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How to Clean [Almost] Anything

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20 Cleaning agents and tools you should always have:

  1. All-purpose cleaner (like Lysol All-Purpose or Pine Sol)
  2. Glass Cleaner
  3. Bleach
  4. Dishwashing soap
  5. Vinegar
  6. Ammonia
  7. Baking Soda (should also be around the house for baking)
  8. Alcohol
  9. Metal Polish and Cleaner
  10. WD-40
  11. Broom 
  12. Scrubbers
  13. Mop
  14. Paper Towels
  15. Vacuum Cleaner
  16. Sponges
  17. Duster or Microfiber cloths
  18. Gloves
  19. Toilet Bowl Cleaner and brush
  20. Laundry soap

Cleaning Guide

Wash your car regularly. Warm water is best to break up hard deposits. Wash bird droppings off your car as soon as you get them. They contain acids that can damage your finish. Try to wash your car in the early evening or when it is overcast. The finish is softer in heat and light and will be more prone to scratching. Only use detergent made for cars and read the instructions to make sure it is ok to use on all areas of the car. use soft cloths or sponges to wash the car. Chrome trims can be washed with warm water, dishwashing liquid, and a few drops of ammonia. Dry and polish with a soft, clean cloth. You can use a window cleaner for the windows. Before you buy a polish or wax, make sure you need it. If the beads of rainwater are the size of a quarter or smaller, you don't need to wax it. 

Clean the interior by removing any trash or debris and use a vacuum to finish. Apply a leather cleaner a few times a year if you have leather upholstery.

Baby Bottles:
Rinse the bottles and nipples under warm water as soon as your infant is finished. Use warm water and dishwashing detergent to sanitize bottles. Use a toothbrush to remove deposits, rinse with hot water, and air dry. They can usually be placed in the dishwasher, but many brands of nipples will dry out so check on the instructions before doing this.

Bamboo Furniture:
Vacuum with upholstery attachment and dust with a soft brush. If item is still dirty, mix 1/4 cup Borax, 1 T liquid detergent and 1 Quart of water. Rinse, wipe, and dry. Apply lemon oil once a year to prevent it from drying out. 

Ceramic Tile:
Mop floor with a mild detergent and water. Use a tile cleaner for heavy cleaning, but make sure it is safe for ceramic. Clean grouting with one part bleach and six parts water. Use a toothbrush. You can also apply a grout sealer to avoid this task in the future or get a darker color grout. 

Aluminum cookware should be washed by hand or machine as soon as possible and dried to avoid pitting. If the inside of the pan is discolored, mix 1 quart of water with 2 teaspoons of cream of tarter and lemon peel, boil, rinse, and dry. Cast-iron cookware should be washed with warm water after it has cooled. You can also use a scourging pad. To keep it seasoned, spread vegetable oil on the sides and bottom after each use. Copper pots should soak in water and dishwashing liquid. They can be cleaned with vinegar and salt or a copper cleaner. Wash stainless steel cookware as soon as possible to prevent staining. Don't use harsh scrubs to prevent scratching and don't allow them to soak so they will prevent pitting. Never turn the heat up high, to avoid blue stains on the sides. 

Have concrete sealed, for easy maintenance. Sweep the concrete regularly and wash it, as needed, with trisodium phosphate solution. Protect the concrete from oil drippings by placing a shallow metal tray filled with kitty litter or sawdust under the engine. If there is an oil or grease spill, sprinkle an absorbent powder on it to soak up as much as possible. Leave it for a few days, then sweep it away. To remove a grease or oil stain that has set, dissolve 3 ounces of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in 1 gallon of hot water. Pour and leave the solution on for 20 minutes. Then, scrub the stain and rinse. Repeat, if necessary. Concrete is porous, so the stain may reappear in the future. You can paint the concrete, but it must first be washed and thoroughly cleaned. 

Dust curtains with a soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Read the instructions for washing instructions. If you can machine wash, use the delicate cycle. If not, or if it has delicate orniments, bring it to your dry cleaner and see if they can clean it. Clean silk with cool water and mild detergent by hand. Never twist this fabric. Sheers should be cleaned regularly, even if they don't look dirty. They can easily discolor. 

