35 Nearly Forgotten House Cleaning Tips From the Past
Grandma knows all the best cleaning tips and tricks to save you time, money and effort. You'll want to stock up on vinegar and lemon juice.
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Summer’s heat can sometimes cause garbage cans to give off an unpleasant odor. Reader Michael Sienkowski of Norwich, Connecticut, says, “If you grow mint, cut a fresh sprig and place it in the garbage can every day. It keeps the can smelling fresh all season long.” After you’ve given your garbage a refresh, use the rest of your mint bumper crop to make these 63 fresh recipes.
No More Moths
Keep moths away from your clothes with a natural solution. Reader Mrs. T. Peterson of Knife River, Minnesota says, “Make your own mothballs by mixing oil of cloves and oil of cinnamon, then soaking cotton balls in this mixture. Place the cotton balls in muslin bags and hang them in your closets.” Have pests in your pantry, too? Here’s how you can get rid of them.
Wash Away Dust
Air vent covers are a hidden dirty spot in your home. Marge Grandy of Flippin, Arkansas, says, “I run all my metal heat and air conditioning vent covers through the dishwasher every spring and fall. It saves lots of time and does a better job than doing it by hand.” Follow these cleaning tips to reduce household dust.
If you use a wood-burning stove, you can make your own humidifier. Therese DeVlieger of Davis Junction, Illinois, says, “Fill an old coffee can two-thirds full of water. Add cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel and place it on the stove. When the water gets hot, it gives off a pleasant scent and gives the home extra moisture.” You can do this without a wood-burning stove, too!
Keep Cookbooks Clean
Tired of splattering and spilling ingredients all over your cookbooks? Rosa Graber of Odon, Indiana, says, “Once you’ve turned to the page you want, slip the book inside a large plastic food storage bag to protect the pages.” This checklist will help you always have a clean kitchen.
DIY Glass Cleaner
Mildred Zuercher of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, says this homemade solution cleans windows, glass and mirrors. “Mix 2 ounces rubbing alcohol, 2 ounces of ammonia and 12 ounces of water. Add a drop of blue food coloring and mark it clearly to distinguish it from other cleaners. Pour into a spray bottle and use as you would a store-bought cleaner.” These are the best homemade cleaners to use around the house.
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Tired of scraping stickers off of your new stuff? Herman Ensey of Scottsbluff, Nebraska says, “Remove sticky price tags from glass by spraying with WD-40. It works well.”
Polish Your Silver
Banish the tarnish with this simple solution from reader Lois Kreider of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “Place silver in an aluminum pan or in your kitchen sink lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of baking soda and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes. See what else is really great to do with aluminum foil.
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Soak Your Shower Head
To remove hard water buildup on your shower head, reader Jennie Krell, El Cajon, California says, “Pour some white distilled vinegar in a plastic bag and place it around the showerhead so the head is completely submerged. Tie the bag around the pipe and leave it overnight. You’ll find the showerhead will spray like new again in the morning.” Here are 32 other ways you can clean with vinegar.
When her handheld can opener gets balky, Ruth Brennan of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says she uses a toothbrush, hot water and dishwashing detergent to clean it. “After cleaning, lubricate the opener with vegetable oil and set it aside for a while. Wipe off the excess oil and it will work like new.”
A Nutty Solution
To color in nicks or scratches in furniture, cabinets, wood trim, etc., reader C. Clingingsmith of St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, says, “Rub them with a pecan nut. The oil of the nut will ‘re–stain’ the wood.” Then turn those pecans into one of these nutty recipes.
Get Rid of Glue
Reader Mary Yoder, Montezuma, Georgia, has a solution for sticky situations. “When you must remove a spot of glue, use vinegar. It’s a good glue thinner or remover.” But use caution—there are some things you should never clean with vinegar.
Stainless steel lost its luster? Pat Peters of Matteson, Illinois, says, “Place your flatware in a pan with bubbly carbonated water, soda water, club soda or seltzer. Let set until the fizz has fizzled. Your stainless will shine like new!” If sparkling water is your thing, be sure to check out which brand our editors loved the best.
Brush Away Dirt
Do you have a tough time cleaning wicker items? Reader Sherry Hearn of Trego Montana, says, “Just spray your favorite furniture polish onto an inexpensive paintbrush. It makes getting to the hard-to-reach spots easier and takes a lot less time.” These are the green cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy.
Don’t freak out when the kids’ artwork goes beyond the coloring book. Reader Claire Utt of Winfield, Kansas says, “Rubbing alcohol easily removes ink from clothing and crayon marks from woodwork and wallpaper.”
Gum Be Gone
To remove gum from fingers or hair, reader Mrs. V. Walston of Bedford, Iowa, says “Rub creamy peanut butter or vegetable oil into the gum. Wait a few minutes. The gum will come right off. Then wash your hands or hair as normal.” Here’s how to get gum out of almost everything.
When your hands are dirty from yard work, reader Marjorie Little, Sarasota, Florida, has a great tip. “Tuck a bar of soap in the toe of a nylon stocking and tie it to your outdoor water faucet for fast garden cleanup.” Then plant these easy to maintain veggies in your garden.
Clean Up Concrete
Perk up your patio with this suggestion from reader Ann Norstram of Clinton, Iowa. “Rust stains from outdoor furniture can be removed from concrete by using lemon juice and rubbing with a soft linen cloth.” Check out these before and after cleaning photos you have to see to believe.
Keep your grill looking great. Nancy Merica of Ripley, West Virginia, says, “Lay a barbecue grill rack on the lawn overnight. The dew will combine with enzymes on the grass to loosen any burned on grease. Try it with messy oven racks, too!” Check out which vegetable is great at cleaning a grill.
For dusting under furniture and hard-to-reach places, Deanna Thomas of Hollister, Missouri says, “I slip an old sock onto a fly swatter and sew it securely into place. It’s very handy.” Psst—these are the best cleaning tips for people with allergies.
Polish With Milk
Reach into the fridge for this handy hint. Mrs. L.E. Ford of Portland, Oregon, says, “Patent leather handbags and shoes can be quickly brightened with a polish of milk. Apply with a soft cloth and rub into a shiny new finish.”
Wash Those Walls
Reader Milton Olson of Klaten, North Dakota, says, “Fill a paint roller with your favorite wall washing solution and use a clean paint roller to wash your walls. Rinse with clear water. It goes much more quickly than sponging.” These tips will help you clean your home faster, too.
Wipe Away Hairspray
Don’t fret when you accidentally get hair spray on a mirror. Ann Peardot of Tomah, Wisconsin, says you make the glass spotless again by rubbing the mirror with a sponge or cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol. Did you know some common household cleaners should never mix?
So Long, Soap Scum
To keep shower doors shiny and clear, Mildred Sherrer of Bay City, Texas says use a soft cloth moistened with baby oil. “It prevents scum buildup from dirt and soap, and hard water spots won’t appear for several months.” You need to know these tips on how to remove hard water stains too!
Heavy Duty Helper
Maureen Beaver of Sparta, Wisconsin says wadded up aluminum foil makes a great kitchen scrubber. Use it to tackle tough stains and baked-on food. Try these 50 cleaning tips and tricks to make your home shine.
A Saucy Solution
To preserve the bright shine of brass, reader Lucile Trent of Waverly, Missouri says, “Clean it with Worcestershire sauce. It does an unbelievably good job!” Discover another condiment that’s great at cleaning.
Avoid a tangled mess in the laundry. Katherine Kalmbach of Selby, South Dakota says, “If you button shirt cuffs to the front of a shirt before putting it in the washer, the sleeves won’t knot and tangle in the wash.” Here are some laundry mistakes you should try to avoid.
Taste of Home
If you break a plate while making a sandwich, grab some extra bread. Reader Carolyn Robinson of Lawrence, Mississippi says, “Clean up slivers of broken glass without hurting yourself by pressing a slice of fresh bread lightly over the area, then immediately disposing of it.”
Wash the Wastebasket
Clean two messes at once. Reader Marge Harold of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, says, “If you have a small plastic wastebasket in your bathroom, empty it and use it as a bucket when you clean your bathroom, so it gets cleaned, too.” Here’s how you’re probably cleaning your bathroom wrong.
Steam Away Stains
To easily clean your microwave without chemicals, Mary Alice Warren of Waco, Texas says, “Place 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or baking soda in a bowl. Heat on high until the mixture boils. Let steam accumulate on the walls and door of the microwave. Remove the bowl and wipe down the interior.” These are the microwave tricks every cook should know.
When your hands get badly stained or extra dirty, reader Mildred Shlenz of Vancouver, Washington says, “Add a teaspoon of sugar to the lather when you wash them. They’ll clean up easily.”
Cars and Carpets
Eliminate stinky scents at home and on the road. Reader Sally Tilson of Davison, Michigan, says “Sprinkle baking soda on your car’s upholstery and carpeting before vacuuming to remove odors.” Here are more great car cleaning tips and tricks.
This decorative directive comes from reader Menno Erb of Sugar Creek, Ohio. “When silk flower arrangements look old and dusty, dip them gently and quickly in warm water with dish detergent in it. Then place them on a towel to dry. They come out looking new!”
Give yourself an added incentive to finish the ironing. Reader Mrs. Harlin Jacoles of Foley Minnesota says, “Add a little witch hazel to the water in your steam iron. Your clothes will smell sweet and fresh.” Check out the secrets of people who always have a clean house.
Shaving cream has more than one use in the bathroom. Mrs. Roy Lairmore of Beatrice, Nebraska says, “Your bathroom mirror won’t fog up if you clean it with canned shaving cream. It works on eyeglasses, too.” Next, read about the brilliant cleaning tips we learned from grandma.