Number three is so important.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated December 06, 2017
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Every year, we learn dozens of new cleaning tips and tricks, both from our fellow Real Simple editors and from our community of professional cleaners. And while there are many pieces of advice we end up incorporating into our regular cleaning routines, there are a few that stand out as 2017's game-changers. Here are five tips we learned this year that will help us clean better, smarter, and faster in 2018.

Use a Microfiber Cloth to Wipe Away Bacteria (and Leave a Streak-Free Shine)

Perhaps the top tip we heard again and again from multiple cleaning pros this year is to never underestimate the power of a microfiber cleaning cloth. The fibers of this miraculous cloth are so tiny, they're actually capable of cleaning on the microscopic level by wiping away bacteria. And when we asked Debra Johnson from Merry Maids and Donna Smallin Kuper, the author of Cleaning Plain & Simple, for their no-fail trick for cleaning windows and mirrors, they both had the same response: grab a microfiber cloth and get to work! Microfiber won’t leave behind the typical paper towel lint, and because it works without chemicals or sprays, it won’t create streaks. For extra cleaning power, lightly moisten the cloth with water, then start wiping.

To buy: $13 for 8;

Use Baking Soda to De-Stink Gym Clothes

When we reached out to The Spruce’s laundry expert, Mary Marlowe Leverette, we learned the trick to saving gym clothes from body odor. After a particularly sweating workout, soak the clothes in a solution of cool water and half a cup of baking soda for an hour. Is there anything baking soda can’t do?

Stop Microwaving Your Sponges

Less of a tip and more of a warning, one 2017 study convinced us to stop microwaving our sponges in an attempt to sanitize them. As it turns out, the technique may end encouraging the growth of some types of bacteria. Instead, replace your sponge often (about every week), and toss any sponges with a funky smell (it’s a sign of rampant bacteria growth).

Set a Timer for Speed Cleans

How do you prevent yourself from getting sidetracked with emails or texts when you’re supposed to be cleaning up? Set a timer. Whether it’s for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or a full hour, when the time is ticking, it will help you stay focused. All three experts who shared their brilliant speed-cleaning routines with us this year recommended setting a timer (the one on your phone or oven will work) before you start scrubbing. I tried this at home, and it was probably the most productive hour I’ve ever spent cleaning.

Try a Telescopic Ceiling Fan Duster

We’ve tried the popular pillowcase method, and while it works extremely well, getting on a ladder to reach your ceiling fan in the first place can be a challenge. For those with high ceilings, we found something even easier: this 11-foot ceiling fan duster. Becky Rapinchuk of Clean Mama first recommended it, and we’re convinced. The looped duster hugs around each blade, so the dust won’t just fall to the floor. It's also helpful for dusting the top of the refrigerator and above windows and doors.

To buy: Fuller Brush Wooly Bully Fan Duster, $12;