Mini Moves to Make Cleaning So Much Easier

Learn how to make daily household chores less cumbersome and more effective.

Spray bottle on blue background
Photo: Maurizio Di Torio

We've all been there: You're in the midst of cleaning the bathroom—or the kitchen, or your bedroom—going through the usual motions with the usual products, and you start to wonder, What if there's a better/quicker/easier way? Sometimes it's the tub that sets you off—you've scrubbed and scrubbed and there's still a little buildup, but you don't have all day so, as much as it irks you, you may just have to let it go. Or it's the litter box that makes you crazy—no matter how hard and how often you clean it out, there's still that odor. Or maybe it's the stainless fridge: You spritz it with vinegar and then with olive oil, and voila—no fingerprints!—but wait, are those streaks? To be sure, when it comes to cleaning a home, there are plenty of good-enough ways to scrub it down—but there are also some truly clever, why-didn't-I-think-of-that ones. With this in mind, we asked a bunch of top cleaning experts to improve on Real Simple readers' regular cleaning methods for nine main areas that can sometimes pose a challenge: kitchen counters and cabinets, the kitchen sink, a stainless refrigerator, a mattress, window blinds, the bathroom (counters, fixtures, the shower and the tub), mirrors and windows, the toilet bowl, and the litter box. The result: an info-packed guide that gives you all the best tools and clever advice to guarantee a faster, more thorough clean. What will you do with all the time we're about to save you?

01 of 10

Kitchen Counters and Cabinets

Vinegar and cloth
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“Vinegar, dish soap, and 10 drops of essential oil is my recipe for getting kitchen countertops and cabinets to gleam.” — K.T., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
Great combo: Vinegar kills bacteria, and dish soap lifts dirt. Stick to just a drop of dish soap in a spray bottle of vinegar—too much soap will create extra work for you because it requires rinsing. One more tweak: If you have built-up grease on the cabinets, pretreat them with rubbing alcohol. (Test in a small, inconspicuous area first.) — Leslie Reichert, founder of GreenCleaningCoach.com and author of The Joy of Cleaning.

That essential oil formula works well. If your counters are stone, it’s best to avoid vinegar because it can etch the surface. In that case, use a special stone cleaner or warm water with a few drops of a gentle dish soap instead. Just spritz it onto a microfiber cloth and wipe. — Debra Johnson, manager of the training program at Merry Maids.

02 of 10

Kitchen Sink

Sink with lemon
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“I make a paste of equal parts baking soda and lemon juice to rub all over the sink and run through the disposal. It’s cheap, it smells great, and it makes everything shine.” — S.C., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
I pour the same solution down my sink drains, flushing with hot water to make sure it doesn’t clog. In the sink, it works better if you first sprinkle the baking soda, then rub lemon pulp over it and around the drain. Last, wipe it up with a microfiber cloth and rinse thoroughly with warm water. — D.J.

To clean the grout and grunge that always builds up around faucet handles, add a little hydrogen peroxide to baking soda. Then scrub the area using a clean toothbrush and wipe with a damp cloth. — Christine Dimmick, founder and CEO of the Good Home Company.

03 of 10

RELATED: How to Remove a Red Wine Stain

You finally have your feet up with a glass of wine in hand. And then the unthinkable happens—that precious red liquid spills… right on your brand new carpet. Take a second to lament the loss of your moment of zen, but then spring into action because all is not lost. We can help you get the stain out. All you need is table salt and boiling water. First, blot the stain to take up any excess liquid (it’s tempting, but don’t rub!). Then, sprinkle the stain with salt and let it sit for at least five minutes. Finally, pour boiling water over the stain. If the item can be laundered, throw it in the wash to finish the process.

04 of 10

Stainless Refrigerator

Spray bottle on blue background
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“I spritz the exterior with vinegar and wipe it. Then I repeat with olive oil. It keeps the refrigerator fingerprint-free for two weeks.” — J.P., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
That gets the job done, but olive oil can build up and become rancid. Try coconut oil instead. — C.D.

The oil needs to be rubbed in really well to prevent streaking. It’s easier—and equally effective—to clean with a combo of warm water (one quart) and dish soap (one teaspoon). Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution and rub with the grain, in small sections at a time. Then rinse with a damp microfiber cloth and buff the surface with a dry one if needed. — D.J.

05 of 10

Litter Box

Kitty litter with scoop
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“Every six months, I empty our three litter boxes entirely and soak them in soapy water. Then I spray them liberally with Fizzion Pet Stain & Odor Remover, wipe them dry, and fill with clean litter.” — L.A., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
One little addition: Between litter changes, sprinkle baking soda right after scooping; it neutralizes the odor. — Jacqueline Janus, owner of Two Chicks and a Broom.

