Dust, vacuum, mop. Repeat. The ennui of cleaning a house is not going anywhere, especially as hybrid work schedules and virtual classes become de rigueur—as do crumb-speckled laptop keyboards and dingy kitchen sinks. Sure, by now you think you know all the cleaning tips. But what if we told you that baking soda and vinegar are not the only heroes to get the job done.
Here, eight unexpected cleaning tips from industry experts who swear to transform your cleaning M.O.
Cleaning tip #1: Clean with intention
Tempting as it may be to rush through a weekly cleaning, tuning into the process can have a grandiose effect. “When cleaning your home, put all of your intention into it, do it with love,” says Gabriela Lutzker, who has cleaned more than 165 apartments in New York City since joining TaskRabbit, an online marketplace for service, in 2020. Start your favorite podcast and focus on the details—say, the space between the sink and the faucet fixture. Little things make a big difference, Lutzker says.
Cleaning tip #2: Tackle mildew with vodka
Give vodka a shot when dealing with mildew on bathroom tile. Fill a clean spray bottle with vodka (no need to spring for the fancy stuff), spray on offensive tile, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. “This will help break apart the substance and make it easier to wipe away,” Lutzker says. When wiping off vodka, a clean rag or sponge should do the trick. Bonus: Vodka evaporates quickly and won’t leave a sour scent, like vinegar.
Cleaning tip #3: Use old pillowcases for a dust-free ceiling fan
Every time your ceiling fan rotates, you’re showered with a fine snowfall of dust. Sure, you can wipe down the fan blades with a paper towel, but that will knock the dust around before it resettles elsewhere. Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid, an international cleaning service, suggests the following: Stand on a secure footstool and slip an old pillowcase around one of the fan blades. Be careful not to knock off any dust during this step. With the pillowcase covering the length of the fan blade, slide the pillowcase off the blade, and make sure to apply enough pressure to the top and bottom of the blade, so that the pillowcase takes the dust with it. Repeat the steps with all the remaining fan blades. Move the footstool around the fan to avoid slipping. To clean your pillowcase, take it outside and turn it inside out. Shake well. (Maybe wear a face mask to avoid breathing in dust particles.) Throw it in the wash. Peterson recommends keeping this pillowcase with your cleaning supplies.
Cleaning tip #4: Spruce up your keyboard
First, flip the computer keyboard (or your whole laptop) upside down to remove debris (ahem, the cracker crumbs from snacking all day long). Then, use a keyboard cleaner brush to dust off linty residue that can get stuck to the sides of the keys. An old toothbrush can work in a pinch. Finally, dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol (it should be damp, not dripping). Clean between the keys, “This is a quick and easy way to remove germs and dirt,” Lutzker says.
Cleaning tip #4: Buff screens with a coffee filter
This java accessory is a boon for dust-free screens: desktop computer, TV, or tablet. “Your screen will look brand-new and won’t be harmed by harsh chemicals,” Lutzker says. “Lightly rub the screen with the coffee filter, as you would with a microfiber cloth, and voilà—you’re smudge-free.”
Cleaning tip #5: De-gunk stove burners
When it comes to your stove burners, Allen Rathey, director of the Indoor Health Council for commercial cleaning, based in Nampa, Idaho, likes to remind people of the adage: “Resolve to dissolve before scrubbing.” Instead of cleaning burners on the stove itself, Rathey recommends removing electric stove burners and submerging them in a very shallow tub of hot water with a few capfuls of dish detergent. “Let that set for 30 minutes, then scrub to remove the semi-dissolved sticking material,” he says. Finish by scrubbing away the remaining residue with an old toothbrush or a dish scrubbing pad dipped in baking soda.
Cleaning tip #6: Banish pet hair with dryer sheets
Fluffy may be the best coworker, but cat hair on the couch tells another tale. Lutzker’s secret for a hair-free house: dryer sheets, “an efficient and cost-effective way to remove pet hair from surfaces or furniture in your home.” Slightly dampen the dryer sheet and wipe the surface assailed by pet hair. Once the sheet looks fuzzy, dispose. Use as many sheets as necessary. Bonus: The dryer sheet fragrance works as an air freshener. Lutzker notes that running a humidifier minimizes the pet hair sticking to fabric and upholstery. For clothes, she loves the Feeke lint brush.
Cleaning tip #7: Banish the icky toilet-bowl ring
“A wet pumice stone will remove the toughest rings on porcelain toilets without chemicals,” Rathey says. In a pinch, he advises trying 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper. “Wear gloves and keep the abrasive wet, and don’t be afraid to apply pressure,” he says. A pumice cleaning stone with a handle is extra useful, if you don’t feel like reaching into the toilet. Flush away the yucky residue (not the sandpaper).
Cleaning tip #8: Switch to melamine sponges
Befriend the unsung heroes the pros swear by: melamine sponges like Mr. Clean MagicEraser. It works better than a typical rubber sponge because the resin acts like grippy, fine sandpaper to dislodge grime that the foam pores absorb. “They are incredibly inexpensive to purchase in bulk, and they are versatile for your kitchen and bathroom,” says Derek Chiu, cofounder and director of UrbanMop, a cleaning service business based in Ottawa, Canada. Soak the sponge in your favorite cleaner and use it on sinks, tubs, and stainless steel.