friend when it comes to trapping dirt, so make sure you have two—one outside the house and one inside. This cleaning hack is especially helpful in the winter when you have salty and snowy boots going in and out of the house. Just be sure to clean the mats regularly as dirty mats contribute to the mess. Keep your hardwood floors clean with these tips.
Kill two birds with one stone by doing similar cleaning tasks at the same time. “Clean your baseboards when you are vacuuming or washing floors, clean blinds when you are cleaning windows, etc.,” suggests Becky Rapinchuk, owner of CleanMama.net.
Skip the Bucket
Sometimes moving around the mop bucket only makes more of a mess thanks to the dirty water splashing around. Leslie Reichert, founder of The Green Cleaning Coach and author of The Joy Of Green Cleaning, has a bucket-less mopping technique that works wonders: a spray bottle filled with diluted cleaning solution and a microfiber mop.
Stock Up on Products
No, a bathroom tile cleaner shouldn’t be used to wipe down your mirrors. “The right products that actually clean go a long way to getting the job done more effectively and efficiently for you,” says McGee. Scared to clean your house because of all the chemicals in cleaning products? Try these 15 alternative cleaning hacks to keep your home chemical-free.
Buy a Soap Dispenser Dish Brush
According to Dana White, founder of A Slob Comes Clean, you can use a soap dispenser dish brush in your shower. “Mark it for the bathroom only with a permanent marker, and fill it with your favorite dish soap,” she says. “Hang it in the shower, and you can scrub the shower while you’re in it anyway. Dish soap does a great job cleaning the bathroom!” Be sure to read up on the ways you might be cleaning your bathroom wrong, too.
Vacuum the Right Way
Rapinchuk recommends first vacuuming a room horizontally and then vertically to get all of the trapped dirt. Most cleaning experts agree that vacuuming slowly is also important to ensure that vacuum picks up all the dirt particles. Need an extra-long extension for your vacuum? Then check out a cleaning hack that will have you facepalming because you didn’t think of it sooner.
Everyone has a different idea of what “clean” actually means. Some think a sparkling floor is clean, while others are happy with just doing a load of laundry. Beth McGee, author of Get Your House Clean Now: The Home Cleaning Method Anyone Can Master, suggests asking yourself questions like, how much stuff do I have and what type of home do I have to determine what clean and organized really means to you.
Ignore the off-putting name but Swedish Death Cleaning can change your life.
A Pillowcase Can Be a Cleaner
Obviously, you don’t want to use the pillowcase you sleep on every night, but using a pillowcase to clean your ceiling fans is a hack that you need to try ASAP. “The pillowcase holds the dust so it doesn’t fall on a table or bed,” says Reichert. “A very clean way to dust a fan.” Learn the the cleaning hack you wish you knew earlier to keep pillowcases smelling fresh.
Create a Cleaning Plan
We all have those random cleaning bursts, but having a plan beforehand will make your cleaning hacks process smoother. “Cleaning is really like a dance. You start high, work down and around, and carefully observe anything that needs attention,” says McGee. “As you move around, wipe light switches, door frames, baseboards, walls, working in a circle around a room and not back and forth from one thing across the room to another. Don’t get distracted, keep a smooth motion around your home.”
Use Your Dishwasher
Dishwashers are for so much more than just washing dishes. Reichert recommends using yours to dust off knickknacks like mason jars and glass candle globes. Pretty much anything glass or ceramic should be fine going in the dishwasher, but you do want to stay away from putting meltable plastics. If your dishwasher has developed a nasty smell, see how to get rid of dishwasher smells in one step with this cleaning hack.
White Bear Studio/Shutterstock
DIY Cleaning Solutions
Want to know the secret to streak-free mirrors and windows? Well, it’s an easy at-home solution you can make yourself. According to Rapinchuk, all you need is:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol
Washing windows and mirrors is probably the least favorite cleaning tasks. Clean windows like a pro with 10 cleaning hacks.
Clean the Toilet Daily
If you swish your toilet every day with your cleaning hacks brush, you’ll keep it relatively clean without a ton of hard labor. Use the water already in the toilet to swish the entire toilet bowl. Your bathroom probably gets dirtiest the fastest and is the hardest to clean. You probably don’t clean the toilet every day but there are several things you need to clean more often. Find out the cleaning hacks.
Skip the Polish
Of course, you need to polish your wooden furniture and hardwood floors every once in a while (once or twice a year, or when they begin to look foggy), but all you really need to keep them shiny is a dry microfiber cloth. “Your furniture will actually get less dusty without using furniture polish,” says Reichert.
