50 Cleaning Secrets to Make Your Home Shine
Use these tried-and-true tricks for getting all areas of your home squeaky clean.
Whiten Piano Keys
Garden Sprayer Cleans Hard-to-Reach Spots
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.
Clear Up Coffee Rings
Make Your Appliances Smudge-Free
If you own stainless steel kitchen appliances, you may want to consider using car wax to clean them rather than a surface cleaner.
Simply apply a light coat of car wax to the appliance, allow time to dry and buff clean to resist fingerprints and smudges. No more kiddy fingerprints on the fridge!
The space between your fridge and the floor is a magnet for pet hair, dust, food crumbs and other small trinkets. And if gone too long without cleaning, it can attract ants and other pests.
To make this cleaning task less difficult, use a hair trap cleaner (also called a drain cleaning zip tool), which sells at home improvement stores for under $5. This hair trap won’t leave scratches on the floor and can reach further than a vacuum cleaner attachment.
This tool will also help you when your bathroom sinks inevitably clog with hair. Here’s how to unclog a sink.
Activated charcoal is an even better adsorbent and odor-killer than baking soda, and can deal with a wider variety of particles. However, this highly purified charcoal dust isn’t the best thing to put on your furniture, where it can stain. Instead, consider getting freshener bags of activated charcoal, like these, and hide them in the corners of your furniture to help reduce odors.
The Baking Soda and Vacuum Trick
Baking soda is a natural adsorbent, which means it has the ability to absorb odors when used correctly. If you have fabric-covered furniture, then put some baking soda in a salt shaker or similar dispenser and sprinkle it liberally on the furniture you want to freshen up.
Baking soda doesn’t do its work all at once, so give it time to neutralize as many odor-causing particles as possible. An hour or so is ideal, and for bad situations you may just want to leave the baking soda on overnight (as long as it won’t get tracked everywhere by pets). When the time has elapsed, get out the vacuum cleaner and thoroughly vacuum up all the baking soda. This should freshen up most fabrics.
Note: Baking soda may have varying effects based on what is causing the odor or general “staleness” of your furniture. It neutralizes acidic compounds very easily, but may not be effective for all problems.
Purchase a Paintbrush
Leslie Reichert, founder of The Green Cleaning Coach and author of The Joy Of Green Cleaning 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.
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.
Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon
Coffee Filters for Dusting
Dust with Your Dryer
Duster for the Vertically Challenged
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.
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.
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.
Renew Wood with Mineral Spirits
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
Keep Closets Clear for Easy Cleaning
Closets are dust reservoirs, full of tiny fibers from clothes, towels and bedding. Every time you open the door, you whip up an invisible dust storm. You can’t prevent clothes from shedding fibers, but you can make closets easier to keep clean and vastly cut down on dust.
- Box or bag items on 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.
Remove Tree Sap from Vinyl Siding
If drippy trees or deck lumber deposit sap on your vinyl siding, don’t delay cleanup. The longer you wait, the more stubborn the sap will become. If you wait too long, you might have to use a pressure washer. If you attack the fresh sap within a week or so, a common kitchen cleaner such as Formula 409 or Fantastik will likely remove the goo. You can also use a biodegradable product such as Simple Green. If standard cleaners won’t dissolve the sap, use a citrus cleaner such as Goo Gone ($5 at home centers). Check the label of any product you use to make sure it’s recommended for vinyl and test it in an inconspicuous spot for discoloration. Apply the cleaner with a rag or sponge. Scrub tough spots with a soft-bristle brush.
A Scrub and a Wax
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.
Purify the Air
- Place air purifiers in your most-used rooms to help suck up dust before it settles. Choose 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.
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.
Clean Hard Floors Faster
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).
Stop Countertop Stains
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.
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.
Mask Pet Claw Scratches
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.
Ditch Your Carpeting
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. Or get rid of the whole kit and caboodle for a steam mop.
Use the Vacuum Correctly
Cleaning is the best way to maximize the life of your carpet and delay the heavy cost of replacement. Vacuum entrance areas and high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting at least weekly.
For the best results, set the height right. Raise it to its highest setting, turn it on and lower it until you can feel the vacuum trying to tug itself forward. Go slowly. It’s OK to make one quick pass over low-traffic areas, but make two slow passes over high-traffic areas. And, start with a clean filter. A dirty bag or filter reduces your vacuum’s cleaning power. Replace filters on bagless vacuums every three months. Replace vacuum bags when they’re three-quarters full.