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35 Nearly Forgotten House Cleaning Tips from the Past

Grandma knows all the best cleaning tips and tricks to save you time, money and effort. You'll want to stock up on vinegar and lemon juice.

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Minty fresh

Summer’s heat can sometimes cause garbage cans to give off an unpleasant odour. Reader Michael Sienkowski of Norwich, Connecticut, says, “If you grow mint, cut a fresh sprig and place it in the garbage can every day. It keeps the can smelling fresh all season long.”

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cinnamonSwapan Photography/Shutterstock

No more moths

Keep moths away from your clothes with a natural solution. Reader Mrs. T. Peterson of Knife River, Minnesota says, “Make your own mothballs by mixing oil of cloves and oil of cinnamon, then soaking cotton balls in this mixture. Place the cotton balls in muslin bags and hang them in your closets.”

These are the 9 things you should be cleaning everyday.

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winter dryness dishwasher steamLeszek Glasner/Shutterstock

Wash away dust

Air vent covers are a hidden dirty spot in your home. Marge Grandy of Flippin, Arkansas, says, “I run all my metal heat and air conditioning vent covers through the dishwasher every spring and fall. It saves lots of time and does a better job than doing it by hand.”

You’ll regret ignoring these dishwasher problems.

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dfh4_shutterstock_292282616 wood burning stovestzeeana/Shutterstock

Homemade humidifier

If you use a wood-burning stove, you can make your own humidifier. Therese DeVlieger of Davis Junction, Illinois, says, “Fill an old coffee can two-thirds full of water. Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel and place it on the stove. When the water gets hot, it gives off a pleasant scent and gives the home extra moisture.”

Try this nifty trick to humidify your home without a humidifier.

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book Motortion Films/Shutterstock

Keep cookbooks clean

Tired of splattering and spilling ingredients all over your cookbooks? Rosa Graber of Odon, Indiana, says, “Once you’ve turned to the page you want, slip the book inside a large plastic food storage bag to protect the pages.”

These are the things in your house a professional organizer would throw out.

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DIY glass cleaner

Mildred Zuercher of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, says this homemade solution cleans windows, glass and mirrors. “Mix 2 ounces rubbing alcohol, 2 ounces of ammonia and 12 ounces of water. Add a drop of blue food colouring and mark it clearly to distinguish it from other cleaners. Pour into a spray bottle and use as you would a store-bought cleaner.”

Check out these 18 brilliant uses for rubbing alcohol you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Stop sticking

Tired of scraping stickers off of your new stuff? Herman Ensey of Scottsbluff, Nebraska says, “Remove sticky price tags from glass by spraying with WD-40. It works well.”

Avoid these 13 bad cleaning habits you didn’t realize you had.

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Henrik Dolle/Shutterstock

Polish your silver

Banish the tarnish with this simple solution from reader Lois Kreider of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “Place silver in an aluminum pan or in your kitchen sink lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of baking soda and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes.

Here’s exactly how to clean a greasy, dusty oven hood.

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showerSuti Stock Photo/Shutterstock

Soak your shower head

To remove hard water buildup on your shower head, reader Jennie Krell, El Cajon, California says, “Pour some white distilled vinegar in a plastic bag and place it around the showerhead so the head is completely submerged. Tie the bag around the pipe and leave it overnight. You’ll find the showerhead will spray like new again in the morning.”

Don’t miss these bathroom cleaning tips and tricks.

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can openerpadu_foto/Shutterstock

Open secret

When her handheld can opener gets balky, Ruth Brennan of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says she uses a toothbrush, hot water, and dishwashing detergent to clean it. “After cleaning, lubricate the opener with vegetable oil and set it aside for a while. Wipe off the excess oil and it will work like new.”

Don’t miss Charles the Butler’s best kitchen cleaning tips.

