Polish with a Microfiber Cloth
Microfiber cloths excel at putting the finishing touches on mirrors, countertops, and even tile and fixtures. After cleaning surfaces with your favorite cleaning solution and drying them off with a terry cloth rag or a separate microfiber cloth, polish them to a mirror finish with a dry 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. You can also buy them in bulk at wholesale clubs and use them throughout your house for all kinds of other cleaning chores.
Stop Countertop Stains with a Protective Coating
If you have an older plastic laminate countertop, you've probably noticed that it doesn't repel stains like it used to. That's because years of wear have left the surface lightly scratched and porous. The best way to prevent stains is to wipe up spills immediately. But a protective coating of countertop polish can also help. Plus it will restore the shine to dull countertops. All you have to do is spray it on and wipe it off every few weeks. Most home centers and discount stores carry countertop polish such as Countertop Magic or Hope's Counter Top Polish. If you don't find it in a store, search for 'countertop polish' online to find a supplier.
Renew Wood with Mineral Spirits
If the finish on your furniture or woodwork is dull and murky, it may need refinishing. But before you take on that project, take a tip from furniture restorers and clean it with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits—sometimes labeled 'paint thinner'—is a gentle solvent that dissolves years of grime and residue from cleaners or polishes without harming wood finishes. Get it at a home center or paint store. Just soak a soft cloth and keep rubbing until the cloth no longer picks up grime. Work in a well-ventilated area and remember that the fumes are flammable. Hang the cloth outdoors to dry before throwing it in the trash.
Buff Off Shower Door Scum
If you have glass shower doors in your bathroom and don't keep on top of the cleaning, you can end up with soap scum so tough that it's nearly impossible to remove. That's when you bring out the heavy equipment.
Pick up some polishing compound at a home center or 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 (they're inexpensive) 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.
Protect Your Shower Doors from Mineral Buildup
When the beads of water left on your glass shower door dry out, they leave minerals behind that are at best unsightly, and at worst can be tough as nails to remove if you let them build up. You can avoid beading water altogether by coating the glass with an auto-glass treatment.
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.
Remove Stubborn Rust Stains with Acid Magic
If you have a lot of iron in your water and struggle with rust stains in your toilet or bathtub, here's a perfect solution. Acid Magic dissolves rust. It's as powerful as muriatic acid but much safer and more pleasant to use. You should still take all the precautions you would with any strong cleaning solution, like wearing gloves and safety glasses when you're using it. But it's better than regular acid because there are no noxious fumes, and it won't burn your skin.
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.
Minimize Scum with Synthetic Soap
In terms of chemistry, some soaps aren't really soap. And these 'synthetic' soaps make cleaning your shower or bathtub easier because they don't contain the ingredients that create tough soap scum. So how do you know if soap is synthetic or the real thing? Any liquid or gel soap is synthetic. Most bar soaps are true soap, but a few, such as Zest and Ivory, are synthetics. Synthetic soaps don't leave tough scum on your sink or tub the way standard soap does.
Remove Tough Grime with Less Scrubbing
Whether it's built-up soap scum on the shower walls, ground-in dirt on the floor tile, or dried toothpaste on the vanity top, a Magic Eraser sponge will make short work of it. Just dampen it and rub it on the offending mess. In most cases, the mess will come right off. These sponges are especially useful for removing ground-in dirt from porous floor tile and getting those pesky nonslip strips in the bottom of your tub clean.
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.
Make Your Own Greener Cleaning Solution
Professional housecleaner Maggie Orth likes to make her own cleaning products. Here's her recipe for an all-purpose cleaning solution, modified from a recipe she found in the book Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan.
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.
A Scrub and a Wax
Field Editor Joe Stiles writes: 'Every three months, I use CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover and an old toothbrush to clean all the faucets and lavatories. Then I apply an automotive car wax like Turtle Wax and buff after the wax hazes. Our fixtures look like new.'
Clean Grout with a Bleach Pen
Associate editor Elisa Bernick recommends using a bleach pen to transform your grout from grungy to great. This method is tedious, but the payoff is crisp, clean grout lines. Use the pen to 'draw' bleach across the grout lines. The pen allows you to target the grout without getting bleach all over the tile. Wait 10 minutes and then rinse.
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.
Beat The Dust out of Cushions With a Tennis Racket
Upholstery absorbs lots of dust—and then sends it airborne every time you sit down. Routine vacuuming reduces the problem, but can't suck out the deep-down dust. So take cushions outside a couple times each year, preferably on a windy day, and spank the dust out of them. An old tennis racket makes a great upholstery beater.
Scour Off Grime with an Electric Toothbrush
Now that discount and dollar stores carry cheap electric toothbrushes, you can add a modern twist to routine cleaning. Rapid vibration will quickly scrub out stubborn dirt, while the long handle can get to hard-to-reach places without all the elbow grease.
Mini Power Washer
A garden sprayer can be a mini power washer for cleaning windowsills and other hard-to-reach spots. Before you fill the tank with water, be sure to rinse it repeatedly to flush out any chemical residue.
Mix Your Own Window Cleaner
You know, most professional window washers don't buy window cleaner. They mix a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid with a few gallons of water. That's it. You can just pour it in a spray bottle for in-house work. For outside windows, get yourself a sponge/squeegee combination window cleaner and dip it right in the bucket.
See how pros get windows squeaky clean fast.
Clean Range Hood Grease Filters With a Degreaser
Running your vent hood grease filter through the dishwasher can yield disappointing results. Likewise with 'grease cutting' household cleaners. Get great results with a water-based degreaser from the auto parts store. Fill the sink with hot water and degreaser, drop in the filter and let the degreaser do all the work. The filter will come out sparkling clean in just a few minutes. Then just rinse it off.
Pressure Washer Wonder
Any pressure washer can clean a hard surface like concrete, but it takes forever, and if you move the nozzle too fast or too slow, you wind up with streaks and striping. However, that is not the case with this whirlybird-style surface cleaner from Briggs & Stratton (No. 6178). Snap it onto the end of your pressure washer and put it to work cleaning dirty concrete.
As soon as you pull the trigger, the cleaner lifts off the surface and floats like a hovercraft. Just push it along at a steady pace and let it do its job. The spinning jets blast a clean, uniform 14-in.-wide swath, and the brush skirt prevents damage to the grass edging, flower beds and walls. You can clean an entire walk and patio in less than half the time it takes with a regular pressure washer nozzle. And you'll get much better results.
Use the surface cleaner on horizontal and vertical surfaces like concrete, brick, stone and pavers. However, if you wish to use it on asphalt, wooden decks, fences or siding, you'll have to test it first. It's very aggressive and can damage softer surfaces like these.