6 Wildly Creative Cleaning Hacks For Every Room In Your House

Spring cleaning has arrived, but before you spend hours on end tidying up, use these experts' shortcuts for how to get everything from your mattress to your bathtub looking brand new again.

By Pamela Masin

cleaning hacks

The Liquor That Doubles as a Mattress Refresher

Hold the tonic and lime -- vodka has a new use that has less to do with your Saturday night and more to do with where you sleep when you arrive home. That's right, vodka can be used as a way to clean your mattress, which is often an overlooked task, even though you sleep -- i.e., sweat -- on it every night. The alcohol kills odor-causing bacteria while it also disinfects the mattress—unlike cleaning sprays that often only mask smells with a scent. Not to mention a cheap 750-ml bottle (25.36 fluid ounces) of vodka costs less than $10, while a 16.9-fluid-ounce cleaning spray costs around $5 and won't last nearly as long. This is why Jolie Kerr, cleaning expert and author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha, suggests vodka as an easy cleaning solution. Simply pour vodka into a spray bottle, distribute it evenly across your mattress by spritzing and leave it to air-dry before remaking your bed. "The key is to spritz the mattress lightly -- you don't want to saturate it, or else it will never dry," says Kerr.

cleaning hacks

The Spray That Gets Rid of Those Unmentionable Bedroom Invaders

Researchers at Alexandria University in Egypt found certain essential oils to be effective at killing dust mites—the invisible-unless-under-a-microscope creatures that tend to live in bedding, carpets, furniture and drapes. If you want to keep your allergies at bay, eucalyptus and clove were proven to be the most effective oils for eliminating household dust mites. Add around 10 drops of an oil in with your laundry detergent when you wash your sheets in hot water; fill a spray bottle with 1 quart of water and 20 drops of an oil to spray on upholstery; or, put baking soda in a sifter and add in 10 drops of an essential oil to shake across carpeting. Then leave the mixture on the floor for 30 minutes and vacuum it up.

cleaning hacks

The Fruit That Cleans Your Microwave in a Zap

It's bad enough that you completely blackened your bag of popcorn, but even worse when that distinct smell makes its way into every food you put in the microwave for weeks afterward -- even after you have cleaned the microwave with soap and water. Tricky smells, such as from burnt foods, are easily absorbed into the microwave and take more than a good scouring to get rid of. Kerr says the easiest way to deodorize a microwave and clean it is to cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with some kosher salt and then to scrub the microwave interior with it. "The scent of the lemon, combined with the citric acid will help to neutralize any lingering odors." And for those of us who just wish the smell would go away on its own, this trick comes pretty close: Put a bowl of white vinegar in the microwave and shut the door. "You don't even need to turn it on," says Kerr. "Just let the vinegar work its magic for an hour, or so, and the smells will be gone."

cleaning hacks
The Salon Staple That'll Keep Your Bathroom Sparkling

Sure, you've heard of Bar Keepers Friend as a way to remove rust rings from your bathtub, but there's an easier solution to prevent those stubborn marks before they even start. Coat the undersides of your shaving-cream can, metal soap dish or any other rust-causing culprits with clear nail polish, which puts a protective layer between the item and your pearly white tub.

cleaning hacks
The DIY Cleaning Solution That Works in Any Room

If your household is prone to drink and/or food spills, don't waste money going through containers upon containers of cleaning wipes. Instead, make your own for a fraction of the cost with Fabulessly Frugal's easy recipe, which includes items that are probably already lying around your kitchen: paper towels, vinegar, water, a few drops of dish soap and of an essential oil (although not necessary, the latter helps to mask the smell of vinegar). Then store them in Tupperware, or in an old container of store-bought wipes, and you'll be a whole lot happier when you get your monthly bank statement.

cleaning hacks

The Pillowcase Reuse That's a Breeze

Ceiling fans do require a little extra effort to clean ("Where's my step ladder, again?"), but Jill Nystul, the blogger behind One Good Thing by Jillee, shows us how to tackle the task in 30 seconds or less. Hook an old pillowcase over one fan blade at a time and wipe it backward. This removes all the grime and traps it inside the pillowcase without it falling to the ground—or, worse, in your eyes -- so there are finally no more, "Oops, I have to re-sweep my floor," moments.