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HH Walnut fixes scratched woodPhoto: Family Handyman

A nutty solution

To colour in nicks or scratches in furniture, cabinets, wood trim, etc., reader C. Clingingsmith of St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, says, “Rub them with a pecan nut. The oil of the nut will ‘re-stain’ the wood.”

Here’s how to clean the dirtiest items in your home.

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vinegarfocal point/Shutterstock

Get rid of glue

Reader Mary Yoder, Montezuma, Georgia, has a solution for sticky situations. “When you must remove a spot of glue, use vinegar. It’s a good glue thinner or remover.”

Here are more brilliant uses for vinegar!

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Fizzy flatware

Stainless steel lost its luster? Pat Peters of Matteson, Illinois, says, “Place your flatware in a pan with bubbly carbonated water, soda water, club soda, or seltzer. Let set until the fizz has fizzled. Your stainless will shine like new!”

Don’t miss the 20 clever uses for club soda you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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wicker porch swingFamily Handyman

Brush away dirt

Do you have a tough time cleaning wicker items? Reader Sherry Hearn of Trego Montana, says, “Just spray your favourite furniture polish onto an inexpensive paintbrush. It makes getting to the hard-to-reach spots easier and takes a lot less time.”

These are the everyday items you don’t wash nearly enough.

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Crayon on wallstumsubin/Shutterstock

Invisible ink

Don’t freak out when the kids’ artwork goes beyond the colouring book. Reader Claire Utt of Winfield, Kansas says, “Rubbing alcohol easily removes ink from clothing and crayon marks from woodwork and wallpaper.”

Here are 20 spring cleaning tasks you can do in a minute or less!

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peanut butterMelica/Shutterstock

Gum be gone

To remove gum from fingers or hair, reader Mrs. V. Walston of Bedford, Iowa, says “Rub creamy peanut butter or vegetable oil into the gum. Wait a few minutes. The gum will come right off. Then wash your hands or hair as normal.”

These are the items you should be cleaning every month.

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Dirty greasy handsAmawasri Pakdara/Shutterstock

Handy soap

When your hands are dirty from yard work, reader Marjorie Little, Sarasota, Florida, has a great tip. “Tuck a bar of soap in the toe of a nylon stocking and tie it to your outdoor water faucet for fast garden cleanup.”

These are the high-touch surfaces you should clean daily.

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Clean up concrete

Perk up your patio with this suggestion from reader Ann Norstram of Clinton, Iowa. “Rust stains from outdoor furniture can be removed from concrete by using lemon juice and rubbing with a soft linen cloth.”

You probably already have these homemade carpet cleaners in your house.

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wet grassLeigh Prather/Shutterstock

Grease-free grill

Keep your grill looking great. Nancy Merica of Ripley, West Virginia, says, “Lay a barbecue grill rack on the lawn overnight. The dew will combine with enzymes on the grass to loosen any burned-on grease. Try it with messy oven racks, too!”

Avoid cleaning these things with baking soda.

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four pairs of different colored socks on a pink backgroundArtStudioHouse/Shutterstock

Sock duster

For dusting under furniture and hard-to-reach places, Deanna Thomas of Hollister, Missouri says, “I slip an old sock onto a fly swatter and sew it securely into place. It’s very handy.”

Don’t miss these other brilliant uses for old socks.

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Polish with milk

Reach into the fridge for this handy hint. Mrs. L.E. Ford of Portland, Oregon, says, “Patent leather handbags and shoes can be quickly brightened with a polish of milk. Apply with a soft cloth and rub into a shiny new finish.”

You need to try this viral wooden spoon cleaning hack.

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Wash those walls

Reader Milton Olson of Klaten, North Dakota, says, “Fill a paint roller with your favourite wall washing solution and use a clean paint roller to wash your walls. Rinse with clear water. It goes much more quickly than sponging.”

You shouldn’t be cleaning these things with paper towels.

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aerosol cans hairsprayMichal Modzelewski/Shutterstock

Wipe away hairspray

Don’t fret when you accidentally get hair spray on a mirror. Ann Peardot of Tomah, Wisconsin, says you make the glass spotless again by rubbing the mirror with a sponge or cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Here are 14 things you should never clean with just water.

