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Cleaning :Cheaper, Better, Faster- Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day

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Air freshener—foliage “filters”
The world’s best home air fresheners are green plants. Houseplants help filter the
air of indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene. The best of these
green air cleaners are spider plants, philodendron, and aloe vera. Work plants
into your home’s environment whenever you can. One plant for about every 100
square feet can remove up to 87 percent of toxic organic pollutants. And their
gift to the home? They produce oxygen.
Aluminum cookware—cream of tartar
To remove stains and discoloration from aluminum cookware, fill the cookware
with hot water and add 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar to each quart of water.
Bring the solution to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash as usual and dry.
Aluminum pots and pans—cream of tartar mixture
Mix together ¼ cup cream of tartar, ¼ cup baking soda, ¼ cup white vinegar,
and 2 tablespoons liquid soap. Store the mixture in a container with a tightfitting
lid. Label and keep out of reach of children. To use, rub a small amount of
the cleaner on the aluminum pan and scour with fine steel wool.
Use a spray bottle filled with water to very lightly dampen ashes before you start
to sweep.
Baking soda—all-purpose cleaner
Baking soda is a nonabrasive cleanser. Use it without worry on fine china,
porcelain appliances, the inside of the refrigerator, stainless steel, aluminum, and
cast iron. You can use it either in its powdered form or mix it with water to make
a paste. Baking soda is a wonderful cleaner for everything from countertops to
rolling pins to gold-trimmed dishes. And if you want to remove an offensive
odor, think baking soda.
Baking soda—dispenser
Keep baking soda handy by pouring some into a dispenser with a sprinkle top.
An old salt-or pepper shaker or Parmesan cheese dispenser that is refillable
works well. Use it for microwave oven cleanup and to rid the counter of coffee
Ballpoint pen ink on plastic
Really cheap hair spray removes ballpoint pen ink from plastic because it has a
high amount of acetone.
Bathroom and kitchen cleaner—homemade
Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart of warm water for a basic
bathroom cleaner. Use dry baking soda on a damp sponge for tough areas.
Baking soda will clean and deodorize all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
Use rubbing alcohol to clean silicone caulking around bathtubs.
Bathtub—clean with a mop
Mops offer an easy-on-the-back-and-knees alternative for cleaning the bathtub.
Sprinkle tub with cleanser and swish away grime.
Bathtub—porcelain ring removal
To remove that really gross bathtub ring, apply a paste of hydrogen peroxide
mixed with cream of tartar to stained porcelain surfaces. Scrub lightly, let dry,
then rinse with warm water. Repeat if necessary.
To clean a blender, fill it less than halfway with hot, soapy water, replace the lid,
and turn the machine on at the lowest speed for a minute or two. Rinse the
blender thoroughly, then towel-dry it before using again.
Brass—lemon, baking soda
Rub the surface of brass with a slice of fresh lemon sprinkled with baking soda.
Rinse well and wipe dry.
Brass—lemon, salt
Polish outdoor brass with lemon and salt. Cut a lemon in half, dip the cut side
into salt, and use as an applicator. Do not use this on brass that has a permanent
protective coating.
Clean wax drips from candleholders by putting them on a cookie sheet lined
with parchment paper or an old towel in a warm oven set to 200ºF. The paper or
towel will catch the wax as it drips.
Clean dusty, dingy candles by wiping them with rubbing alcohol.
Can opener blade
To clean that cruddy electric can opener blade, soak an old toothbrush in vinegar,
hold it under the blade wheel, and turn on the can opener.
Carpet—blot it out
After you clean a spot on the carpet, don’t rub it dry. Instead, place a clean,
white towel on top of the spot and weight it down with a book or heavy jar.
Leave it overnight and it will act as a blotter to transfer all traces of the stain and
whatever you used to treat the stain to the towel.
Carpet—clean right before you leave town
Plan your departure time wisely so you can shampoo your carpets right before
you’re ready to walk out the door for a weekend trip or vacation. The carpet can
dry without foot traffic for several days while you’re gone.
Carpet—clean-spot protector
Use a small, clean, plastic basket in which berries are sold to cover a place on
the carpet you’ve just spot-shampooed. Upside down, the basket permits air to
circulate, yet keeps family members and pets off the spot until it dries.
Sprinkle liberal amounts of baking soda over a dry carpet; then wait 15 minutes
before you start to vacuum.
Carpet—dry cleaning
Mix together 2 cups baking soda, ½ cup cornstarch, 4 or 5 crumbled bay leaves,
and 1 tablespoon ground cloves. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
Label and keep out of reach of children. To use, shake a generous amount of
cleaner over the area to be cleaned. Scrub mixture into the heavily stained area
with a stiff brush. Leave overnight. Vacuum thoroughly in the morning.
The best tool for scrubbing a carpet spot is another piece of carpet.
Carpet—soaking wet
When pipes break and the carpet is soaked, put rubbing alcohol in the carpet
steam cleaner to rinse away mildew and speed drying. Use approximately 8
ounces per tank.
Carpet—stain removal, rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is an easy and inexpensive spot remover for carpets. Lightly
rub a drop or two into the stain, then blot the spot dry with a clean, white cloth.
Carpet—stain removal, Tide solution
Here’s a highly effective and economical way to remove stains from carpeting:
Mix together 1 part Tide powder, 2 parts white vinegar, and 2 parts warm water.
Scrub the soiled area, then rinse with clear, warm water. From oil to mud to wine
stains, they’ll all disappear.
Cast iron seasoning
To season a new or newly scrubbed cast iron pan, coat it with mineral or
vegetable oil and place it in a warm, 200ºF oven for a few hours. The oil will
slowly soak into the pan.
Textured ceilings collect fuzz and tiny dust bunnies. Don’t try to wash that
ceiling. Instead, grab two lint roller refills and cram one onto each end of a paint
roller. Now roll the ceiling clean as you would any other linty situation. All the
fuzz will stick to the lint rollers and you’ll be so happy.
Ceramic tile
Wipe ceramic tile clean with a solution of automatic dishwasher detergent and
Hang an umbrella upside down from the chandelier to catch the drips while
you’re cleaning it. Pour 2 parts isopropyl rubbing alcohol and 1 part warm water
into a spray bottle. Spray chandelier liberally, and allow the fixture to drip-dry.
Chrome—baby oil
A quick and easy cleaner for chrome is baby oil sprinkled on a damp cloth.
Chrome—baking soda
Clean chrome fixtures with a damp cloth sprinkled with baking soda.
Chrome—nail polish remover
Nail polish remover gives chrome a nice sparkle. Be careful. It’s strong stuff and
could remove the color from anything it touches around the chrome.
To clean chrome, wipe with a soft cloth dipped in undiluted white or cider
Cleaners with color coding
Add a tiny drop of food coloring to a cleaning mix in a spray bottle to
distinguish the contents from other sprays and keep a list of which color
represents which cleaner. The food coloring will not affect the cleaner.
Cleaning tools—apron with pockets
Get an apron with lots of pockets to wear from room to room as you clean. Put
the supplies you need for each room in the pockets so you have everything you
need at your fingertips. Use one of the pockets to hold a soapy sponge in a
plastic bag for touch-up work around light switches, doorjambs, and so on.
Cleaning tools—cleaning rags
To save yourself from rummaging for cleaning rags every time you clean, use a
rubber band to attach a cloth to each cleaning product that requires one. When
you’re finished, just tuck the rag back under the rubber band. Wash or replace
cloths periodically.
Cleaning tools—colander for cleanup
Keep a colander in the sink and scrape food from dishes into it at dishwashing
time. This is more efficient than your standing over the garbage pail, and liquids
will go down the drain rather than into your pail.
Cleaning tools—dust cloths
Make your own dust cloths by dipping cheesecloth into a mixture of 2 cups
water and ¼ cup lemon oil. Do not rinse, and allow to dry thoroughly before
using. When the cloths are dirty, wash and repeat.
Cleaning tools—for skinny spaces
How do you clean that little bit of floor between the refrigerator and the wall?
Tie a nylon-net scrubbing pad over the end of a yardstick or broom handle,
securing it tightly with string or twine. Use it first to pull out any debris and dust,
then wet it with a detergent-water solution and scrub away.
Clothes iron—baking soda
You can clean the scorched starch from the bottom of an iron by making a paste
of baking soda and a little water, rubbing it on the iron with a soft cloth, and
wiping it off with a clean cloth.
Clothes iron—clogged steam ports
Clean the clogged steam ports in your iron with a bent-open paper clip, then fill
the reservoir with a mixture of ⅓ cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking
soda that has been well blended. Allow to steam. Empty the reservoir by turning
it upside down over the sink. Follow with plain water and allow to steam. You
may have to allow three or four reservoirs of water to steam through to remove
all traces of vinegar.
Clothes iron—salt, wax paper
To remove burned-on starch from your iron, sprinkle salt on a sheet of wax paper
and slide the iron across it several times. Then rub the iron lightly with silver
polish until the stain is removed.
Coffee and tea stains
Remove coffee and tea stains by scrubbing pots or cups with baking soda and a
nylon-net scrubbing pad.
As a cheaper alternative to canned air, a new paintbrush is great for dusting hardto-
get-at crevices in computer keyboards. Unplug the keyboard and vacuum it
regularly, using the soft brush attachment. To dislodge particles of dirt and dust,
turn the keyboard upside down and hit it several times with the flat of your hand.
Periodically, clean the keys with a lint-free cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Computer or TV monitor—cleaning
Spraying glass cleaner directly onto the monitor screen can cause damage.
Instead spray a mild cleaner or rubbing alcohol onto a soft lint-free rag, then
wipe the screen.
Computer or TV monitor—dusting
Save the dryer sheets from your laundry after they’ve softened a load of wash.
They make great dusting and cleaning cloths for television and computer
screens. Not only will they clean the screens, the antistatic properties will treat
the screens to repel rather than attract dust.
Copper—vinegar, salt
For tarnished copper, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and 3 tablespoons
salt. Pop the open bottle into the microwave and heat on high for about 45
seconds or until quite warm but not too hot to handle. Screw on the spray pump,
spray liberally, let sit briefly, then rinse with warm, soapy water, and wipe clean.
Don’t use on lacquered items.
Copper, brass—vinegar, flour
To clean copper and brass that does not have a factory-applied protective
coating, dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in ½ cup white vinegar. Add enough flour to
make a paste. Apply the paste and let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse with
warm water and polish dry.
Copper, brass, bronze—toothpaste
Small brass, copper, or bronze objects can be cleaned and made to gleam with a
little toothpaste. Be sure to remove all traces of toothpaste with a soft brush,
soap, and water, because any that is left will dry as hard as cement.
Countertops—food stains
To remove food stains from countertops, cover the stains with a paste of baking
soda and water. Let it sit a few minutes, then wipe with a cloth or sponge.
Plastic laminate countertops like Formica that have become dull with age can be
brightened by applying a coat of a good automobile wax; allow to dry slightly
and buff off. This will also make the surface stain-and scratch-resistant.
Crayon—on chalkboard
An oil-base lubricating spray like WD-40 or a prewash treatment like Soilove
should easily remove the crayon marks without damaging the chalkboard. Test
first, then spray the stains and allow the spray to penetrate for a few minutes.
Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth. Add a few drops of liquid dishwashing
detergent to warm water, and with a clean sponge wipe down the board to
remove all oily residue. Rinse well with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.
Crayon—on floors and walls
Get rid of crayon marks from a linoleum floor by rubbing lightly with a dab of
silver polish. To remove your child’s crayon marks from painted walls, dip a
damp cloth into baking soda and rub the spots gently.
Crayon—on slate
To remove crayon marks on a slate fireplace hearth: Use an art-gum eraser
available at an art supply or stationery store. Just knead the eraser until it’s
pliable, then press it against the crayon marks and “pull” them off. Continue
kneading and pressing until all the marks are removed.
To clean crystal vases, glasses, chandelier crystals, or any kind of bottle that’s
been clouded by a calcium coating, fill a large container with soapy water and
add a good shot of white vinegar. Allow items to sit in the solution for 2 to 3
Curling iron
To clean the buildup of scorched hair spray and other products on a curling iron,
scrub the cool iron with a soft cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol.
Cutting board—cleaning
Lemon juice cleans, deodorizes, and bleaches out stains on wooden cutting
boards and wooden utensils.
Cutting board—seasoning
After scrubbing and disinfecting your wooden cutting board, season it by
rubbing on a coat of mineral oil. Do not use vegetable oil because it may turn
Dishes: clean or dirty?
Never sure whether the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty? Place an
uncapped spice bottle upright in a front corner of the top rack. When dishes are
clean, it will be full of water. Empty the bottle when you unload.
Dishwasher—as drain board
If you only occasionally hand wash dishes such as delicate crystal, china, or a
messy pot, don’t waste money purchasing a drain board. Place just-washed items
on the top rack of your empty dishwasher and they’ll drain and air-dry.
Dishwasher—detergent only!
Don’t be tempted to use soap meant for dishes or laundry when you run out of
automatic dishwasher detergent or you’ll wind up with a mountain of bubbles. If
someone else makes the mistake, here’s how to get rid of the mess: Open the
dishwasher, slide out the bottom rack, and sprinkle salt on the suds, which will
immediately reduce their volume. Pour 2 gallons of cold water into the bottom of
the dishwasher and advance the cycle until you hear the machine begin to drain.
Repeat until only a few suds remain. As a last step, run an entire cycle without
any detergent.
Dishwasher—double duty
Use the dishwasher to clean brushes, dustpans, and even the dish drainer.
Dishwasher—flatware organization
Save time by presorting forks, knives, and spoons as you load them into your
dishwasher’s utensil compartment.
Dishwasher—rusty stains
If your dishwasher interior has rusty stains, try running a cycle with no dishes,
and instead of automatic dishwasher detergent, fill the cups with Tang instant
breakfast drink. The citric acid works miracles.
Dishwasher spotting—vinegar
To ensure your dishes come out sparkling clear with no soap or hard-water
residue, pour a cup of white vinegar into the dishwasher during the final rinse.
Dishwasher spotting—vinegar, lemon juice
No matter the brand of automatic dishwasher detergent, glasses often come out
of the dishwasher with spots. Solution: Mix equal parts water, vinegar, and
lemon juice in a spray bottle and spray the glasses before putting them in the
Doorknobs and switch plates
Moisten a cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe away the grime from doorknobs
and switch plates.
Drains—hair removal
Remove hair from a drain with a bottle brush.
Drains—mesh bag debris catcher
Stuff a mesh produce bag into a drain to catch food particles, hair, and other
debris. Be sure to wash it in hot water or in the dishwasher to get rid of bacteria.
Drains—odors and grease
To eliminate odors and keep grease from building up in your kitchen plumbing,
regularly pour a strong saltwater solution down the drain.
Drapery sheers
If your sheer draperies are looking a little limp and tired, wash them and then dip
them into a sink filled with warm water into which you’ve dissolved a cup of
Epsom salt. Do not rinse. Hang to dry.
Dry-erase boards
To add luster and restore the surface of a dry-erase board, polish it with a dryer
Dust mop
To clean a dust mop indoors, pull an oversized plastic bag over the head of the
mop, tie the top of the bag, and shake the mop vigorously so the dust falls into
the bag.
Duster with reach—broom
Slip a pillowcase over a broom’s bristles, tie it on with a twine tie or piece of
string, spray lightly with furniture polish or water, and you’ll be able to easily
dust high spots and ceilings.
Duster with reach—fishing pole
Stick a fluffy feather duster into the hollow end of a cane fishing pole, sold at
import stores for about $1. Now you have an extension handle that will allow
you to remove cobwebs that form on your high-vaulted ceilings and ceiling fans.
Dusting—delicate items
New paintbrushes are terrific for dusting delicate items that need a light touch,
such as a lamp shade or silk flowers.
Dusting—in tight places
Wear cotton gloves sprayed with furniture polish to dust hard-to-reach places.
Dusting—under beds
Wrap an old cotton T-shirt around the bristle end of a broom for cleaning under
Dusting—with glycerin
Dampen vacuum brushes with a solution of several drops of glycerin to ½ cup
water. It attracts dust and hair like a magnet. You can find glycerin in the
Spray your dustpan with furniture polish and the dust will slip right off.
Dusty curtains
Don’t dry-clean curtains that are simply dusty. Toss them into the dryer with a
couple of dryer sheets on “air dry.” This will fluff them up and loosen and
release the dust.
Dusty curtains, pillows, slipcovers
Put dusty pillows, curtains, and slipcovers into the dryer. Set it on cool, and toss
in a fabric softener sheet for fragrance.
Enamel cookware
If your enamel cookware has unsightly stains, fill it with a mixture of equal parts
household bleach and water and allow to sit overnight. Then thoroughly rinse.
Mix ⅓ cup rubbing alcohol with 1 cup water. Put in spray bottle and use to clean
eyeglass lenses. This mixture is safe to use on all ophthalmic eyeglass lenses,
even those made from plastic material, as those materials are hardened and
impervious to isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
Fan blades
There’s nothing like static electricity to turn a fan blade into a dust magnet. But
that’s no match for a dryer sheet. Just take one of those gems and wipe down the
blade to release dust—and pet hair and cobwebs too.
Faucets—lime deposits
Lime deposits around faucets can be softened for easy removal by covering the
deposits with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Leave paper towels on for about 1
hour before cleaning. The vinegar leaves chrome clean and shiny.
Faucets—soap scum
Remove soap scum from a faucet with an old toothbrush dipped into a 50/50
ammonia and water solution.
Fiberglass—shower walls and tiles
For a brilliant shine and easy cleanups, give freshly cleaned tile and fiberglass
shower walls a coat of car polish. Do not wax the shower floor or bathtub as it
will become dangerously slick.
Fiberglass—showers and bathtubs
Clean fiberglass showers and tubs with baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge.
Scrub clean and wipe dry.
Floors—ceramic tile
Mop ceramic tile floors with a solution of 1 gallon hot water and 1 cup vinegar
—no soap. The floor will shine and sparkle like new. No rinsing is required.
While hot water might work to remove dirt, it will have a dulling effect because
of the minerals left behind in the water. Vinegar cuts and removes those
minerals, getting rid of that cloudy film.
Floors—hair spray removal
To remove hair spray from a no-wax floor, mix ¼ cup ammonia with a gallon of
warm water. If you are not sure about the durability of the floor’s finish, test this
mixture on an inconspicuous part of the floor.
Floors—no-wax linoleum
To clean a no-wax linoleum floor quickly, mist with a foaming bathroom spray
and let stand 5 minutes. Damp-mop the floor to remove the cleaner.
Floors—scratches on resilient flooring
Get rid of light scratches in resilient flooring by rubbing with a soft cloth
moistened with a small amount of paste floor wax.
Floors—wax remover, homemade
Mix 3 parts rubbing alcohol to 1 part water for an excellent floor wax remover.
Framed art
When you wash the glass that covers framed art, spray the cleaner on your cloth,
not the glass. Otherwise the liquid may work its way inside the glass, damaging
the mat or the artwork itself.
If your refrigerator isn’t frost-free, use a hair dryer to quickly defrost it. Or rotate
two pans of boiling water: one goes into the freezer compartment while the other
goes back on the stove for reheating. When you’ve completed defrosting the
freezer, spray a few coats of cooking spray on the top and sides of the freezer.
The next time you defrost, the ice will fall right off.
Furniture polish, homemade
Mix 3 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice or vinegar in blender. Blend on high
to emulsify, and apply with a clean, soft cloth.
Garbage disposal—ice cubes, citrus, baking soda
Mix 1 cup chopped lemon, orange, or grapefruit (rind and all); 1 cup baking
soda; and 1½ cups water. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.
Remove cubes, place them in a resealable plastic bag if you don’t intend to use
them immediately, and label them. To use, turn on your disposal unit, dump in 6
to 10 cubes, and let the machine grind them up. Rinse with cold water.
Garbage disposal—ice cubes, vinegar
To clean the garbage disposal, dump in a tray of ice cubes made from white
vinegar and water. Turn on the water and operate the disposal as usual. Or dump
in a tray of regular ice cubes and a handful of lemon rinds and operate the
disposal as usual.
George Foreman grill
You love your George Foreman grill. If only it was self-cleaning! Here’s the next
best thing: Throw a soaking wet folded paper towel on the grill after you unplug
it, but while it’s still hot. Close the lid. It will steam clean itself. When cooled,
just wipe off the residue.
Coffee burned on the bottom of your glass coffeepot? Try this old restaurant
trick: Fill it with a handful of ice cubes, add 2 teaspoons of salt, and swirl the pot
around for a few minutes to remove the coffee stains.
Rub a glass decanter with a lemon or lemon juice to renew its shine. Dry with a
lint-free cloth.
Glass—fireplace doors
To clean those dirty glass fireplace doors, mix some wood ashes with a little
water. Apply this paste with a sponge in a circular motion and rinse off.
Glass—light globes
Clean the glass globes of your light fixtures in the dishwasher.
Glass—shower doors
Mineral oil will remove stubborn scum from the inside of glass shower doors.
Give the tiles, faucets, and outside of the shower door a final once-over with
glass cleaner to make them really shine.
To clean the inside of a glass thermos bottle, place a denture-cleaning tablet in it,
fill with warm water, and allow it to sit overnight before rinsing thoroughly.
Glass cleaner, homemade
Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ½ cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm
Glass-top tables
Glass-top tables will repel lint if you wash them with a solution of 1 quart warm
water and 1 capful liquid fabric softener.
An old toothbrush is perfect for quickly cleaning the holes in cheese and
vegetable graters.
Grout—soak it
Use lengths of cotton stripping (the kind you’d use to protect your hairline
during a dye job) that have been soaked in undiluted bleach. Push the wet cotton
against the grout and leave it there. After half an hour, pull away the cotton. The
same method works well to clean mildew that forms along the caulking between
a wall and a bathtub.
Grout—toothbrush, denture cleaner
Scrub grout using an old toothbrush with denture-cleaning paste or cleanser.
Grout—toothbrush, dishwasher detergent
Make a paste of automatic dishwasher detergent and water. Apply to grout using
an old toothbrush. When it’s dry, rub it off with a terry washcloth.
Grout—whiten with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide
Mix a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Using an old toothbrush,
apply the paste to the grout and give a little scrub. Leave on for a few minutes;
rinse. For stained grout between floor tiles, try rubbing the area lightly with
folded sandpaper.
Grout—whiten with bleach
Whiten grout between tiles with bleach dabbed on a cotton swab.
Raw egg whites will remove chewing gum from anything, including hair,
without leaving a trace.
Gum—on upholstery
To remove bubble gum from upholstery, make a loop of duct tape around your
fingers with the sticky side out. Press on the gum and jerk your finger up
quickly. Repeat until all the gum is pulled away.
Heel marks
To remove black scuff marks from any hard-surface floor, rub them with a paste
of baking soda and water and a plastic pot scrubber like a Scotchbrite pad. Use
as little water as possible to ensure best results.
To clean anything ivory, like piano keys or carved objects, wipe with a solution
of 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup water. No need to rinse.
Jeweler’s professional cleaner
Here’s the fine-jewelry cleaner professional stores use: Mix equal amounts of
household ammonia and water. Drop jewelry into a small container of this
cleaner. Allow to sit for a few minutes and brush with an old toothbrush. Rinse
well in clear water. It’s cheap and it works. Caution: Never use this solution on
opals, pearls, or other soft stones.
Dissolve a denture-cleaning tablet in a cup of water. Add diamond rings,
earrings, and other jewelry. Let them sit an hour. Do not use this with opals,
pearls, or other soft stones.
Keeping up—one bite at a time
Set aside 15 minutes each weekday to clean one area of your house. By the
weekend, you won’t have much more cleaning to do.
Keeping up—photo instructions
To remind everyone in your family what has to be done to call a room in the
house “clean,” take pictures of each room and put them in a flip photo album.
On the reverse side of the photos, list the chores to be done in each room. If
someone asks if a room is clean enough, you can just tell them to check the list.
Keeping up—tidy up for the evening
After dinner, set a timer for 5 minutes and have everyone in the house pick up
and put away the day’s accumulated clutter.
Keeping up—touch-ups between cleanings
Cut some old rags into small squares and stuff them into a jar. Add water and a
bit of pine-scented cleaner. Keep these handy for between-cleaning bathroom
touch-ups. When finished, simply wash the rags and use them again.
Keeping up—use gloves
Wear white canvas work gloves sprayed with polish to speed up cleaning. Wash
and reuse each week.
Kitchen disinfectant
We know how important it is to disinfect cutting boards and countertops. Instead
of buying expensive kitchen disinfectants for this job, make your own: Combine
1 teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per quart of water. Flood your food-cutting
surface with the solution, let stand several minutes, then rinse.
Knives and scissors
To remove rust from knives or scissors, soak them in a mild solution of water
and ammonia (½ cup household ammonia to 1 quart water) for 10 minutes.
Scrub off rust with a steel-wool pad. Rinse and dry.
Lime buildup
Apply a paste of cream of tartar and vinegar to faucets to remove lime sediment
Liquid detergent—cut harshness
To make liquid dish detergent easy on the hands, add 3 tablespoons of white
vinegar to a full bottle and shake well. As a bonus the vinegar will help make
your dishes shine.
Liquid hand soap, homemade
Save all those little slivers from your bar soaps. Grate them on a cheese grater,
mix with water (the amount depends on how much soap you have, but generally
speaking you want about 1 part grated soap to 3 parts water), and melt in
microwave or on the stove. Beat with a rotary beater until smooth. If you don’t
want to bother collecting little slivers of soap, but like the idea of making your
own liquid soap, follow these instructions grating a new bar of soap to about 3
cups of water.
Liquid hand soap for kids, homemade
If your small children are really into washing their hands and go fairly nuts with
the soap dispenser, make up a special batch of liquid hand soap just for them:
Mix 10 parts generic shampoo to 1 part water.
Louvered doors
To clean, dampen a disposable foam paintbrush and wipe between the slats.
Metal furniture
To clean aluminum, steel, or wrought-iron furniture, wash with a mild liquid
detergent and water, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Once a season, apply a coat
of automobile wax. If a scratch occurs on wrought iron or steel, apply matching
exterior paint with a small artist brush.
Steam clean the interior of your microwave with this method: Stir 2 tablespoons
baking soda into a cup of water. Set in the microwave and allow to boil for at
least 5 minutes. Remove the cup and wipe the inside of the microwave with a
Get rid of mildew in caulking between the walls and tub by saturating paper
towels with diluted chlorine bleach. Allow wet towels to sit for a few hours or
until all traces of mildew have vanished.
Mildew—in corners
To remove mildew from the corner of the tub or other hard-to-scrub places, place
a cotton ball saturated with bleach on the mildew for an hour or two. Rinse with
warm water and repeat if necessary.
To prevent mildew from forming in the refrigerator, wipe the inside with white
vinegar. The vinegar acid effectively kills mildew fungi.
Mildew—shower curtain bleach soak
If mildew and soap scum are only at the bottom of the shower curtain, fill the tub
with enough water to cover the spots, add a little bleach, and let soak. Rinse the
curtain and the tub well to remove the bleach.
Mildew—shower curtain in washing machine
To clean mildew and soap scum from a shower curtain, place the curtain in the
washing machine along with two or three white towels. Fill with warm water and
then add detergent and ½ cup baking soda. Add 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse
water to prevent mold from forming. Hang on the shower rod to dry.
Mildew—shower stall
Here’s a way to get rid of mildew buildup in your shower stall without using
harsh, household bleach. Fill an empty spray bottle with vinegar and a cup of
salt. Shake to encourage the salt to dissolve more quickly. Spray the stall, allow
the solution to sit for at least a half hour, and then rinse thoroughly. Tougher jobs
may require a second application.
To remove mildew from tile, wet surface with water and then spray with a
solution of 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach mixed with 1 quart water. Let the
solution remain on the tile about 15 minutes, then rinse. Caution: Never mix
chlorine bleach with other cleaning products that might contain ammonia. A
potentially fatal gas may result.
Mildew—tile grout
Borax and baking soda mixed together make an effective nonabrasive cleanser
for removing mold and mildew from tile grout.
Mini-blinds—cleaning on driveway
Clean metal or vinyl mini-blinds the fast and easy way: Simply lay the miniblinds
in your driveway and spray them with an all-purpose liquid or foaming
bathroom cleaner. Rinse with the garden hose, then hang the blinds on a
clothesline to dry.
Mini-blinds—quick clean
Use a dampened fabric softener sheet to quick-clean mini-blinds and reduce the
static cling that attracts dust.
Put on a rubber glove and an old sock over it. Douse the sock in straight rubbing
alcohol and clean away while blinds are in place.
Mirrors—hair spray removal
To remove hair spray spots from the mirror, dampen a soft cotton cloth with
rubbing alcohol and, using a circular motion, wipe them away.
Mirrors—use cold tea
Clean mirrors with cold tea. They’ll really shine.
Has floor wax made your favorite mop stiff and foul-smelling? Soak it for a half
hour in a gallon of water mixed with ½ cup of no-suds ammonia. It will look
brand-new. To prevent repeat performances, clean the wax mop thoroughly with
an ammonia-water mixture after each use. Never clean a wax mop with soap or
detergent, and use it only for the purpose of applying liquid floor wax.
Odor—food containers
To remove odors from food containers, fill them with water and several
tablespoons of baking soda. Let them sit overnight, then wash and rinse.
Odor—garbage cans
To inhibit the growth of odor-producing molds and bacteria, sprinkle ½ cup
borax in the bottom of the garbage can.
Odor—smoke in upholstery
To get rid of the unpleasant smell of smoke on chairs and sofas, sprinkle baking
soda on the fabric and allow it to sit there for a few hours—then vacuum.
Here’s an easy solution for a sour-smelling thermos. Fill the container with 1
quart of water and 4 tablespoons baking soda, and let it sit overnight. In the
morning, wash as usual. Do this every week or so as preventive maintenance.
Odor—use a match
You can buy all kinds of room deodorizers and pretty-smelling things for the
bathroom that do nothing more than cover up bathroom odors. Or you can
simply light a match and blow it out immediately to completely eliminate the
Sprinkle water and then a layer of baking soda on oven surfaces. Rub gently
with very fine steel wool for tough spots.
Oven racks
To clean grease buildup from oven racks, bathe them. Put enough hot water in
the bathtub to cover the racks, add ¼ cup automatic dishwasher detergent and ¼
cup white vinegar. Stir to dissolve the detergent. Wait for an hour or so, then
rinse and dry the racks. Drain the tub immediately, or you’ll end up with a
major-league bathtub ring.
Oven spills
Pour salt on oven spills when they occur and while they are too hot to clean up.
The salt will make the cleanup easier once the spills have cooled, and it will
prevent the spill from smoking or flaring up.
Paper towel substitute
As a substitute for paper towels, coffee filters will shine glass, mirrors, and
chrome perfectly without lint or streaky marks.
Permanent marker stains
Tough stains from permanent markers are easily removed from most surfaces
with rubbing alcohol.
Pet hair on carpet—spray
To remove unsightly dog and cat hair from your carpet, spray a mixture of 1 part
liquid fabric softener to 3 parts water on your rug, wait a minute or two, and then
vacuum. No more animal hair.
Pet hair on rug—squeegee
To remove pet hair from a rug, try a window squeegee. Just pull the rubber edge
toward you and let physics do the rest. Static electricity will cause the hair to
cling to the rubber strip.
Use a clean, soft cloth dipped in a bit of rubbing alcohol to remove grease and
grime from your phone. Use an ordinary cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean
around the buttons.
Picture frames
To clean a carved picture frame, reach in all the nooks and crannies by using an
empty plastic squeeze bottle. Just squeeze a few times and you’ll blow the dust
away with a puff of air.
Range drip pans
Before cooking on the range top, give the stove’s burner drip pans a light misting
with cooking spray. Any spills will clean up fast with soapy water.
Range hood filter
Many metal mesh filters found in range hoods can be removed and washed in the
dishwasher on the normal, hot-water wash cycle. Wash them as a separate load
to provide for plenty of water action.
When vacuuming the kitchen floor or nearby, take a couple of minutes to remove
crumbs and other dried debris from refrigerator shelves and food bins while
narrow vacuum attachments are handy. Check the freezer area, too, where
crumbs have a way of collecting.
