A few of our favorite cleaning pros share some of their best tips for stubborn spots around the house. From stains in the laundry room to fingerprints on the refrigerator to the (dreaded!) toilet bowl, they have a solution for it all.
Drop of Olive Oil
Are fingerprints all over the fridge driving you crazy? Melissa Maker, founder of the Clean My Space cleaning company, YouTube channel, and blog has a solution. “I use a drop of oil (olive oil or even baby oil will work) on a paper towel to shine stainless steel to get rid of any fingerprints I missed in cleaning and to keep the surface cleaner for longer. Buff the oil in—going with the grain of the stainless—and wipe off any excess with a clean paper towel. This trick is magic.” She once once got a standing ovation for this hack at a family dinner.
“I tell people to keep a piece of white chalk in the laundry room to rub on grease stains and absorb the oil. Launder as usual and the piece should come out clean,” says Becky Rapinchuk, creator of Cleanmama.net. This should do the trick on butter, salad dressing, cooking oil, and more. No chalk on hand, but need an immediate solution? Break out the cornstarch from your baking caddy or talcum powder from the medicine cabinet and sprinkle it over the stain, let sit for for 10 minutes to soak up the oil, and wash.
Pull the Vacuum Cleaner Slowly
Here's what some people might not realize: pushing the vacuum forward is mostly about getting it into the right position. It's pulling it that actually removes any soil. “So slow down on the pull pass for cleaner carpets!” says Donna Smallin Kuper, certified house cleaning technician and author of Cleaning Plain & Simple ($17, amazon.com). When cleaning hard floor surfaces, vacuums can blow around a lot of the debris you are trying to clean up. Avoid the hassle by sucking up dust and furballs using the vacuum’s wand attachment first. Then give the floor a pass with the machine on the hard floor setting. If your floors still don’t seem to be coming clean, it may be time to invest in a new machine.
“When you use a product or chemical to clean, there’s often residue left behind. Soil and dirt adhere to the residue, requiring further cleaning. A steam cleaner, however, uses a vapor of hot water to remove soil and dirt without any sticky residue,” says Debra Johnson, manager of the training program at Merry Maids, a national cleaning company. You can even use a steam cleaner to freshen carpets. Donna Smallin Kuper’s favorite model for sanitizing her space is the Reliable Steamboy Pro because it reaches up to 248 degrees and has a washable, removable microfiber pad to prevent waste.
“I add a teaspoon of cornstarch to a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water (my standard window cleaning solution) and the results are incredible,” says Melissa Maker. “The glass becomes so shiny and crystal clear. The cornstarch is the magic ingredient—it’s a very fine natural abrasive that helps work away grime and leave behind a streak-free shine.” Along with the secret ingredient in her window and glass cleaner, Maker also says that cornstarch comes in handy for tackling smelly odors and grease stains and even cleaning stuffed animals.
“Water spots and mineral deposits on bathroom and kitchen faucets and fixtures are eyesores and tough to remove,” says Becky Rapinchuk. “Saturate a paper towel or microfiber cloth with white vinegar and place over the deposits. Let it sit for five to 15 minutes, then wipe away. The acid in the vinegar breaks down the deposits, leaving your faucets and fixtures shiny.” Use a similar trick for your showerhead: fill a shopping bag with vinegar, tie it around the showerhead, and leave it overnight to soak. Run the shower in the morning to rinse clean. If the shower curtain needs a refresh as well, toss it in the washing machine with a towel to help slough off any soap scum.
“I wet a Brillo pad to clean my glass shower doors—it cleans soap scum and water spots faster and easier than anything else I’ve tried. (And no, it won’t scratch the glass),” says Donna Smallin Kuper. Every three months or so, she applies Rain-X Original Glass Treatment in order to repel water spots in the first place. Another way to avoid buildup is to squeegee the glass shower doors after you hop out of the shower. All of these methods come in handy to help prevent having to do more work scrubbing later on.
“You should always clean a room from top to bottom so that you never have to clean a surface twice. And always start at the corner furthest from the room’s entrance, working your way out the door,” advises Debra Johnson. Map out your routine so you take the most efficient route for the time you have allotted. In the bedroom, for example, start by dusting the ceiling fan blades (so much dust!), then move to the tops of furniture, and make your way down to the sheets, and ultimately the floor. As you go, dust that doesn’t collect in your duster or on your microfiber cloth, will fall to the floor, which you will tackle last.
No one likes to clean the toilet, but Melissa Maker has a trick for taking away some of the gross-factor: After brushing, “close the toilet seat on top of the toilet bowl brush handle so it can drip-dry into the bowl (for about 10 minutes or until dry) before setting the brush back in its holder. Even though I’ve shared this tip for years, when people hear it for the first time, it’s like a light-bulb goes on for them. A wet toilet bowl brush is disgusting.” Work in this order when wiping down the rest of the toilet: handle, tank lid, front of tank, top of toilet lid, inside lid, top and underside of seat, rim of bowl, outside of bowl, toilet base, to the back.
Large Ziploc bag
“Have you got smelly sports gear that can’t be washed (like a helmet)?” Becky Rapinchuk says to “put it in an extra large plastic zip top bag and place it in the freezer overnight. The smell is from bacteria and the cold air kills that bacteria and eliminates the scent.” You can also use the freezer to remove gummy sticker residue from synthetic fibers or wax from table linens. The freezer will harden the material and make it easier to pick or gently scrape off. The best thing about the freezer is, because bacteria can’t grow in its zero degree temperature, you hardly ever have to clean the freezer itself (barring any spills, of course).
Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
“The easiest way to clean coffee stains from the inside of your mug? Just wet a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and wipe them away,” says Donna Smallin Kuper. Everyone’s favorite cleaning sponge is made of melamine foam, which acts as a gentle abrasive to agitate stuck on stains like these (we suggest washing the mug before using again). Got a coffee stain on your shirt? Stretch the fabric over a bowl and carefully pour boiling water over the spot from about a foot above. The pressure of the hot water should flush the stain from the fabric. Launder as usual.
“Using a wet pumice stone will naturally remove toilet rings and other stains,” says Debra Johnson. “Always be sure to wet the stone, as a dry one may scratch surfaces.” If you really want to deep clean the bowl, first dump a cup of baking soda in, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush and follow that with the pumice stone trick for good measure. Or, learn what you should do on a daily, weekly, and seasonal basis to keep that space sparkling clean with rather minimal effort. The bathroom is no one’s favorite spot to clean, but following these expert tips can help ease the pain.