“[Start] with scrubbing areas such as kitchens and baths, then moving on to de-cluttering, dusting, bedding, and finally floors,” McGee advises. “Look at your home carefully to determine what needs most attention to bring it to your idea of clean.”
Maybe you just found out your in-laws are coming over and you need to quickly tidy up the place—knowing how to speed clean will be your savior. Make sure you hit the places that are most visible first like kitchen countertops and the bathroom. You can skimp on things like the top of the fridge and behind the coffee maker. Here’s how to clean your kitchen in basically five minutes.
Purchase a Paintbrush
Reichert uses a stiff paintbrush around her furniture to pull the dirt out without having to move all the furniture around. “You are brushing it out away from the furniture so the vacuum can suck it up,” she says.
Pie Plate Dustpan
Scuff Mark Eraser
Use Sawdust to Soak Up Spills
Floor Swiffer for Walls
Baking Soda + Vinegar = Magic
Put that magic baking soda to work to eliminate the stink from shoes, you’ll be amazed at the results.
Use Tongs to Clean Blinds
Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon
Move Heavy Furniture Yourself
Remove Pet Hair with Duct Tape
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.
Coffee Filters for Dusting
Clean the Exhaust Fan
Caution: The cans contain chemical propellants, not just air. Don’t let children play with them.
Dust with Your Dryer
Synthetic Soap Simplifies Bathroom Cleaning
Buff Off Heavy Grime
Pick up some polishing compound at a home center or an auto parts store and use an auto buffer to polish off the offending scum. If you don’t own a buffer, you can buy one for as little as $20 or borrow one from a gearhead friend. If possible, remove the doors and take them out to the garage to avoid messing up the bathroom.
Duster for the Vertically Challenged
Clean Grout with a Bleach Pen
For really mildewed grout, you may need a second application, and it can help to gently scrub the bleach into the grout with a toothbrush before allowing it to work for 10 minutes. Make sure to run the fan in the bathroom and to avoid skin contact. This method is best for light or white grout. If you have colored grout, test a small area first. It might fade.
Instead of trying to find a bleach pen at the store, the cleaning solution to grout might already be in the bathroom.
Clean with Microfiber Products
Microfiber dusting tools for blinds, ceiling fans, floors and general cleaning are available online and at many stores. Buy your microfiber cloths in the automotive section. ‘Cleaning’ and ‘detailing’ towels are the same as ‘dusting’ cloths, and they’re often a lot cheaper.
Make Your Own Greener Cleaning Solution
In a 5-quart bucket, mix: 1 cup of distilled vinegar, 3 tablespoons of borax, 1 gallon of hot water and 1/2 cup of soap (Maggie uses Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds). Maggie likes to add 10 or 15 drops of tea tree, lavender or lemon oil for a nice fragrance. Mix the ingredients and then pour some of the mixture into a spray bottle. Save the rest in a gallon jug. This is enough all-purpose cleaner to last for years!
Use this mixture to clean tile, countertops and painted woodwork. It’s a good all-purpose cleaner, but it’s not the best for cleaning glass. Maggie uses club soda to clean glass.
Clean a Sluggish Toilet
Easier Bottle Cleaning
Vacuum First, Then Scrub
For a really thorough cleaning, start at the top, vacuuming the dust from light fixtures and the top of window casings. Then work your way down. And finally, vacuum the floor methodically so you cover every inch. You don’t want to leave any stray hair or dust bunnies to muck up your cleaning water. A soft-bristle upholstery brush works best for this type of vacuuming. Figure out what vacuum to use here.
Protect Your Shower Doors from Mineral Buildup
Two brands are Aquapel and Rain-X. Follow the instructions on the package to apply the treatment to your shower door glass. You can buy Aquapel or find a local dealer online. You’ll find Rain-X at any auto parts store.
Let a showerhead amaze you with the comfort it can provide and check out 10 showerheads for a better shower experience.
Trash Can Cleanup
Clean Your Bagless Vacuum Filter
People avoid cleaning filters because it’s a messy job. The typical method is to tap the filter against the inside of a trash can until most of the dust falls off. But this raises a thick cloud of dust and doesn’t get the filter completely clean. Here’s a faster, neater, more thorough approach: Take the vacuum out to the garage and clean the pleated filter with a shop vacuum. Some pleated filters have a special coating that you can damage, so be gentle with the shop vacuum nozzle. Clean prefilter screens and post-filters the same way.
