As a child, I loved to cook. After my parents gave me an American Girl cookbook for Christmas one year, cooking quickly became a favorite hobby of mine. By the time I was ten, I was able to cook a few favorite meals for my family—and a whole lot of baked goods.
As fun as it was for me, I think the cookbook was a gift my mom grew to regret. I may have been a good cook, but I was a messy one, too. I would leave flour scattered across the floor, stain my clothes, and always managed to break a plate or a glass.
Not a lot has changed in the time since. I’m great with food prep, but I always manage to trash my kitchen in the process. My walls are perpetually splattered with tomato sauce or bacon grease, and most of my t-shirts are littered with stains. Neatness simply isn’t my strong suit, to say the least.
I have, however, been working on this fault of mine. I eventually realized that my failure to clean as I go (and my propensity for being excessively messy) was creating extra work for me. I was spending way, way too much time trying to make up for the disasters I’d created while cooking a simple dinner. Cleaning may not be my strongest skill, but I’m learning from some fellow moms, and a few expert cleaners, that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
If the same messes and stains are continually getting to you, there might be a hack to make your life simpler. Need help, say, getting smells out of Tupperware or scraping baked-on food from the microwave? Check out these genius hacks before throwing in the towel.
First, don’t throw that GladWare away.
I have to admit, I’ve thrown away an embarrassing amount of Tupperware simply because they stunk—the stinky things were forgotten in the back of the fridge or left in a lunch bag over the weekend. But it turns out stained and smelly containers don’t have to be tossed.
“Baking soda, ammonia, vinegar, and bleach are the four things you need to pretty much clean anything,” says Judy Woodward Bates—an author, speaker, and TV personality known as the Bargainomics Lady—who struggles with stinky Tupperware no more. “Make a paste of baking soda and water and rub [it] onto stained plasticware, and let it stand for a few minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.”
A Non-Toxic Approach to Microwave Messes
Many people opt to avoid cleaning products in their microwave because of the fumes they can create if any cleaning product is left behind. But without the help of products, cleaning a microwave can be totally tedious, especially with all that food baked on.
This trick from Jeanne Eschenberg Sager, mother and self-professed “queen of doing as little as possible,” uses natural ingredients to get stubborn messes out of the inside of her microwave.
“Fill a cup with a mixture of water and lemon juice,” she instructs. “Pop it in the microwave and let it ‘cook’ for a minute. It will loosen all the baked on gunk … in the microwave, so you don’t have to scrub at all. You can just wipe it right down!”
Don’t Despair Over Drink Spills
Nearly every time I host a dinner party or family get together, some dark beverage ends up all over my living room floor. There’s no need to rearrange furniture to cover up these stains. Home designer and creator of a machine-washable rug Lorena Canals has a few genius stain-removing hacks up her sleeve.
For fruit-based juices, she advises starting with quickly soaking up as much of the spill as you can to avoid it soaking into the fibers of the carpet. Avoid scrubbing. Then, mix ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide, ½ cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap together to create a stain-fighting solution.
“Using a clean sponge or cloth towel, gently blot this mixture onto the carpet … ,” she says. “Using a clean, dry, white cloth towel, gently blot … .”
Repeat the last two steps until the stain is completely gone.
Coffee is another drink that can cause stubborn stains when spilled on rugs and carpet. Canals recommends beginning by drying the spilled coffee with a dry, white towel. Then, mix ¼ cup of vinegar with a quart of warm water. Spritz the mixture on the stain, rinse, and repeat until the stain is gone.
Rescue Your Favorite Coffee Mug
When you have three kids in four years like I did, coffee becomes the beverage of choice. Unfortunately, I often neglect my favorite mug overnight, and I’ve even left it in the car over the weekend.
But see, I’ve found a couple different hacks that are perfect for dealing with stubborn tea or coffee stains. My first method of attack is a paste made from lemon juice and baking soda. I scrub it on, wipe it off, and rinse the cups clean.
If there is still a ring or stain in the cup, I fill the cup past the stain with undiluted vinegar, leave it overnight, and rinse it clean in the morning.
Set Yourself Free From Fingerprints
Stainless steel faucets are really hard to get—and keep—clean in most kitchens. Even after a good scrub, they start to show fingerprints after just a few uses. Fell fingerprints and water stains with this hack from Joanna Douglas, the owner of Clean Affinity, a home cleaning service in Portland, Oregon.
“For cleaning faucets and other pipes, we use waxed paper. This method gets rid of fingerprints and small stains,” she explains.
Rid Your Clothes of Cooking Stains
I’m the worst about remembering to wear my apron while I’m cooking, which means I’m regularly battling stains on my clothes. When it comes to most stains, Douglas says that a mixture of dishwashing soap and salt will easily remove the stain in less than five minutes.
For more serious stains, or stains that have been ignored for a bit too long, Lauren Haynes, supervisor at Star Domestic Cleaners, has a few tried and true hacks her company uses.
For butter stains, for instance, you should always begin by scraping, not scrubbing, as much of the butter as possible off of the clothing. Then, rub the spot with dishwashing soap, rinse, and repeat until all of the butter and soap are gone. Before washing the clothing, pretreat the stain with a stain remover and wash on the hottest setting.
“For gravy and ketchup stains, begin with removing the excess material and blot with a clean, white cloth,” she says. “Then mix 2 cups of cool water with a tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. Apply the solution to a white cloth, and blot [the spot] until the liquid is absorbed. If necessary, repeat the process until the spot is gone. To remove the remaining cleaning solution, blot the area again with another cloth rinsed in cool water. At the end, blot dry, and you are done.”
Scrub Away Soap Scum
The tile, sinks, and faucets often become problem areas in kitchens because of soap scum and residue.
It’s a special kind of frustrating—soap is the chosen one! It was said that it would destroy the scum, not join it; bring cleanliness to the sink, not leave it in filth.
Fortunately, you don’t need a store-bought solution to get rid of soap scum. Simply create a paste from 1 cup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Apply this paste to areas with soap residue, and use a sponge to scrub away.
Never Dust Cabinet Tops Again
Early this year, I painted our kitchen a fresh coat of white. Climbing the counters to paint hard to reach areas, I was horrified to find a thick layer of dust settled in the space between the top of my cabinets and the ceiling. It was the biggest pain to clean up, taking several rags just to get the top layer of dust and dirt wiped away. I wish I had spoken with Woodward years ago, when we first moved into this home.
“If you have kitchen cabinets that don’t go all the way to the ceiling, cut or fold newspaper to cover the tops of the cabinets,” she suggests. “Instead of spending ages cleaning built-up gunk off your cabinets, just change out the paper from time to time.”
Stop Wiping Away Toast Crumbs
If your toaster leaves a sprinkle of toast crumbs on your counter every morning, it’s probably time for a deep clean of this kitchen appliance. I’m embarrassed to say that, until just recently, I had no clue that there was a “right” way to clean out a toaster.
As it turns out, each toaster has spring loaded trays on the bottom that can be completely removed. These trays catch most of the crumbs. Once you’ve unplugged your toaster, you can remove them, dump them, and give them a good soak in soap and water.
Oh, and before putting it back together, use a pastry brush to free crumbs trapped in other areas of the toaster, and wipe the toaster down with vinegar for good measure.
More Cleaning Hacks From The HealthyWay Staff
Ask around any office and you’ll find that lots of people have a cleaning trick or two up their sleeves. Well, the HealthyWay office is no different. When we started talking about this article, everyone wanted to contribute something.
And why not? When it comes to cleaning techniques, more is definitely better. Check out some of our colleagues’ favorite easy-cleaning hacks from around the web.
Clean That Hard-To-Reach Space Between The Stove And Counter
It’s easier not to think about it. In fact, we’re almost sorry to bring it up. But there is probably a crevice between your stove and the surrounding countertop, and it is almost certainly a filthy, crumb-infested nightmare.
Tight spaces full of crumbs aren’t just gross to think about. They also attract pests like roaches, who love the free meals and the dark, narrow pathway. So yes, this is a space we should all clean regularly. Luckily, there’s an easy way to achieve a crumb-free crevice in no time flat.
If the space is super-narrow, start with a clean butter knife. Keep the blade facing away from you and scrape out that crack. Don’t worry about the pile of debris that’ll form on the floor just yet; you can always vacuum that up later.
If you have a little more space to work with, you’re in luck. You can wrap a microfiber towel around the knife for an even more effective cleaning solution. For really thick gaps, substitute a yardstick for the knife.
Why pay for floor cleaner when you can make your own?
By the end of the week, our kitchen floors provide a detailed record of the family’s dining and social life. It isn’t pretty. There’s a splash of Monday’s spaghetti here, a splatter of juice from when the toddler had a temper tantrum during lunch…it’s all there, written in gunk.
Time to clean the slate (along with the floor). But floor-cleaning products seem to come in only two styles: Overly harsh on the one hand, ineffective on the other. That’s why we’re eternally grateful for this DIY floor-cleaner recipe from lifestyle blog One Good Thing.
It’s mild and mostly natural. At the same time, it packs serious grease-cutting power. This recipe is ideal for tile floors—and if your kitchen is floored in fine wood or, worse, carpeted, you’ve got bigger problems than finding a good cleaner.
You only need three ingredients: white vinegar, liquid dish soap, and washing soda. Oh, plus water, if you count that (in which case you need four ingredients). Combine ¼ cup of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dish soap, ¼ cup of washing soda, and 2 gallons of hot water. Mix well, and commence mopping!
Deodorize The Garbage Disposal The Natural Way
Garbage disposals would be the perfect clean-up amenity if it weren’t for their habit of collecting foul odors like the deranged curator of an olfactory museum. The good news is that it’s not as hard as you might think. You can make your own disposal-deodorizing cubes with a little citrus fruit, vinegar, and baking soda, as we learned from YouTube cooking show Cooking with Kyler.
First off, build your cleansing cubes. Chop half of 1 lemon and half of 1 lime into small bits and spread them evenly into each cell of a standard ice cube tray. Then fill the tray with distilled white vinegar and freeze overnight. That’s right: We’re making vinegar-ice.
When the cubes are good and frozen, let the hot water run for a minute, then pour about ½ cup of baking soda down the maw of your garbage disposal. Drop in a single vinegar-citrus ice cube and run your disposal until the terrible odors are all flushed away. It’s that simple.
Clean Oven Racks With This Surprise Solution
Ugh, oven racks. They collect at least a little of everything you bake. It doesn’t take long for them to become blackened, encrusted messes. They’re almost impossible to scrub clean in place, and besides, who wants to inhale that much oven cleaner?
Well, there’s an easier solution, and it involves a common cleaning product that might surprise you. We learned about this one from the house-cleaning website Clean My Space.
The first surprise is that we’re going to use the bathtub. Throw down an old towel to prevent scratching the tub, then drop in your dirty oven racks. As you fill the tub with the hottest water your pipes can serve up (don’t worry; we won’t be reaching in any time soon), mix up a cup of laundry detergent and as much water as you can fit in a Mason jar. Shake it to dissolve the detergent, then toss it into the bathtub.
Now, for the easy part: Wait. We’d recommend soaking the oven racks overnight. The next morning, give them a scrub and watch the gunk flow away! Rinse, dry, put them back in the oven, and you’re done. Sorry about your towel.
Brighten Up Dingy Baking Sheets
Here’s another useful kitchen hint from One Good Thing. Have you ever noticed that cookie sheets tend to get…a little bit gross with repeated use? They develop brown burn streaks, bits of yesteryear’s cookies, and other pollutants, both flat and three-dimensional.
And these are not normal stains. You can scrub your baking sheets in dishwashing detergent for as long as you like without making any progress. It isn’t the elbow grease that’s the problem; it’s the cleaning product. Time to try something new.
Well, according to One Good Thing, the secret you’ve been missing just requires two pantry staples you probably have in your home already: baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. (Put that hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle; it’ll be far easier to apply.)
All you have to do is sprinkle a layer of baking soda on your stained baking sheet, follow with an even spritzing of hydrogen peroxide, and ending with a final layer of baking soda. Then, you wait.
Come back a few hours later and start scrubbing. Previously unbeatable stains will melt away before your eyes. So much for buying new baking sheets every year!
The Fastest, Easiest Way To Clean Refrigerator Shelves
Refrigerator shelving is one of those cleaning tasks we tend to avoid. You can’t just wipe the surface down with a towel, like the counter. You have to carefully remove everything and lean in to scrub at a back-breaking angle. Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to scrape away ancient ketchup spills and juice remnants.
An anonymous Reddit user is here to save us all. This contributor, who goes by the online handle “thinkadinky,” recommends covering refrigerator shelves with plastic wrap. (Don’t use the kind that you use to preserve, say, a half-eaten sandwich. You want the kind that adheres to a flat surface.)
Think about that for a second. If your shelves are covered in an impenetrable layer of clean plastic, you only have to wash them one last time. In a few months, when the spills have coagulated, you can just peel away the plastic wrap and lay down a new layer.
Now, if only they’d make a plastic wrap that secures to the floor…
Banish Tough Grease Stains With Common Ingredients
Let’s talk splatter, and not just any old kind. We need to discuss the hot oil that splashes and steams its way onto every surface of the kitchen. Don’t think that happens on your range? Just check the oven hood.
We’re always amazed by the oil splash zone in our kitchen. Somehow, grease seems to float through the air to secure itself to surfaces and appliances across the room. We don’t know the science, but at least we know how to fix the problem.
This is a trick we learned from the decor blog Thrifty and Chic. Their writers insist it only takes two products to blast those grease stains into oblivion: Mineral oil (often called “baby oil,” frequently with a scent mixed in) and a spritzer bottle containing one part white vinegar, two parts water, and a dribble of liquid dishwashing soap.
First, wipe down your problem-surface with the mineral oil. Grease binds to grease; ironically, the best way to fight oil is with oil. You might have to scrub a bit, but this technique will be far more effective than soap and a scrub, and with less work.
Of course, now you’ve got a new problem. You’ve got a surface covered in mineral oil. Here’s where your spritzer solution comes in. Just spray down the mineral-oil-cleaned area, wipe it smooth, and repeat until your kitchen is like new.
Make Kitchen Tile Grout Like New
Whether you’ve got filth on your kitchen tile or your backsplash could use a little TLC, chances are you’ve been frustrated by the challenge of scrubbing grout clean. There’s just something about this stuff that soaks up the dirt.
Well, you might have heard of a DIY scrubbing mixture that pops up all over the internet, particularly as a shower-cleaning hack. It’s just equal parts liquid dish soap and white vinegar. The writers over at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs swear by this stuff as a grout-cleaner in the bathroom, the kitchen, and beyond.
Start by microwaving the vinegar. This isn’t fancy home chemistry or anything; it just helps the dish soap to dissolve fully into the liquid. Try 1 cup each of dish soap and vinegar, and get your spray bottle (at least 2 cups capacity, please) ready.
Pour the dish soap into the hot vinegar, then add the whole mixture to your spray bottle. Shake it up until it’s fully mixed. Then you’re ready to go. And remember: A little bit goes a long way.
Spray the solution onto filthy grout and let it work into the surface for a few minutes. Then scrub, scrub, scrub! A toothbrush works pretty well. Once you’ve got the grout good and clean, rinse the whole area with hot water to remove the soapy residue. You’ll be shocked by how that grout can shine, no matter how many years’ worth of gunk you had to blast through.
Welcome to your new kitchen.