25 Cleaning Tips That Actually Work

Sometimes the old classics work better than the newest products. Save time and money with these cleaning tricks and tips.

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Baking soda on the couch
The Family Handyman

The Baking Soda and Vacuum Trick

Baking soda is a natural adsorbent, which means it has the ability to absorb odors when used correctly. If you have fabric-covered furniture, then put some baking soda in a salt shaker or similar dispenser and sprinkle it liberally on the furniture you want to freshen up.

Baking soda doesn’t do its work all at once, so give it time to neutralize as many odor-causing particles as possible. An hour or so is ideal, and for bad situations, you may just want to leave the baking soda on overnight (as long as it won’t get tracked everywhere by pets). When the time has elapsed, get out the vacuum cleaner and thoroughly vacuum up all the baking soda. This should freshen up most fabrics.

Note: Baking soda may have varying effects based on what is causing the odor or general “staleness” of your furniture. It neutralizes acidic compounds very easily, but may not be effective for all problems. However, here are some other brilliant ways to clean with baking soda.

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All-purpose homemade cleaner
M. Show/shutterstock

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Try using a homemade all-purpose cleaner on counter tops and surfaces to disinfect and freshen your home. This recipe includes vinegar, which removes stains and odors and anti-microbial essential oils to keep your home germ free. Check out the best homemade cleaners you can make.

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Wiping down a sink
Paul Biryukov/Shutterstock

Simple Soft Scrub

Industrial soft scrub cleaners can contain strong chemical ingredients, but you can get your tub and shower just as clean with a homemade cleaner. This simple soft scrub recipe will clean a bathroom faster and better, and uses a mixture of baking soda and vinegar, which will dissolve hard mineral deposits and easily cut through soap scum.

These chemical-free cleaners will naturally clean your home.

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woman clean toilet
Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Many commercial toilet bowl cleaners use chlorine bleach, but not this natural toilet bowl cleaner. Instead, castile soap and baking soda get the job done. Plus, you won’t have to worry about accidentally exposing your pets or children to toxic toilet water.

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Hands with spray cleaning the window; Shutterstock ID 169518110; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Homemade Window Cleaner

Forget using chemical cleaners to wash windows. They’ll look clean as a whistle with this all-natural homemade window cleaner, which uses vinegar and cornstarch to buff those fingerprints away. Don’t miss how to clean windows like a pro.

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activated charcoal-simple-unusual-cleaning

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is an even better adsorbent and odor-killer than baking soda, and can deal with a wider variety of particles. However, this highly purified charcoal dust isn’t the best thing to put on your furniture, where it can stain. Instead, consider getting freshener bags of activated charcoal and hiding them in the corners of your furniture to help reduce odors.

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HH Car wax stainless steel appliances

Make Your Appliances Smudge-Free

If you own stainless steel kitchen appliances, you may want to consider using car wax to clean them rather than a surface cleaner. Simply apply a light coat of car wax to the appliance, allow time to dry and buff clean to resist fingerprints and smudges. No more kiddy fingerprints on the fridge! Avoid mixing these household cleaning products.

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Clean a Can Opener with Wax Paper
The Family Handyman

Clean a Can Opener with Wax Paper

Did you know that you can clean and protect your manual can opener with simple wax paper? It’s that easy! Here’s how to do it: Fold a sheet of wax paper a few times; then clamp the can opener onto an edge of the wax paper and turn the handle several times—the same action you would use to open a can. The stiff sheet will break off bits of food and grime from the wheels of the can opener, and the wax residue will lightly lubricate the parts at the same time for smoother operation.

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Living room with tv and table


Because dryer sheets are all about eliminating static cling, used ones work very well as dust cloths, especially on electronics and mini blinds. Are you making your home dirtier with these cleaning mistakes?

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Empty milk pitcher

Clean Milk Stains from Clothes

It seems unusual that a dark cola could remove a milk stain, but the claim exists. After letting the milk stain soak in Coca-Cola for around five minutes, just throw it in the wash. Don’t make these 10 laundry mistakes.

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Cleaning coffee rings
The Family Handyman

Clear Up Coffee Rings

Your guests should’ve used a coaster but now you have a coffee stain on your table. A little dab of toothpaste can get that stain out, just like coffee stains on your teeth.

You might be cleaning these things in your home too much.

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cleaning faucet
The Family Handyman

Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon

Remove hard-water buildup on your faucet with this simple, natural solution: Place half of a fresh lemon on the end of the faucet, wrap a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it to the faucet with a rubber band. After a few hours, remove the lemon and wipe the faucet clean.