Citrus Peels and Ice Cubes for a Stinky Disposer
- With the water running at about half throttle, drop in orange or lemon peels. Run the disposer for five seconds. Citric acid from the peels softens crusty waste and attacks smelly bacteria. Give the acid about 15 minutes to do its work.
- Turn on the water and the disposer and drop in a few ice cubes. Flying shards of ice work like a sandblaster inside the disposer.
- Run the water until the bowl is about half full. Then pull the stopper and turn on the disposer to flush it out.
Plus: Bad Smell in the House?
Garbage Bag Holder-Upper
Flashlight Glass Finder
Besides being an all-time great Parliament song, a glow-in-the-dark flashlight might be a light saver in a blackout.
In the plumbing aisle, you’ll also find PVC and rubber ‘reducer’ couplings that let you connect your vacuum hose to a different-size pipe.
Beat the Dust out of Cushions
Renew Wood with Mineral Spirits
Beat and Shake Area Rugs
Do Air Cleaners Reduce Dusting?
While you’re debating the value of an air cleaner, take care of cleaning your air conditioner, it’s easier than you think.
Rotate Bedding Weekly
Clean the Air While You Clean the House
Countertop Gap Filler
Remove Tough Grime with Less Scrubbing
Magic Eraser sponges are available at grocery stores, hardware stores and wherever cleaning supplies are sold. Unlike regular sponges, they wear out pretty fast, so stock up. While you’re out, look for these other very useful household cleaning supplies.
Capture Dust – Don’t Just Spread It Around
Ban Shoes Inside (But Offer Slippers)
Your first line of defense for how to remove dust from air should be a coarse-fiber heavy-duty doormat placed outside exterior doors. Inside, have everyone remove shoes at the door. Keep a bench, a shoe rack and a basket of cheap slippers available so no one has to walk around in their stocking feet on chilly floors.
Bleach Away Stains
Remove stubborn stains from marble, cultured marble or plastic laminate with a bleach-soaked paper towel. Cover the towel with a cup to contain the bleach odor, and leave it in place overnight. If the stain has faded but not disappeared, just repeat the process. Test this trick in a hidden area first; it could discolor the surface. Dealing with a whole countertop? You can renew it yourself.
Polish with a Microfiber Cloth
Microfiber cloths are perfect for this because they pick up dust, wipe off smudges and don’t shed any fibers. You’ll find microfiber cloths wherever cleaning supplies are sold and they’ll help you know how to clean your bathroom better. You can also buy them in bulk at wholesale clubs and use them throughout your house for all kinds of other cleaning chores. They’re one of the best home cleaning products you can get.
Keep Closets Clear for Easy Cleaning
- Box or bag items on closet shelves. Clear plastic containers are best—they lock fibers in and dust out and let you see what’s inside. When you dust, they’re easy to pull off the shelves and wipe clean.
- Enclose the clothes you rarely wear. Those coats you wear only in winter shed fibers year-round. Slip garment bags or large garbage bags over them. They help to contain fibers and keep the clothes themselves from becoming coated with dust.
- Keep closet floors clear. If the floor is cluttered, chances are you’ll just bypass it while vacuuming. But a wide-open floor adds only a few seconds to the vacuuming chore. And a wire shelf lets you clear all those shoes off the floor without losing storage space.
Microfiber Products Clean Faster, Easier and Better
Microfibers are tiny strands (usually less than one-tenth the thickness of a human hair) that are sliced into even smaller strands and then woven into fabric. Those tiny strands reach into crevices and provide millions of little pockets within the fabric to hold dirt particles. The strands also have sharp scouring edges, so microfiber cloths often clean effectively without chemicals or even water (you can use cleansers or water if you choose). Learn more about the science behind cleaning with microfiber cloths.
Make Cleaning Easier
Photo: Courtesy of Toto USA, Inc.
Remove Tree Sap from Vinyl Siding
A Scrub and a Wax
Make the Most of Your Vacuuming
- Vacuum high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting and large area rugs at least weekly.
- Make numerous slow passes over the same area in all directions (fast passes stir up more dust than is being sucked up).
- Use certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove invisible particles and allergens. Look for the word ‘True” on the label.
- If you have allergies, upgrade to a sealed-body bagged vacuum with an airtight ‘sealed filtration’ system that works together with a True HEPA filter. This means all of the exhaust will exit through the HEPA filter instead of leaking dust back into your house through the machine’s housing. Sealed-body vacuums have rubber seals or gaskets around the lid and filter and will last 10 to 20 years. Brands include Riccar, Miele and Sanitaire.
