Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros
Professional secrets that will make your house sparkle
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.
Clear Up Coffee Rings
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.
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 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.
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.
Duster for the Vertically Challenged
Unless you play in the NBA, dusting ceiling fans and other high, out-of-reach objects is a real chore. Wrap a dryer sheet around a clean painting roller and secure the ends with rubber bands. Attach an extension handle to the roller and dust away.
Shop Vacuum Mop Bucket
The dust collection section of your shop vacuum makes a slick-rolling bucket for mop water. You can load it with sudsy water and work fast and effectively—no lugging a heavy bucket around ever again. And when you’re done mopping, just roll it to the sink or floor drain to empty.
Scuff Mark Eraser
Super-Fast Floor Squeegee
When you need to round up water on your garage or basement floor, assemble this simple squeegee. Slip a piece of foam pipe insulation over the tines of an ordinary garden rake to push the water to a drain or out the door.
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?
Baking Soda + Vinegar = Magic
Put that magic baking soda to work to eliminate the stink from shoes, you’ll be amazed at the results.
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.
Countertop Gap Filler
If crumbs, papers or even flatware falls into the gap between your countertop and refrigerator, fill the void with nearly invisible plastic tubing. Clear tubing is available at home centers in several widths starting at 1/8 in.
Baby Wipes in the Shop
Keep a box of unscented baby wipes in your shop and you won’t have to rustle up wet rags during the next gluing project. They do a great job of wiping up glue beads and squeezed-out glue that’s tucked away in cabinet corners. No more of that sanding away or scraping out hardened glue. For more powerful cleaning needs, leave a few baby wipes out for a couple of days, then soak the dried wipes with mineral spirits and use during wood-finishing jobs or for cleaning metal surfaces.
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.
Scratch Soap to Keep Fingernails Clean
Whether you’re digging in the garden or working on your car, scratch a bar of soap first. The soap will keep grunge from lodging under your fingernails. Unlike soil or grease, the soap will dissolve when you wash your hands.
Garbage Bag Holder-Upper
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.
Stop Countertop Stains
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.