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The Top 12 Household Cleaning Tips For The Really Tough Stuff

Even the most stubborn stains and hard-to-reach spots are no match for these secret cleaning solutions.

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Family Handyman

Spot-Clean Food and Drink Spills

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 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.

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Scum-Proof Your Shower Doors

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 to get into the cracks in textured glass. Scrape off tough buildup with a razor blade. Dry the doors with a cloth.

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. Plus: How to Clean a Bathroom Faster and Better

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Remove Bathroom Soap Scum


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. See why keeping all the cleaning supplies in one bucket will transform cleaning.

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Family Handyman

Remove Pet Hair with Duct Tape

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. Plus: Kitchen Cleaning Checklist: 11 Tips for a Clean Kitchen

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The Right Stuff for Rust

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. 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. Know the dangerous side of some cleaning products before using them.

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Family Handyman

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.

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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.

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Family Handyman

Clean Hard Floors Faster

If you’re still using a regular old mop for everyday cleanup of your hard-surface floors, there’s a better way. Save the mop for really dirty or muddy floors and simply spot-clean using the tool the pros use. Plus: Carpet Care Tips to Make Your Carpet Last

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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.

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Speed-Clean Chandeliers

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.

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Family Handyman

How to Remove Stains From Plastic Laminate Countertops

Got tough stains on your plastic laminate countertops? Using the right cleaner and having some patience will make even the most stubborn stains go away. Follow our advice and you’ll get rid of those ugly stains for good. Plus: Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros

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FH13JAU_540_06_031 oven door cleaningFamily Handyman

How to Clean Oven Door Glass

No one really knows how that brownish crud gets inside the oven window. But once it’s there it’s going to bug you until it’s gone. Luckily there’s a simple way to clean it and you can do it yourself in no time with these instructions.