Before applying a treatment to your deck, make sure the humidity has not affected the moisture level. Old decks and new decks require different types of care. Dirt, mildew, and residue can be cleaned with oxygen based bleach from the paint store. Some types of wood should not be treated with bleach, so read your guide or ask at a hardware store.  Lowes is a good place to ask. I once asked this question at a paint store and the man said "I dunno, I just work here". Because decks vary, it is best to check your deck cleaning guide to determine type of wood and cleaning instructions.

Never use abrasive materials to clean the outside or inside of a dishwasher. Clean the exterior with plain water. Occasionally clean the inside with vinegar or run it with a dishwasher cleaning solution. 

Regularly clean drains to prevent backup. If you have a clog, first try using a plunger (yes, you can do this in bathtubs and sinks, but it works better in kitchens). Fill the clogged area with water and pump. If that doesn't work, try using a plumbers snake. You can buy these at Walmart for about $5 and, since they are reusable, it is a pretty good investment. Read the instructions on the snake and try this method. If this fails to work, you may want to call a plumber. I have used chemical cleaners in the past, but some of these are not recommended for many types of material or drains. 

Sweep out ashes and use a brush to dust the bricks. Use clean, warm water or scrub with wite vinegar and sponge clean with warm water. Soap can seep into the bricks, so try to avoid using that. Scrub stained bricks with ammonia solution and rinse with water.

Dust furniture regularly. Iron furniture can be cleaned with a damp cloth. Read the manufacture's guidelines about cleaning for any type of furniture. Leather furniture can be vacuumed regularly and polished once a year. Redwood furniture should be sealed occasionally after cleaning to prevent cracking. Suede furniture absorbs stains easily. For a greasy stain, rub in ground oatmeal and vacuum. If you have wood furniture, find out what type of wood it is and what treatments or coatings it has received. Wood oil can be used on many types of wood furniture, but can often leave the piece more prone to fingerprints and dust accumulation. 

Garbage Disposal:
To avoid buildup, run with small amounts at a time. Leave it on for a few extra moments to ensure it has everything. Break up grease with ice cuber and help deodorize it with citrus peelings. 

Litter Box:
Remove solid material daily and dispose in the trash. Change the litter every few days. Before replacing the litter, wash with warm water and a mild detergent with a few drops of ammonia. Never clean with bleach. Urine contains ammonia and can create toxic fumes if mixed with bleach.

Use a mattress pad to absorb moisture. Turn your mattress twice a year. Vacuum the mattress with proper attachments. Sprinkle baking soda on a mattress to remove unpleasant smells and vacuum in 24 hours. Use an upholstery cleaner to remove small stains and use a hair dryer to dry. 

To remove odors, place a bowl of 1/4 lemon juice and run it on high for 1 minute. Remove the bowl, and wipe the microwave with the condensation. Wash the turn table in hot water and dishwashing liquid and dry. Scrape off stubborn stains with a credit card. 

Acrylic painting can chip. If you notice this, you can get it professionally cleaned and restored. Otherwise, just dust the painting with a watercolor brush or feather duster. Bring valuable or sentimental oil paintings to a professional for cleaning. Dust an oil painting with a clean watercolor brush or cloth. If prints or drawings have accumulated dirt, rub soft white bread crumbs until they no longer absorb any dirt. Use a knead-able eraser to remove any remaining dirt. To remove grease spots, lay blotting paper over the grease and apply the tip of a warm iron to remove the stain. Place mothballs near prints to prevent damage when storing them.

Pet Food Bowls:
Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls, because plastic can easily scratch and harbor bacteria. Wash the bowls in hot water and dishwashing liquid every day. 

Plastic Furniture:
Never clean plastic with abrasive sponges or cleaners. Use mild detergent with warm water to clean. Many pieces can be protected with automobile wax.

Rubber Tile Floors:
Sweep the floor and mop with mild detergent and water. Rinse immediately with clean, cold water. To remove gum, cover the spot with ice and scrape it off with a spatula or scraper. Use turpentine to remove any residue. 

Protect the surface when hand-washing silver. Chloride can damage silver, so check the detergent before using. Silver can usually be hand-washed and dried with a soft cloth. Store silver in an airtight container with flannel to protect it. Dip cleaners are also an easy way to clean silver but they do not remove heavy tarnishing and can often leave stains. 

