10 Brilliant Cleaning Hacks Every Adult Should Know

Photo: Frances Herrera Interior Design
Spend less time on cleaning and more time on fun with these ten tips for the worst messes.

Ah, the pleasures of being a grown-up. You can rent a car at will. You can stay up as late as you want. And you really can eat ice cream for dinner—or anything else that strikes your fancy.

But being an adult comes with its responsibilities. Like cleaning. Sometimes, being a grown-up can feel like nothing but cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. And that's no fun at all.

In order to take some of the cleaning out of your grown-up life and bring back some of the fun, we've compiled this list of ten brilliant cleaning hacks that every adult should know. Memorize these tricks, and you'll never have to waste time or money on a cleaning dilemma again. Red wine stains? Stubborn soap scum? A stained sink? No problem—the quickest ways to clean them up are all right here.

Take a look, and enjoy your ice cream dinner!

Mess 1: Coffee, Wine, And Juice Stains

It's a mystery of science: White carpets and upholstery seem to attract dark, quick-staining liquids such as red wine, grape juice, and coffee. We don't know why. But we do know how to fix it.

The brilliant cleaning hack: If you spill a dark-colored drink on your white carpet, don't panic! Just blot up the excess liquid, dab the stain with a paste of baking soda and water, then blot with a warm, soaking wet cloth. The baking soda will magically lighten the stain, and the wet cloth will slowly dab it all away. Once the stain has disappeared, blot again with a dry cloth and leave to air.

Mess 2: Oil Spots

It might seem like there's nothing that you can do once a garment gets stained with oil. That's a shame, because the occasional oil spot from cooking, cleaning, or the errant french fry is hard to avoid. No worries; we'll have that peanut butter stain out in a jiffy.

The brilliant cleaning hack: When your favorite shirt gets an oil spot, don't despair. Just sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, let sit for 10 minutes, then shake off. Dab at any mark that remains with white vinegar, then wash or dry clean, and kiss that formerly-fatal oil stain goodbye.

Mess 3: Streaky Windows


If you've ever tried to clean your windows with the same cleaner you use to wipe the counters, you may have noticed that it doesn't work very well. All-purpose cleaners can make windows streaky, and washcloths that work great for other purposes cover glass with lint. What's the secret?

The brilliant cleaning hack: Cleaners made just for glass, when used with paper towels, will leave windows and mirrors cleaner than other solutions will. But the best window cleaner is the same one your grandfather used: plain white vinegar and dry newspapers. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, grab a paper from your local coffee shop, and clean windows on both sides. You'll be amazed at how shiny and streakless they'll get.

Mess 4: Spilled Wax

Candles are a beautiful way to create warmth around the house–until one of them spills wax everywhere. If you rub the wax with cleaners, it will only make the stain stick. So what do you do?

The brilliant cleaning hack: If you spill melted wax on upholstery or carpets, don't rub it in or spray it with cleaning solution. Instead, place a clean paper towel over the stain, run a hot iron over the back of the towel, and lift away. The stiff, stubborn wax will re-melt, the paper towel will soak up the hot wax, and you'll end up with a surface that looks like the stain never happened. Repeat until the paper towel comes away clean, then treat any remaining oil spot with fabric cleaner.

Mess 5: Stubborn Soap Scum


You can buy a hundred and one products that claim to dissolve soap scum for good. But if you've got scum that's built up over time, it's not likely that a bottled spray will actually work. Time to get crafty.

The brilliant cleaning hack: If your shower tile and doors are covered with a dull, white soap scum glaze, try this solution: warm up a cup of vinegar in the microwave. Add a cup of blue Dawn dish soap, mix, and our into a spray bottle. Spritz your scummy area with the soap-and-vinegar solution, then let it stand overnight. In the morning, wipe the solution off of the surface with warm water. You won't believe how new your tiles and shower door will look.

Mess 6: A Plugged Drain

Chemical drain cleaners don't always work, and they're harsh on drains and pipes in the long term. Don't spend time and effort fruitlessly pouring stinky chemicals down the drain. Instead, do it the smart way.

The brilliant cleaning hack: For a more effective drain cleaner that comes with the added bonus of being non-toxic, try this trick: Sprinkle a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow with a cup or two of white vinegar, cover, and allow to sit for five minutes. Rinse the mixture down the drain with a gallon of boiling water, then plunge for a minute or two. Your drain will clear right up.

This easy fix comes with some simple science: Over time, greasy substances that wash down the drain (such as oils and conditioners) build up on pipe walls. This sticky sediment grabs solid drain debris (such as food scraps and hair), which then causes a real clog. Vinegar and baking soda chemically transforms oily pipe wall buildup into a substance that dissolves in water. Then, the boiling water rinses it all away. Science to the rescue!

Mess 7: A Clogged Shower Head


Over time, showerheads can become clogged with mineral deposits, leaving your shower less of a shower and more of a trickle. Spraying the showerhead and wiping it off won't remove the buildup inside. Time for a brilliant solution.

The brilliant cleaning hack: For an instant increase in water pressure, unscrew the whole shower head and soak it overnight in a bowl full of a solution of one part calcium, lime, and rust remover and one part water (make sure to always wear gloves when handling the remover, as it can be harmful to skin and eyes). In the morning, reattach the shower head, run the water through it for a few minutes, and then enjoy your renewed water pressure.

Mess 8: Burned Cooking Pans

It's inevitable: Pans that you use to cook will develop spots of black, burned-on gunk that won't come off with soaking or scrubbing. But does that mean that your pans are doomed to look shabby forever? Nope: Use these time-tested tricks to make your pans look like new.

The brilliant cleaning hack: For metal pans and pots, fill with a solution of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and add two tablespoons of baking soda. After the liquid is done fizzing, pour it out and scrub. Those blackened spots will melt off like magic.

For glass dishes and cook pans, the technique is even simpler. Just crumple up some tin foil and use it like a sponge to scrub the pan with regular dish soap. The aluminum will act as a scouring surface to dislodge stubborn burned-on stains.

Mess 9: A Stained Sink


Sometimes no amount of scrubbing will make the sink look spic-and-span. When not even elbow grease will clean your sink, let this time-smart hack do the work for you.

The brilliant cleaning hack: If your stained steel, porcelain, or plastic sink is making you go ick, try this unconventional trick: Fill the sink with water, pour in a packet of lemon kool-aid powder, and allow to sit overnight. The citric acid in the soft drink will go to work on stubborn stains and yellowing. After you've let it do its work for a while, just scrub and rinse. Your sink will look sparkling new. Bonus: this trick also works on toilet bowls and septic tanks.

Mess 10: Dust, Dust Everywhere

It's amazing how quickly surfaces in your home can get dusty, especially if you have pets. You can easily wipe dust from bookshelves, baseboards, and blinds with a damp rag. But the next day, the dust will be back. How do you make it stop?

The brilliant cleaning hack: Dryer sheets are coated with anti-static fabric softeners, which repel dust and debris. Instead of cleaning surfaces with a damp rag or a paper towel, use a dry fabric softener sheet. Run it over counters, coffee tables, mantels, vents, baseboards, and blinds to pick up dust and leave a light coating of dust-fighting stuff behind. You can even attach a dryer sheet to the bottom of your Swiffer and run it over floors and into dust-magnet corners. Bonus: The laundry-fresh scent will make your house smell great.

See these tips and more at Porch.com.