What Ingenious Cleaning Tricks Did You Learn from Your Mom?

This month, readers share their moms’ tried-and-true tips for scrubbing, scouring, stain fighting, and more. Try one the next time you tidy up.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

An old, clean sock works great as a furniture duster. Just slip one on your hand and spray some wood cleaner on it. Whenever I do this, it takes me back to doing my childhood chores, when I would slide a sock over our dark furniture. I loved dusting my mom’s dresser: It was a chance to open her jewelry box and try on a few things.

Robyn Collins

North Branford, Connecticut

My husband’s stepmother taught me to add a few drops of an essential oil to my cleaning bucket. I usually clean with baking soda and vinegar—two products that don’t smell great. But when I mix in a little lavender or eucalyptus, we all breathe easier.

Julie M. Skinner Sutton

Forth Worth, Texas

When my three children were young, my mother showed me a foolproof way to remove fruit-juice stains from their T-shirts. As soon as you notice that the juice has dribbled onto the fabric, rub clear liquid glycerin into the stain and let it sit for an hour. Then rub in white vinegar and launder the shirt as usual. When the garment comes out of the washer, the stain is almost always gone.

Judith H. Darsky

Larchmont, New York

Vacuum first, then dust. The reason: The vacuum stirs up dust, so even if you just dusted, you’ll have to do it again. This time-saving tip comes in handy when I’m frantically getting my home ready for company.

Kristin Rooney

Oakland, California

My parents love red wine and fine table linens. They also have friends who can be a bit overzealous with their hand gestures. I bet you see where this is going. To remove red wine from a white tablecloth, my mom pours boiling water onto the stain. It takes the color out instantly, saving her from bleaching (and damaging) expensive fabric.

Kathryn Wene

Mechanicsville, Virginia

When one of my kids threw up in bed, my mom walked me through a step-by-step process to make the mattress good as new. Start by pressing on the area with a dry towel. To remove odors, wet a towel with baking soda and water, dab it on the mattress, then pat dry with another towel. Sprinkle cornstarch over any areas that are still damp, and several hours later vacuum it up. No one will be able to tell that you had a mattress mishap.

Amy Maslowski

Savage, Minnesota

I’ll never forget the day I dripped burrito grease all over my favorite pair of designer jeans. My mom saw me trying—and failing—to get the stain out with an arsenal of cleaning products and then offered this illuminating advice: “Dish soap will get grease off your clothes just like it does with your dishes.” She was right. Once I rubbed some dish soap onto the stain, it vanished.

Amanda Ravenscroft

San Francisco, California