The feeling of knowing your home is truly clean is plain-ol' deep-down satisfying, so today I offer a handful of my favorite little-known tips to clean those areas that typically get overlooked (or tips for making common cleaning jobs easier).
And while we've got a number of recipes to homemade cleaners around the site, I've complied my favorites and the ones I use most often in this free download: Clean, Naturally!
And two notes:
One, I mention all-purpose cleaner in a number of places throughout this article. I use the recipe that's located in that free download in those instances, but you may certainly use your favorite all-purpose cleaner if you prefer to skip that recipe.
And two, even if you've never had children and don't intend to, I highly recommend purchasing at least a dozen heavy-duty, high-quality prefold cloth diapers, as they are the best cleaning cloths for spills, dusting, leaking pipes, buffing cars, and pretty much any other cleaning application you can think of. They will last you for YEARS. These are the ones I most highly recommend – for babies, cleaning, and otherwise!
I love high-quality microfiber too and put various pieces of outgrown clothing to good use as rags, but there's just nothing like a good, soft, absorbent diaper to do the job right.
With that, happy cleaning!
Tip #1: For faucets that really shine, wipe down faucets and similar surfaces first with a slightly damp cloth, then buff with a dry towel. If I don't have a clean rag at hand, I like to do this at the end of each day with a lightly-used handtowel (provided no one in the family is ill!), then toss them in the laundry bag and place out fresh towels. Doing double duty makes me feel like a smart mama.
Tip #2: Use floss to get the grimies out of anywhere around your faucet or toilet handle that look, well… grimy.
Tip #3: Save old toothbrushes to scrub small and hard-to-reach places, such as shower door rails, the tops and bottoms of baseboards, heater vents, and those pesky fan covers that are always hard to reach.
Tip #4: To clean showerheads, pour an ample amount of white vinegar into a plastic produce bag or plastic zippered bag (large enough to fully submerge the showerhead nozzle) and tie it in place for an overnight soaking. Remove it in the morning and run the water to rinse. You can also use one of your saved toothbrushes from Tip #3 to scrub away loosened minerals and other build-up, if necessary.
Tip #5: Refresh plastic shower curtains and liners by placing them in the washing machine with a few old towels, which act as scrubbers to help get rid of soap scum and mildew. Wash on warm with a normal amount of detergent. Rehang to dry.
Tip #6: Scrub away soap scum and bathtub rings with pulverized eggshells or other natural abrasives you have around the house. A loofah sponge also works wonders.
Tip #7: Clean your toilet brush by dumping 1 cup of washing soda, 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide, and 1/2 cup white vinegar into the water of the toilet bowl and letting the brush sit in the mixture for several hours. Flush and rinse the brush in the fresh water, then let the brush dry by laying the brush across one part of the seat so that brush itself hangs over the water, then closing the lid to hold the brush in place.
Tip #8: Clear scum and build-up out of your drains by spooning 1 cup baking soda into the drain, trying to get it as far down the pipe as possible, then pour 1 cup white vinegar down the drain and let it fizz for 5-10 minutes. Pour 1 kettle of boiling water over to flush.
Tip #9: To make mirrors shine, use vodka or isopropyl alcohol. I make my glass and window cleaner with 1 part vodka, 1 part white vinegar, and 2 parts distilled water. Spray, wipe, then buff with a lint-free cloth for a perfectly streak-free shine.
Tip #10: Sliding shower door tracks can be infuriating to get really clean, but no more! After you've wiped away as much gunk as you can with a sponge or a cloth, spritz the tracks with all-purpose cleaner, then place a thin, sturdy cloth over a flat-head screwdriver or a pointed chopstick and scrub all the way into the crevices along each side. You can sprinkle very lightly with baking soda if you need a bit more oomph. I like to finish this by running a cotton-tipped swab along the length of the crevice. Wipe and rinse until all the grime residue is gone, then spray lightly with WD-40 or rub with coconut oil for a smoother glide, if necessary.
Tip #11: Clean and gently sanitize your wood chopping blocks and cutting boards by rubbing with a lemon or spritzing them with homemade bleach. If residue remains from the lemon juice, rinse it off after the wood is completely dry.
Tip #12: To clean the inside of grimy bottles and glassware that are difficult to clean (say, a wine bottle that's been used as a flower vase or a narrow-mouthed mason jar after a long fermentation), use uncooked rice. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of uncooked rice along with a few tablespoons of water and a small squirt of dish soap into the bottle, then cap and swish until the bottle is clean.
Tip #13: To polish stainless steel silverware and get rid of the tarnished look that builds-up over time (especially if you use a dishwasher rather than hand-wash), rub each utensil with a thick baking soda paste, then rinse and dry well.
And speaking of stainless steel, rub plain baking soda or our non-toxic kitchen cleanser all over the inside of your stainless steel sinks at least once a week to keep them spot-free and gleaming.
Tip #14: Descale kettles by filling them with equal parts white vinegar and water (use distilled water if you live in an area with hard tap water), bring to a boil, then let sit for several hours or overnight. Rinse well, then boil once with plain water to get rid of any lingering vinegar residue.
Tip #15: To remove the stubborn gunk on non-porous surfaces (such as the stove top), make a paste out of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to scrub those stubborn splatters off. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing, if necessary.
Tip #16: Use a toothbrush or used dental Sulcabrush to scrub wall splash tiles, grout, caulking, any crannies inside your refrigerator, and baseboards, especially near any tables or areas where food is often served or consumed.
