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25+ Cleaning Hacks for Hard-to-Remove Stuff

From scratches, clogged drains, stains, permanent marker and lots in between, we'll show you some of our proven methods for removing even the toughest stuff.

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HH soak burnt pan with dryer sheetsPhoto: Family Handyman

Easiest way to clean a burnt pan

Have you ever cooked something and totally scorched the pan? The burnt remnants seem impossible to clean. Here’s one kitchen hack that will make it easier to swipe away the burnt-on grime: fill the pan with hot water, then add a little dish soap and a couple dryer sheets. Let it sit for an hour and wipe clean with a scrubbing pad. Note: Once you’re done cleaning with the dryer sheet, use soap and water to wash the pan as usual.

Make your kitchen sparkle even brighter with these cleaning tips.

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dry erase board permanent marker handy hintPhoto: Family Handyman

Permanent marker on dry erase board

Who hasn’t accidentally written on a white board with a permanent marker? Luckily, it’s easier to remove than you think. Simply draw over your permanent marker artwork with a dry erase marker, and then wipe the marks away with an eraser or dry cloth. Your dry erase board will be good as new!

Check out these clever hacks for magic erasers!

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HH stained coffee mug denture cleaning tabletsFamily Handyman

Remove tough stains from a coffee thermos

Got stubborn coffee stains on a pot, thermos or mug? Denture cleaner is the best cleaner we’ve ever found for these tough stains. Dissolve one denture cleaning tablet per two cups of hot water. Pour it in the stained vessel and let it sit for several hours and then use a scrub brush to clean off the stains and all the loosened bits. Pour the solution out and rinse thoroughly.

You’ll wish you knew these uses for coffee filters sooner.

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HH gum stuck in carpetFamily Handyman

Get gum out of carpet

When gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it. Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour. When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.

These homemade carpet cleaners will wipe out stains of all kinds.

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HH Handy hint hairdryer remove command hookFamily Handyman

Remove stubborn utility hooks

Accidentally rip off the pull tab of a utility hook? No big deal! You can still get it off damage-free. First, warm up the adhesive with a hairdryer. 30 seconds or so seems to be about right. Next, use dental floss or fishing line to gently cut through the adhesive strip. Rub off any remaining adhesive residue, and the utility hook is ready to reuse!

Don’t miss these nearly-forgotten cleaning tips from the past.

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HH Handy Hint brasso glasses get scratches outPhoto: Family Handyman

Scratch-free glasses

Scratched eyeglasses are a real nuisance and make it hard to see. If your glasses DON’T have antiglare or scratch coating on them, here’s how to get minor scratches out. Put a drop of Brasso on a 100 per cent cotton cloth, the softer the better. Apply the product to the lenses, let it dry completely, and then polish out the scratches.

On the other hand, stay away from these cleaning tricks that don’t actually work.

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Painted CarpetPhoto: Family Handyman

Spilled paint on your carpet? Don’t panic, do this:

One of our readers, Tom Gerdowsky, shared this tip for removing paint from carpet: “I used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in colour to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s colour to the carpet.”

Consider trying these genius uses for baking soda!

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HH handy hint clean with tooth brush humming bird feederFamily Handyman

Clean hard-to-reach spots

If you own a hummingbird feeder or tall flower vase, you know how difficult it is to clean inside them. A toothbrush is perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach places. So, when your old toothbrush has retired from duty in your mouth, give it a new job!

Find out how often you need to replace everything in your home.

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Remove Crayon Marks From WallPhoto: Family Handyman

Remove crayon marks from walls

Have your walls been redecorated with some original crayon masterpieces? Don’t lose your cool. Just grab a rag, dip it in some baking soda and lightly scrub the marks. They will come off with a minimal amount of effort and give your young Picasso a fresh, new canvas.

Use these tricks to remove water stains from wood.

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Sticker residue HH cooking oil remover

How to clean off sticker residue

Reach for cooking oil next time you want to remove annoying sticker residue. Dab any type of kitchen cooking oil—olive, canola or sunflower—onto a paper towel. Then lay the paper towel over the residue that refuses to budge. Wait a few minutes while the oil works to dissolve the stubborn glue. Finally, remove the towel and rub away the sticker residue with another clean paper towel.

A degree of caution is necessary when using this cooking oil method. This is because many oils can stain absorbent materials like clothing. If you are concerned about leaving a stain, test a drop of your chosen oil on an inconspicuous part of the object. And proceed only if the oil leaves no trace to remove glue residue.

These organizing mistakes make your kitchen look sloppy!

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gulf wax for sticky wooden drawerFamily Handyman

Wax for stuck drawers

Wooden drawers with wooden drawer slides often become sticky and difficult to open and close. Moisture is usually the culprit, making the wood swell or warp slightly and causing too much friction. A sticky drawer can be very frustrating, especially if you use it frequently.

