Even for avowed neatniks, cleaning the house can feel like a thankless task. In a 2012 survey from 3M, 87 percent of individuals polled admitted to taking shortcuts to make these chores go by more quickly. The good news? There are tons of easy ways to spruce up your space without a major investment of time—and some of them have been around for decades. With these mind-blowing, old-fashioned cleaning tips, getting your home spotless is a breeze. And for what not to do, here are 23 Common Cleaning Mistakes That Experts Say Actually Ruin Your Home.
Use mayonnaise to get water rings out of tables.
A little bit of leftover sandwich spread is all you need to remove those pesky cup rings from your wooden surfaces. “Dab a quarter-size amount of mayo on a towel and scrub the surface,” says Sarah Brunette, brand director of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. And while this cleaning tip may seem wacky, Brunette assures,”Within seconds, the stains will disappear.” For more tips, here are 7 Cleaning Supplies You’re Definitely Not Replacing Enough.
Get rid of rust with lemonade mix.
Want to rid your metal tools or outdoor furniture of pesky rust? All it takes is some lemonade powder and a little elbow grease.
“Rub the mixture on the surface and the citric acid from the drink powder will eat away the rust,” says Brunette.
Erase scuff marks on your walls with cucumber.
That mark where the back of your chair hit the wall doesn’t have to become a permanent eyesore. In fact, one of the easiest cleaning tips for your home requires looking no further than your crisper drawer.
“Use the outside of the [cucumber] peel to remove scuffs on tables and walls around the house,” says Brunette. Simply rub the peel on the offending mark and it’ll be gone before you know it. For the chore you’re missing, here’s The No. 1 Thing You’re Definitely Not Cleaning Every Day But Should Be.
Use salt and lime to remove stuck-on grease.
If you’ve got a layer of grease covering your stove or microwave, your favorite tequila shot accoutrements are the perfect way to get it off.
“Salt acts as an abrasive for the gunk and the acids in the lime helps to break it down and clean it easily,” says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas, Texas. Simply rub the lime over the surface and massage in the salt, then wipe away with a water-dampened cloth for a flawless clean.
Get grease out of a carpet with alcohol and salt.
You don’t need a professional carpet cleaning machine to get those greasy stains out of your rugs. Instead, simply combine one part salt and four parts rubbing alcohol.
“Create a thick paste, then apply over the stained area of your carpet,” says Dean Davies, cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Services, a cleaning and home organizing company based in the UK. However, Davies cautions against rubbing the paste vigorously against the rug’s fibers, or you may cause color to bleed or a change in the rug’s texture. For more guidance on keeping your floor coverings good as new, This Is the Healthiest Way to Clean Your Carpets.
Grab pet hair from surfaces with a pair of kitchen gloves.
No lint roller handy? No problem! If you’ve got a pair of kitchen gloves, you’ve got everything you need to get that pet hair off your furniture and hard surfaces.
“Just slide [the gloves] on and rub down any areas that need extra cleaning,” says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer of housekeeping company The Cleaning Authority. When you’re done, just rinse the gloves and the hair will come right off.
Dust your electronics with a coffee filter.
Those filters in your kitchen cabinet aren’t just great for making your morning pick-me-up—they’re also the right tools for getting your electronics sparkling clean.
Coffee filters “are perfect for clearing dust from TV screens, computer monitors, and any other screens around the home, without leaving behind any fibers like towels do,” says Stapf. Simply swipe them over the dusty surface and you’re good to go—no dusting spray needed. To help you sketch out your cleaning schedule, Here’s How Often You Should Clean Every Room in Your House.
Pick up broken glass with a piece of bread.
Anyone who’s ever dropped a water glass or shattered a lightbulb can attest to the fact that glass is notoriously hard to pick up. And before the days of Dysons, folks used a surprising method for getting those shards off the ground: bread. Just take a slice of sandwich bread then “put it to work by pressing down over areas where glass smithereens remain,” says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly company.
Clean your mirrors with black tea.
That grimy mirror is no match for a spot of tea. Brew a strong cup of black tea, transfer it to a spray bottle, and “let tea’s tannic acid do the work you don’t want to,” says Roberson. For more hacks that will change the way you take care of your house, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Remove scratches on your windows with toothpaste.
Those little scratches on glass are easy to remove with a staple in virtually every bathroom: toothpaste! Simply “apply a dab of toothpaste to a soft cloth, then scrub in a circular motion,” says Roberson. Wipe it away with a damp cloth, followed by a dry one. Just make sure you’re doing this with a traditional toothpaste and not a gel one, which doesn’t have the abrasive properties necessary to get those scratches out for good.
