Nope, you don't have to cover it in plastic or keep the kids and pets away. Instead, use these expert hacks to keep everything from furniture and mattresses to kitchen tools and appliances in perfect condition for a long, long time. 

By Kate Rockwood
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Jamie Chung

Upholstery

Protect It:

Once a month, remove debris from the surface and beneath the cushions with your vacuum's upholstery attachment. Treat the fabric with a soil repellent, like 303 Fabric Guard ($25; crateandbarrel.com for stores), to help create a barrier against spills.

Revive It:

Clean spills as soon as possible, but test your solution on an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn't leave a mark. For linen and cotton upholstery, spray the area with Capture Soil Release Pre-Mist ($6; homedepot.com) followed by Capture Carpet and Rug Dry Cleaner ($20; amazon.com). Use a dry cloth to gently work the powder into the fabric, wait 30 minutes, then vacuum. If the stain remains after two attempts, call in a pro.

Plastic Food Containers

Protect Them:

To help keep tomato sauce or soup stains at bay, spritz containers with nonstick cooking spray before filling them with red-colored leftovers.

Revive Them:

To help remove stains and odors, wipe with a paper towel dampened with lemon juice and put the open container in the sun for at least an hour.

Towels

Protect Them:

More soap doesn't mean more clean. You'll only wind up with towels that are stiff, rough, and potentially coated in residue (which may encourage mold and bacteria growth). Instead, read the detergent's directions and err on the scant side of suds.

Revive Them:

Add a half cup of white vinegar to your washing machine's liquid fabric softener dispenser when you wash towels. It will strip away residue and leave towels soft and fluffy—without smelling like vinegar.

Knives

Protect Them:

Don't throw them into a drawer with other silverware or utensils or you'll risk nicked blades. Instead, pop your knives onto a magnetic board or into a knife block. If they must go in a drawer, sheath them in a plastic edge guard first (from $4; williams-sonoma.com). Avoid running them through the dishwasher, as doing so can warp the handle or mar the blade.

Revive Them:

Regular honing will help keep knives sharp, but you'll still need to sharpen them at least annually. Check to see if your local hardware store will sharpen them, or handle the task yourself with a handheld sharpener. Avoid electric sharpeners, which may strip away too much metal.

Toilet Bowl Brush

Protect It:

We all want to make haste with the toilet bowl brush, but resist the urge to put it back in the caddy while wet—you'll encourage bacteria growth. After using it, put the handle under the closed toilet seat so the brush can drip into the bowl until fully dry (about 10 minutes).

Revive It:

To disinfect the brush, pour a half cup of bleach directly into the toilet bowl and let the brush hang out in there for a few minutes. Dry as instructed above.

Baking Sheets

Protect Them:

Line with a piece of parchment or silicone before baking—both will prevent burned-on residue without affecting cooking time.

Revive Them:

Soak in soapy water, sprinkle with baking soda, then scrub with a cut raw potato. The vegetable contains oxalic acid, a nontoxic acid that helps dissolve rust. Steel wool can damage the surface and lead to small scratches that cause sticking and burning.

Shower Curtain

Protect It:

After you exit the shower, spread out the curtain liner rather than leaving it bunched to one side (which can trap moisture and encourage mildew growth). Running the bathroom fan or leaving a window open for 10 minutes can help pull moisture from the room.

Revive It:

To banish soap scum and mildew, pop the curtain liner into the washing machine with regular detergent plus a cup of white vinegar. Add a few towels along with it—the fabric will create extra friction for a deeper clean. Hang to air-dry.

Mattress

Protect It:

Make your sleep space a no-food zone. And invest in a mattress cover with a tight weave and a zipper closure to keep out allergens.

Revive It:

Twice a year, sprinkle the mattress with a thin layer of baking soda. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum using the upholstery attachment.

Toaster

Protect It:

Crumbs aren't just messy; they can affect the way the machine cooks the bread, so it might get too dark and could even catch fire. Hold the toaster upside down over the trash and gently tap the sides to dislodge any bits of bread that didn't make it to the crumb tray. Clear the crumb tray weekly.

Revive It:

Unplug the toaster and clear out the interior slots with a small pastry or basting brush.

Makeup Brushes

Protect Them:

Close the toilet lid. Microscopic bits of fecal matter can spray up to six feet every time someone flushes, which means your beloved brushes could be coated with nasty bacteria if you leave them out in the open.

Revive Them:

Once a week, dip dampened bristles into a bit of dish soap, massage under warm water, then rinse. Try not to get the base of the bristles wet, which can loosen the glue that holds them in place, shortening the life span. Lay flat to dry.

Stand Mixer

Protect It:

Get in the habit of not just washing the bowl and accessories but also wiping down the mixer body, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies where bits of batter and food can get lodged. Check the care guide to determine if the accessories are dishwasher safe, and make sure you're not overtaxing the motor by exceeding the flour limit.

Revive It:

If the bottom of the beater is too close to the bowl, it can create chips and scrapes or even motor issues. If it's too far away, the mixer can't do its job. If you notice the beater is touching the bowl or there's a frustrating amount of untouched flour along the bowl's bottom, check the manual for instructions on adjusting the beater-to-bowl clearance. It's an easy fix that takes less than two minutes.