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DoorKawin Ounprasertsuk/Shutterstock

So long, soap scum

To keep shower doors shiny and clear, Mildred Sherrer of Bay City, Texas says to use a soft cloth moistened with baby oil. “It prevents scum buildup from dirt and soap, and hard water spots won’t appear for several months.”

Don’t skip these spots when you’re spring cleaning!

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aluminum foil tinfoilanmbph/Shutterstock

Heavy-duty helper

Maureen Beaver of Sparta, Wisconsin says wadded up aluminum foil makes a great kitchen scrubber. Use it to tackle tough stains and baked-on food.

Find out other aluminum foil uses you didn’t know about!

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sauce CKP1001/Shutterstock

A saucy solution

To preserve the bright shine of brass, reader Lucile Trent of Waverly, Missouri says, “Clean it with Worcestershire sauce. It does an unbelievably good job!

These are the 10 things you should never clean with a Magic Eraser.

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Buttoned up

Avoid a tangled mess in the laundry. Katherine Kalmbach of Selby, South Dakota says, “If you button shirt cuffs to the front of a shirt before putting it in the washer, the sleeves won’t knot and tangle in the wash.”

Here’s how to tell if you’re using too much laundry detergent.

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Taste of Home

Breaking bread

If you break a plate while making a sandwich, grab some extra bread. Reader Carolyn Robinson of Lawrence, Mississippi says, “Clean up slivers of broken glass without hurting yourself by pressing a slice of fresh bread lightly over the area, then immediately disposing of it.”

Use these everyday items to neutralize gross smells in your home.

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Wash the wastebasket

Clean two messes at once. Reader Marge Harold of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, says, “If you have a small plastic wastebasket in your bathroom, empty it and use it as a bucket when you clean your bathroom, so it gets cleaned, too.”

In a hurry? Here’s how to clean your bathroom in five minutes or less.

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Steam away stains

To easily clean your microwave without chemicals, Mary Alice Warren of Waco, Texas says, “Place 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or baking soda in a bowl. Heat on high until the mixture boils. Let steam accumulate on the walls and door of the microwave. Remove the bowl and wipe down the interior.”

You’ll regret ignoring these microwave problems.

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sugar in dish soap to clean greasy handsPhoto: Family Handyman

Sugar scrub

When your hands get badly stained or extra dirty, reader Mildred Shlenz of Vancouver, Washington says, “Add a teaspoon of sugar to the lather when you wash them. They’ll clean up easily.”

Here are 15 diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

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vacuum carDelpixel/Shutterstock

Cars and carpets

Eliminate stinky scents at home and on the road. Reader Sally Tilson of Davison, Michigan, says “Sprinkle baking soda on your car’s upholstery and carpeting before vacuuming to remove odours.”

Restore your ride with these car cleaning accessories.

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Flower power

This decorative directive comes from reader Menno Erb of Sugar Creek, Ohio. “When silk flower arrangements look old and dusty, dip them gently and quickly in warm water with dish detergent in it. Then place them on a towel to dry. They come out looking new!”

Want to preserve your bouquet? Here’s how to dry flowers.

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iron Kekyalyaynen/Shutterstock

Freshly pressed

Give yourself an added incentive to finish the ironing. Reader Mrs. Harlin Jacoles of Foley Minnesota says, “Add a little witch hazel to the water in your steam iron. Your clothes will smell sweet and fresh.”

We answer the age-old question: is it better to steam or iron your clothes?

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shavingNik Merkulov/Shutterstock


Shaving cream has more than one use in the bathroom. Mrs. Roy Lairmore of Beatrice, Nebraska says, “Your bathroom mirror won’t fog up if you clean it with canned shaving cream. It works on eyeglasses, too.”

Next, learn the ways you’re shortening the life of your refrigerator.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest