10 Cleaning Tips from Midwestern Grandmas

updated Feb 18, 2021
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Credit: Emma Fiala

I’m a Midwest girl through and through. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, my parents were born and raised in Wisconsin, and both sets of my grandparents raised their families in small towns in the northern part of the state. So it’s safe to say that I’m a bit biased toward the Midwestern way of doing things — including in the kitchen. Yes, I have a lot of Midwest essentials in my fridge and pantry (all the dairy!), but I also like to steal ideas from my Midwestern grandmas when I clean. 

Recently, I shared some of my German grandma’s best cleaning tips, and it was so fun (and useful!) that I had to keep polling my friends and colleagues about their own grandmas’ tricks.

Here are some of the best cleaning tips I gathered from Midwestern grandmas just like mine.

Credit: Linda Xiao

1. Pour boiling water on berry stains.

My college classmate Amanda shared her grandmother’s tip: Pouring boiling water over berry stains takes the stains out instantly. It’s always best to treat a stain as soon after it happens as you can, and this trick is easiest to do in a bathtub to avoid spills. No matter where you do it, practice caution to avoid burns!

2. Clean glass with newspaper.

For a streak-free way to clean mirrors or windows, my Wisconsinite friend Kelli’s grandma recommends using newspaper instead of paper towel or microfiber. Bonus points if you’re drinking a Bloody Mary with a beer chaser in the process!

3. Clean your fireplace glass with ash.

Newspaper is a surprisingly helpful tool for cleaning glass, but this trick has another unique component. Virginia from Michigan says her grandma always cleaned her fireplace glass with wet newspaper dipped in ash. Just rub it on the inside of the glass in a circular motion, and watch the soot disappear!

Credit: Lauren Volo

4. Use lemon water to clean fridge shelves.

Meg, whose family lives in Illinois and Indiana, says her grandma used lemon water to clean the glass inside of the fridge and the kitchen windows. Lemon not only cuts through grease and grime, but it also smells way better than any chemical cleaner you’ll find!

5. Scrub pans with baking soda and vinegar.

Another useful tip from Meg’s grandma: If you have a pot or pan with baked-on food or hard-to-remove grease, grab your favorite sponge or brush and scrub the affected areas with a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. Rinse, dry, and enjoy your good-as-new cookware!

Related: What Really Happens When You Mix Baking Soda with Vinegar?

6. Remove limescale with vinegar.

Mike’s grandma from Kansas was also fond of using vinegar to clean just about everything, including wiping down soap scum and limescale in the kitchen or bathroom. Just soak a cloth in a vinegar-and-water solution and wipe down the affected area. The acetic acid will break down the limescale!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Clean stainless steel with lemon and salt.

David says his grandma always used lemon and salt to clean her stainless steel sink. Start by sprinkling salt onto the sink then cut the lemon in half and use it to rub the entire surface. The salt will soak up the stains and the acid in the lemon will break down grease and grime, leaving the sink both sanitized and deodorized.

8. Use those same ingredients (plus ice) to banish coffee stains.

Coffee tends to stain ceramic mugs over time, but David’s grandma has a clever solution: Add lemon juice, salt, and ice, then swish and shake for a few minutes until the stain disappears.

9. Iron out wax spills.

Melanie, who has two Midwestern grandmas, says one of her favorite grandma-inherited cleaning tips is to use an iron to clean wax spills on a tablecloth. While your iron heats up, place a paper towel both under and over the wax spill. Then, iron out the wax, and keep changing the paper towels as they absorb the residue.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Boil water and baking soda for burnt-on stains.

Melanie’s grandma has another good tip, this time for removing burned-on stains from pots: Just boil a bit of water mixed with a few tablespoons of baking soda inside the pot, and you should be able to wipe the stains right off after!

Do you have a Midwestern grandma? Has she passed along any smart cleaning tips? Leave them in the comments below!