I recommend a litter box liner to reduce smells. Also, after washing with soapy water, pour hydrogen peroxide onto a paper towel, wipe out the box, and rinse with water to disinfect. — L.R.

06 of 10

Mattress

Baking soda in a jar spilling
eskaylim/Getty Images

Good Enough
“I keep a zippered cover on my mattress, with a softer mattress pad on top. I wash the pad regularly with my bedding and vacuum around the mattress and box spring to collect settled dust. Once a year, to get rid of any oils or odors, I sprinkle baking soda on the mattress, leave it for a few hours, and then vacuum it up.” — D.W.S., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
That’s a smart approach, but I would do the baking soda part twice a year, when rotating the mattress. — Becky Rapinchuk, founder of CleanMama.net and author of Simply Clean.

If you’re concerned about dust mites, once a month you could also run a handheld steam cleaner (like the Reliable Pronto) over the mattress to eradicate those little buggers. — Donna Smallin Kuper, certified housecleaning technician, author, and blogger at unclutter.com.

07 of 10

Blinds

Blinds with cleaning cloth
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“I fill a spray bottle with a mixture of one cup water, one cup vinegar, one cup rubbing alcohol, and three drops Dawn dish soap and shake it well. I spray it on the blinds, then wipe them with Swiffer dry cloths.” — R.T., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
That’s a good system. Consider replacing the rubbing alcohol with witch hazel. It’s less drying, so it won’t damage the blinds—and it’s more pleasant to breathe in while cleaning. — C.D.

Adding moisture to dusty blinds can create “mud,” so I suggest first wiping with a microfiber cloth before you clean them. Then spritz your cloth, not the blinds, so you don’t get drips of dirty liquid running down the slats. — L.R.

For wood or faux-wood blinds, a vinegar solution can be damaging. If that’s the type you have, just run your vacuum’s brush attachment over the slats (left to right and top to bottom). It gets rid of dust fast. Bonus: zero drips. — B.R.

08 of 10

Bathroom Counters, Fixtures, Shower, and Tub

Dish wand with soap
Maurizio Di Torio

Good Enough
“I clean practically everything in the bathroom with an all-purpose formula, a wet rag, a bucket of warm water, and another rag for drying. Sometimes I also use baking soda to scrub.” — S.A., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
A wet rag can spread germs around the bathroom, so swap it out for microfiber cloths, which trap dirt and debris. (Use one on the sink, countertop, and tub and a separate cloth on the toilet.) I like a disinfecting cleaner that’s natural (like the one from Seventh Generation). Spritz all the surfaces and let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping. — B.R.

Even with the added baking soda, an all-purpose cleaner often isn’t strong enough to cut through the buildup of soap scum and dirt. I like to use a shower cleaner (Method Tub + Tile Spray) followed by a soft scrub cleaner (Biokleen Cream Cleanser). That combination gets the job done with less elbow grease. — J.J.

09 of 10

Toilet Bowl

Toilet brushes
1933bkk/Getty Images

Good Enough
“I drop a few denture-cleaning tabs into the toilet bowl, leave them for a few hours, then do a quick scrub with a toilet brush.” — C.H., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
That usually works, but if you need something stronger, scrub with a mixture of equal parts salt, baking soda, and borax. A pumice stone with a handle can remove mineral rings without damaging the toilet. — L.R.

People with dogs that try to drink from the bowl may want to trade the denture cleaner for an orange-flavored breakfast drink (like Tang), which is just as powerful. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two, let it sit for at least 20 minutes, swish it around with a toilet brush, then flush. The worst that can happen to your pooch is he ends up with orange lips. — Linda Cobb, creator of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean book series.

10 of 10

Mirrors and Windows

Window squeegee
Yo/Getty Images

Good Enough
“I use hydrogen peroxide and a microfiber cloth for a streak-free clean.” — J.P., via Facebook

Make It Sparkle
Hydrogen peroxide is a great disinfectant, and wipe-downs are even easier now that it comes in a spray bottle. Spritz your cloth instead of the mirror to prevent spots from forming, which can happen if the mirror’s edges get wet. — D.S.K.

I prefer a 50-50 solution of water and rubbing alcohol, which dries quickly and leaves shine without streaks. — L.C.

For heavy-duty window washing, squeegee with this grime-lifting mix instead: four tablespoons castile or dish soap, four tablespoons rubbing alcohol, and a half gallon of warm water. — B.R.

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