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50 Unusual Cleaning Solutions That Actually Work

Ever use Coca-Cola to clean oil stains in your garage? It works! Check out 49 more unusual yet effective cleaning solutions that will make your home sparkle.

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safety glasses in dishwasherFamily Handyman

Clean safety glasses in the dishwasher

If your safety glasses have picked up too much gunk to be cleaned with a simple damp cloth, toss them on the top rack of your dishwasher and run them through a wash. Most safety glasses are durable enough to take the heat and spray of a dishwasher cycle, and they’ll come out sparkling clean with minimal effort by you. For some more cleaning tips, here are some things you didn’t know you could clean in your dishwasher.

Cleaning Vacuum with a VacuumFamily Handyman

Clean a vacuum with a vacuum

The typical way to clean the filter of a bagless vacuum is to tap it against the inside of a trash can until most of the dust falls off. But that raises a cloud of dust and doesn’t get the filter completely clean. For faster, neater, more effective filter cleaning, use your shop vacuum. Clean pre-filter screens and post-filters the same way. Just remember to be gentle with the shop vacuum’s nozzle. Some filters have a coating that you can scrape off if you press too hard. Are you skeptical about whether or not those robot vacuums really work? Here’s what we think.

wiping salt residue off of shoes with vinegarFamily Handyman

How to get rid of salt residue on shoes

You can clean off the residue quickly with a simple solution that you can make at home. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar. Shake it up a bit and spritz the mixture onto a clean paper towel. Gently wipe your shoes, and watch the salt residue disappear. Keep the spray bottle near your shoe collection, so you can clean off your shoes as the season goes.

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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. In fact, here are 11 things you shouldn’t clean with baking soda.

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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. This is the difference between wax paper and parchment paper.

Homemade All-Purpose CleanerM. Show/shutterstock

Homemade all-purpose cleaner

Try using a homemade all-purpose cleaner on countertops 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 complete step-by-step process to make it and learn about some homemade carpet cleaners you already have in your home.

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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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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. Get the complete recipe here. Plus, find out some ways you’re probably cleaning your bathroom wrong.

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Clean a cast iron skillet with coarse salt

To prevent rust and extend the life of a cast-iron skillet, it’s best not to use soap to clean it. Instead, use about a tablespoon of coarse salt to scrub the pan after a meal.

The salt breaks up bits of stuck food and residue on the skillet. Then you can toss the dirty salt in the trash, rinse the pan with hot water and dry it with a clean towel. To further protect a cast iron skillet, rub a few drops of vegetable oil over the entire cooking surface. By the way, this is the best way to restore a rusted cast iron skillet.

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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. See the complete instructions here.

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Garden gloves to dust knick-knacks

Slip on a pair of cotton garden gloves and turn your fingers into cleaning tools for knick-knacks and other small accessories throughout your home and office. Add a spritz of antibacterial cleaning solution and get rid of germs, too! Find out what kills bacteria—and what doesn’t.

Child (6-7) washing patio window with sponge and soapy water, outside on a sunny dayElva Etienne/Getty Images

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. Get the complete instructions here, and check out these clever solutions to the most common window cleaning problems.

Remove Tough Stains from Vinyl FlooringFamily Handyman

Remove tough stains from vinyl flooring

Sheet vinyl “resilient” flooring is so easy to clean that it may never require anything beyond damp mopping with a cleaner intended for vinyl floors. But if your floor has marks or stains that still won’t come off, you can use stronger stuff.

Isopropyl alcohol, sold as a disinfectant at drugstores, is a mild solvent. It’s the best cleaner for heel marks and works on other tough stains too. You can also use lighter fluid or mineral spirits. Remember that all these products are flammable; turn off any nearby pilot lights and hang rags out to dry before throwing them away. Learn how to use it to remove tough stains from vinyl flooring, and check out some more tips for cleaning vinyl floors.