Tip #17: Remove long-term underarm stains and ring-around-the-collar by using crushed up digestive enzyme tablets or an enzyme-based cleaner, such as Branch Basics. (This is more a laundry tip than a laundry room tip, but I only tend to tackle this chore when I'm deep cleaning, so it's in my mental “spring cleaning” notes.)
Underarm stains are caused by the lovely mixture of sweat (which is salty), bacteria (which proliferate in warm, damp areas), body oils, and the dust and grime of everyday life. Bleaches don't tend to get these clean because the stains are mostly protein and fat in nature and bleaches merely whiten fabrics rather than actually locking onto those molecules to remove them, so you need enzymes to break them down instead.
To clean underarm stains that have been around a while, crush up a number of digestive enzyme tablets (these inexpensive ones will do just fine) and add water a teaspoon at a time, just until you form a paste. (If the piece of clothing in question is completely white, you could mix the enzymes with hydrogen peroxide as an alternative.) Rub the paste all over the stain and let it sit for 2-4 hours (longer as desired), then launder as usual. For even more potent enzyme action, use Branch Basics. (No, I wasn't paid by Branch Basics to say that – I just am very impressed with the very eco-friendly, non-toxic Branch Basics cleaner!)
Tip #18: Clean the inside of your top-loading washing machine by running a cycle on the hottest setting with the most water possible and for the longest setting available. Once the water has filled, add in a quart of white vinegar and 1 cup of washing or baking soda, then let the mixture sit for about an hour before allowing the cycle to continue. Once the cycle has finished and drained, run the cycle again without any additives (i.e. no vinegar, no bleach – just water).
You can do the same thing with your front-loader, just add the vinegar and baking soda in via the detergent drawer and add (obviously) only as much as the cups can hold – it likely won't be a quart!
Meanwhile, use a toothbrush to clean around all the detergent cups and the base of the lid (top-loader).
Tip #19: Use pillowcases to dust ceiling fans so that dust falls into the cases rather than in your face. Spray the pillowcases lightly with all-purpose cleaning spray, then place a pillowcase over each wing of the fan. Cover the fan switch with tape so the fan can't be turned on while you're dusting, then rub the top and bottom of each wing with the pillowcase to clean it. When you're finished, slip the pillowcases off and toss them in the wash. If your ceiling fan is too high to reach, use an extended pole duster, such as this one. (Wear a shower cap while cleaning, if desired.)
Tip #20: Remove permanent marker, crayon, or dry erase marker from wood surfaces by partially wetting a cloth with isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol) and rub over the mark to effectively erase it without damaging the wood or its finish. (Definitely test this on an inconspicuous place first, as while it has always worked for me without damage, I haven't had opportunity to try it on every type of wood with every type of finish in every type of climate.) This has also worked for me on painted walls, but again, try in an inconspicuous area to see if it will work for you.
Side note: Branch Basics will also work well in this application!
Tip #21: When dusting, don't dry dust, as it's basically just moving dust around, and thus wasted time. Instead, use a very very slightly damp cloth with a mild soap solution (1 tablespoon liquid castile soap per 1/2 gallon of water) or our homemade dusting spray to dust and buff at the same time. It will be healthier AND more pleasant to the eye!
Tip #22: To remove stains from carpets, use copious amounts of salt. If possible, treat the stain as soon as it happens by blotting up as much of the stain as possible, then pouring about a half-an-inch of salt on top of the stain. The salt will wick up the liquid, effectively removing it from the carpet fibers. Let it sit for 1-5 days, adding more salt as necessary. When the salt is dry, break it up and vacuum well. If the stain has already dried, re-moisten it by spritzing it heavily with water, then blot and pour on the salt.
If the stain is in an area where it's not appropriate to have salt sitting for a full day or more, slowly pour soda water over the stain, letting it bubble between each drizzle and blotting up the liquid as you go. An old prefold diaper works beautifully for this.
And of course – like many of our handy tip posts, like our ideas for 31+ Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Children – I can't help but add in a few more tips as time goes by!
Tip #23: To disinfect and freshen up your mattresses, spray them with vodka. Vodka absorb odors and evaporates quickly, so it's a great trick each time you change the sheets – or even just a couple of times a year. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the spray if desired. A pretty & super-sturdy Grove Collaborative glass bottle is perfect for this – just pour in the vodka, add your essential oils, and shake before you spray.
Tip #24: Another dusting tip – use a lint roller to dust cloth lampshades. Lampshades can be magnets for dust, dander, and pet hair, but they're notoriously difficult to wipe clean. So use an adhesive lint roller! Simply run it lightly over the lampshade a few times to grab all those dust bandits.
Adhesive types of lint rollers are also SUPER-handy when the kids have been working on projects with glitter, beads, or cutting paper into a million tiny pieces. We keep this one on hand, since they work really well and the handles are reusable, meaning less waste. Sanity-saver galore!
Tip #25: Use softened crayon to hide scratches in your hardwood floor. If you have scratches in your floor that make you cringe each time you see them, soften a crayon of the same shade as the floor by leaving it in the direct sun until it's pliable (or softening it for just a few seconds in the microwave), then rub it into the scratch. Use a credit card or other strong, flat tool to gently scrape away the excess wax, then buff with a soft cloth. The scratch will hardly be able to be seen, especially if the color match was perfect.
So, there you go – more tips that you can shake a stick at. 😉
Here's to clean, organized, and joy-filled homes!