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Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros

Professional secrets that will make your house sparkle

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Remove Bathroom Soap Scum

Remove Bathroom Soap Scum

Family Handyman

Soap has a nasty way of forming a hard-to-remove film on tile in tubs and showers. You won't get rid of it by rubbing. Instead, 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. Find out the 10 things you shouldn't use a Magic Eraser on and what makes them so magical. To prevent soap scum buildup, stop using real soap and start using a synthetic. Chemically speaking, any soap in a liquid or gel form, and some bar soaps (Zest and Ivory), are actually synthetic soaps and much less likely to leave a tough film in your sink, shower or tub. See why keeping all the cleaning supplies in one bucket will transform cleaning.

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Baby Wipes in the Shop

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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Watch this video to learn some of the best-kept secrets of professional house cleaners:


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Flashlight Glass Finder

Flashlight Glass Finder

Family Handyman

Cleaning up broken glass is a real pain, but it's nothing compared with a glass shard in the foot. Get 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. Besides being an all-time great Parliament song, a glow-in-the-dark flashlight might be a light saver in a blackout.

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Clear Up Coffee Rings

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. See how to remove stains in wood furniture if that stain penetrated deep and how to refinish furniture as well.

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Vacuum First, Then Scrub

Vacuum First, Then Scrub

Family Handyman

Do you ever find yourself chasing strands of wet hair or running into dust balls in the corners with your sponge or cleaning rag? You can learn how to clean your bathroom better and eliminate this nuisance by vacuuming the bathroom before you get out your cleaning solutions. For a really thorough cleaning, start at the top, vacuuming the dust from light fixtures and the top of window casings. Then work your way down. And finally, vacuum the floor methodically so you cover every inch. You don't want to leave any stray hair or dust bunnies to muck up your cleaning water. A soft-bristle upholstery brush works best for this type of vacuuming. Figure out what vacuum to use here.

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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 wait too long, you might have to use a pressure washer. 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 ($5 at home centers or on Amazon). 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. Scrub tough spots with a soft-bristle brush for the fastest way to clean house.

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Trash Can Cleanup

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. Get rid of a lot of trash after a project in one fell swoop with one giant bag.

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man vacuums a vacuum filterFamily Handyman

Clean Your Bagless Vacuum Filter

‘Bagless vacuums are good for business,’ according to one vacuum repairman. The problem isn’t design or manufacturing but user negligence. Vacuum owners empty the dirt canister but often don’t clean the filters. Plugged filters lead to an overworked motor. And sooner or later, the motor burns out. Motor replacement costs at least $100.

People avoid cleaning 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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Duster for the Vertically Challenged

Duster for the Vertically Challenged

Unless you play in the NBA, dusting ceiling fans and other high, out-of-reach objects is 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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Scum-Proof Your Shower Doors

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 textured glass. Scrape off tough buildup with a razor blade. Dry the doors with a cloth. To prevent soap scum buildup, stop using real soap and start using a synthetic. Chemically speaking, any soap in liquid or gel form is actually synthetic soap and much less likely to leave a tough film in your sink, shower or tub. Plus: How to Clean a Bathroom Faster and Better

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Shop Vacuum Mop Bucket

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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Scuff Mark Eraser

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.' Click here to get more ingenious cleaning tips like this one.

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Super-Fast Floor Squeegee

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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Marker Cleanup

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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Citrus Peels and Ice Cubes for a Stinky Disposer

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: Bad Smell in the House?

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Baking Soda + Vinegar = Magic

Baking Soda + Vinegar = Magic

Now that your baking soda paste has sat overnight, take a spray bottle of equal parts water and vinegar and fully saturate all surfaces of the oven. You'll see the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar begin to bubble and break up baked on char. Spray extra vinegar over problem areas and let the spray soak in for about 15 minutes. Put that magic baking soda to work to eliminate the stink from shoes, you'll be amazed at the results.

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Speed-Clean Chandeliers

Speed-Clean Chandeliers

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. Buy it from nancysilver.com or chandelierparts.com. If you're tired of cleaning you chandelier and would like to replace it, here's how you can do it yourself.

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Countertop Gap Filler

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 Shop

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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Scratch Soap to Keep Fingernails Clean

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-Upper

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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Remove Tough Stains from Vinyl Flooring

Remove Tough Stains from Vinyl Flooring

Family Handyman

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.

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Stop Countertop Stains

Stop Countertop Stains

Family Handyman

If you have an older plastic laminate countertop, you've probably noticed that it doesn't repel stains like it used to. That's because years of wear have left the surface lightly scratched and porous. The best way to prevent stains is to wipe up spills immediately. But a protective coating of countertop polish can also help. Plus it will restore the shine to dull countertops. All you have to do is spray it on and wipe it off every few weeks. Most home centers and discount stores carry countertop polish such as Countertop Magic or Hope's Counter Top Polish. If you don't find it in a store, search for 'countertop polish' online to find a supplier and a great cleaner.

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activated charcoalshowcake/Shutterstock

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.