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Clever Cleaning Tips

Updated: Jun. 30, 2017

Here's a great collection of tips and hints to make cleaning around the house easier using common household supplies.

FH062811_002_CLECLE_05-2Family Handyman
House cleaning isn't exactly fun, but it doesn't have to be drudgery either. Here is a great collection of clever tips and hints that will make cleaning your house easier and more efficient using common items you already have on hand.

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Clean dirty, greasy, gummy surfaces

Mineral spirits removes dirt and buildup

The results of a simple surface cleaning with mineral spirits may amaze you. Polish buildup and the dirt embedded in it can muddy the finish, but will wipe away. Don't use stronger solvents; they might dissolve the finish.

Soak a coarse, absorbent, clean cloth with mineral spirits and wipe the finish. Keep applying and wiping until the cloth no longer picks up dirt. Then do a final wipe with a fresh, clean rag.

Use cotton swabs to clean crevices

Clean crevices, grooves and carved areas with cotton swabs dipped in mineral spirits.

Vacuum extension tube

Tape a cardboard tube to the vacuum hose

Don't throw away the cardboard tube from wrapping paper! Tape the tube to the end of a vacuum cleaner wand to reach cobwebs in ceiling corners or dust on fans. Reach all the way under beds and furniture, or flatten the roll to vacuum narrow crevices. Make it a permanent dusting wand by wrapping it with duct tape, and it'll stand up to years of use.

Snake out spouts

Use a plumber's snake to clean out leaves

Your plumber's snake is a great tool for pulling clumps of wet leaves out of clogged downspouts.

3 easy ideas for clean birdbaths

Simple tricks to keep the water pest-free

To clean your birdbath, put two cups of vinegar in the bath and fill it to the brim with water. Cover with a trash-can lid, and let the bath soak overnight. Scrub and rinse well.

To attract butterflies to your birdbath and avoid algae, put a layer of builder's sand in the bottom of the birdbath.

Add a pantyhose leg stuffed with oat straw (available at starting at $10) inside to your water for an algae-free birdbath.

Power scour

An electric toothbrush scrubs crevices

Now that discount and dollar stores carry cheap ($1 to $5) electric toothbrushes, you can add a modern twist to routine cleaning. Rapid vibration will quickly scrub out stubborn dirt, while the long handle can get to hard-to-reach places without all the elbow grease.

Quick cleanup cat litter

Line your litter pan with a garbage bag

Cut your litter cleanup time in half with this nifty trick! Line your litter pan with a plastic kitchen garbage bag before adding the litter.

Lift out the bag and discard used litter

When it's time to change the litter, simply lift out the bag, tie it off and throw it all away.

Spring clamp plan hold-down

Keep pages and plans from blowing away

If you like to use your workbench outside in nice weather, then you know that the slightest breeze sends your plans flying or turns the magazine page.

Spring clamp keeps pages in place

To solve that problem, put spring clamps at the corners of the plans or magazine to keep it on the table and open to the desired page.

Mini power washer

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.

Gutter cleaner

Use a plastic spatula to scoop leaves

An old plastic spatula makes a great tool for cleaning debris from gutters. It doesn't scratch up the gutter, and you can cut it with snips to fit gutter contours. Grime wipes right off the spatula too, making cleanup a breeze.

Find lost parts

Locate small parts easily with a flashlight

Here's a slick way to locate small parts that fall to the floor. Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight beam across the floor. When the part is struck by the light, its large shadow makes it easy to find.