Chances are, cleaning is not something that tops your list of favorite things to do, but it very likely makes its way on your to-do list. It’s a necessary task that not only helps keep us feeling clear-headed and organized but also helps protect us from harmful germs and bacteria that could make us sick. That last one is critical, especially now, given the fact that we’re living in a global pandemic that threatens our very wellbeing.
“You would think that it would be easier to keep our house cleaner by spending more time working from home, but I think it’s harder because it’s harder to compartmentalize and make a transition from working to cleaning the house,” says Chris Alexakis, kitchen expert and co-founder of CabinetSelect. “With this mentality, things usually fall under the guise of ‘I’ll do them later,’ and it’s even harder to accommodate for a time.”
Luckily, there is no shortage of cleaning hacks, many of which have stood the test of time and some that have resurfaced on social media as “new.” “In terms of the cleaning products and solutions, there are plenty of easy-to-find household ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate) that can be used,” says Sean Parry, cleaning expert at the house cleaning company Neat Services. “This not only makes cleaning very cost-effective but also better for the environment and less potentially dangerous for your pets and children.”
To help streamline the cleaning process in your home, office space, car, or anywhere else that could use a good cleaning, we asked the experts to share their best-kept cleaning hacks.
Clean your sponge in the microwave
Since sponges can pick up a lot of bacteria, it’s recommended that you switch them out often. But one viral cleaning hack makes it so you can reuse your sponges so long as you wash them. Matthew Baratta, the VP of Operations at Daimer Industries, recommends placing a damp sponge in the microwave for 30 seconds and waiting a couple of minutes before removing it. This alone will help remove some of the dirt, grime and harmful bacteria that could counteract your cleaning process.
While this cleaning hack made its modern-day debut on TikTok this past year, it’s nothing new, according to Derek Chiu, co-founder and director of UrbanMop. It basically entails soaking a bunch of textiles like bath towels in a hot water-filled bath along with Tide Powder Laundry Detergent with borax and baking soda for several hours at a time. The purpose of this method is to strip away any dirt, grime, natural body oils, as well as laundry detergent that have been building up on the textiles over time. Chiu gives it a thumbs up, although he recommends waiting long enough to allow the mix of ingredients to marinate on the textiles long enough.
Using ice cubes to clean garbage disposals
If you have a garbage disposal — that grumbly device that sits in the mouth of your sink to help grind up whole pieces of food or waste — you know how important this device is and how important it is to keep clean. This fun hack can help clean garbage disposals and keep blades sharp, which is also important. “The ice helps get rid of residue and gunk that builds up and causes odors in your garbage disposal, and it also helps sharpen the blades,” says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. To try this trend, Rodriguez-Zaba recommends adding a full cup of ice to your garbage disposal along with a few peels of lemon. Doing so gets rid of dirt and grime and leaves a pleasant citrus smell.
Clean your microwave with lemon
Microwaves can get filthy, especially if you’re not covering the food you’re zapping. Cleaning them can be a pain unless you use this smart trick that uses steam generated from the heated bowl of water and lemon to break down any food spillages. “The lemon gives your microwave a wonderful scented smell afterward,” says Parry.
To start, fill a bowl with three-and-a-half cups of hot water before slicing up a lemon into one-inch size pieces and adding it to the water. Next, he recommends placing the bowl of lemon-infused water right into the microwave and running it until it starts to boil. This typically takes between three and five minutes. “You may want to let it sit another few minutes before taking it out, so it’s not too hot to handle,” he says. “Last, simply wipe the microwave clean using a microfiber cleaning cloth and be amazed at the results!”
Avoid scraping pots and pans with baking soda
Pots and pans can be hard to clean, especially when they’ve gotten crusty due to over-frying. The good news is that you can nix this buildup off easily— no harsh scrubbing involved. According to Alexakis, this TikTok hack has become popular, but it’s an oldie: cleaning dirty pots using a combination of white vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, paper towels, and a sponge. “Not to take away from TikTok’s mainly young audience, but these products have been a staple of home cleaning for quite some time now,” he says. “The acidic nature of vinegar and the chemical reaction from baking soda makes for a potent agent that is perfect for removing stains and complicated to scrub residue.”
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