Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 cup water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave to a boil; let it boil for 3 minutes and stand for 5 minutes to allow the steam to loosen the debris, says Marie Stegner, a consumer-health advocate for Maid Brigade, a national green-housecleaning service. Wipe down the walls with a damp microfiber cloth and the mess should disappear. To remove any lingering smells, heat a small bowl filled with 1/2 cup water and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract just until it comes to a boil. Leave the door closed, with the bowl inside, overnight.
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Spill That Seeped Under the Oven or Refrigerator
For wooden floors, mix 1/3 cup white vinegar and 1/2 gallon warm water. Note: If your wooden floors are waxed, avoid vinegar and use a waxed-floor cleaner, such as Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner ($6, ecos.com). If your floor is tile or stone, use only plain hot water or a special cleaner, like StoneTech Professional Stone & Tile Cleaner ($8.50, stonetechdirect.com). Dip a microfiber cloth in the mixture, wrap it around a ruler, and slide it under the appliance. Rinse and repeat until the cloth emerges clean.
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Burned Food in the Oven
Allow the oven to cool. Dislodge large chunks with a plastic spatula, then sprinkle baking soda over whatever bits remain. “Spritz with water and let it sit over-night, then scrub with a damp microfiber cloth,” says Raina Raflo, the president of Sponge & Sparkle, a housecleaning service in Atlanta. Wipe away any remaining residue with a wet Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Kitchen Scrubber ($4, pgestore.com).
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UFM (Unidentified Frozen Mess)
Unplug the refrigerator (water and wires don’t mix). Next, combine 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 quart hot water in a bucket. Wet a microfiber cloth in the mixture and use it to melt and wipe up the spill in the freezer. You can also scrape stubborn spots with a plastic or wooden spatula or spoon. (Avoid metal utensils, which can scratch the freezer liner.) Dry the area with a cloth once it’s clean.
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Shards of Glass in the Dishwasher
Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight into the dishwasher. Any shards will sparkle. Halve a raw potato, and put on heavy-duty gloves. Dab the cut face of the potato over any specks, says Stegner. The shards will become embedded in the potato, which you can then discard. Run an empty cycle to flush out any minute pieces.
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Dried Spill on the Counter
It’s often the breakfast gang that wreaks the worst havoc: pancake mix, muffin batter, spilled milk. If you can wipe them up right away, you’re set. But if life happens to get in the way—going to be late for work, the bus is here, where are my keys?—an easy spill soon dries into a stubborn blob. Your instinct may be to grab paper towels and a cleaning spray. Don’t. There’s a quicker, tidier way: Scrub the surface first with a dry microfiber cloth, says Debra Johnson, a training manager for Merry Maids, an international housecleaning company. Then rinse with a warm, damp cloth. That mucky mess will be gone in less than a minute.