Cleaning Tips from Home Ec 101 Readers

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Heather says:

I spent the weekend digging through the nearly 1400 posts here on Home Ec 101, tagging, sorting, and doing other fun maintenance. While doing so, I stumbled on a post from 2008 asking readers for their best cleaning tips. I thought it would fun to share their knowledge in a conveniently packaged formatt.



When I have guests or well-intentioned, pushy family for dinner, I quickly clear the table into a dollar store dish tray. I have it pre-filled with warm soapy water and stow it beneath the sink for washing up later. I even slip back on the child-lock in case Gramma gets any ideas. This keeps the party going, keeps people out of my kitchen and keeps the sink clear! It’s the best one-dolla-trick to save a bit of sanity. Plus the dishes are an absolute breeze after they’ve been soaking.


I used to drag my heavy canister vacuum cleaner up and down my painted wood steps to vacuum them clean. Now I DUST them! It’s fast (just get out and dampen some rags), quiet (I do it while the kids nap), and less hassle (no outlet to search for, no worries about the vacuum falling down the steps, no odd angles to contort the hose into).

La Rêveuse

Almost no-fail stain remover is Goop hand cleaner in the tub with the white top. Works well for grease stains that show up after they come out of the dryer–the bane of my existence.Use for those free toothbrushes that come with toothpaste sometimes but are too hard to use on a regular basis–great for scrubbing that grotty little area behind the faucet that a sponge won’t scour, around the handles, grout, under the rim in the toilet, and even cleaning some jewelry (not after the toilet, obviously, and not soft stuff–platinum and diamonds would likely handle it fine.) Much greener than nasty chemicals and does a better job!Great microfiber cleaning rags can be found by the huge bagful in the automotive section at Wal-Mart . 4 bucks for a big bag, and they are wonderful for cleaning just about anything. I even cut them in 1/4’s and use them as cloth baby wipes. Super soft, and very absorbent, and you’re not paying for the ‘miracle cloth’  label.


Polish shower walls with car wax. Keeps the mildew down for a long time. Be careful not to do the floor of the tub/stall unless you like broken hips.


My newest thing I have learned is to dust the lamp shades with one of those sticky tape lint removers. Works great! I am thinking about trying it on my plants as well!


Baby powder or corn starch will remove oil stains from clothing. Just sprinkle it on and it will wick the oil right out of the fibers. Shake off the excess, scrape off the caked powder and repeat until the stain is gone! Yay!

Have you ever seen those little yellow bottles called “Stain Devils”? They have all kinds of different formulas, grass, blood, grease, ink… I love them! I used to buy them at Jo-Ann fabric but I am not sure where to buy them around here.

You can clean leather sneakers with a magic eraser. It is amazing. (It also cleans soap scum off the shower — even the glass door)


I use the small cheap paint brushes (the kind that the kids would paint with) to clean the inside of the top of my sippy cups and all the small suction parts. Also works great if you have something stuck into crevices of plastic tops for food storage.


I use the brush attachment to vacuum every surface in my bathroom before cleaning it. I used to hate how sponges and rags just pushed lint/hair/dust around.


6 people, one toilet.

I keep “wet wipes” on the back of the toilet. They aren’t free, but I don’t know. I spend maybe $5 a month for them. Once a day, I wipe down the dirtiest area in there (the seat, or under the seat, or around the base, or whatever). Then flush the wipe. My toilet is ALWAYS clean.


I’m a complete convert to just using a half water/half vinegar mix in a spray bottle to clean everything. It’s cheap, it’s easy, there are no toxic chemicals, no fake smells, and it really works.


My best cleaning tip is to hire someone else to do it for you, but since I don’t have the money for that I’d have to say what works for me is not putting anything off and just doing it as soon as I see it needs getting done. I have to kick myself in the butt a lot during the day. Sometimes I have to put encouraging little notes around the house to get myself going!


Mine is a bit of a cheat, but with it being shedding season for both of my dogs, some times it’s hard to keep up with all the hair, and that’s always when the mother in law calls to say she’s stopping by. So, when there are tumbleweeds of dog hair floating around on my hard floors and I don’t have time to vacuum, I pull out one of our fleece blankets (the ones that the dogs sleep with) and just drag it around the room really quickly, it doesn’t get everything, but the static picks up most of the dog hair and then it can just be washed after a quick shake in the yard. If you use fabric softener on your fleece blankets, this won’t work. And we only do it with the dog blankets. I wouldn’t suggest doing it with your own bedding.

Another anti-shedding tip–my dogs are great about staying off the couch and chairs when I’m home, but as soon as the garage door closes, I know they’re back up on the couch leaving their fur all over it! I’ve found that if I pick up a few of the cheap old-fashioned spring mouse traps, set them and then lay them MECHANISM DOWN on the couch, if the dogs try to jump up on the couch, it springs the trap (it’s harmless since it’s mechanism down, the trap just makes a noise and jumps up into the air, it doesn’t catch the dog) and the dog will leave the couch alone. This also works for dogs who try to get their noses up on the counters. I have big dogs though, this might be a bit much for a little guy.


I recently ran out of dryer sheets, & had a load of laundry that required them (I don’t use any kind of treatment, either in the wash cycle or the dryer, for a load of towels). I grabbed a bottle of hair conditioner, mixed a little bit with some water, & put some of this mixture on a clean rag and into the dryer it all went. Everything came out fine, & static free. I will say I prefer the ease of dryer sheets, but I was happy to have this method to see me through until I made my next shopping trip to town.


My tip is for microwaves: Place a bowl half full of water with about half a lemon (or lemon juice, I have a lemon tree in my backyard so I always use that) in the microwave for 6-10 minutes or so. The dirt just wipes away and doesn’t leave any chemicals to cook into your food later (plus it smells like lemons!)


Use vinegar instead of carpet shampoo. Gets the stains out and leaves no residue that will attract future dirt. Got my carpet cleaner than I ever thought was possible and it neutralizes pet stains to boot!

What can you add to the list?

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19 thoughts on “Cleaning Tips from Home Ec 101 Readers”

  1. Just a note regarding things flushed down the toilet. We're on a septic so we are VERY careful of what goes down there. Too much "non-toilet" stuff can cause a large bill!

      • Agree with Sue H. Had a coworker who was toilet training their daughter by having her wipe her hands with wet wipes and flushing them. They were on septic and it backed up into the basement. The septic tank cleaning people came and found when they pumped out the tank that it was filled with wipes.

        • There's a number of things you should never put down into a septic tank system, solids like wipes and other material are the usual cause of blockages. Anything that also stops the system breaking down the sewage like harsh detergents and chemicals, fats and oils decrease the performance of your tank, also on a side note you should have a septic tank empty every year or so anyway.

          My recent post Septic Tank Emptying at the Minack Theatre

  2. Curious about the 'use vinegar instead of carpet shampoo'. Quantities, approach? Unclear what's getting substituted where…

    • Originally, I used the vinegar when I rented one of those big carpet cleaning machines from my grocery store. I put the vinegar in the cleaning solution area. Just straight vinegar, not diluted at all. Recently, I bought a used, upright Bissell steam cleaner. With this, I do the same thing; I fill the solution receptacle with undiluted vinegar and the clean water receptacle with hot top water. It does a perfect job every time. My house does smell like pickles for a while after, but the smell is completely gone when the carpet dries.

      Sorry my previous comment was a bit unclear!
      My recent post Snow Themed Birthday

  3. I'm not the original poster but I have used vinegar to wash my carpets. I used about 1 cup vinegar per 1 gallon of warm water (but I think you could use as much as 4 c to 1 g) in the "cleaning solution" tank. This did a swell job.

    I have also used 1/2 and 1/2 in a spray bottle to spot clean. My method was to soak up/remove as much of the mess as possible, spray well but not totally saturated, then work in an 'x' pattern (with the grain and NOT CIRCLES) with a clean cloth, turning it often to keep using clean parts of the cloth. Spray more if you need it. Once the area is as clean as you can get it, lay a folded clean towel over the area and stomp on it repeatedly, turn it over and do it again. Once you have gotten as much moisture out as possible, remove that towel and cover the damp spot with a clean towel until dry (this keeps new dirt from sticking to it).

  4. For a smelly garbage disposal – sprinkle a box of baking soda down the drain, let it stand for however long you want, the pour in vinegar. After the volcano has finished erupting, rinse well. This can double as a chemistry lesson for your kids.

  5. hi this is really nice post that i have ever read before. i like those who make their house neat and clean, Anyway have you ever listen about gen f20 scam, you plz write article about GEN F20 SCAM.

  6. Some really good ideas. I will try a few of them. It is always a pleasure to hear how people find unique ideas for cleaning their homes. Thanks for all your help since I love a clean house.

  7. What an awesome post!! thanks for all the great tips! You always have the greatest ideas, tips and tricks! it's awesome! thank you again!
    My recent post Unique Reception Ideas

  8. I found that: 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of Dawn Liquid Dish Soap (has to be Dawn!) all mixed together in a water bottle is the best carpet cleaner, it gets puppy pee-pee smell completely out! I have 2 puppies and every one thinks they are perfectly potty trained. 🙂

    And I just discovered BORAX….it's pretty amazing! I am still experimenting with it, but for deoderizing a garbage disposal, it's PERFECT! Really, I have tried everything, and this is awesome.


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