- Buy high-quality vacuum bags. Inexpensive 2- or 3-ply paper bags leak more dust. Higher-quality cotton-lined paper bags are better, and top-quality synthetic cotton HEPA bags are the best. Bag capacity matters too. Higher-capacity bags capture more, smaller particles that would have otherwise clogged the filter.
- Clean all your bagless vacuum filters regularly and replace them every three months.
- Turn off the agitator brush on hard flooring so you’re not blowing dust into the air.
- Maintain your vacuum: Empty the canister frequently (always outside) and change bags and belts when needed. Keep the agitator brush free of hair and other material, and check the vacuum for cracks and loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
Install a Detachable Toilet Seat
It seems like no matter how hard you try, you can never get the hinges on the toilet seat clean. There’s always a bit of cleaning solution that seeps underneath and creeps out later. Installing a detachable toilet seat solves the problem. This Bemis brand seat is easy to remove by just twisting two hinge caps about a quarter of a turn. Then you have easy access to clean under the hinges. Detachable seats cost about $20. Installation is straightforward and only requires a wrench. Are your bolts rusted and stuck? Learn how to remove rusted toilet seat bolts here.
Remove Stubborn Rust Stains with Acid Magic
To clean rust from toilets and other porcelain surfaces, add one part Acid Magic to three parts water. Apply the mixture to the rust stains with a sprayer, brush or foam pad and watch the stain dissolve. Rinse with clear water. You can also use it full strength for stubborn stains. Avoid getting the acid on metal parts because they can discolor. Acid Magic is available online and at Ace and True Value stores. Do you have toilet leaks? Learn how to repair them here.
Remove Tough Stains from Vinyl Flooring
Isopropyl alcohol, sold as a disinfectant at drugstores, is a mild solvent. It’s the best cleaner for heel marks and works on other tough stains too. You can also use lighter fluid or mineral spirits. Remember that all these products are flammable; turn off any nearby pilot lights and hang rags out to dry before throwing them away. Learn how to use it to remove tough stains from vinyl flooring.
Upgrade Your Furnace Filter
But if you have family members with allergies, consider spending more on high-efficiency filters, which capture 99 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns (bacteria and viruses, fumes and pollen). These furnace filters are one of the best for how to remove dust from air. Be aware that you’ll have to run your furnace fan full time to get the maximum benefit from a high-efficiency filter, and you’ll have to change the filter frequently to prevent damage to your furnace from the reduced airflow.
If you go the high-efficiency route, install a filter monitor such as FilterScan, which automatically alerts you when your furnace filter needs changing, or the GeneralAire G99 Filter Gage, which requires you to manually check it.
Purify the Air
- Place air purifiers in your most-used rooms to help suck up dust before it settles. Choose air purifier units with True HEPA filters rather than ionic cleaners, which release ozone, a respiratory irritant.
- Add a plant to every room. Plants naturally absorb common indoor pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde. NASA studies have shown that many plants, including aloes, palms and ferns, can absorb as much as 80 percent of the formaldehyde in a room in 24 hours.
- Keep the humidity in your house between 40 and 50 percent to help lower static electricity, which can cause dust to stick to surfaces and make them harder to clean. A humidifier (cleaned regularly) and leafy indoor plants will both increase humidity levels. Just don’t increase the level to more than 50 percent. This will promote the growth of mold, a far more dangerous condition than dust. You can monitor humidity levels with a cheap hydrometer from a gardening store.
- Keep your windows closed on windy days. Dust enters through doors and windows in the form of pollen, mold spores and airborne pollutants.
Easier Grout Haze Cleanup
The thousands of microscopic fabric hooks on a microfiber cloth (available at discount stores) make it perfect to cut through the dried grout haze left after a tiling project. You’ll still have to rinse and repeat, but the haze will clean up faster than it would with an ordinary rag.
First spread a plastic tarp on the floor under the chandelier to catch the drips. Then turn off the light and spray the solution on the chandelier until liquid beads start to run (you’ll use a lot of spray, but it beats wiping). The spray rinses off the dust. The solution that’s left evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave water spots. The spray works well on hanging crystals, but don’t expect it to remove dust from crevices. Buy it from nancysilver.com or chandelierparts.com. If you’re tired of cleaning you chandelier and would like to replace it, here’s how you can do it yourself.
