The 30 Most Brilliant Cleaning Hacks of All Time

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(Image credit: Christine Han)

The presents have been unwrapped, the parties are over, you’re back to work, and now it’s time to face the new year — and the state of your house.

Don’t worry: It sounds more daunting than it actually is. Because we’ve got you covered with 30 super-smart cleaning hacks — including the easiest and laziest way to de-clutter your home, the secret to getting roast remnants out of your Dutch oven, and the DIY vacuum attachment that lets you reach the teeniest cracks and crevices.

Ready, set, clean!

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy)

You know that sponge you use to clean the dishes with? And the other sponge you use to wipe down the walls? Keep track of which one is which with this smart trick: Just cut off the corner of the sponge you use for the dirty work.

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Garbage stinks. It’s a fact of life. But here’s a trick to make it a little less smelly — or rather, smelly in a good way. Take a cotton ball, soak it in essential oil, and drop it in your bin (underneath the liner or the bag). It’s an easy and inexpensive odor-fighter that helps keep your trash from getting too pungent.

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If you’ve got little piles of clutter everywhere, a laundry basket (you can get a cheap one from the dollar store) is a brilliant way to consolidate all the things that are out of place. If you’re in a hurry (say, company’s coming), just stash the laundry basket out of sight; if you’ve got time, walk around with the laundry basket and put all the things back where they belong.

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This tip was a game-changer for one of our writers. The idea is simple: Set a timer and work until the buzzer goes off. You may finish the dishes early and, at the very least, you’ll know exactly how long you have to subject yourself to some mundane task.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

If you have a stainless steel sink, the single best thing you can do for it is to polish it with flour. Wash and dry the sink, sprinkle the whole thing flour, and then get to buffing. You’ll be surprised at how sparkly the metal gets!

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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

A weird-but-effective way to clean your bathroom? PAM cooking spray. Not only will it remove soap scum from your tub, but it can also shine your faucets, clean your glass surfaces, and even stop your bathroom door from squeaking!

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Here’s something we bet you didn’t know: Chalk is super-absorbent, which makes it an excellent stain stick. Remove any excess food and oil from the soiled garment with a clean paper towel — and cover the entire spot with chalk. Then, before you toss your oil-stained item in the laundry, rub the spot with a little stain remover or laundry detergent, wash it in hot water, and your oily spot should be gone.

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(Image credit: Julia Steele)

The secret to a clean shower? Cleaning it on a regular basis. And the secret to cleaning your shower on a regular basis? Having a soap-loaded dish brush ready in your shower caddy.

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Skip the dish rack — it takes up too much precious counter space — and use your dishwasher’s empty racks to dry your hand-washed dishes. Your dishwasher will hold more than a dish rack, anyway, so you can clean a sink full of hand-wash-only dishes in no time.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

You know those mesh produce bags you get when you buy a dozen lemons? Or a whole lot of potatoes? Well, don’t toss them! Instead, place an old sponge inside the bag, secure it with a zip tie, and clip the ends. Voila: You’ve got a DIY pot scrubber.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The next time you go to run the dishwasher, gather up all those little items — water bottle tops, lids to tiny food storage containers, etc. — and put them in a mesh laundry bag. The bag keeps small and fragile items from getting lost in the fray, while still allowing hot water and soap to do their magic.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

If you live in an area with hard water, you are probably pretty frustrated with dirty-looking dishes that come out of your dishwasher. Put a bowl right-side-up in your dishwasher and pour in some vinegar. Run the dishwasher — the vinegar will help combat that hard water so your dishes come out looking spotless.

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This method for cleaning your enameled cookware is so simple and so effective. Just boil water, add baking soda, and give everything a good stir. After a few minutes of simmering, use a wooden spoon to scrape off any baked-on bits.

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Here’s what you need: a glass baking dish lined with aluminum foil or an aluminum baking dish, baking soda, salt, and boiling water. The science-project-like reaction should begin to remove the tarnish immediately, although heavily tarnished pieces may need to soak a little longer.

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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

Do your coffee mugs have stubborn brown stains that don’t want to come out? Try baking soda: Sprinkle some onto the bottom of your stained cup, add just enough water to form a paste, and scrub. The gentle abrasion of the baking soda will get rid of stains in a matter of minutes. Then, simply rinse and wash the way you usually would.

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When you think of all the gross stuff that goes down your drain, it makes sense that it’ll start to smell eventually. Try this DIY de-clogger to keep your pipes clear of gunk and smelly pretty(ish): Flush your drain with hot water, then slowly pour a cup of baking soda down. Finish it off with about a cup of lemon juice and wait for the fizzy chemical reaction.

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If your sink still stinks and you have a disposal, make a bunch of ice cubes from white vinegar and small chunks of lemon, put one or two down the drain, and run your disposal. It’s an instant deodorizer — just don’t plop one in your cocktail.

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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

You can use this trick on other rusty things, too. Here’s how it works: Cut the potato in half, dip the cut end in dish soap or baking soda, and rub it over the rusted area. If the end of the potato gets slick, slice it off and dip the newly cut end. Repeat until rust is removed!

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Here’s what you do: Measure about 1/2 cup of water into a measuring cup or bowl. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water. Drop the lemon halves into the bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and nuke on high power for three minutes so the liquid comes to a boil. Let stand for five minutes. Do not open the microwave door; the steam trapped inside will help loosen food gunk. Once that timer buzzes, then you can wipe it down!

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Washing oven racks in the sink can be annoying and messy — especially if you have a smaller sink! Do it in the bathtub instead. Our method even does most of the work for you — literally while you sleep.

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It happens: You gesture a little too enthusiastically and down goes your wine glass. The big pieces are easy enough to pick up, but the tiny shards? Not so much — or are they? All you need is a slice of bread. Just press it gently over the glass and the little fragments will stick to the soft dough. (They don’t call it Wonder Bread for nothing.)

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Your rubber kitchen gloves are good for more than keeping your hands protected while you do the dirty work. They’re also great for opening jars and getting rid of excess pet hair. Just slip on a glove and rub over whatever you want de-fuzzed. The rubber does a surprisingly good job of gathering up hair! Who knew?

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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

If there’s a space between your upper cabinets and your ceiling, consider lining the surface with sheets of wax paper. That wax acts like a magnet to collect dust and grime. You can change it a couple of times a year and it’s way easier than getting up there to clean the cabinets by hand. Note: You can also use newspaper, which will decompose quicker in a landfill.

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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Chopping garlic is smelly work — and while some people love the smell of garlic on their hands, other people might not enjoy it so much. There are tons of hacks out there for getting rid of the stink, but the easiest one is just rubbing your hands on your sink faucet, or anything that’s stainless steel.

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Fill your blender about halfway with warm water, add a drop of dish soap, and whiz away. It’ll clean itself! If your blender has buildup or is looking a bit dull, you can also add a drop of vinegar or some lemon.

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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Buff scratched dishes with a generous amount of cream of tartar and they”ll look as good as new. Just add a few drops of water and rub gently with a wet dishcloth. Let the dish sit for a minute or two, scrub, and wash the plate with soap and water.

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You already know that you can use your dishwasher as a dish-drying rack (see number 9), but did you know there are all sorts of other things (besides dishes) that you can clean in your dishwasher? Flip flops, hairbrushes, sponges, plastic toys. Yup, they can all go in there.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Got a scorched pot? Look to your laundry room. There are so many things that dryer sheets can do — most notably the fact that soaking one in a pot can help un-stick burnt messes. Some other ideas: Use already dried ones to clean up spills and to freshen your trash can!

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Chances are, your vacuum came with a bunch of different attachments. And chances are that even the smallest attachment still doesn’t help you with teeny-tiny crevices. Here’s how to fix that: Just remove the attachment that’s on your vacuum cleaner’s hose and put the top of a squeeze bottle in its place. Now you’re ready to tackle all those hard-to-reach spots.

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So you probably don’t microwave your sponges anymore (because it’s actually pretty ineffective), but you should zap your cleaning rag. Just make sure it’s damp before you put it in and figure out how long it needs to be nuked in order to be hot but not scalding. Once it’s steamy and hot, the rag will be way more powerful when it comes to cutting through messes in the kitchen.

Phew! You made it to the end! Do you have any of your own hacks or tips to add?

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