Here are some more great ways to clean with lemon.

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Woman spraying the windows

Garden Sprayer Cleans Hard-to-Reach Spots

A garden sprayer can be a mini power washer for cleaning windowsills and other hard-to-reach spots. Before you fill the tank with water, be sure to rinse it repeatedly to flush out any chemical residue.

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Young woman plumping white pillow on bed, closeup; Shutterstock ID 1149647606; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
New Africa/Shutterstock

A Pillowcase Can be a Cleaner

Obviously, you don’t want to use the pillowcase you sleep on every night, but using a pillowcase to clean your ceiling fans is a hack that you need to try ASAP. The pillowcase holds the dust so it doesn’t fall on a table or bed.

These are the smartest ways to get spring cleaning done faster.

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Baked on food residue; baking greese on pan; Burnt food on baking sheet
Taste of Home

Burned-On Foods

Getting burnt food off cookware is no easy feat. But here’s a clever trick: put a new dryer sheet at the bottom of the dirty pan, add water and let it soak overnight. The next day, wipe out the pan and you’re good to go. These two ingredients will take care of that burned on food.

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Dusting cushion with tennis racket
The Family Handyman

Beat The Dust out of Cushions With a Tennis Racket

Upholstery absorbs lots of dust—and then sends it airborne every time you sit down. Routine vacuuming reduces the problem, but can’t suck out the deep-down dust. So take cushions outside a couple of times each year, preferably on a windy day, and spank the dust out of them. An old tennis racket makes a great upholstery beater.

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Child playing piano
Mongkol Foto/Shutterstock

Whiten Piano Keys

Piano keys can get discolored over time and through use. Get them to sing a different tune by cleaning them with toothpaste.

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Lemon and silverware
The Family Handyman

Polish Your Metal

No matter how careful you are with your stainless-steel pots, those nice steak knives or that fancy coffee travel mug, sometimes they get small rust spots due to residual water. Next time you notice a small rust spot on your metal kitchen tools, use lemon juice and a sponge. Simply squeeze a little lemon juice into a sponge and rub it on the surface.

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Holding sneakers
Dzmitry Khomich/Shutterstock

Shine Up Sneakers

Get loose dirt off your shoes with a toothbrush. Dip it into a teaspoon of laundry detergent mixed with a cup of water or add some toothpaste. Use the solution on the fabric, mesh and rubber areas, but don’t use it on foam or leather.

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DIY sugar scrub
The Family Handyman

DIY Hand Scrub

Harsh hand cleaners can irritate the skin, especially during cold weather. But reader Jay Bjornstad uses dish soap with sugar instead—and it still cuts through the grease to get his hands squeaky clean after a long day in the shop.

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Egg yolks in microwave
The Family Handyman

Clean Your Microwave

There’s no scrubbing required here! You can get a squeaky-clean microwave without using harsh chemicals. Just squeeze some lemon juice into a bowl of warm water, add the lemon rinds and microwave for 5 minutes. The water will start to boil and the steam will loosen the dried bits of food. When the timer goes off, carefully remove the hot bowl and use a clean towel to wipe everything clean. Plus, when your microwave is clean, you can use it to execute these brilliant tricks.

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Removing oil with a brush
The Family Handyman

Oil Remover

The phosphoric acid in Coca-Cola proves tough on oil stains around the garage. Pour some of the room-temperature soda over a stain, let it soak overnight and soak it up the next day by blotting the area. Not a Coke drinker? Check out other ideas on how to remove greasy stains from pretty much anywhere.

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Iron on a towel
The Family Handyman

Iron Cleaner

An old iron will accumulate stains through years of use but an old toothbrush and toothpaste can breathe some new life into that iron by removing the stains.

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Two dogs under a white sheet peeking out

Pet Hair

We love our pets but dealing with pet hair is tedious. If you see clumps of unshed hair on your pet, use a dryer sheet to gently remove them and avoid the mess altogether. If you see hair on the floor, a used dryer sheet works well to dust and grab the whole mess. And as we all know, hair is not the only cleaning problem you face when you have a pet. Here’s the best way to remove pet hair from your clothes.

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Organized drawers with tupperware
The Family Handyman

Revamp Tupperware

Tupperware can take on a funky smell but you can eradicate that smell by cleaning it with toothpaste. Just rinse it off after cleaning it and remember to keep the lid off to prevent the smell from returning. While you’re cleaning up, be sure to steal these 17 genius house cleaning hacks from professional cleaners.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman