11 Secret Weapons to Keep in Your Cleaning Caddy

Whether you promptly take care of all household chores or (like the rest of us!) tend to let certain tasks slide, you probably dread particular duties that require major elbow grease and specialized chemical cleaners—or so you thought. We’ve got 11 unexpectedly brilliant ideas for tackling those tough spots the easy way, using all-natural, nontoxic products that are so efficient that they each deserve a spot in your cleaning caddy. In fact, one little gem will make short work of one of the most distasteful jobs around your home, using no cleaning agent at all. Check ‘em out!

This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

  1. Remove soap scum with a fingertip!

    Remove soap scum with a fingertip!

    The soap we wash with every day can cause scaly buildup on tub, shower, and sink surfaces. As gross as it is unsightly, soap scum traps body oil, dirt, bits of dead skin, and bacteria—and it can be notoriously difficult to remove. That is, until you've worked with the Quickly Clean Glove from Hyde Tools. Originally developed to clean up after painting and construction tasks, this patented weave offers enough abrasion to tackle tough household cleaning jobs all by itself, no chemicals or sprays required. To get rid of soap scum, simply moisten the glove with water, pull it on, and swipe the stubborn stuff away. Use your entire hand for large areas and a fingertip to get into corners and crannies like the soap dish—you’ll be done in a flash. Then, just rinse your Quickly Clean Glove with water and hang to air-dry. Available at The Home Depot; $3.97.


  2. Dust with used dryer sheets.

    Dust with used dryer sheets.

    Even after the laundry’s all done, dryer sheets still have enough life in them to take on a task of a different sort: dusting. They dust as effectively as microfiber cloths because their static-absorbing qualities grab dust particles rather than merely push them around. Plus, their texture and thinness let them glide over delicate or irregularly shaped items, such as knickknacks on bookshelves, and make it easy to reach into tight spots, like the gaps around stereo components.


  3. Tackle tarnish with ketchup.

    Tackle tarnish with ketchup.

    Months can go by before you notice that your brass and copper cookware and decorative items have started to tarnish. The quick fix: Squeeze a dollop of ketchup onto a clean, dry rag, and rub it on the discolored spots. Rinse away the condiment with warm water, and dry the metal with a towel.


  4. Make glassware sparkle with rice.

    Make glassware sparkle with rice.

    If narrow vases and stemware defy your go-to sponge, reach instead for a small handful of uncooked rice. Simply put the small-but-mighty grains into the vessel and fill it halfway with warm soapy water, then swirl or, for stubborn residue, cover the opening with your palm and shake vigorously until the rice scrapes the insides clean. Dump out the rice, rinse, and let air-dry.


  5. Get glistening windows with newspaper.

    Get glistening windows with newspaper.

    Don’t take yesterday’s newspapers to the recycling bin just yet. Their texture is ideal for cleaning glass. In fact, they do a much better job than paper towels, which can leave lint behind. Lightly squirt a 50-50 vinegar-and-water solution onto windows, crumple up black-and-white newspaper into a wad, and wipe your windows to a bright shine. This method also works wonders on curio cabinets and glass tabletops.


  6. Banish dirt from blinds with vinegar.

    Banish dirt from blinds with vinegar.

    Vinegar's power doesn't stop at window washing. After you've tackled the windows, mix up a fresh 50-50 vinegar-and-water solution in a bowl and turn your attention to the blinds. Put an old sock on your hand, dip it into the solution, and run your fingers across the slats. After you've cleaned two or three slats, re-dip your socked hand, wiggle your fingers to swish off the dirt, and work on the next set of slats. Dry with a clean sock or rag.


  7. Brighten grout with baking soda.

    Brighten grout with baking soda.

    You haven’t fully explored the cleaning power of baking soda until you’ve seen how great it works on dirty grout. Mix a thick paste of three parts baking soda to one part water, and spread generously between tiles. Scrub with whatever’s handy—but for truly easy going, grab your Quickly Clean Glove! The extra abrasion makes the job go twice as fast. For best results, work on small sections at a time, then rinse with clean water and dry with a towel to keep tiles free of spots.


  8. Disinfect the toilet bowl with hydrogen peroxide.

    Disinfect the toilet bowl with hydrogen peroxide.

    High humidity levels in the bathroom contribute to bacterial growth in the toilet. To the rescue: 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, which is both antiviral and antibacterial. Pour about half a cup into the bowl and around the rim, then give it up to 30 minutes of dwell time to disinfect. Scrub as usual, then flush.


  9. Polish stainless with baby oil.

    Polish stainless with baby oil.

    Grimy stainless steel is the bane of the kitchen. To get your stainless surfaces clean, add a few drops of baby oil to a lint-free cloth and rub in the direction of the grain. Most marks should vanish easily, but if it’s been eons since you’ve cleaned the appliance, wash with a little dish soap and water before polishing it up.

    unsplash.com via Naomi Hébert

  10. Degrease carpet with cornstarch.

    Degrease carpet with cornstarch.

    Whether it's meat dropped from the serving platter onto the dining room rug, or a nacho incident in the family room, you can rest assured you won't end up with a stain when you rely on a pantry staple turned cleaning caddy superstar. Sprinkle greasy spots with cornstarch and let it sit for several hours to soak up the stain, then vacuum. No cornstarch on hand? Baking soda, cornmeal, and talcum powder have similar absorbent properties.


  11. Bring the gleam with toothpaste.

    Bring the gleam with toothpaste.

    The triple threat of mild abrasive, detergent, and antibacterial agent gives toothpaste stain-fighting power all over the house. Pat a bit onto chrome faucets and taps, then buff to a shine. To get silverware from tarnished to twinkling, squeeze a smidge onto a clean cloth and rub, then rinse with water and dry. And for water rings on wood, apply toothpaste with a damp cloth, then buff with a dry rag. The only caveat for these tricks? Use plain toothpaste, not gel or fancy whitening formulas.


  12. Give yourself a hand!

    Give yourself a hand!

    After you've run through your entire to-do list of chores, you may find you've gotten your hands dirty in the process. Just pull out your Quickly Clean Glove once more and use its gentle scrubbing surface to remove any grease, grime, or product residue from your hands. It’s a safe, nondrying way to clean skin—just as effectively as it does the rest of the house—in seconds.


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