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Advanced baking soda spray

If you don’t have time to apply baking soda to your furniture’s upholstery and clean it up, you may want to try a spray solution instead. Grab a small spray bottle and mix in:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • A couple of drops of scented oil, like lavender
  • Warm water

Shake it up thoroughly and then spray the mix on your fabrics for a quick, safe freshener. The addition of the scented oil helps mask odors while the light film of baking soda gets to work. The trick is to mix the right amount in so that the oil isn’t overpowering and the baking soda doesn’t leave any noticeable residue, so you may need to experiment. Here are some more great DIY cleaning products for every room in the house.

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Oil remover

The phosphoric acid in Coca-Cola proves tough on oil stains around the garage. Pour some room-temperature Coca-Cola over a stain, let it soak overnight, and soak it up the next day by blotting the area.

Spray bottles, sponge, scrubber and orangesJohn Block/Getty Images

Citrus enzyme cleaners

Enzymes are protein compounds that are used to break down other molecules—which makes them a useful tool in all-natural cleaning and freshening. Enzymes can help clean furniture and destroy odor-causing particles and are especially popular when dealing with problems like urine stains that have soaked into wood. However, you will need living enzymes to make it work.

There are numerous enzyme sprays available online. If you want to make your own, you can use this recipe, but it will take careful measurements, a lot of citrus peels, and patience. Check out more unexpected ways to use orange peels.

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Dust with your dryer

Blankets, pillows, slipcovers, drapes, and other textiles not only trap household dust, but they create it as they shed and disintegrate. Curtains and drapes, in particular, get dusty because they absorb moisture and dirt from the outside and act as a landing pad for dust from ceiling fans and air vents. The best idea for how to clean dust is to buy machine-washable items and launder them twice a year (OK, at least once). For non-machine-washable textiles, throw them in the dryer on the air-fluff setting (no heat) for 20 minutes with a damp towel. The damp towel will attract pet hair, and the tumbling movement and airflow will remove the smaller particles for you. Find out some other things you never knew your dryer could do.

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Vinegar spray for a deeper clean

If your furniture is starting to smell because of serious stain or dirt problems, a little baking soda won’t be enough. You will need to deep-clean the fabric and get rid of the source. Mix together:

  • 1/2 tablespoon of liquid soap (dish soap is fine)
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of water

Here’s how to clean furniture fabric with this mix: Spray the solution on your fabric and rub it in thoroughly with a scrubbing brush. Switch to a pail of clean water and scrub until the soap suds are gone. Leave the area to dry or move that section of the furniture outside for faster drying.

Note that vinegar is acidic and can damage delicate fabrics. Use this method on durable fabrics and always test a small, inconspicuous spot to make sure the fabric will hold up. Plus, check out 95 household uses for vinegar you never thought of.

Trash Can CleanupFamily Handyman

Trash can cleanup

 

Try using a liquid toilet bowl cleaner to wash the inside of a dirty trash can. It will cling to the sides for better cleaning. A toilet brush will help you reach down inside. Rinse well for a clean can. Here’s how to get rid of the trash can smell in ten seconds or less.

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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, like these, and hide them in the corners of your furniture to help reduce odors.

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Zip it clean!

The space between your fridge and the floor is a magnet for pet hair, dust, food crumbs, and other small trinkets. And if gone too long without cleaning, it can attract ants and other pests.

To make this cleaning task less difficult, use a hair trap cleaner (also called a drain cleaning zip tool), which sells at home improvement stores for under $5. This hair trap won’t leave scratches on the floor and can reach further than a vacuum cleaner attachment. This tool will also help you when your bathroom sinks inevitably clog with hair.

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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! Watch out for these ways you’re shortening the life of your appliances.

Use Soft Socks to Clean BlindsFamily Handyman

Use soft socks to clean blinds

The next time you need to clean your window blinds, use a sock on your hand! Your hand makes a perfect tool for reaching all of the nooks and crannies on the blinds, and the sock picks up dust wonderfully.

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The drill brush

This drill brush will put a charge into your cleaning efforts around the kitchen and other spots. Check out how easy it is to build a drill brush cleaner and discover cleaning tips from the pros.

