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17 Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros

These professional secrets will make your house sparkle.

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Marker CleanupThe Family Handyman

Marker Cleanup

When the permanent marker has ended up in the wrong hands, vegetable oil can clean it off lots of surfaces—even skin! Then just wipe up with a damp cloth and you’re done.

See why lemon is such a popular scent with cleaning products.

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Scrapping soap scumThe Family Handyman

Remove Bathroom Soap Scum


Soap has a nasty way of forming a hard-to-remove film on tile in tubs and showers. Instead of rubbing the film off, wait for the surface to dry, then scrape off the scum with a 4-in. plastic putty knife. For grout lines and textured surfaces, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

To prevent soap scum buildup, switch to synthetic soup, rather than real soup. Chemically speaking, any soap in a liquid or gel form, and some bar soaps (like Zest and Ivory), are actually synthetic soaps and much less likely to leave a tough film in your sink, shower or tub. Make sure you’re not making one of these 7 cleaning mistakes in the bathroom.

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Cleaning the shower doorThe Family Handyman

Scum-Proof Your Shower Doors

Keeping shower doors clean and streak free is a challenge—unless you know the pros’ secrets. Start by cleaning any mold, mildew or streaks off the glass with a glass cleaner. Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to get into the cracks in the textured glass. Scrape off tough buildup with a razor blade and dry the doors with a cloth.

Plus: How to Clean a Bathroom Faster and Better

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Using Goo GoneThe Family Handyman

Remove Tree Sap from Vinyl Siding

If drippy trees or deck lumber deposit sap on your vinyl siding, don’t delay cleanup. The longer you wait, the more stubborn the sap will become. If you attack the fresh sap within a week or so, a common kitchen cleaner such as Formula 409 or Fantastik will likely remove the goo. You can also use a biodegradable product such as Simple Green. If standard cleaners won’t dissolve the sap, use a citrus cleaner such as Goo Gone (pick up a bottle, here). Check the label of any product you use to make sure it’s recommended for vinyl and test it in an inconspicuous spot for discoloration. Apply the cleaner with a rag or sponge, then scrub tough spots with a soft-bristle brush.

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Cleaning trash canThe Family Handyman

Trash Can Cleanup

Try using a liquid toilet bowl cleaner to wash the inside of a dirty trash can as it will cling to the sides for better cleaning. A toilet brush will help you reach down inside. Rinse well for a clean can.

Learn how to clean up after almost any home project right here.

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Cleaning vacuum filterFamily Handyman

Clean Your Bagless Vacuum Filter

While bagless vacuums are better for the environment and your machine’s cleaning ability, people avoid cleaning the filters because it’s a messy job. The typical method is to tap the filter against the inside of a trash can until most of the dust falls off. But this raises a thick cloud of dust and doesn’t get the filter completely clean. Here’s a faster, neater, more thorough approach: Take the vacuum out to the garage and clean the pleated filter with a shop vacuum. Some pleated filters have a special coating that you can damage, so be gentle with the shop vacuum nozzle. Clean prefilter screens and post-filters the same way.

Learn what the experts say on how often to change filters on bagless vacuums.

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Long dusterThe Family Handyman

Dusting Out of Reach

Dusting ceiling fans and other high, out-of-reach objects can be a real chore. Wrap a dryer sheet around a clean painting roller and secure the ends with rubber bands. Attach an extension handle to the roller and dust away.

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Shop vacuum mop bucketFamily Handyman

Shop Vacuum Mop Bucket

The dust collection section of your shop vacuum makes a slick-rolling bucket for mop water. You can load it with sudsy water and work fast and effectively—no lugging a heavy bucket around ever again. And when you’re done mopping, just roll it to the sink or floor drain to empty.

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Cleaning with a tennis ballThe Family Handyman

Scuff Mark Eraser

Clean off shoe scuff marks from vinyl flooring with a clean, dry tennis ball. A light rub and heel marks are ‘erased.’

Get more ingenious cleaning tips like this one, here.

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Fast floor squeegeeThe Family Handyman

Super-Fast Floor Squeegee

When you need to round up water on your garage or basement floor, assemble this simple squeegee. Slip a piece of foam pipe insulation over the tines of an ordinary garden rake to push the water to a drain or out the door.

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cleaning smelling sinkFamily Handyman

Citrus Peels and Ice Cubes for a Stinky Disposer

If your disposer has developed an odor, it may contain bits of rotted food. Here’s how to clean them out:

  1. With the water running at about half throttle, drop in orange or lemon peels. Run the disposer for five seconds. Citric acid from the peels softens crusty waste and attacks smelly bacteria. Give the acid about 15 minutes to do its work.
  2. Turn on the water and the disposer and drop in a few ice cubes. Flying shards of ice work like a sandblaster inside the disposer.
  3. Run the water until the bowl is about half full. Then pull the stopper and turn on the disposer to flush it out.

Bad smell in the house? Here’s how to flush the stink out.

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Speed-Clean ChandeliersThe Family Handyman

Speed-Clean Chandeliers

Skip dusting and use a chandelier cleaning spray. First spread a plastic tarp on the floor under the chandelier to catch the drips. Then turn off the light and spray the solution on the chandelier until liquid beads start to run (you’ll use a lot of spray, but it beats wiping). The spray rinses off the dust. The solution that’s left evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave water spots. The spray works well on hanging crystals, but don’t expect it to remove dust from crevices. Here’s where you can buy a bottle.

If you’re tired of cleaning your chandelier and would like to replace it, check out how you can do it yourself.

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Countertop Gap FillerThe Family Handyman

Countertop Gap Filler

If crumbs, papers or even flatware falls into the gap between your countertop and refrigerator, fill the void with nearly invisible plastic tubing. Clear tubing is available at home centers in several widths starting at 1/8 in.

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Baby Wipes in the ShopThe Family Handyman

Baby Wipes in the Shop

Keep a box of unscented baby wipes in your shop and you won’t have to rustle up wet rags during the next gluing project. They do a great job of wiping up glue beads and squeezed-out glue that’s tucked away in cabinet corners. No more of that sanding away or scraping out hardened glue. For more powerful cleaning needs, leave a few baby wipes out for a couple of days, then soak the dried wipes with mineral spirits and use during wood-finishing jobs or for cleaning metal surfaces.

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Flashlight Glass FinderThe Family Handyman

Flashlight Glass Finder

Cleaning up broken glass is a real pain, but it’s nothing compared with a glass shard in the foot. Grab a flashlight and turn off the overhead lights. Scan the floor with the flashlight from a low angle and the shards will glisten, making even the littlest piece stand out.

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Scratching soapThe Family Handyman

Scratch Soap to Keep Fingernails Clean

Whether you’re digging in the garden or working on your car, scratch a bar of soap first. The soap will keep grunge from lodging under your fingernails. Unlike soil or grease, the soap will dissolve when you wash your hands.

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Garbage Bag Holder-UpperThe Family Handyman

Garbage Bag Holder-Upper

Tired of the garbage bag slipping down into the trash can? Cut out the middle of the lid with a utility knife and just snap the outer rim over the bag to keep it in place. This works great for recycling, not so great for stinky stuff!

Check out another garbage hack that involves poking holes in the trash can.

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Originally Published on The Family Handyman

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