Surprising Cleaning New Uses
More hidden tricks to get your house sparkling in record time.
Rub tub stains away. Create a paste mad up of equal parts baking soda and cream of tartar and a little lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse.
The next time a tumbler takes a tumble, sponge up the shards with a slice of bread. Even tiny slivers will cling to it.
For lint-free viewing, grab a coffee filter to wipe down dusty and staticky computer monitors and TV screens regularly.
Get a slow-moving drain flowing again and pour a solution of ½ cup of salt for every quart of hot water down the pipe.
Clean discolored teacups and teapots by making a paste of baking soda and water. Gently rub over the stain to remove.
Cut diagonally across the middle of an empty, clean bottle, toss the base, and use the half with the handle to scoop up soil or cat litter.
Remove a hot bulb that’s just burned out, using the other half of the ball.
Protect wood floors. Slide socks onto the legs of chairs and tables so they don’t scratch the floor when you rearrange the room (yet again).
To prevent a smelly, waterlogged sponge, air-dry it in a binder clip away from the sink.
Revive a forgotten flickerer. Slide a dusty candle inside a stocking and roll it around.
Dab some baby oil on splatters to remove latex paint from skin.
One of the most popular kitchen tools also happens to double as a clean-up aid. Before draining the tub, use a colander to make scooping up small toys fun and easy.
Keep a retractable cord from rewinding too soon. Just clip the cord near the opening to prevent the cord from being sucked back in too quickly.
Eliminate sticky residue from an iron. Run the hot iron (no steam) over plain paper sprinkled with salt.
If dragging and decking out fresh spruce leaves you with sticky digits, pour a tablespoon of oil onto a cloth, then rub until clean. Bonus: The oil is a great moisturizer for dry winter skin.
Absorb odors in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer with a lining of newspaper.
Buff streaks out of stainless steel with a little oil on a terry-cloth rag, then shine with a dry paper towel.
Pluck the lint buildup from a clothes dryer's trap.
Forget keeping skin soft, baby oil also polishes chrome. Apply a dab to a cotton cloth and use it to shine everything from faucets to hubcaps. You'll end up with shiny, happy surfaces from a medicine-cabinet staple. (Who actually owns chrome cleaner, anyway?)
Kiss that smudge of Really Red good-bye. If the fabric is machine washable, saturate the spot with hair spray, let it sit for 10 minutes, then dab with a damp cloth or sponge to remove. Launder as usual to wash out any residual stain and spray.
To get baked-on food off a glass pan or an oven rack, use dishwashing liquid and a ball of foil in place of a steel-wool soap pad, says Mary Findley, president of the cleaning-products developer Mary Moppins. It's one way to recycle those used but perfectly good pieces of foil you hate to throw out.
To polish silver: Wash items, then place on aluminum foil in the bottom of a pot. Add a baking-soda solution (¼ cup soda, a few teaspoons salt, 1 quart boiling water) and cover for a few seconds. The result? A chemical reaction that gets the black off the gravy boat.
To dust crown moldings, place a microfiber rag over the broom's bristles and secure with a rubber band. Then use the long handle to dust areas that your arms can't reach. No more circus acts (starring you, on a rickety, wobbly stool).
Polish faucets, sinks, tile, even shower doors with Turtle Wax, which leaves behind a protective barrier against water and soap buildup, so your hard-earned sparkle will last past the next tooth-brushing.
For cleaner cuts with less elbow grease, rub a little paste on the hinge of a pair of garden shears so they don’t get jammed.
Slow the tarnish on your good silver by tying up a few moisture-absorbing pieces in cheesecloth and store them with your cutlery for shinier flatware that reflects well on you in no time flat.
Catch the sticky stuff from bottles and jars in cupboards. No more shelves that require a full wipe-down after every spoonful of honey, slather of jam, or glug of olive oil.
Celebrating by candlelight? Spray the inside of a votive holder with a thin coating before dropping in a tea light. After the candle has burned down, the remaining wax will slip out.
Before clearing snow off a driveway, liberally spray both sides of a plastic or metal shovel with cooking spray. The ice will slide right off the oily surface. It's the easiest trick for smoother snow removal.
For leak-resistant gloves at your fingertips, push one cotton ball into the end of each finger of a dishwashing glove to keep sharp nails from splitting the rubber.
Remove gunk from the soleplate of an iron. With the setting on low, rub the iron over the dryer sheet until the residue disappears, and you're left with a pristine press.
Scoop up small toys―Lego blocks, jacks, Barbie shoes, plastic soldiers—with your dustpan and brush, so you can reclaim your living room for grown-ups.
Here’s an idea for all those eggs you hard-boiled: Use their broken eggshells to clean the hard-to-reach places in bottles and vases. Drop some crushed shells in the bottle, add warm water and a drop of dishwashing liquid, and give it a good swirl. The shells will scrape off the gunk you can’t get to, so you can save your elbow grease for the dinner dishes.
Remove small stains from suede by gently rubbing the file (either side) across the problem area a few times to get rid of the splotch and refresh the nap.
Use the tines to gently fluff plush carpet fibers back to their original height, removing dents left by heavy furniture. Now, that's a real fork lift.
Place an open box of baking soda alongside your stacks of sheets and towels to stave off mustiness.
To get your drain running again (without resorting to chemicals worthy of a hazmat suit) pour ½ cup soda, then ½ cup vinegar, down a clogged drain. Cover it with a wet cloth, wait 5 minutes, uncover, and flush with steaming-hot water.
To absorb stale odors from carpet (and to generally freshen up a room), scatter soda on it, wait a few hours, then vacuum up the powder.
Protect your car seats from muddy paws by covering them with a bath mat or two before packing Lilly the Lab in the backseat. The rubber bottom will help the mat stay in place. Between trips, stow the mat in the trunk.
Preserve a pristine stovetop by applying a thin layer of car wax, then wiping it off. Future spills will lift off easily.
Remove coffee or tea stains from a mug by rubbing them with a lightly salted citrus peel.
Keep your disposal smelling fresh by dropping a few peels down the drain and flipping the switch.
The secret to keeping a retractable cord from rewinding too soon is to clip the cord near the opening.
Add this to the grocery shopping list for new reasons. Cornmeal absorbs grease on light colored fabric or upholstery. Pour enough on to cover the soiled area and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Vacuum to remove the grains.
With the machine turned off, disconnect the keyboard and trace between the keys with a cotton swab lightly dipped in isopropyl alcohol. If your mouse is the kind that rolls on a ball, unscrew the bottom and go over the ball and the interior with a cotton swab, too.
When residue clings to unreachable spots inside a vase or a decanter, fill the container with warm water and drop in one or two denture-cleaning tablets for every eight ounces of warm water. Let the fizzy solution sit for the time specified on the product's box, then rinse.
An easy way to keep the work area clean. Saw dust at a work station sweeps up so fast with one pass of a used fabric softener sheet.
Remove obstinate soap buildup from glass shower doors by sprinkling a few drops of water onto a used fabric-softener sheet and scrubbing.
To revive a dried-out eraser or clean a smudged one, lightly rub it over an emery board. The board's fine grain will shave off the eraser's old top layer, leaving you with a good-as-new mistake-removing surface.
A little hot air quickly loosens price labels—with zero fingernail-chipping frustration.
Skip the bleach—add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the wash cycle to brighter up those fading whites.
Clean up glitter (and tiny pieces of construction paper) after craft time.
Minimize garbage-day malaise. Hold the top of a trash bag in place with magnets so bits don’t find their way to the bottom of the bin.
Deodorize smelly glass jars by washing them with a mixture of one teaspoon powdered mustard and one quart warm water.
Newspapers deposit less lint than paper towels do and don't leave any streaks. Just spray on a glass cleaner and wipe.
Clear the air in a dank basement. Cut an onion in half, place it on a plate, and leave it out overnight. Once the initial salad-bar aroma dissipates, you'll have a fresh (non-oniony) atmosphere.
Use a pant hanger to air-dry a bath mat after showering. Simply hang it over the shower curtain rod.
Remove dust from candles by running it through the leg of an old pair of panty hose.
Prepare a stained vase for a new batch of blooms. If you can't reach the residue at the bottom, add a tablespoon of rice and a lot of soapy water, shake, and rinse until clean.
Secure wayward stemware in the dishwasher by tethering it to the machine's prongs with rubber bands.
Put on a damp rubber dishwashing glove and run your hand over hair-covered upholstery—the hair will cling to the glove, not the sofa. Rinse off the glove in the sink (with the drain catcher in place, of course).
Lift off hair-spray residue from bathroom walls. Spray a mixture of one part rubbing alcohol, two parts water, and a dash of dishwashing liquid onto vinyl wallpaper or semigloss (not flat) paint. Wipe clean.
Remove permanent marker from countertops and walls. Pour a bit of alcohol onto a cotton ball and rub on the stain. (Spot test on a hidden area first.)
Place a wreath of pinecones or faux evergreen in a paper bag with a 1/4 cup of salt. Fold the top of the bag over and gently shake.
Clean dirt from leafy vegetables by washing them in a bath of salt water.
Restore a vacuum to maximum power by cutting the lint and hair from its roller brush.
Spruce up wood furniture by filling in scratches with shoe polish in a similar shade.
Do dew diligence and layer a liner underneath a picnic blanket to avoid soggy bottoms and grass or mud stains.
Cut grease on hands by rubbing them with a mixture of sugar and water.
Scour bathroom crevices with a battery-powered toothbrush.
Use white toothpaste to buff scuffs out of linoleum tiles.
Make cleaning your computer keys simple: Slide a 2½-inch strip of tape between the rows of your keyboard. The adhesive side will remove dust and crumbs.
Trade frostbite funk for a more pleasing freezer scent and wipe the inside of the icebox with an extract-dampened cotton pad.
After chopping onions, scrub your hands with salt and a splash of vinegar to eliminate the smell.
Clean a coffeemaker or a tea kettle by making a pot using a mixture of water and vinegar. Follow with several cycles of water to rinse.
Dislodge a stubborn price sticker. Paint with several coats of vinegar, let it sit for five minutes, then wipe away.
Deodorize a garbage disposal. Make vinegar ice cubes and feed them down the disposal. After grinding, run cold water through the drain.
Repair hardwood floors by rubbing shelled nuts into shallow scratches. Their natural oils help hide the flaws.
To freeze wax so you can remove it from a tablecloth, fill a plastic bag with ice cubes and cover the wax with it for about 20 minutes.
Lift bouquet residue from the bottom of a vase. Fill the vase with water, add two tablets, let sit for a few minutes, wipe, and rinse.
Sprinkle soda on crusted casseroles and roasting pans and let sit for five minutes. Lightly scrub and rinse.
Sprinkle it on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, and ink from painted surfaces.
Rub olive oil on measuring cups and spoons coated with sticky substances (like honey) to ease cleaning.
To remove tough food stains from light wood and plastic cutting boards, slice a lemon in half, squeeze onto the soiled surface, rub, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing. The best part? You'll have a house that smells like a lemon grove rather than chemicals.
Clean lime deposits and iron stains inside the dishwasher by pouring a packet of lemonade Kool-Aid (the only flavor that works) into the detergent cup and running the (empty) dishwasher. The citric acid in the mix wipes out stains; you don't have to.
Watch the video to see this tip in action.
Keep mini Tupperware lids, baby-bottle caps, and other small items from falling through the dishwasher rack. You'll save time by no longer diving for treasure on the floor of the dishwasher.
Run the roller up and down the outside of the lamp shade to get rid of small particles that shouldn't be there. Ah, the satisfaction of knowing that every surface in your living room will pass the white-glove test.
Banish stickers from mirrors, glass, and bumpers by applying a generous helping of mayo to persistent adhesives. Use a flexible putty knife to help coax them off.
Coat the bottom of a shaving-cream can to fend off rust rings on the ledge of the tub.
Stuff a balled-up piece of newspaper into a plastic container that has developed a funk, and let it sit overnight. By morning the paper will have absorbed the offending smell.
Apply cooking oil to the sticker using a paper towel or a soft cloth, rub firmly, then rinse with warm soapy water. (If the adhesive is stubborn, use a dab of toothpaste along with the oil.)
Slide an old case over a fan's blade then pull the fabric back, keeping all the dust and dirt contained.
For no-fuss cleanup, instead of peeling fruits and vegetables over a cutting board or into the sink, do it over a plastic bag. When you're done, flip the peelings into the garbage and rinse the bag to reuse another day, or simply toss the whole shebang into the trash.
Fact: There are some things you'd just as soon not touch with your bare hands. Use bags as gloves to handle what's messy (say, chicken carcasses) or just plain gross (like the little "presents" the dog leaves in the front yard), then turn them inside out to trap the offending matter within for easy disposal.
It will never be a fashion trend, but tying bags over your shoes can keep you from tracking mud into the house when you come in, or protect slippers from dirt, snow, or rain when you run out to fetch the paper from the front lawn. (Be careful when walking on smooth surfaces, as the plastic won't give you any traction.)
Mill a handful of grains in your grinder and the fine particles will absorb stale odors and clean out residual grounds and oil. Discard the rice and wipe clean.
Shine brass and copper with a paste made from a few tablespoons of white vinegar and equal parts salt and flour. Apply with a soft cloth, rinse, and dry.