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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. Here are lots more things you never knew you could do with Coca-Cola.

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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.

Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a LemonFamily 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 things you didn’t know you should be cleaning with lemon.

Cleaning Windowsill with Mini Power WasherFamily Handyman

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. Check out more cleaning tips for hard-to-clean spots and objects.

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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.

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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.

Plus, find out some house smells you should never ignore.

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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.

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Purchase a paintbrush

Leslie Reichert, founder of The Green Cleaning Coach, uses a stiff paintbrush around her furniture to pull the dirt out without having to move all the furniture around. “You are brushing it out away from the furniture so the vacuum can suck it up,” she says. But make sure you’re not vacuuming these things you should never, ever vacuum.

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Clean the air while you clean the house

Your vacuum’s agitator brush and exhaust whip up dust that eventually settles on the surfaces you’ve just cleaned. Filter out some of that dust before it settles by switching your thermostat to “fan on.” This turns on the blower inside your furnace and filters the air even while the system isn’t heating or cooling. Leave the blower on for about 15 minutes after you’re done cleaning for how to remove dust from air. But don’t forget to switch it back to “auto.” Most blowers aren’t designed to run constantly.

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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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Clean your wood cutting boards

No matter how clean you may keep your kitchen, that cutting board you use for everything harbors bacteria and grime.

Sprinkle the cutting board with some coarse salt. Then take half a lemon and scour the surface, being sure to squeeze the lemon juice as you go. Let it sit for five minutes then scrape the dirty liquid into the sink. Then give the board a good rinse with warm water and a clean dishcloth or sponge. These are the best ways to clean a wooden cutting board.

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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. Check out more unexpected uses for toothpaste.

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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. Learn how to clean a stainless steel sink.

Spray-Clean RollerFamily Handyman

Spray-clean roller

Spin most of the excess paint off your roller sleeve by holding the roller frame inside a bucket and hitting it with a nozzled garden hose. In seconds it’ll be nearly paint-free. You’ll still have to use soap and water to finish, but this’ll give you a huge head start.

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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. Check out even more handy cleaning tips that actually work.

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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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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. Make sure you watch out for these microwave problems you’ll regret ignoring.

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Clean refrigerator seals

If toothpaste can whiten your teeth, it should be able to brighten the seal on your refrigerator. A toothbrush will help you clean those goofy spots on the gasket seal. Here’s how to clean a refrigerator (and keep it clean).

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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.

FURRY JACK RUSSELL DOG, SHEDDING HAIR DURING MOLT SEASON PLAYING ON SOFA.smrm1977/Getty Images

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. Plus, check out the best vacuum cleaners for pet hair.

ScrubbingFamily Handyman

A scrub and a wax

Field Editor Joe Stiles writes: “Every three months, I use CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover and an old toothbrush to clean all the faucets and lavatories. Then I apply an automotive car wax like Turtle Wax and buff after the wax hazes. Our fixtures look like new.” Here, Reddit users share their best house cleaning hacks.

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DIY cleaning solutions

Want to know the secret to streak-free mirrors and windows? Well, it’s an easy at-home solution you can make yourself. All you need is:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol

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Erase marks on a keyboard

When your computer keyboard gets dirty, use a standard eraser to remove the marks. Use a corner or small end of the eraser to press down firmly on each key and rub until the mark is gone.

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Chrome

Gently buff off water spots on chrome surfaces with a slightly dampened used dryer sheet. Here are some more genius uses for dryer sheets.

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Remove laundry stains

While bleach can fight tough laundry stains, lemons can work just as well to brighten your whites and get stains out.

Try this tip for getting stubborn fruit and juice stains out of clothing and dish towels: Mix 1/3 cup lemon juice with 2/3 cup of water. Soak the stain in the mixture for 15 minutes then wash as normal. Check out these brilliant secret ingredients you should be adding to your laundry.

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Dust

Because dryer sheets are all about eliminating static cling, used ones work very well as dust cloths, especially on electronics and mini blinds. Next, check out these 35 nearly forgotten house cleaning tips from the past.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman