6 Easy Solutions for Cleaning Disasters

Covering the stain doesn't have to be your only option. 

Photo by Alex Hayden / Getty Images

The experts are here to help you finally wash your hands of those lingering stains and smells. 

"Glitter is so hard to remove. Help!" — Meg R., via Facebook

THE FIX: Suck up glitter on hard floors with the vacuum's crevice attachment—or get out a lint roller, which works wonders on clothing and furniture, too, says Melissa Maker, the creator of the blog Clean My Space. On the carpet? Loosen embedded sparkles with a rubber-gloved hand, then use the vacuum's upholstery brush, says Amanda Thomas, the host of the podcast Domestic CEO: Quick & Dirty Tips to Managing Your Home. As for that stubborn speckle stuck to your cheek? Wipe it off with coconut oil and a cotton ball.

"My silver forks and spoons are black with tarnish." — Penny D., via e-mail

THE FIX: Rinse flatware in warm water to remove dust, then apply Blitz Silver Shine Polish ($8, blitzinc.com) to a moist sponge and rub each piece, using a straight up-and-down motion, says Jeffrey Herman, the owner of Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation, in Rhode Island. Continue until the buildup is gone. (Bonus tip: Use flattened cotton swabs to get in between fork tines.) Rinse in warm water and dry with a cotton cloth. "Avoid chemical dips as well as homegrown methods involving baking soda or toothpaste. They produce instant results but usually scratch," says Herman. To give your hard work staying power, store clean flatware in a drawer wrapped in sulfur-absorbing cloth (like Pacific Silvercloth; $23 a yard, silverguard.com). When a piece forms a yellow tint, the first sign of tarnish, clean it with a moist sponge and a couple of drops of citrus-free Dawn dishwashing liquid, rinse with warm water, and dry.

"I have water spots all over my shower door." — Melanie O., via e-mail

THE FIX: Soak a few paper towels in distilled white vinegar, then lay them over the splotches in a single layer, says Melissa Homer, the chief cleaning officer for MaidPro, a nationwide housecleaning service. Let sit for 15 minutes, then remove the towels, rinse the area, and wipe dry. Spots are typically caused by mineral buildup from hard water; you can prevent them by swiping glass doors post-shower with a towel or a squeegee (such as the SwipeAway Mini Squeegee; $5 for two, swipeaway.com), says Veronica Curti, the housekeeping manager at the Waldorf-Astoria in Naples, Florida. Or apply Rain-X Original Glass Treatment ($7, kmart.com) after every cleaning, says Christine Satterfield, the founder of the blog iDreamofClean.net. It's designed to repel raindrops from windshields but works wonders on showers, too.

"My dishwasher leaves an annoying film on everything, and rinsing agents don't help." — Penni T., via e-mail

THE FIX: If you're not blocking the soap dispenser with bulky pots, then the culprit is probably not enough water or water that's too cold, says Eric Kleinert, the author of Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances. Open the dishwasher door midway through the cycle. If there are still patches of soap powder at the bottom of the tub or there's no water dripping from the top rack, call an appliance-repair service. Also make sure that the water heater is set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is and you're still having issues, try running the tap until the water becomes hot before you turn on the dishwasher.

"A cut lemon was left on my granite countertop and it created a big, white blotch." — Joyce S., via Facebook

THE FIX: First, an explanation. The acid in lemon can corrode stone, leaving behind a white residue that's similar to rust on metal. The bad news is that this is a tough stain. The good news? It is removable. Linda Cobb, the author of the Queen of Clean book series, offers the following four-step plan. (1) Make a paste of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide (add more peroxide as needed until the paste becomes spreadable). (2) Using a washcloth, scrub the stain with the paste for 5 minutes. (3) Coat the stain with a thin layer of the paste and cover with plastic wrap; let sit overnight. (4) In the morning, when the paste has dried, remoisten the area with hydrogen peroxide, then wipe with a paper towel. Rinse with water and pat dry. Repeat if necessary.

"My wooden dresser has a funky smell." — Janis, via e-mail

THE FIX: For smoke, pet, food, and mothball odors, empty the dresser, then place a small bowl of baking soda in each drawer; close the drawers and let sit for a week, says Peter Muldoon, a furniture conservator for the Smithsonian Institution. Still stinky? Mold is probably the culprit. To combat it, vacuum the interior and the drawers with a brush attachment, then set the dresser and the removed drawers out in the sun for at least two (and up to eight) hours. If the odor persists, mix ¼ cup of borax with 1 gallon of water and wipe down all the unfinished wood surfaces with the solution. Let air-dry. To mask any lingering odor, spritz the interior and the drawers with citrus-oil wood polish (try Howard Orange Oil Wood Polish; $10, waxdepot.com) and rub it into the wood with a cloth, says Rod Keyser, the owner of the Restoration Studio, in Philadelphia. If you want to go all out, seal the interior and the drawers with shellac (try Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac; $14, lowes.com).