Rubber gloves that stick
Rubber gloves difficult to put on? Sprinkle a little baby powder or some baking
soda in them first.
To remove rust rings or stains from porcelain fixtures, make a paste of cream of
tartar and hydrogen peroxide. Apply a small amount to the stain and gently scrub
with an old toothbrush. Repeat as necessary. Rinse thoroughly.
Rust—pots and pans
Remove rust from pots and pans with white vinegar. For quick action, heat the
vinegar before applying. Or remove rust from household items by soaking them
in a cola soft drink.
RV holding tank
If you have a recreational vehicle with a holding tank, flush ½ cup to 1 cup of
baking soda down the toilet once a week while the RV is in use. Baking soda
helps maintain proper pH and alkalinity, controlling sulfide odors, according to
the folks at Arm & Hammer.
Scouring pads—no rust
Cut scouring pads such as Brillo or SOS in half or quarters. Now you can use a
new, smaller pad every time, throw it away, and avoid a rusty, yucky mess.
Scouring powder—avoiding waste
Scouring cleanser is often wasted because holes in the containers are too
numerous or too large and the cleanser comes out too fast. To avoid this, cover
half the holes with tape.
Scouring powder, homemade
For a basic scouring cleanser, mix together 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, and
¾ cup salt.
Clean paintbrushes of shellac and shellac-base products with rubbing alcohol.
Shower and bathtub
Use a garden watering can to pour clean rinse water on tub or shower walls. The
water will go where you’d like it to go because you’ll have more control than if
you were using the showerhead.
Shower curtain watermarks
Having trouble getting those filmy water spots off your shower curtain? Fill your
washing machine with warm water, liquid detergent as you would for any load,
and 1 capful of liquid fabric softener at the beginning of the wash cycle. Add
fabric softener again in the rinse cycle. Your shower curtain will come out
sparkling with not a water spot in sight.
Shower doors—soap scum
Apply a dab of ordinary cooking oil to a damp sponge and use it to remove soap
scum from your shower doors. Rinse the doors well. Cooking oil will also
prevent soap scum buildup.
Shower doors—tracks
To clean the shower door tracks, fill them with white vinegar and allow them to
soak a few hours. Scrub them with an old toothbrush. Flush the tracks with hot
water to rinse away the gunk.
Showerhead clog
A showerhead really mired in sediment that can’t be completely removed with
vinegar needs a heavy-duty treatment. Dissolve a denture-cleaning tablet in a
plastic bag full of water. Tie the bag over the showerhead so it is immersed in the
liquid. Secure the bag with a rubber band or twist tie. After several hours remove
the bag and turn on the shower to clear all traces of sediment.
Silk flowers
Want to freshen up silk flowers? Pour ½ cup of raw white rice into a paper bag.
Add your silk flowers. Close the bag and shake for a couple of minutes.
Carefully remove the flowers, making sure the rice stays in the bag. Your
flowers will come out dust-free and looking like new.
Silver polishing
Polishing silver while wearing rubber gloves promotes tarnish. Instead, choose
plastic or cotton gloves.
Silver tarnish
Place a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side up, on the bottom of a glass bowl or
pan. Fill the container with boiling water and a few teaspoons of baking soda.
Drop silver pieces into this bath, making sure they touch the foil, and the tarnish
will disappear.
To remove stubborn stains from your good silverware, rub the utensils with a
clean cloth that has been dipped in wet salt.
Sink stains
To remove mineral deposits caused by a dripping faucet, place a slice of lemon
on the area and leave it there overnight. The next day, remove the lemon and
wipe the area clean.
Sink-stopper leaks
To stop water from leaking out of the kitchen sink while you’re doing dishes, put
a piece of plastic wrap between the drain and the drain stopper. This is also a
handy trick to remember if you’re soaking something overnight.
Sponges—freshen and disinfect
Easily freshen and disinfect your sponges by putting them in the dishwasher
along with all the dirty dishes. Clip them to the top shelf to keep them from
falling to the bottom and getting scorched on the heating element.
Sponges—sudsy scrubbers
Cut a slit in the side of a sponge and place soap slivers inside to make a sudsy
Stainless steel sinks
(1) Rub stainless steel sinks with olive oil on a soft cloth to remove unsightly
streaks; (2) Remove streaks or heat stains from stainless steel by rubbing with
club soda; (3) Pour some baking soda on a sponge to scour a stainless steel sink;
it is nonabrasive; (4) Remove hard-water spots from a stainless steel sink with a
sponge dipped in a mixture of 3 teaspoons of laundry detergent and 1 cup of
warm water.
Steel wool pads—no rust
After using an SOS or similar brand scouring pad, just set it back in the box with
the unused pads. It won’t rust. This way it will last until it is used up and not
thrown away too soon because it is rusted out.
Sticker and label removal—decals
To remove stubborn decals or residual adhesive, soak a rag in mineral spirits or
laundry stain pretreatment and lay it over the area. After 10 minutes or so, scrape
away decal or adhesive with a plastic windshield scraper or an old credit card.
Wash as usual.
Sticker and label removal—plastic and mirrors
Sticky labels on glass or plastic containers or mirrors come off easily with
rubbing alcohol or cooking oil. If neither is handy, use your laundry prewash
treatment, or, as a last resort, nail polish remover may work. But be careful; nail
polish remover might remove more than the offending label.