Use cornstarch to get your glass streak-free.
You may have heard of using cornstarch to thicken sauces or even as a face powder, but did you know it’s also a great way to get your glass clean without streaks? Mihaela Davidova, a cleaning expert at Fantastic Cleaners in London, advises mixing a quarter cup of white vinegar, two cups of warm water, and a tablespoon of cornstarch, and then shaking well to dissolve the cornstarch before applying it to the surface you want to clean.
“The cornstarch granules are very fine, making it naturally abrasive but safe to use on delicate surfaces such as glass,” explains Davidova. “You’ll be able to scrub off any streaks and imperfections.” When you’re done, wipe off the solution with a clean cloth and you’re good to go!
Remove stains on your cooking utensils or cutting boards with lemon.
Whether you’ve stained your cutting board chopping berries or discolored a wooden spoon by leaving it in your homemade tomato sauce for too long, there’s a simple fix right there in your kitchen.
“Acid is a great way to degrade materials,” says Arthur Ruth, Vice President of Operations at Memphis Maids. “Lemon comes in handy because it helps to eliminate the solids that hang on the stained surface and it leaves it spotless.” Just don’t use lemon to remove stains from stone floors or counters, or the acid could degrade the porous material they’re made of.
Or use a lemon to cut grease from your dishes.
Want to get that greasy pile of dishes clean in no time? “Cut a lemon in half and use it on the greasy plate,” suggests Ruth. Scrub the dish with the lemon to help loosen the grease, then follow up with traditional dish soap to remove any mess that remains.
Clean your dirty pans with baking soda.
Your usual detergent may not do much to lift that caked-on grime from your pots and pans, but another kitchen staple will: baking soda. This common fridge deodorizer and baking ingredient “works as fine sandpaper,” explains Ruth. Use a scrub brush or toothbrush to apply the baking soda to the pan and you can easily scrub those messes away in seconds.
Or clean your oven with both baking and washing soda.
While you may never have heard of washing soda before, it could pay to keep some of the sodium carbonate-based cleaning product on hand. It’s not only great for cleaning laundry (its intended purpose); it can clean your oven, too.
Mix a box of baking soda with a quarter cup of washing soda and spray it on the grimy surfaces inside your oven, leaving it overnight, suggests Sean Parry, a cleaning expert at U.K.-based home cleaning company Neat Services. In the morning, remove the dried mixture with a soft cloth—or scouring pad for tougher messes—and follow up with a damp cloth to remove any remaining residue.
Use rubbing alcohol to get fingerprints off of stainless steel.
Stainless steel cleaners are effective, but undeniably pricey. So, what did folks used to do to keep this notoriously finger-print-prone material clean? With a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton cloth, you can easily get those fingerprints off of drawer pulls, doorknobs, and appliances.
Clean a stained coffee pot with salt.
To get your coffee pot looking as good as new once again, all you need are a few handy kitchen staples. Add “four teaspoons of salt, a cup of ice (crushed, preferably), a tablespoon of water, and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice,” recommends cleaning expert Kait Schulhof, founder of cleaning blog A Clean Bee. Swirl the mixture around until the stains disappear, and soon your pot will be good as new.
And neutralize fridge odors with coffee grounds.
Think you have to toss those coffee grounds once you’re done with them? Think again! Those leftovers from your morning brew are a great way to keep fridge odors at bay. Just toss them in an uncovered bowl, place them in the fridge, and replace once a week—the grounds will absorb lingering odors and leave a pleasant smell in their place.
Remove sticker residue with white vinegar.
That bottle of vinegar you’ve used to make pickle brine was the pre-Goo Gone solution to any sticky problem, particularly removing sticker and label residue. According to Davidova, it’s such a powerful dissolving agent that you can just apply it where a sticker once was and it will remove any adhesive powers left in the glue.
Or use Crisco to remove stickers and labels.
No vinegar in your house? No problem! If you’ve got some Crisco in your kitchen, that sticky label residue will be a thing of the past. Schulhof says it’s such an effective means of targeting sticky substances that it can even get gum out of hair!
Remove scratches from wood with walnuts.
Before there were commercial scratch removers, people just cracked open a walnut to get those marks off their wooden tables. Joanne Archer, a cleaning expert with Expert Home Tips, says that rubbing a piece of walnut meat into superficial scratches on wood surfaces will get rid of them stat.
