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25 of the Most Brilliant Cleaning Tips We’ve Ever Gotten from Moms

updated May 7, 2021
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Moms know how to pick you up after a bad day. They know the secret to the mac and cheese that you’ve loved since you were a kid. And they know how to clean all the things — or, at least, some of the things. Whether your mom was always wielding a feather duster or she didn’t know the difference between a broom or a mop, we’re betting you learned at least one cleaning tip from your mom.

With moms top of mind this weekend, we decided to do some digging: We asked real moms to spill their best cleaning tips or share the best tips they learned from their moms. Here’s what we uncovered — including new cleaning methods, product recommendations, and more.

1. Tidy things up before you unpack new groceries.

Marissa Hagmeyer, a mom of two and co-founder of the luxury organizing brand NEAT Method, has one thing she always recommends: “Give each bin, basket, or shelf a little sprucing before you unpack new groceries,” she says. “It should only take a few minutes to make sure your containers are ready for decanting, empty boxes are recycled, and crumbs are vacuumed up.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Have a routine for your dirty dishes.

Another brilliant tip from Hagmeyer: Wipe down your counters and leave your sink empty at the end of each day — and start each morning with unloading the dishwasher. “My husband makes himself a coffee and then goes to town making sure all clean dishes are put away and it is amazing how this simple routine can really set our day up for success,” she says. 

3. Vacuum your drawers and cabinets.

Every other month, Hagmeyer makes sure her drawers and cabinets have seen a vacuum or wipe. Nobody likes crumbs on their dishes or flatware!

4. Use lemon juice to clean the oven.

Laura Miner, founder of Cook at Home Mom, says her mom swears by lemon juice in the kitchen. “She squeezes a lemon directly onto the stovetop, lets it sit for about 20 minutes, then takes a warm, wet towel to wipe away grease,” she says. “It also works on the inside of a dirty oven door!”

Credit: Cat Meschia

5. Tackle dirty grout with baking soda.

Miner’s mom relies on another pantry staple for cleaning her grout. “She shakes baking soda on the grout lines between the tile in her kitchen, then drizzles a little vinegar on top and uses a toothbrush to scrub away any stains in the grout,” Miner says. If you’re trying to clean a backsplash instead of tiled floors, make the paste in a bowl first.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Clean porcelain with Bar Keepers Friend.

Have a porcelain sink? You also have your work cut out for you! Alice Anderson, founder of Mommy to Mom, has struggled to keep hers shiny and white, thanks to her two kids dumping their juice in it and her husband pouring out his leftover coffee. Her solution: She uses Bar Keepers Friend, an acidic cleaner that you can also use on baking pans, appliances, and cookware. 

Related: 12 Things You Can Do With Bar Keepers Friend

7. Enlist the whole family.

As a rule of thumb, everybody who contributes to the mess should play a part in cleaning it! Cynthia Matthews von Berg, founder of Sharing the Wander, says she sets a timer for 15 minutes, and the whole family pitches in until it goes off. Pro tip: Choose age-appropriate chores for everyone in the family, like picking up toys, dusting, vacuuming, or clearing off the table. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Scrub cast iron with salt.

If your cast iron needs some love, take this tip from Samantha Radford, PhD, founder of Evidence Based Mommy. Just grab some coarse salt, sprinkle it around the pan, and use it to scrub any stuck-on bits of food. 

9. Clean while you cook.

One of the best cleaning tips Jacqueline Gilchrist, founder of Mom Money Map, learned from her mom is to constantly clean while she’s cooking. “For example, if I’m using a can of chickpeas in my recipe, I will clean out the can and dry it to put in the recycling bin when I have some down time during cooking, like when I’m waiting for water to boil,” she says. “This lessens the cleaning load at the end of the meal and saves time.”

10. Deep clean your sink with baking soda and dish soap.

To give your kitchen sink a deep clean, Jen Bradley, founder of Jen Bradley Moms, suggests sprinkling baking soda, then squirting dish soap generously in the bottom and scrubbing with a sponge. Don’t forget the corners and sides!

Credit: Cat Meschia

11. Make your own all-purpose spray.

If your kitchen counters have seen better days, mix a cup of filtered water with a cup of distilled white vinegar in a colored glass spray bottle. Then, add 1 tablespoon of liquid Castile soap and 10 to 12 drops of your favorite essential oil (citrus is great for a fresh scent and for cutting through grease). “Spray on your countertops and wipe with a cloth or paper towel,” Bradley says. “So easy and inexpensive!”

12. Freshen up drains with baking soda and vinegar.

Laura Bevilacqua, blogger at My Suburban Cabin House, learned one of her favorite non-toxic cleaning tips from her mom. “My favorite hack is to pour 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar down my kitchen and bathroom drains,” she says. “This helps keep the drain unclogged, while washing down food or hair and anything else that can cause the sink to get stinky.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

13. Use vinegar on your faucet spout, too.

You can also use vinegar on your faucet or shower heads, which accumulate mineral build-up over time. “All you have to do is fill a plastic sandwich bag halfway with white vinegar, then pull the bag over the faucet head so it’s submerged in the vinegar,” says Lorie Anderson, founder of Mom Informed. “Wrap one or two strong rubber bands around the bag so it sits on the faucet with the head fully submerged, and leave it there overnight.” In the morning, remove the bag and give the spout a little scrub with an old toothbrush. Run the water for a few minutes to flush it, and you’re good to go!

