21 quick and safe DIY cleaning hacks

Get more done around the house with ingredients in your fridge, pantry and medicine cabinet.
by Nicole Spector /
Forget fancy cleaning products. Ingredients you already have on hand — like limes and baking soda — work just as well at cutting through the grime. BSIP/UIG / Getty Images/Collection Mix: Sub
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Though the frequency of cleaning depends on our lifestyle and whether or not we can afford a housekeeping service, it’s a chore that stares us down with mounting pressure.

I’ve got some serious housecleaning to do right now, but I’m short on time and the last thing I want to do after work is spend an hour scrubbing the tub or stove. Should I just put it all off until the weekend and spend a whole day tackling the inevitable dust and grime? I was leaning toward a big fat “yes” until I consulted a handful of cleaning experts and realized, I can get quite a bit done without investing hours of my day, and better yet, I can use ingredients I already have on hand for cooking, etc., so I don’t have to squander a small fortune on a new batch of eco-friendly cleaning products.

Here’s a list of cleaning hacks for those of us looking to save time, money and of course, sanity.

1. Buff surfaces with olive oil

Olive oil has many nutritional benefits (and can possibly increase longevity). Turns out it can also help you clean the house.

“Olive oil is a great option for cleaning stainless steel, such as pots, pans and appliances. Put olive oil on a soft cloth and rub in a circular motion to buff out any dirty spots,” says Mat Franken, CEO and Founder of Aunt Fannie’s, a manufacturer of whole ingredient, food-based cleaning and pest solutions for the home.

2. Detox the garbage disposal with lemons or limes

The garbage disposal does a lot of dirty work on a regular basis, so it’s important to keep it clean and clog-free.

“To clean and deodorize garbage disposals, use a fresh lemon or lime,” says Franken. “Cut the citrus fruit into quarters, and while you have the water running put the lemon pieces one by one into the disposal.”

4. Remove carpet stains with vodka

Rubbing alcohol, clear vodka (which has a lot of cleaning benefits!) and even white wine can be used for this cleaning hack.

“First blot the stain. Second, pour any type of clear alcohol (rubbing alcohol, vodka, white wine) onto the stain,” says Greg Shepard, owner of the housecleaning service Dallas Maids. “This is better than any over the counter product.”

4. Eliminate water stains with shaving cream

Who’d have thought that shaving cream could be used to clean? Shepard vouches for it as a great way to remove water stains from shower glass.

“Apply the shaving cream and let it sit for 15 minutes, then wipe off,” Shepard says.

5. Baking soda and vinegar will basically clean the tub for you

Jenice Findley, director of marketing at the newly launched Fins Property Maintenance, which offers various commercial cleaning services, recommends the following 10-minute plan of attack for tubs.

“[Mix] one cup vinegar, half a cup of baking soda with hot water and pour into [an empty] tub and allow to sit for five minutes,” says Findley. “Start filling the tub with hot water until it is approximately one-quarter filled, and let it sit for an additional five minutes. Then release drain and rinse thoroughly.”

6. Use the same solution to clean toilets

You can use the same concoction to freshen up your toilet, Findley notes. Just let it soak for a bit, then flush and wipe the seat.

7. Essential oils for a sparkling toilet

Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, recommends using essential oils in a DIY toilet cleaner.

“Mix one cup of baking soda with 15 drops of tea tree essential oil and 15 drops of lemon or orange essential oil. Let the mixture sit in the bowl for 30 minutes and scrub with a bowl brush before flushing.”

8. A DIY aromatherapy cleaning solution for shining sinks and tubs

James also recommends getting your sink or tub to shine by mixing baking soda, drops of lemon and basil essential oils and dish soap. “Sponge the mixture on the surface of your bathtub and bathroom sink for 10 minutes. After rising off with water, [they] will be glistening.”

9. Steam the microwave with lemon oil

You can also use essential oils to clean the microwave.

“Add 15 drops of lemon essential oil into one and a half cups water to a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on high for five to 10 minutes, allowing the steam to condense on inside walls/ceilings of your machine,” says Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. “Once complete, simply wipe away the softened food with a sponge.”

10. Nuke a damp sponge

Another way to clean your microwave is by putting a clean, dampened sponge or cloth on the tray and setting it on high for two minutes.

“This will kill bacteria,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers. “Then use sponge or cloth to wipe down the microwave.”

12. DIY Glass Cleaner

“If you don’t feel like running to the store for more glass cleaner, making your own is easy,” says Larry Patterson, franchise owner of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly company. “Mix white vinegar, distilled water, drops of an essential oil and shake. This is an affordable and easy way to clean your windows, mirrors or even shower doors if you’re in a pinch.”

13. Lemon oil is a natural degreaser for the oven

“In addition to its scent benefits, lemon essential oil is a great degreaser and can be an excellent tool to remove stubborn grease stains naturally,” says Rogers.

“Spray a mixture of one cup water, one cup vinegar and lemon essential oil onto your stovetop and simply wipe clean. For tougher stains, sprinkle baking soda first, then spray and wipe. You can use the same technique to clean your oven — which will help prevent kitchen fires — many of which are caused by grease.”

14. Baking soda for a hands-off stovetop scrub

Carol Meerschaert, a registered dietitian and the owner of Appleton Home Services, hails baking soda as a favorite stove-top cleaner.

“Just pour it on, sprinkle with water, let sit one hour and wipe.”

15. Remove pet hair with rubber gloves

“When your standard vacuum doesn’t seem to get all your pet’s hair, rubber gloves will get the job done,” says Leanne Stapf, VP of operations at The Cleaning Authority. “Just slide them on and rub down any areas that need extra cleaning. When rubber is pushed against fabric, it can generate elasticity to gather remaining pet hair. Rinse the gloves under running water when you’re done and the hair will unstick.”

16. Eliminate foul odors from upholstery

Joshua Miller, director of Technical Training of Rainbow International, a Neighborly company, recommends wiping out pet smells and other odors from upholstery by combining vinegar, water and your favorite essential oil (he vouches for lavender).

“Furniture is often the culprit behind persistent unpleasant smells in the home, as upholstery often retains odors,” Miller notes. “Pre-test the solution on an inconspicuous location and allow to dry to test for colorfastness before using on the rest of the upholstery.”

If all is good, then spray the mixture on the rest of the upholstery, and once dry, vacuum the area.

17. Spruce up the mattress with baking soda & vinegar

We tend to wash our bedding regularly, but we can’t exactly throw our mattress in the washing machine. Fortunately, we can keep it clean with our kitchen essential.

“It’s important to clean your mattress often to avoid dust mites, dead skin cells, etc,” says Stapf. “For stain removal especially, try spraying the mattress with vinegar and sprinkle baking soda over the top. You can place a towel over the area and let it sit for one to two hours. Then take your vacuum and go over the mattress for a final clean.”

18. Dust electronics with coffee filters

“Coffee filters are useful items to keep around your living room and office, not only in the kitchen,” says Stapf. “They are perfect for clearing dust from TV screens, computer monitors and any other screens around the home, without leaving behind any fibers like towels do.”

19. Clean ceiling fans with a pillowcase

“Instead of using a rag to clean your ceiling fan, which usually results in dust falling onto your furniture and floors, try using your pillowcase,” Stapf says. “Slip it in between the fan blades and swipe one at a time.”

20. Dust window blinds with old socks

“Blinds often have multiple sides and shapes, so they can sometimes be a hassle to clean,” Stapf notes. “With this simple and kid-friendly hack, it doesn’t have to be! Take 50/50 vinegar and water mixture with an old clean sock, swipe the sock over each section and the embedded dust and dirt will come right off your blinds.”

21. Use the dishwasher to clean hair brushes, flip flops and more

“If you only use your dishwasher to clean dishes, you aren't using it to its full potential,” asserts Stapf. “Take a look at this list of things you can safely wash in the dishwasher:

  • Rubber flip-flops, canvas sneakers and baseball caps
  • Makeup brushes
  • Non-electrical plastic and rubber kids’ toys
  • Contacts lens case
  • Mouth guards
  • Hair brushes and combs
  • Shower heads
  • Plastic and metal garden tools
  • Refrigerator shelves

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