 Brush the toilet bowl regularly to avoid stains and deposits. Clean the brush by leaving it in the bowl while flushing. Clean with a disinfectant cleaner, once a week. Clean the brush by running it through soapy water and rinse during a flush. Apply hard water cleaner to remove any stains deep in the bowl. 

Small plastic toys can often be washed in the dishwasher. Use ties to keep the toys in place on the top rack, or place them in a silverware basket. Use a toothbrush with baking soda and dishwashing liquid to remove marks and alcohol to remove stains. If a stuffed toy is made from "all new materials". it can be machine washed. Put it in a mesh bag if it has zippers or long hairs or string. If it can't be washed, place it in a bag with baking soda and brush it off.

Vinyl Outdoor Furniture:
Dust with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. Do not use abrasives or chemicals. Protect seats near the pool with towels because suntan lotion can bleach them as can chlorine. Clean regularly with a mild detergent and  so it will not be vulnerable to mildew. 

Most modern wallpaper can be washed and should be regularly since it can easily absorb dirt and stain. Dab non-washable paper with borax to remove stains and vacuum regularly. See my paragraph about ceramic tile for those types of walls. Since walls and paints vary, see manufacture's suggestions for cleaning guide. 

All-weather wicker may be left outside all year long. Untreated wicker should be left inside during bad weather or high humidity. Once a year, scrub it with mild detergent and warm water. Rinse immediately and dry with a blow dryer or floor fan. Give it a light coating of lemon oil once a year.

I have also included 4 fantastic Stain Removal links. 

Hope this helps! Please feel free to add!

VirginiaPeanuts posted Feb 29, 2012

Wow! Great Post!!

I wanted to add a couple of my favorites: Magic Erasers. I have some chemical sensitivities so I use them often. They are miracle workers! Great to get marks off wall, counter tops, floors, clean bathrooms, etc...

And, I also like Goo Gone (which is probably similar to WD-40). It works great on getting stickiness off of almost anything including clothes.

MHT962 (rep: 3.3k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Oh my gosh! Yes! I can't believe I forgot those. I don't know where I'd be without Magic Erasers! Goo Gone is great too. For some reason, my floor always has tape and stickers on it and goo gone really helps!

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Holy cow. Thanks for this post. I'm definitely going to refer to this page when I'm cleaning mattresses. I may buy someone's mattress when I move off campus this summer and I was kind of weary about it but I'll definitely feel better after I clean it with your tips!
Also, I've also found Windex's all purpose cleaner very useful. It comes in the classic Windex spray bottle but it's a yellow liquid instead of blue. (I found it much more effective than Fantastik)
Annddd... Magic Erasers are as amazing as they advertise. I never thought that was possible but it's AWESOME!

arsiel (rep: 13.1k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Be careful when buying someone else's mattress if you have allergies or live in an area prone to bedbugs (well, if someone sells you a mattress with bedbugs, they probably know and are just jerks). If you do buy used, make sure it is from someone you know or trust. I actually found out the other day that you can't sell mattresses on craigslist and in some states, there are laws against it. I bought a used mattress in college but I am allergic to cats so I made sure the person who sold it to me never owned any cats. I cleaned it and never had any problems. It was actually the most comfortable mattress I ever owned, I kinda miss it!

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Thanks for the tip. I'm not allergic to anything. It's a friend of a friend's so that makes it a little better. I'll definitely take a look at it and see it in her room as well as talk to her (to get a feel of what she's like and if she takes care of herself and her things). It'll let me gauge how scared I should be when I sleep! :P

arsiel (rep: 13.1k) posted Feb 29, 2012


^lol! Not allergic to anything?! I'm SO jealous!! My son and I have the worst allergies so I am always cautious when buying anything used that has a porous or fabric surface. I cringe when I think of all the money I could have saved if I didn't have stupid allergies! :)

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Nothing so far... :x
Though I am lactose intolerant and Lactaid is rather expensive if that makes you feel better :P

arsiel (rep: 13.1k) posted Feb 29, 2012


Wow great post. Good to know, right before spring cleaning!

kimeeb (rep: 132k) posted Feb 29, 2012


nice post it helps me a lot

carlaflower (new user) posted Feb 29, 2012


This is super helpful...will try some of these ideas this week.

RedHeadSaver (rep: 617) posted Mar 01, 2012


Great tips. Spring cleaning is approaching.

themoneyman1113 (rep: 112k) posted Mar 01, 2012