Credit: Cat Meschia

14. Clean your range vent hood with Dawn soap.

It’s so easy to forget about the vent filter above your stove, because you probably don’t take a close look that often. But because your vent soaks up all the smoke from the stove, it gets gross pretty quickly. Anderson has a great tip: Plug your sink and fill it halfway with water. Then, pour a cup of Dawn in it and soak the vent for about an hour. Finally, give it a scrub, using baking soda to remove extra grease if needed.

15. Use a bowl for trash while you work.

Joni Gonzales, founder of Life Unflaked, has a tip to try while you cook: As you work, keep a large bowl next to your prep station for scraps and trash. “This makes cleanup so much faster,” she says.

Related: 10 Things I Learned About Making 30-Minute Meals from Rachael Ray

16. Stay in place while you cook.

Similarly, take the edge off of post-dinner cleanup by staying in one place while you cook. Gonzales says she trained herself to prevent spreading mess all over the counters by using a placemat as a visual to stay put.

17. Clean a dirty oven with a dish of ammonia.

Gonzales’ mom taught her to loosen burnt-on gunk with ammonia: Just fill a small bowl with it and allow it to sit overnight; this will make cleaning the oven the next morning a breeze. (And as a reminder, never mix ammonia with other chemicals, wear gloves, and always ensure proper ventilation in the process!)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

18. Color code your cups to save time on dishes.

If your family manages to use every drinking glass you own in a single day, color code or personalize the glasses to enforce a one-cup-per-day rule. “I got this idea from my own mom, who ran a home daycare in the ’70s and wrote each child’s name on a cup with nail polish,” Gonzales says. “I use colored rubber bands and it cuts down on dishes dramatically.”

Related: The 1-Minute Organizing Hack Every Parent Needs to Know About

19. Tackle the stovetop with cream of tartar and vinegar.

Stuck-on grime on a stovetop can be a huge hassle. Gonzales suggests her go-to cleaner for the job: a paste of cream of tartar and vinegar. Simply scrub it in with a toothbrush, wait a few minutes, scrub again, and rinse. “This is perfect for those curved areas a razor blade can’t get into,” she says.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

20. Fill a sink with soapy water when you cook.

Kait Schulhof, who manages the blog A Clean Bee, likes to fill her sink up with soapy water when she starts cooking a big meal. As you finish preparing the meal, toss used pots, pans, and utensils into the soapy water to soak. “Doing so will make cleanup so much easier. Most items will only require a quick rinse and gentle scrub with a brush or sponge before setting to dry.” Can’t sacrifice your entire sink? Consider a soapy bowl off to the side instead.

21. Scrape, don’t rinse dirty plates.

Did you know that dishwasher detergent works better if the plates you load into the dishwasher still have some food on them? It’s true. Just scrape off food and skip the rinsing. Just be sure to follow Schultof’s suggestion and clean your dishwasher filter once a week or so.

Related: How to Clean a Dishwasher

Credit: Joe Lingeman

22. Revive rugs with baking soda.

Fill a mason jar 3/4 with baking soda, a coin, and 10 to 15 drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake it up and pour it over your rugs, carpet, and mattresses, allowing everything to sit for about 10 minutes before you vacuum. “I always do this cleaning hack on days I have guests coming over,” says Chrissy Wolfman, owner and principal planner at Plan to Be Wowed.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

23. Freshen up cupboards with vanilla.

A tip from Theresa Tesolin, co-founder of Rustic Wise: Use vanilla extract to freshen up musty cupboards, drawers, your pantry, or even the fridge! Just place a few drops of vanilla onto a cotton ball and place it in a bowl!

Read more: The First Thing You Should Do With a New Bottle of Vanilla Extract

24. Clean your microwave with lemon.

Michelle Hansen, owner of Practical Perfection, says the best way to clean a microwave is placing 1 to 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl, then turning on the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. “This steams up the microwave and softens all caked-on messes,” she says. “Now instead of scrubbing the inside of the microwave, you simply wipe down the walls.”

Related: How To Clean Your Microwave Naturally with Just a Lemon

25. Make your own soap scum cleaner.

Sarah Bowen, co-founder of Spruce Up, makes a DIY scouring cleaner for stubborn soap scum: Mix 2 parts baking soda with 1 part salt and 1 part borax, and gently scrub grimy surfaces using a microfiber cloth. “Remember that in most cases, both warmth and time add to the effectiveness of your cleaning solution,” Bowen says. “Warmth helps to increase the cleaning action, while applying a solution for a longer period of time will reduce the amount of product you need to use overall.”

Do you have any great tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!