Cleaning Hacks | Handy Tips from the Home Team

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Something about autumn brings on an urge to get things squared away in our homes. Like creatures of the field and forest, there’s a pull to get everything ready for the cold season ahead. Though squirrels and groundhogs probably don’t worry much about hard water buildup or fresh-smelling linens, those of us who don’t live in tree tops or burrows tend to like a clean, shiny home. We’ve asked the team at HOME magazine for their favorite cleaning tips and tricks, and are sharing them with you…

From pet hair to dirt getting tracked in on our shoes, our floors constantly need to be tidied. To make floor cleaning easy, I eschew rugs in heavily trafficked areas of the house like our entryway, hallways, dining room and kitchen. Instead of lugging out the vacuum and worrying about spot-treating stains, I just have to quickly wipe up or sweep up messes. This also lets us show off our beautiful wood floors.
Marissa Hermanson, contributing writer

I use kosher salt to scrub hard-to-clean pots and pans. Generously sprinkle the pan with salt and use a damp paper towel or cloth to wipe away the mess. I use the same method to clean my stainless steel sink.
Edwana Coleman, art director

Hydrogen Peroxide sprayed onto grout cleans it beautifully, with minimal effort and no toxic smells. Let it sit and bubble a few minutes—scrub a little if you think it’s needed—then wipe it out.
Becky Calvert, contributing writer

For instant wipes, I save my bleach wipe containers and use paper towels for refills. Cut a roll of paper towels in half, remove the cardboard center and pull towels from the center. Then pour whatever cleaner you need into the dispenser—Windex, Mr. Clean, furniture polish. I like to keep a Windex one in the car, especially when I travel with my dog! And, did you know that furniture polish works great on car interiors if you don’t have Armor All?
Kirsten Becker, advertising sales

A packet of lemonade mix (or any powdered citric acid) in the dishwasher will eradicate odors and build up in the dishwasher and on dishes. Just add the packet, run the dishwasher on a normal cycle and everything is bright and shiny again.
Jane Rennyson, contributing writer

I have a container of touch-up markers. I have stain markers for furniture and hardwood floors, grout pens, and even a paint pen for my kitchen cabinets which I ordered from the manufacturer to match the finish. I also have Old English on hand as well. This little kit keeps my furniture, floors, and cabinets looking like new!
Julie Pierce, publisher

I keep worn out socks and use them for wiping down lots of things: dusting blinds, cleaning up spills, etc. I store them in a box under the kitchen sink to grab quickly.
Mitzi Bible, contributing writer

Baking soda does a great job for cleaning my ceramic top stove. Use a damp scrubber to create a paste and apply to the surface, then wipe clean with a soft cloth.
Donna Collins, graphic designer

I made a “stain guide” that I keep near my laundry area and refer to when I need to remove a specific kind of stain, like tomato sauce, ink, or berry. Whenever I find a remedy online, I add it to the list. I use a notebook, but a message board or chalk board would also work great.
Alexandra Reynolds, contributing writer

Before tossing an old shower curtain liner that I just can’t scrub back to luster anymore, I use it as a drop cloth when I paint a wall or have some big messy project I need to do indoors. Then I let it dry and toss. At least I can get another use out of it!
Mitzi Bible, contributing writer

A tip I learned from my mother is to wipe down the insides of the refrigerator with a little bit of vanilla extract after cleaning. It takes away any chemical or food odors and leaves a very subtle, neutral aroma. I love opening my fridge and getting a waft of that fresh scent!
Rory Rhodes, editor

A trick for towels and sheets that have a sour smell even when laundered: Wash them in hot water with a couple tablespoons of baking powder and ½ cup white vinegar—no detergent. It’s also great for pet odors in blankets.
Noelle Milam, contributing writer

Improve_CleanHacks2Instead of spending a fortune on Swiffer pads, just attach a washcloth or microfiber cloth to the bottom and away you go! To clean laminate kitchen floors, I love the mixture of water, baking soda, vinegar, and fresh-squeezed lemons. The floors come out miraculously clean and smell delicious. (Bonus points if you use your makeshift Swiffer!)
Megan Bruffy, contributing writer

I keep a box of generic denture cleaning tablets under my kitchen sink. Fill a stained coffee mug with warm water and a denture tablet and wait until the fizzing stops. Your mug should wash sparkling clean in minutes. To remove the ring left on a glass vase from fresh flowers, let the tablet soak for a couple of hours, then rinse well.
Edwana Coleman, art director

As a collector of vintage and antique glass and barware, I use Bar Keepers Friend to bring my new-to-me acquisitions back to life. It works on rust, mineral deposits, and other unidentified stubborn stains using a gentle, bleach-free formula. You can also use it to clean everything from pots and pans to sinks and bathrooms. But I love it best for restoring my treasured collectibles.
Sloane Lucas, contributing writer

My “gets-out-everything” for the laundry: a mix of hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dishwashing liquid (must be Dawn) and baking soda. I mix it into a paste and apply it to the stain, and often let it sit overnight. It’s worked on everything I’ve tried to get out except makeup.
Jessie Thompson, contributing writer

White vinegar in the drying agent compartment of the dishwasher will freshen the inside of the dishwasher as well as eliminate spotting on glassware.
Anne Marie Poore, advertising sales

I don’t like using a lot of chemicals, particularly around kids and pets, so I use baking soda to scrub out tubs. It’s gentle yet effective.
Becky Calvert, contributing writer

After peeling garlic, your hands may need a good cleaning. If you rub them along your stainless steel sink a few times, the garlic smell will be gone.
Jane Rennyson, contributing writer

To safely polish silver without harsh chemicals, use a simple chemical reaction involving aluminum and baking soda. Combine one tablespoon of baking soda with one tablespoon of sea salt. Place it in an aluminum pan, or a dish lined with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Add ½ cup vinegar and one cup of boiling water. You’ll see a slight chemical reaction begin. Add your silver items, making sure each piece touches the aluminum surface; you’ll see fizzing as the tarnish on the silver reacts with the aluminum and lifts away. It should only take about 30 seconds, but heavy tarnish might need to soak for a couple of minutes. Remove and dry the silver, and buff with a soft cloth.
Kirsten Becker, advertising sales

To clean carpet and upholstery fabric, use one part Dawn dish detergent to two parts hydrogen peroxide and lightly rub onto the spot. Let it sit for a few minutes and wipe with a damp cloth until all residue is removed. It gets out almost anything, including red wine. I’ve heard it also works on mold and mildew.
Julia Belvin, advertising sales

I use dryer sheets to clean and shine several things in my home. They are great for removing hard water stains and soap scum from shower doors, shower heads and tub/sink faucets. Something about them really polishes and buffs the surface. I also use them for dusting pretty much anything!
Alyssa Mercadante, contributing

To shine tarnished brass: smooth on tomato ketchup, let it sit 10 minutes, wipe off.
Noelle Milam, contributing writer

To remove hard water stains from shower glass doors, I make a paste of vinegar and baking soda. I rub it onto the glass with a paper towel, and then after letting it sit for five minutes, I scrub with a sponge. Rinse with clean water, then use a microfiber cloth to buff it and it looks like new!
Christy Rippel, contributing writer

I use newspaper and Windex to clean glass and mirrors—it does not streak or leave any lint. Also, I keep a set of everything I need to clean in each bathroom of the house; this way, I won’t skip doing something because the cleaner is in another spot.
Jessie Thompson, contributing writer

When your shower head or faucet gets clogged, fill a plastic bag with vinegar, secure it to the faucet head with a rubber band, and leave it overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and rinse with warm water. You will have better water pressure and a clean shower head.
Katherine Fulghum Knopf, contributing writer

Before I get started cleaning, I put all my rugs and linens into the wash, then clean the areas around them while they wash and dry. I also pre-soak showers and commodes with cleaner and save those areas for last. Once I reach those spaces, they’ve been soaking for 30 minutes or more and the dirt practically falls off.
Megan Bruffy, contributing writer

I use an old battery-powered toothbrush to clean nooks and crannies that are hard to reach and require a bit of elbow grease— at the base of sink faucets, around drains and sink edges, for grout, etc.
Rory Rhodes, editor

Improve_CleanHacks3I keep spray bottles of half white vinegar/half water for all purpose cleaning. Use it on windows, mirrors, wiping down the stove top, countertops, dusting baseboards—everything.
Becky Calvert, contributing writer

Dishwasher detergent sprinkled in a porcelain sink and scrubbed whitens and brightens without scratching.
Anne Marie Poore, advertising sales

Before tossing the dryer sheet in the trash I use it to do a quick clean around the top of the washer and dryer where dust or drops of detergent may have collected.
Mitzi Bible, contributing writer

When your drains get slow, pour a cup of baking soda in the tub or sink drain, then follow with three cups of white vinegar. Let it bubble. Once it clears, pour down a couple tea kettles of boiling water or run the hot water for a few minutes.
Katherine Fulghum Knopf, contributing writer

I fill a spray bottle with water, vinegar, and Dawn dish soap and use it to clean animal bowls and crates. I use about one-and-a-half to two cups of vinegar, and a few good squirts of Dawn. Always rinse eating and drinking bowls with water afterward, but for cages just wipe clean with a paper towel. The mixture is safe for them, and works well to remove lingering odors!
Sara Sigmon, contributing writer

To clean a thermal coffee pot, drop a dishwasher pod into the pot. Fill it with boiling water and allow it to sit for at least two hours, more if possible. When you rinse the pot, it will be spotlessly clean and shining like new.
Julia Belvin, advertising sales

I always throw my lemons in the garbage disposal when I am done juicing them. It’s an instant clean for the disposal and leaves a fresh scent.
Jane Rennyson, contributing writer

I love to add lavender essential oil to homemade cleaning solutions and even a few drops to my loads of laundry. Not only does it smell clean and fresh but it has natural antibacterial properties! It’s a wonderful way to keep my home clean without using chemicals. You can order lavender essential oil online or get it at local health stores.
Ashley Blair Smith, contributing writer

I use several Norwex products for chemical-free cleaning. Their “enviro” microfiber cloths and window cloths give a streak-free finish to window, mirrors, granite, stainless steel, crystal, and shower doors. Their dusting mitt is great for wood blinds and other items.
Colleen Miller, operations manager

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