Why does my dishwasher smell so bad, if all it does is clean dishes?
Getty Images
Your mother-in-law offers to help you load the dishwasher, pulls the door open and -- ugh, that smell. How is it possible, when there's not even anything in there? There are two reasons, says Jolie Kerr, who covers all kinds of cleaning-related queries for Deadspin and Jezebel. First, water and excess soap collect in and around the gasket; together, they create a breeding ground for mold, which feeds off of soap -- and mold is what causes that mildew-y smell. Second, bits of food tend to collect in the bottom of the dishwasher over time. The fix: First, remove any food you see, and then fill the bottom of the washer with about half a gallon of white vinegar (which seems to have no bounds when it comes to amazing uses). Run the dishwasher (empty) and the smell should go away.
I'm about to go into a meeting and just realized I have lipstick on my shirt.
Getty Images
Lipstick on teeth: no problem (provided you notice it before anyone else does). Lipstick on clothing, however, can be a bit trickier. While foundation, powder and liquid blusher will respond to liquid soap dabbed on with a washcloth or sponge, lipstick and mascara require a cleaner that can attack oil-based stains. Kerr suggests keeping a secret stash of a solvent, such as Shout, Lestoil or even Pine-Sol, around; though your garment will probably require a full washing once you get home, a light application of the solvent will act as a quick-fix spot treatment to remove, or at least mute, the color.
I can't get the back of my toilet clean -- and even though I can't see it, I know it's not pretty.
To prepare for a big party, you've wiped down the bathroom counter, swept the hair off the floor and scrubbed the inside of the bowl. If only cleaning behind the toilet was so easy; this area can harbor some seriously off-putting smells (especially if there's grout). To get back there, take two or three paper towels and roll them up tightly, as if you're rolling a cigar, dip them in a bucket of cleaner (like Scrubbing Bubbles). Then, while facing the toilet, place the roll of towels behind it; take one end in either hand, and "floss" the back base. Let the cleaner sit for five or ten minutes, and "floss" the base again, this time with dry paper towels, which should also remove lint.
How do you get car seat belts clean after someone is carsick?
The critical thing about cleaning seat belts, Kerr says, is that you can't use typical cleaners such as white vinegar, because they may damage the material and make the belts less effective. Before you pull back on the road, Kerr suggests wiping belts down with baby wipes, which will remove stains and eliminate any lingering odors.
How do I get the funky smell out of my (just-washed) bath towels?
Handing an overnight guest a neat stack of laundered bath towels seems like such a nice gesture -- but not if the linens give off a musty smell as soon as your visitor uses them to dry off. The problem, says Kerr, is that you're using too much detergent when washing your linens, and the preset rinse cycle on your washing machine is not long enough to get all the soap out. So while your towel may smell fresh after it's washed and dried, once it gets wet again (after a shower, say) and is left in the dark bathroom, mold begins to grow. (It turns out mold likes soap.) The fix: Wash the towels with no detergent and a cup or 2 of white vinegar; this will get the soap out (and have the added bonus of cleaning your washing machine). Then, going forward, use less detergent on your towels.
I forgot I had stashed some plastic food containers in the oven, and then I turned the oven on and...
Getty Images
... now there's melted plastic all over the oven. Kerr hears this sad tale all the time. But if you do make this gaffe (and feel a little silly about it), heat the oven to a very low temperature -- 200 degrees is the lowest most ovens go -- so the plastic is pliable, and then scrape it off. (You can also use ice to freeze it, but this is trickier because the ice will start to melt, plus you'll have to disconnect the gas from the stove first.)