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Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros

These cleaning professional secrets will make your house sparkle from top to bottom.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Cleaning Tips for an Effortless Home

Some cleaning headaches can be prevented. These professional cleaning tips take care of everything from soap scum to floor scuffs. Keep them in mind next time you find a stain that you can’t get out, and use them to prevent future messes. They’ll keep your home clean with half the effort.
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soap scumFamily Handyman

Remove Bathroom Soap Scum

Soap has a nasty way of forming a hard-to-remove film on tile in tubs and showers that you won’t get rid of it by rubbing. Instead, wait for the surface to dry, then scrape off the scum with a four-inch plastic putty knife. To clean grout lines and textured surfaces, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

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.

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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. They’re also great for wiping up small drips from a painting job. 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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clean up broken glass flashlightFamily Handyman

Flashlight Glass Finder

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.

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Clear Up Coffee Rings

Your guests should have used a coaster but now you have a coffee stain on your table. Dab a little white toothpaste (don’t use gel toothpaste) directly on the stain and rub it in with a clean cloth. It will get the stain out just like coffee stains on your teeth.

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Vacuum First, Then Scrub

When you wipe up bathroom surfaces with a wet sponge or rag, you may notice all the accumulated dust and hair turns into a big wet mess. Make the whole process easier by utilizing the vacuum first.

Vacuum everything from dusty light fixtures, countertops, even around the toilet. Then continue as usual with your favorite bathroom cleaner and sponge. A soft-bristle upholstery brush works best.

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Remove Tree Sap from Vinyl Siding

If drippy trees or deck lumber leaves 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. 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, and for tough spots scrub with a soft-bristle brush.

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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 the trash can. Rinse well for a clean can.

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man vacuums a vacuum filterFamily Handyman

Clean Your Bagless Vacuum Filter

The typical method for cleaning your vacuum filter 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 clean the filter completely.

Instead, 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.

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Hack for Dusting Ceiling Fans

You can buy a duster like this one specially made for dusting hard-to-reach ceiling fan blades. Or save the money and try this hack.

Wrap a dryer sheet around a clean painting roller and secure the ends with rubber bands. Attach an extension handle to the roller and roll it along each blade to remove the dust. No ladder needed.

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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

Clean off shoe scuff marks from vinyl flooring with a clean, dry tennis ball. A light rub and heel marks are “erased.”

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Don’t Forget to Wash Your Bed Pillows

When was the last time you washed your pillows? Make a reminder to wash them at least every three to five months. For down pillows, check your pillow labels to ensure they can go in the washing machine.

Opt for a gentle or delicate wash and spin cycle and add detergent. Tumble dry on low or an air-dry setting for a few hours until completely dry. Adding some clean, dry towels will absorb moisture and speed the drying process.

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Marker Cleanup

When the permanent marker ends 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.

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Citrus Peels and Ice Cubes for a Stinky Disposal

If there’s a funky smell coming from your sink, the garbage disposal is most likely the culprit. Turn on the faucet, drop orange or lemon peels into the disposal, then turn it on for five seconds. The citric acid from the peels softens crusty waste and attacks smelly bacteria.

For extra cleaning power, drop ice cubes down the drain and run the disposal again. Flying shards of ice work like a sandblaster to clean the garbage disposal. Finally, place the stopper in the sink drain and run water until the bowl is about half full. Then pull the stopper and turn on the disposal to flush it out.

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Baking Soda + Vinegar = Magic

Here’s an easy DIY oven cleaner solution. Create a paste made of baking soda, water and a squirt or two of dish soap. Use a sponge to cover the interior of your oven with the paste. Close the oven door and let sit overnight.

Then, take a spray bottle of equal parts water and vinegar and fully saturate all surfaces of the oven. Wipe away with a damp sponge.

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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 a chandelier cleaning 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.

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remove tough stains on 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 vinyl floor has marks or stains that still won’t come off, you can use stronger stuff.

Isopropyl alcohol is a mild solvent. It’s the best cleaner for heel marks and works on other tough stains too. Apply a small amount to a rag or cotton ball, then wipe away the stain with a circular motion.

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renew kitchen countertopsFamily Handyman

Stop Countertop Stains

If you have a laminate countertop, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t repel stains like it used to. That’s because years of wear leave the surface lightly scratched and porous.

A protective coating of countertop polish can help repel stains and restore the shine to dull countertops. Just spray it on and wipe it off every few weeks. A couple of our favorite brands are Countertop Magic and Hope’s Countertop Polish.

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Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is an even better absorbent 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 freshener bags of activated charcoal. Hide them in the corners of your furniture to help reduce odors.

Up next, check out some of the best shower cleaning tools.