Sticker and label removal—wood
If your kids decide to decorate your fine-wood furniture with stick-on labels,
remove them with lemon oil (the labels, not the kids). Using a paper towel or
cloth, dab oil on the labels and allow it to soak in for only a few minutes. The oil
will penetrate into the glue and act as a solvent to soften it. Rub the labels off
with a nylon-net scrubbing pad, being sure to rub in the direction of the wood
Tar or sap from shoes
Petroleum jelly easily removes tar and sap from the soles of shoes.
To remove hard-water and lime buildup in a teakettle, pour in 2 cups of vinegar
and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, then rinse well.
Tea stains in china cups
To remove stains from china teacups, pour an equal amount of salt and white
vinegar in the cups and let stand. Rub off stains with a soft cloth and rinse with
clear water.
Toilet—baking soda
Using a plunger, plunge the water in the toilet until the bowl is nearly empty.
Sprinkle baking soda onto the sides of the toilet bowl, then drizzle with vinegar
and scour with a toilet brush. This both cleans and deodorizes. Flush to rinse and
refill bowl.
Toilet—denture cleaner
If your toilet bowl has stubborn stains, drop one or two denture-cleaning tablets
into the bowl and allow them to sit overnight. Brush and flush.
If you have stains in your toilet that will not budge with any other method, here’s
the severe, last-ditch, toilet-stain-removal secret. Pick up some wet/dry
sandpaper with a grit of between 400 and 600 at the hardware or automotive
supply store. This is very fine sandpaper that, when used with water, will not
scratch the porcelain but should remove the offending stain. Remove as much
water as possible from the bowl, and go to work on the stains.
Toothbrush holder
To remove gunk from the toothbrush holder, roll up a paper towel, wet it with
cleanser, then slide it right through the holes.
Trash can
Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the trash receptacle before putting in the
plastic bag.
In a pinch, use shaving cream as an upholstery cleaner to spot-clean small areas.
It’s very effective.
Vacuum bag reuse
In a pinch, you can reuse a vacuum cleaner bag. Take a full bag outdoors, cut the
bottom seam, and empty contents in the trash. Carefully, reroll and staple closed,
then cover the area with strong tape to restrict any dust from escaping and
clogging your machine.
Vases—icky buildup
To remove mineral and hard-water deposits from vases, scrub them with a wet
cloth that has been dipped into salt. Follow with warm water and soap.
Vases—narrow and hard to clean
Narrow-necked, hard-to-clean vases and other glassware will sparkle when you
clean them with denture-cleaning tablets. Put one or two tablets into the
container and fill with water. Wait a few hours and then rinse.
First, blot the wallpaper with talcum powder to absorb the stain. Then wash the
wallpaper with warm, soapy water. Add white vinegar to the water to clean
grease stains.
Use a plastic wastebasket as a bucket for mopping the floor, and you’ll get two
jobs done at once.
Wicker furniture
Dust wicker furniture with a stiff, clean paintbrush.
Window frames
Use silver polish cream to shine aluminum window frames.
Window screens
First, run a dry sponge over the screen to remove any loose dust. Then, with the
screen propped at a slight angle against a tree or wall, pour a solution of sudsy
ammonia and water (1 cup to 1 gallon) across the top. When it starts to dribble
down, rub with a scrub brush, using an up-and-down motion. When you finish,
turn the screen over and repeat on the other side. Use the garden hose to rinse it,
and place it in the sun to dry.
Clean spotted windowsills with a cloth damp with rubbing alcohol.
Window washing—on cloudy days
Never wash windows on a bright, sunny day. Choose an overcast day instead.
The windows will dry more slowly and have fewer streaks.
Window washing—with alternate strokes
Use vertical strokes when washing outside and horizontal strokes when washing
inside. This way you’ll know which side the streaks are on.
Window washing—with newspaper
Rather than use paper towels to clean mirrors and windows, use newspaper. It
cleans much better than paper towels with less streaking, and the ink never
comes off on the glass. (It may come off on your hands, but they can be washed.)
Use brown shoe polish for covering scratches on wood cabinets, shelves,
furniture, trim, or anything wood. It blends in well even if it is a darker shade.
Apply and wipe off with a dry rag.
Wood—white ring treatment
Rub with a mixture of mayonnaise and white toothpaste. Wipe the area dry, then
treat the entire surface with furniture polish.
Wood cabinets—cleaning
Dirty wooden cabinets can be cleaned with a mixture of 10 parts water and 1
part ammonia or Murphy’s Oil Soap, either of which will strip old polish or wax
and accumulated dirt. Then spray or rub with wax.
Wood cabinets—restoring
To improve the look of wooden surfaces that have become dark or cloudy with
age, make your own fantastic furniture restorative by combining 1 part each
boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and vinegar. Shake well. Apply with a soft cloth
and wipe completely dry. With a second clean cloth, wipe again. Incidentally,
don’t boil linseed oil. Buy it already boiled at a hardware or paint store and use
as is. Caution: Work in a well-ventilated room and wear rubber gloves. Never
store rags that have been soaked in linseed oil or turpentine.
Wood paneling
Clean wood paneling with 1 ounce of olive oil mixed with 2 ounces of white
vinegar and 1 quart of warm water. Emulsify in a blender. Wipe paneling with a
soft cloth dampened in the solution, then follow with a dry cloth to remove
yellowing from the surface.
Apply a thin layer of paste wax to doorjambs, windowsills, and other woodwork
that collects fingerprints and smudges. Cleaning will become a breeze.
To clean painted woodwork stained by grease and smoke, dissolve oldfashioned,
dry laundry starch in water according to package directions. Paint it
on, and when dry, rub with a soft brush and clean cloth. This removes the stains
without harming the finish.

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