Cut Grease With a Hot Rag
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, 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.
Blow Out the Garage
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 porches, too. No leaf blower? Our buyer’s guide can help you decide which one is best for you.
The Right Stuff for Rust
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.
Remove Bathroom Soap Scum
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.
Scum-Proof Your Shower Doors
To prevent soap scum buildup, stop using real soap and start using a synthetic. Chemically speaking, any soap in liquid or gel form is actually synthetic soap and much less likely to leave a tough film in your sink, shower or tub.
Spot-Clean Food and Drink Spills
Just press the tip into the stain to release the solution, then rub the tip across the stain to remove it. Inexpensive 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.
Get Tough on Glass Stains
If your usual glass cleaner won’t remove tough stains, apply a mild abrasive cleaner such as Soft Scrub, Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami and scrub with a soft cloth. (Here’s a tip for washing windows.) These abrasives usually won’t scratch glass, but test a small area first just to make sure. If elbow grease alone won’t do the job or if you have large areas to cover, use a drill and a small buffing wheel (find one at home centers).
Speed-Clean with a Pressure Washer
Once you get your hands on a pressure washer, you’ll find endless uses for it: Blast that dingy coat of dirt off your siding and trim, deep-clean embedded grime from your driveway or patio, wash down a deck or fence. While you’re at it, don’t forget the car, mower, bikes and patio furniture. You may discover so many jobs for a pressure washer that you want to own one. Electric versions usually cost less, but you may want to spend more for a more powerful gas model. Renting first is a good way to find out how much pressure and which features you really need. You can rent a pressure washer and do a week’s worth of cleaning in one day. Before you rent, gather some tarps to protect plants and make sure your garden hose will reach all the areas you plan to clean. Good preparation lets you get more cleaning done during the rental period.
Stop Countertop Stains
How to Remove Stains From Plastic Laminate Countertops
Clean Range Hood Grease Filters With a Degreaser
Scour Off Grime with an Electric Toothbrush
How to Clean Oven Door Glass
It’s a mystery how baking slop gets deposited between oven door glass panels. But it’s clear that you can’t remove it without disassembling the door. Get the instructions for removing the door and clean that grungy glass in less than an hour.
Clean a Stinky Fridge
You don’t have to live with a stinky fridge. Follow these instructions for using newspaper and charcoal and the odors will be gone within several days.
Enzymes Eliminate Pet Stains and Odors
Enzyme products are easy to use on pet stains—just spray or blot them on the stain according to the directions. The products contain harmless bacteria that ‘eat’ the organic matter that causes the odor. When the organic matter is gone, the bacteria run out of food and die. The whole process will take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some manufacturers recommend covering the area with plastic or a wet cloth to keep the bacteria moist and healthy. Get rid of other bad smells in the house.
Quick Cleanup Cat Litter
Cut your litter cleanup time in half with this nifty trick. Line your litter pan with a plastic kitchen garbage bag before adding the litter. Get the best household cleaning supplies and products here.
Pet Repellent for Furniture
To train your pets to stay off furniture, place plastic carpet protectors—prickly side up—on their favorite perch. Available in office supply stores and the carpet/flooring department of home centers, the protectors can be cut to the size you need with a scissors or a utility knife. The plastic teeth will train your pet to associate the couch with ‘uncomfortable.’ Soon they will seek cozier spots to relax on and leave the easy chair to you. Just remember to remove the protector before you sit down.
A Fast Way to Remove Pet Hair
The manufacturer claims that Americans spend more than 200 million hours cleaning up more than 25,000 tons of pet hair each year. If that’s true, then StickySheets can save a lot of time.
Mask Pet Claw Scratches
Don’t Brush the Dog — Use a Vacuum Instead!
When it comes to bath time for Fido, check out this awesome dog washing station that got built from an old washtub.
No-Mess Litter Box
It’s not fancy, but it’s a cheap way to keep litter in the litter box where it belongs. Trace an opening on one end of a plastic storage container, then push a sharp razor knife into the plastic and cut out the opening. Pour in the litter and your cat will figure out the rest.
Neat and Tidy Pet Food Dispenser
Slide open the ‘blast gate’ and food falls into the dish. A hinged top allows easy refilling. Get the instructions to make your own pet food dispenser.
Once all of your pots and pans are sparkly clean, you can build these helpful rollouts to keep everything organized.
Ditch Your Carpeting
Keeping it? Here are some carpet cleaning tips for long-lasting carpet.