5 Cleaning Questions Everyone Has (Warning: You Might Not Like the Answers!)

updated Mar 2, 2021
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Credit: Chloe Berk

The right tools and techniques combined with a bit of elbow grease can solve a lot of problems around the home — and occasionally, you’ll find a hack that makes the process a whole lot easier. (Thanks, cleaning TikTok).

But as much as you want a quick solution, there’s not always an easy way out of the messes plaguing your home. Sometimes, the job will be gross, and other times — sad as it is — it’ll be impossible. The trick? Adjust your expectations.

If you’ve been holding onto magical thinking about cleaning, it’s time to face the truth and, hopefully, enjoy your space more along the way. Here are five cleaning questions everyone has … but know that you may not like the answers.

1. How do I get rid of a set-in laundry stain?

Even the toughest stains (like oil!) can be at least partially removed if you act on them right away — assuming you have the right tools on hand. (For example, oxygen bleach, like OxiClean powder, for an organic-based stain, or bleach for your whites.) But some set-in stains will be impossible to get out, especially if it’s old. If you washed something but the stain is still visible, treat it again before throwing it in the wash; never put it in the dryer until the stain is completely out. Once the stain has been exposed to heat, it might be time to give up hope.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

2. How do I remove all this built-up grease (or mold, or dirt) from this thing in my home?

The same principle applies to stains or other build-up on surfaces: sometimes, the damage has already been done. For example, according to Laura Smith, owner of All-Star Cleaning Services in Colorado, you can’t remove mold from grout or your bathtub caulk by cleaning it – you’ll have to re-grout or tear out the caulk and replace it.

Same with cabinets with a very heavy grease load or baseboards that haven’t been cleaned in months (or years). “The dirt and grease often have damaged the wood, and while they can be cleaned, they will still be damaged,” Smith says. “Regular cleaning is a preventative measure required to keep your home from damage.”

Related: The Best Ways to Clean Greasy Wooden Cabinets

Credit: Elissa Crowe

3. Is there a less-gross way to clean a stopped drain? 

Sadly: Nope. You can clean a drain (or garbage disposal) without directly contacting the gross stuff (for example, according to Roto-Rooter Services, ice and a gentle cleaning product down the disposal does wonders for freshening it up). But if your drain is truly clogged, you have to deal with the source of the problem. Whether you deal with it yourself (drain snakes work great!) or call a plumber is up to you, but what goes in must come out.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

4. How can I make my beat-up floor shiny again? 

Irina Nikiforova, owner of the LA-based cleaning company Rocket Maids, says her clients commonly ask if she can make their floors shiny — and the answer is usually no. As nice as it would be to restore floors to like-new condition, cleaning usually doesn’t accomplish that. Much of the wear on your floors stem from scratches and water damage over the course of years. “Floors need to be finished and buffed, and there are specialized floor restoration companies for that,” Nikiforova says. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. How can I clean this neglected area so it looks brand new?

If you just moved into a new space that needs some rehab or you’ve accidentally neglected maintenance cleaning on a certain area of your home, even the deepest kind of deep cleaning can’t always do the trick. Usually, Nikiforova says, the type of “new” you’re looking for requires renovation, not soap and elbow grease. “Cleaning is the best for periodic maintenance, but for long neglect, renovation is the best solution,” she says.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 6 Cleaning Questions Everyone Has (That You Won’t Like the Answers To)