Tips and tricks for easy, effective cleaning are like good books—you simply can't ever have too many. It follows suit that despite how much we love to test and share our favorite methods for stain-busting, pest-control, and grime-scouring, we can always learn a thing or two from our community (that's you!).
We revisited past cleaning posts and Hotline threads that got you riled up the most and culled the best ideas from the comments section. As it turns out, the vast majority of your suggestions were for all natural, eco-friendly, or otherwise non-chemically-laden solutions. We're all about finding more natural ways to do the work of classic cleaners, and in the spirit of sharing, here are the 18 best tips from our archives and your tidying expertise:
Like vinegar, vodka can be used as a surface cleaner in your kitchen and beyond. Lifestyle icon Martha Stewart recently dropped some vodka cleaning knowledge in partnership with Tito's and we are here for it. Use the clear spirit to tackle grimy surfaces and remove odors from dirty kitchen rags, dish towels, and more.
2. Mineral oil
"Mineral oil works way better than hot water and a microfiber cloth for cleaning that dusty, oily film off vent hoods," Kenn has told us. "It's also the best way to erase fingerprints and get a streak-free shine on your stainless steel appliances. Much cheaper than those ridiculous stainless steel spray cleaners too!"
3. White vinegar
By spraying plain white vinegar on your finger-printed or greasy stainless steel surfaces, as Sarah Engler taught us last year—the smudges will rub right off. And a quick polish with olive oil afterwards will make them shine.
4. Goo Gone
"For cooktops and that greasy layer of dust that accumulates on practically everything in the kitchen eventually," Rick Strong suggests turning to "the (not terribly) toxic" Goo Gone. Since the main solvent ingredient in it is actually Kerosene, as Beth pointed out in the same comment section, Goo Gone "dissolves most grease instantly and is surprisingly gentle on the underlying surface (check a patch first!)," according to Rick.
5. Baking soda and vinegar
DMStenlake once recommended a homemade solvent—"the baking soda and vinegar trick"—for spiffing up a cooktop surface. This combo will also work wonders on other white surfaces like a toilet bowl and grout.
6. Hot water soak
More than a few of you simply suggested thoroughly soaking a rag or towel in hot water and laying it across the cooktop (with all the burners turned off and cooled, of course!), waiting a half hour, and then wiping it off.
Due to its super harsh fumes and chemical makeup, many of you advised steering clear of oven cleaner no matter what. In its stead, take a cue from Lindsay-Jean: "When a dish boils over in the oven, cover the spill with salt while it’s still wet; it will make it easier to clean up later—after the oven cools down of course," she assures.
8. Hot soapy water
In this Hotline thread, HalfPint suggests degreasing the interior with "hot soapy water and a scrubbing sponge," using "a scraper to chip away any carbonized foodstuff that you can" before making a paste of baking soda and water to coat the interior of the oven, as you would with cleaner. Leave it overnight, then scrape and sponge away.
9. Dishwasher or laundry detergent
In this article's comments thread, Andrew Wilson suggests this tip for cleaning oven racks: "The best thing to do is soak them for a few hours (or overnight) in a bathtub (lay down a towel to prevent scratching) with enough hot water to cover and 1/2 a cup of dishwasher (or laundry) detergent." Use a stiff-bristled brush as you rinse, to remove the stubborn gunk. You could also apply Laura Cattell's trick of putting dryer sheets at the bottom of the bath, which "melts off [the grime] while wiping the racks." Use an all-natural brand, of course.
10. Cotton fabric
For super dusty out-of-sight surfaces, like the top of the fridge or high up cabinets, grandma recommended keeping "a piece of sturdy cotton fabric" spread out on the top, which you can then simply "swap it out and wash it regularly." Newspaper can be used to the same effect, but the ink could transfer—and it's is a little harder to keep in place.
11. White vinegar
In 2013, Lindsay-Jean wrote that plain white vinegar will loosen papery stickers if you sponge it on and let sit for a few minutes before scraping the sticker away. Guess what? It's still true. (In a follow-up post, she also notes that you can use mayonnaise to the same effect—if that's your thing.)
12. Eucalyptus oil
Photographer Bobbi Lin says that eucalyptus oil is a wonder tool for this purpose, as it "smells better and works better" than Goo Gone. Beyond stickers, she says it's also great for cutting grease, finishing a cutting board, and getting minor stains out of carpet.
13. Uncooked white rice
Lindsay-Jean (have you noticed she's our expert on all the best all-natural tricks?) has recommended using uncooked white rice as a natural mild abrasive, coupled with a bit of arm strength. "Partially fill [the vase] with warm water and a handful of rice and shake vigorously," she instructs, "covering the top of the vase with your hand, please. If your vase has a stubborn white film in it, fill the vase with white vinegar (enough to cover the residue), let it sit for a bit, and then add the rice and shake.
14. Baking soda
"Cover the burned material with a thick layer of baking soda, add a small amount of water, and let it sit overnight," jthelwell piped up in a comment section, and "the burned material will wipe off." And AntoniaJames agreed: "It worked like a charm! I heated the pan with the baking soda and water briefly first, and then let it sit for 24 hours" before washing clean. "It not only helps to release the burned food, but also neutralizes the disgusting smell," shares mamameeka in the same conversation.
15. Cream of tartar
HalfPint has told us that cream of tartar—which is actually a natural byproduct of winemaking, did you know?—is "a good cleaning agent as well as a oxidizer." Apply a paste of it to a coffee-stained pot, or any porcelain dishware that's no longer bone-white, and wipe away with hot water after letting it sit for a bit.
17. Boiling water
Merrill Stubbs taught us one of her tricks that combines heat and velocity to get stains out of clothing and aprons: "Pour boiling water straight from the kettle from at least a foot above the item you are cleaning. My mother taught me this, and it works!"
For oily stains, good old salt can fight the good fight, as Zara ALston has noted: "Just sprinkle the salt all over the stain and wait till it absorbs the oil." Flour, cornstarch, and white chalk will also draw an oily stain out from a napkin or tea towel the same way.
19. Hot milk
For the most dreaded (and likely) of food stains, those of red wine on white fabric. Mayukh Sen reported that a leisurely soak in hot milk should do the trick. For the similarly persistent and purple-ish stain of berries, Sarah Jampel found that a mix of hot water, vinegar, and, if necessary, toothpaste, are capable of great teamwork.
This article was originally published in 2017.
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