Storage & Organization
50 Cleaning Tips and Tricks to Make Your Home Shine
Bust up the messes around your house with these simple, time-saving cleaning tips to make your rooms shine.
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.
Scour Off Grime with an Electric Toothbrush
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.
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.
Garbage Bag Holder-Upper
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?
Paint Stick to Clean Lint Buildup
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.
Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon
Use Tongs to Clean Blinds
Floor Swiffer for Walls
Use Sawdust to Soak Up Spills
Garden Gloves to Dust Knickknacks
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.
Use Your Dishwasher
Dishwashers are for so much more than just washing dishes. Leslie Reichert, founder of The Green Cleaning Coach and author of The Joy Of Green Cleaning 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.
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.
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.
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.,” said Becky Rapinchuk, owner of CleanMama.net.
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 tip 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.
Ditch Your Carpeting
Dust with Your Dryer
Synthetic Soap Simplifies Bathroom Cleaning
Clean the Air While You Clean the House
Your vacuum’s agitator brush and exhaust whip up dust that eventually settles on the surfaces you’ve just cleaned. Filter out some of that dust before it settles by switching your thermostat to ‘fan on.’ This turns on the blower inside your furnace and filters the air even while the system isn’t heating or cooling. Leave the blower on for about 15 minutes after you’re done cleaning. But don’t forget to switch it back to ‘auto.’ Most blowers aren’t designed to run constantly. Plus: Here are 8 simple furnace fixes you can do yourself.
Scuff Mark Eraser
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.
Countertop Gap Filler
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.
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
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.
Ban Shoes Inside (But Offer Slippers)
Your first line of defense 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.
Clean a Sluggish Toilet
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.
Keep Closets Clear for Easy Cleaning
- 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.
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.
Easier Bottle Cleaning
Make Cleaning Easier
Photo: Courtesy of Toto USA, Inc.
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
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.
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.
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
Your home’s forced-air heating or cooling system helps to control dust by filtering the air. A standard cheap fiberglass filter protects your furnace from large dust particles and provides maximum airflow, but it does little to reduce household dust. More expensive pleated filters usually provide a good balance between cost and filtration efficiency. These filters trap 80 to 95 percent of particles 5 microns and larger. Here are the best furnace filters to buy.
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). 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.
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.
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.