Try this quick fix: rub a block of household paraffin wax along the wooden drawer slides and along any other high-friction points on the drawers. The wax will lubricate the moving parts and make the drawers operate much more smoothly.

Check out these brilliant ways to use car wax at home.

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HH zip-tie sink clogPhoto: Family Handyman

Zip-tie to the rescue

When my bathroom sink gets clogged, I don’t reach for chemicals as a bathroom sink cleaner. Instead, I use a long zip tie. I cut several notches on the zip-tie’s end. It’ll hook the hair clog, allowing you to pull it out. Problem solved. The size of the eye of the zip tie prevented me from inadvertently pushing the tie past the stopper. —Rick Holmen

Here are some of the things you should never pour down the drain.

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HH pam cooking spray clean bug splatsPhoto: Family Handyman

Get rid of bug splatters

When you drive a long enough distance you’re going to end up with bug splatters on the front of your car. The bugs are impossible to avoid and if you leave them on your car for too long, they will harden and will become difficult to remove. Unfortunately, cleaning the bugs off of your car requires a little more than just a quick car wash. So instead of scrubbing and potentially damaging your car’s paint job, grab a can of cooking spray. Spray a bit onto the stubborn bug, wait a few seconds, then use a microfiber cloth to wipe the area clean. Be sure to wash the area clean with soap and water like you would when giving your vehicle a car wash.

Restore your ride with these car cleaning accessories.

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HH electric toothbrush cleaning toolFamily Handyman

Clean more than just your teeth!

Here’s what one of our readers, Ellis Biderson, had to say about the versatility of the electric toothbrush: “One of the handy little tools that I use for cleaning around the house is an electric toothbrush. To clean up residue and splatters in the kitchen, I use just a bit of baking soda under the spinning toothbrush head to quickly clean the metal sink and plastic dish drying rack. I also use the electric toothbrush with baking soda and a tiny bit of water to scrub grout in both the kitchen and bathroom. Of course, I use a different one for my teeth!”

Here are more household items you should be cleaning with a toothbrush.

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HH sink screw magnet string retriever

Retrieve items dropped down drains

Small and sometimes expensive items are easily washed down the sink drain. And if the item you dropped down the drain is metal like a drywall screw or washer, a simple magnet might be just what you need to retrieve the item.

Try attaching a magnet that is small enough to fit down your drain on the end of a long string or small, flexible rod that will also fit down your drain. Lower the magnet and slowly pull it back up in order to ensure you don’t drop the item once again. If you’re still without your favorite piece of jewelry, try a stronger rare earth magnet and see if that does the trick.

Did you know that your laundry machine will clean these 15 things?

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HH acetone nail polish remover super gluePhoto: Family Handyman

Easy super glue removal

Removing super glue is a hassle but if you act quickly you can reduce how long you’re stuck to yourself or the item you’re gluing. Soak the glue spot in warm soapy water as soon as possible to soften the glue, and then pat dry. Rub the glue with an acetone-based nail polish remover. And make sure the nail polish remover you use contains acetone. Acetone is the ingredient that will breakdown the adhesive agents of super glue. The glue will turn white and easily peel off.

Don’t miss these other nail polish remover hacks!

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HH straw to clean up glue squeeze out

Get rid of glue squeeze-out

When glue squeezes out on an inside corner like in a drawer or the inside of any woodworking project, using a chisel has the potential to cause more harm than good. This is because the sharp blade can easily mark-up and scratch the adjacent surface. The solution is a simple drinking straw. We used paper straws because they can be recycled, unlike plastic ones. The straw will conform to the shape of the corner and the excess glue will be collected inside the straw so it can’t get re-deposited anywhere else.

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tennis ball bottle opener

Tennis ball bottle opener

The rubbery interior of a tennis ball makes it perfect for gripping stubborn twist-off bottle caps or sticky jar lids. And the soft exterior eases the strain on your hands when bearing down on the item you’re trying to open.

To make this handy bottle and jar opener, use a utility knife to cut a tennis ball in half. For safety, stabilize the tennis ball in a vise or clamp it to a work surface while cutting, so it doesn’t move around. With one tennis ball, you can create two openers—one for your kitchen and one for your home bar area.

Here are more tricks to open a bottle without an opener.

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HH Steam clean oven wipePhoto: Family Handyman

Steam for everyday spills

The advantages of traditional oven cleaners are power and speed. But for many of us, the disadvantages outweigh the good, specifically, the corrosive chemicals and caustic fumes that this type of oven cleaning can produce.

