Clean Like You Mean It

The Most Helpful Cleaning Tips We’ve Ever Learned (Thanks, Grandma!)

Sometimes our loved ones truly do know best, especially when it comes to cleaning up.

March 19, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Clean Like You Mean It shows you how to tackle the trickiest spots in your home—whether they’re just plain gross or need some elbow grease. You’ll get the cleaning secrets we’ve learned from grandma, a guide to our handiest tools and helpers, and so much more. Pull on those rubber gloves and queue up the tunes: It’s scour hour!

There have been times when you hear or read about a cleaning tip or hack from a friend or family member (or, let’s face it, the Internet) that just sticks with you and that you use for the rest of your life. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorites.

“Saving a squeezed lemon half during cooking and then using it to scrub down the inside of your kitchen sink after cleanup leaves it shiny and smelling great! That was from my grandmother.” —Kaleigh Embree, Product Development Coordinator

“My Aunt Jayanti taught me that when you’re storing empty containers in the cupboard, wash them and cover them with paper towels. If you don’t, you’ll get a musty, stinky smell. She also says to always keep Bon Ami, Bar Keepers Friend, and Goo Gone handy at all times.” —Brinda Ayer, Content Director

“From my mom: Hairspray takes out ball-point pen ink. And creamy peanut butter gets gum out of your hair if you fell asleep on a road trip and woke up with gum in your hair…” —Cyndy Chan, Continuous Improvement Technician

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I am using just a little Dawn dish soap in warm water, plus a before and after shot of steam from a steam cleaner and without a lot of scrubbing, grease is gone. I don't have a family cleaning hack, but I happened on a youTube channel: AngelaBrownCleaning. Although a lot of vids are geared toward professional cleaners, her motto is "clean smarter not harder". Even at 66, I have picked up some great tips particularly for kitchen, bath, baseboards, floors. And she reviews product including safety for user and environment ... uses a lot of water and good cloths/tools vs chem. ”
— Liz S.

“I have a stash of warped sheet pans that I use as pantry and refrigerator shelf liners. I don’t use them in the oven anymore because I’m afraid of burning my house down, so I repurpose them elsewhere. The sheet pans catch flour and sugar that leak out of their bags before I can decant them into deli containers and contain spills in the fridge so they’re less annoying to clean.” —Jada Wong, Market Editor

“My old roommate and I used to cook literally everything in our oven and would 'forget' about wiping it down. So once a year (I know, gross), we would finally clean it, using ½ cup of baking soda and about ¼ cup of white vinegar to create a paste. The oven would come out spotless. I still use this method to clean my kitchen sink and if my oven gets grimy these days.” —Janine Sanabria, Senior Product Development Associate

“Use a dough scraper to get hard bits (or even grease stains!) off surfaces or even caked-on sticky stuff in the fridge. I prefer a plastic one so I don’t scratch the walls, but a metal one works well if I’m not worried about scratching.” —Genevieve Yam, Recipe Developer

Dawn dish soap is great at getting grease stains out of clothes, particularly grimy bike grease/brake dust.” —Erin Sanders, Customer Care Operations Manager

“My parents got me totally hooked on Bar Keepers Friend for stubborn dishes. And in my current kitchen, I learned it works wonders on the always-getting-scratched white sink too.” —Emma Laperruque, Food Editor

“Here's my tip for avoiding pine needles everywhere when the sad time comes when you need to take the Christmas tree out to the curb. (Disclaimer: This has only been tested in an NYC apartment.) Open the window next to where the tree is standing (because everyone puts their tree by a window), look both ways, and shove the tree out. Then walk down the stairs and drag it to the curb or, preferably, your local composting location. No, I don't expect you to actually use this.” —Mark Linderman, VP, Engineering

“My dad taught me to use dry newspapers for streak-free windows and mirrors when he was out washing his car.” —Danielle Curtis-Williams, Manager, Marketing

“White vinegar and hot water also for streak-free windows but also literally for anything.” —Stacey Rivera, SVP, Content

“Most stains: Dampen the fabric with cold water. Rub a bar of soap into the stain. Then scrub the stain (using the fabric) under cold running water. Also, never paint your house yellow—it attracts bugs." —Amanda Hesser, Cofounder and CEO

“This isn’t revolutionary, but recently good old baking soda has been my cleaning default. For a slightly clumsy, messy cook like me, it’s a lifesaver. Such a lifesaver that I have a giant Costco-sized-bag under the sink. A grease fire stains your new oven? Baking soda. Accidentally burned an entire pot of farro? Baking soda. Your stainless steel pans are discolored? Baking soda. I like making a paste of baking soda and a bit of water, sometimes I’ll add a bit of white vinegar if I want it to be a more heavy-duty paste.” —Delaney Vetter, Recipe Developer

“The best duster in the world, according to my mum, is an old sock! I have to agree. Just pick up a cleaner in one hand and wear your sock like a glove over the other and spray and wipe. My favorite uses include dusting my plants and wiping down my fan’s blades (dampen your sock for this one). What better use than this for those orphan socks in your drawer (we know you have ’em).” —Arati Menon, Senior Content Lead

“My mama always told me to clean wood with soapy water, dry completely, then seal with oil. She often used olive oil because of what she had on hand. I do this at home too on all my cutting boards, wooden bowls, wood serving platters, wooden spoons. Important to gently clean the wood without removing too much of the oil natural oils, and replenish with more oil to keep a barrier against moisture, which will make wood warp and crack.” —Sean Patrick Gallagher, Recipe Developer

“My grandmother taught me to stretch an old pillowcase over a ceiling fan blade, so you can catch the dust in it, then dump it in the trash afterward.” —Ellery Hight, Customer Care Specialist

“Using dish soap to clean your shower, it breaks up the people-grease and soap scum. Also, keeping a sponge and small bottle of soap IN the shower at all times to clean while you condition your hair.” —Johanna Hagan, Trade Account Representative

"Remove built-up minerals in your coffee maker by mixing half vinegar to half water and a tablespoon of a hard, clear liquor like vodka. Boil the two mixtures as you would coffee without the filter and coffee grounds so it’s running clean, then add a pot of regular water to rinse it out!"—Catherine Yoo, Recipe Developer

“Well here's one I just learned...If you're reworking a Schoolhouse Factory Sconce with a dead LED and then it suddenly explodes with a thousand live ants, you can use glass cleaner to get rid of most of them.” —Lou Lanning, CID Technician

What is your all-time favorite cleaning hack? Who taught it to you?

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Simon Collier
    Simon Collier
  • BAE
  • Cynthia
  • Anders
  • Ruth McAllister
    Ruth McAllister
Jill Baughman

Written by: Jill Baughman

Jill was born in Busan, South Korea, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (and always puts fries on her salads and cheers for the Steelers). After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, she was an editorial intern in Birmingham, Alabama, for a year before making her way to NYC. Previously, she edited recipes and learned a lot about food at WW, Food Network, and Bon Appétit/Epicurious. She currently lives in New Jersey, enjoying time with her family as well as the beach, diners, and sweet corn and tomatoes in the summertime.


Simon C. November 9, 2022
This was very intuitive! Thank you so much for your insight! Will be trying...
BAE April 4, 2022
Mark Linderman, too funny. When we were first married and living in a third-floor walk-up in the Palisades of DC, we did just that!
Cynthia April 1, 2022
Any hints on how to clean a plastic salad spinner?
Anders April 1, 2022
To get red wine out of any fabric: Soak with a 50/50 solution of dish soap and hydrogen peroxide, wash as usual. Works even on old stains!
Anders April 1, 2022
(As long as they haven't been washed that is.)
Ruth M. March 31, 2022
If your microwave has baked on crud, soak a dishcloth, put it in the microwave and turn it on for 90 seconds. Leave it for 10 minutes. All the crud wipes off magically.
Thus sayeth The Domestic Goddess!
Hutch March 24, 2022
Best cleaner for spotless surfaces including glads and mirrors: several drops of your favorite essential oil in water in a pump spray. Experiment with your fav fragrances and ratio. My kitchen and bathroom gleam and I get some aroma therapy while cleaning! My favs are rosemary, citronella, bergamot & ylang ylang-alone or mixed. Will replace all your surface sprays and windex. And it’s non-toxic. Trust me- try it and you’ll never go back!
witloof March 22, 2022
I'm also on team white vinegar and baking soda and use them for pretty much everything. My best tip is to buy a really really good vacuum cleaner, like a Miele. Cheaper ones will die on you, but the Miele is a pleasure to use and comes with a lifetime warrantee, so it's less expensive in the long run.

MoodyFoodie310 March 22, 2022
For countertops, especially Stone/granite ones, A small squeegee blade is a great tool for clearing water or other liquids, without having to constantly rinse and wring a dishcloth towel, sponge, etc., slide everything right into the sink, and get rid of it.
Tamachan March 19, 2022
Tip from my Cuz Linda - Have glass shower doors? Buy a squeegee and use it after every shower. Prevents water stains and soap scum from collecting. Another CL tip - after running your dishwasher, take a squeezed out rag and wipe around the inside rim of the door and the what it presses against in the machine; will keep it looking brand new.
Liz S. March 19, 2022
Lots of great tips - thanks. I am just now taking a short break from washing walls and cupboards in my kitchen. Early spring clean (for me) motivated by me getting new windows (and screens) OMG replaced single glaze glass and horrible metal frames with Andersen windows ... WHAT a difference. But one thing leads to another and as I looked at my kitchen blinds (cloth roman shades) and realized I needed to just pitch them and THEN noticed the walls and woodwork. So ... deep clean!

I am using just a little Dawn dish soap in warm water, plus a before and after shot of steam from a steam cleaner and without a lot of scrubbing, grease is gone.

I don't have a family cleaning hack, but I happened on a youTube channel: AngelaBrownCleaning. Although a lot of vids are geared toward professional cleaners, her motto is "clean smarter not harder". Even at 66, I have picked up some great tips particularly for kitchen, bath, baseboards, floors. And she reviews product including safety for user and environment ... uses a lot of water and good cloths/tools vs chem.