Use white vinegar in place of fabric softener.
Is your laundry feeling a little less than clean when you get it from the dryer? Instead of using fabric softener, add some white vinegar to your next load of laundry. “White vinegar will strip all of the detergent build up from your fabrics, making towels fluffy and soft again,” says Archer, who notes that that pungent vinegar scent won’t be noticeable once the wash cycle is complete.
Soak your clothes in detergent and water before washing them.
Today, there are a dozen stain pre-treatment products on the shelves at your local big box store. But 50 years ago, if you wanted to get out a tough clothing stain, you took a different approach: giving those garments a nice, long pre-soak.
Soaking a stained garment in a mixture of detergent and water for a few hours prior to popping it in the washing machine means the stain will lift out easily, according to Ruth, who claims that “this works 100 percent of the time.”
Remove stains from clothing with glycerin.
Once used for everything from dry skin to diaper rash, glycerin also happens to be a great way to get tough stains out of clothing. Schulhof says you just “rub it on the stain, allow it to sit for an hour or more, then blot with a damp cleaning cloth until the stain is gone.”
Or use rubbing alcohol to treat stains.
Folks have had leaky pens since time immemorial, but it’s only been in recent years that we’ve had options like Tide to Go pens and Shout Wipes to get those ink stains out. So, how did one previously combat those messes? Rubbing alcohol! Place a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and then apply it directly on to the stain before the garment gets tossed in the wash. It’ll help lift that ink in no time.
Use baking soda, vinegar, and water to unclog a drain.
Prior to the days of commercial drain cleaners, there was a simple solution to getting drains unclogged: baking soda and vinegar.
“Take a tablespoon of baking soda and pour it down the drain. Follow the baking soda with a full cup of white vinegar,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, Chief Hygiene Officer at Pro Housekeepers. After two minutes, pour a few cups of boiling water down the drain and the clog will disappear.
Keep mildew from forming with a spritz of white vinegar.
That mildew in your bathroom is no match for the vinegar in your cabinet. Rodriguez recommends combining one part white vinegar with three parts water, putting the mixture into a spray bottle, and applying it to areas where you typically encounter mildew issues. Just don’t do this on porous stone, as the vinegar’s acidity can erode it.
Remove mineral buildup from your shower head with white vinegar and a sandwich bag.
Grimy shower head, meet your greatest old-school enemy: white vinegar. To remove those mineral deposits, fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar, then secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. “Let this sit for several hours, then remove the bag,” says Rodriguez.
She recommends following this up with a light scrubbing with a soft toothbrush to get rid of any remaining residue.
Clean your toilet bowl with Borax.
You might think of Borax as an old-fashioned way of washing clothes, but it’s also a great way to clean your toilet.
“Before going to bed, take a cup of Borax and sprinkle this around your toilet bowl, then pour in a cup of vinegar,” says Parry. In the morning, scrub with a toilet brush and flush to get your toilet bowl sparkling clean.
Or use Alka-Seltzer tablets.
Fizzing antacid tablets do more than just cure heartburn—they can even be used to get stains out of your toilet bowl. “Drop some tablets inside the bowl and let the fizzing do the rest,” says Harriet Jones, cleaning and maintenance supervisor for Go Cleaners London. Then scrub and flush and you’re good to go!
Use vinegar and water to clean your silver jewelry.
Removing tarnish from your silver jewelry doesn’t require fancy chemical dips or ultrasonic jewelry cleaners. Instead, “soak your silver items in a solution of half a cup vinegar and water,” says Jones. After a few hours, “you can scrub them with an old toothbrush” and dry them with a soft cloth, she notes. Just don’t use this technique on pearls, turquoise, or other porous stones, as it can wear them down over time.
Remove tarnish on brass with ketchup.
Instead of running out to the store to grab some polish at the last minute, Schulhof says you can get your brass serving platters and utensils sparkling with a little bit of ketchup.
So, how do you do it without leaving your brass sticky and smelling like a bottle of Heinz? After you’ve polished the brass with the ketchup on a soft cloth, “rinse with clean, warm water and dry completely to finish,” says Schulhof.
Clean your vases with Alka-Seltzer tablets.
Instead of plunging your hand into the murky abyss at the bottom of that vase, try dropping a few Alka-Seltzer tablets and some water into it instead. Jones recommends allowing the mixture to sit in the vase for an hour, then giving it a rinse. Once it’s dry, the vase will look perfectly clean.