A simple, more natural way for cleaning your oven is to place an oven-safe pot or bowl filled with water inside. Set your oven to 450 degrees for 20 to 60 minutes to loosen dirt and grease with the steam. Once your oven is cool, wipe off the condensation and the grease will come with it. If stubborn spots persist, scrub with a paste of baking soda and lemon or vinegar. This steam-cleaning option doesn’t take as long as pyrolytic cleaning and doesn’t produce smoke, either. It’s a win-win! Plus: If your kitchen sponge smells funky, here’s how to clean it.

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permanent marker HH vegetable oil removerPhoto: Family Handyman

Remove permanent marker on laminate

Dab some cooking oil onto a paper towel and then lay the paper towel over the stain that refuses to budge. Wait a few minutes while the oil works to dissolve the stubborn stain. Finally, remove the towel and rub away the stain in circular motions (with some force) with another paper towel dipped in oil. When the stain is gone, wipe the area clean with soap and water.

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HH Walnut fixes scratched woodPhoto: Family Handyman

Fix wood scratches

Simply rub a walnut over a scratch in wood several times. Then, with your fingers rub the scratched area. This will help the wood absorb the oil from the nut. Lastly, use a soft cloth to buff the area. Now the scratch is sealed and gone!

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ROUND_8 HH Wood dent iron steam wet cloth

How to get dents out of wood

Soak a washcloth in water and ring it out a bit so it’s not sopping wet. Put the damp washcloth on the affected area. The water will wick through the wood, and that’s fine. Now, with your iron on its highest setting, place it on the damp washcloth over the affected area, and make small movements back and forth and in circles. Press down firmly and continue until your washcloth is dry. It won’t take long to evaporate. At this point, the wood fibers are absorbing the water and should expand back to where they were originally. Continue this process and repeat by adding more water until the dents rise up to be flush with the rest of the material.

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clean cast iron skillet with coarse saltFamily Handyman

Clean a cast iron skillet

To prevent rust and extend the life of a cast iron skillet, it’s best not to use soap to clean it. Instead, use about a tablespoon of coarse salt to scrub the pan after a meal.

The salt breaks up bits of stuck food and residue on the skillet. Then toss the dirty salt in the trash, rinse the pan with hot water and dry it with a clean towel. To further protect a cast iron skillet, rub a few drops of vegetable oil over the entire cooking surface

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Clothes Hanger Drain Cleaner HH

Clothes hanger drain cleaner

Hair clumps that get stuck in the drain are inevitable. Turns out, a wire coat hanger is the one of the most effective tools for unclogging them. First, untwist the wire under the hook. This leaves the hook at one end and a miniature “auger” at the other end. Push the auger end down the drain up to the clog. Bend the free end 90 degrees, forming a handle. Crank the handle so the auger bores into the clog, allowing you to pull it out.

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remove hard water buildup with a lemon HHPhoto: Family Handyman

Remove hard-water buildup with a lemon

To get rid of hard-water buildup on a faucet, try this natural solution: Cut a fresh lemon in half. With one of the halves, use your thumbs to gently open up the center. Then press the lemon onto the end of the faucet. Put a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it around the faucet with a rubber band. Be sure that the rubber band it cinched tightly and that the lemon is around the end of the faucet. Leave the lemon in place for a few hours to allow the citric acid to work its magic.

After you remove the lemon, you may need to use a gentle scrubbing pad to wash off any loosened hard-water buildup. Then wipe the faucet with a damp cloth to remove any leftover lemon juice, and your faucet will be squeaky clean.

Here are the dishwasher problems you’ll regret ignoring.

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vacuuming up baking soda from upholsteryPhoto: Family Handyman

Clean upholstery

Use this handy hint if there’s a funky smell lurking in your couch or upholstered chair: Sprinkle a generous amount of regular baking soda onto the fabric and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. The baking soda will help to release odours and break up some light stains in the fabric. After about 20 minutes, remove the baking soda—and the funky smell—with a handheld vacuum or a hose attachment for your large vacuum.

Don’t miss these other uses for baking soda!

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HH splinter extraction

Splinter extraction

Have you ever struggled to get a splinter out of a finger or toe? It can be a challenge, not to mention a pain. Spread a small amount of wood glue over the affected area and let dry completely. When you pull off the dried glue (gently and in the opposite direction of the splinter) it pulls out the splinter. By pulling the wood glue off in the opposite direction, the glue has a chance to pull the splinter out the way it went in. This tip is easy and most importantly pain-free!

Now that you’re up on this tip, check out these clever super glue hacks!

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HH clean sneakers with a toothbrush and toothpaste whitePhoto: Family Handyman

Use toothpaste to clean sneakers

All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to learn how to clean sneakers and get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about 10 minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.

Check out more ways to clean white sneakers.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman