October 28, 2021


Residential infrastructure

The Ultimate Guide To Cleaning Your Entire Home

The Ultimate Guide To Cleaning Your Entire Home

Table of Contents

*bookmarks for cleaning day*

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Steam-clean your microwave: heat a bowl full of water for five minutes, let it sit without opening the door for another five minutes, and any stuck-on grime will easily wipe off with a paper towel or damp sponge.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

No elbow grease required. You can also add lemons for a ~fresh scent~, but they’re totally optional. (I promise this works — that’s my microwave pictured above, and I’ve done it dozens of times since.)


Then zap your damp or wet sponge in the microwave for one minute to kill 99.9% of the bacteria lurking on it.


Both the USDA and Good Housekeeping found this actually works; try to do it at least once a week, if not every three days or so. And if you heard a few years ago that microwaving doesn’t help, well — all those news reports were inaccurate.

(It’s also essentially equally effective to run your sponge through the dishwasher, on the top rack, with the heat-dry setting, if you prefer to do that instead.)


And let your sponge dry out every single night, whether you use a simple binder clip or a stainless sponge holder.


After you’re done with the dishes, regularly wash out your sink like you would a dish: using hot water, dish soap, and your sponge.

Percds / Getty Images

And rinse it out with hot water when you’re done.


Then shine up your stainless steel sink with a quick dusting of flour and a microfiber cloth — it’ll clean out all of those tiny bits of grime that regular washing doesn’t.


A soft cleanser’s the quickest way to polish up a scratched porcelain sink so it looks brand new.


This is Barkeeper’s Friend, but already in a paste form (versus the powder form you can make into a paste yourself). You can get one bottle for $8.39, or a pack of six for $24.99, both on Amazon.

(You can also try baking soda + hydrogen peroxide, but that might take a little more elbow grease.)


If your garbage disposal’s a little smelly, the culprit may be the under-side of the splash guard: an old toothbrush will help you knock that stuff down the disposal where it belongs.


But if that doesn’t do the trick, a foaming cleaner can deeply cleanse everything in your disposal, including the underside of the splash guard and the interior side walls.


This gets rid of any odor, although it won’t unclog your garbage disposal — for that, you’ll have to call a plumber. This is a product one of our readers recommends (see the review below), and it’s available on Amazon, $8.95 for eight uses in a lemon scent.

Promising review: “Holy cow I didn’t realize how easy and quick it was to clean a garbage disposal. I stumbled across this through a BuzzFeed article. Very simple instructions, literally takes five minutes and some hot water and VOILA! You have a clean, no-longer-stinky garbage disposal. Anytime I got a whiff of an odor, all I did was drop one of those packs in the disposal and the smell was GONE! Plus the blue foam bubbling through the sink was amusing to watch.” —VadersGirl


Wipe up the sticky, dusty buildup that gathers on your range hood and other appliances using a little bit of mineral oil.


Just put a little bit of oil on a paper towel, and wipe; it’ll come off like a charm! If you don’t like the oily residue, just use water and dish soap to clean that right up. (You can also use olive oil for this, but if you do, definitely wash it off; otherwise it might go rancid and smell bad.) From One Good Thing By Jillee.


Mix up a paste of water and polish cleanser to easily scrub off cooked-on gunk from your stainless or enameled gas stove.


The Amazon reviewer pictured just added a few drops of water to make a paste the consistency of glue, then scrubbed it onto each dirty burner, let it sit for a few minutes, and wiped it up. If you need a can of the cleanser, you can get a pack of two on Amazon for $9.99. (The benefit of this over the premixed stuff? You get to decide what consistency you want the paste to be. But both are good choices!)


Then make your greasy stove (and grill!) grates look brand new again by letting them sit overnight with just a little bit of ammonia.


You simply seal them up in a plastic bag and let it do its work — just don’t mix ammonia with any other cleaner, and do read the tutorials from Fabulessly Frugal and The V Spot before you try this at home. You can get a bottle of ammonia on Amazon for $10.71.


Polish up your glass cooktop in five minutes: drizzle on some Dawn and hydrogen peroxide, sprinkle with baking soda, and quickly scrub in circles with a dish brush.


Or, if you know a basic scrubbing won’t touch your stovetop’s seemingly impenetrable cooked-on stains, try a cooktop cleaning kit that includes a cleansing polish and a razor scraper.


The razor scraper’s key here, because it’s the best way to tackle the few spots that will inevitably remain after your initial scrub with the cleanser (which is also included in most kits like these). Don’t be afraid to put some elbow grease into it! The kit that produced these gorgeous before and after photos is available on Amazon for $12.98.


A homemade paste of dish soap, baking soda, and water is probably all you need to spot-clean baked-on stains inside of your oven.

Nifty / BuzzFeed

You’ll still have to use a *little* bit of elbow grease, but really the dish soap’s gonna do most of the work for you. From Ask Anna Moseley and BuzzFeed Nifty.


This version’s fume-free and recommended by our readers (see the review below). You can get two cans on Amazon for $21.06.

Promising review: “My oven was in bad shape. I tried this after seeing it in a BuzzFeed article and it actually worked! Let it sit for about four hours and the nastiness wipes off effortlessly.” —Natalie C


Wrap your hard–water–stained faucets in vinegar-soaked paper towels to dissolve the minerals so they wipe off in one go.


And banish hard water from the mouth of your faucets by attaching a plastic bag filled with vinegar, using a rubber band. If they’re heavily stained, substitute the vinegar for a more intense mineral cleaner.

Natalie Brown

I first heard about this from blogger Two Twenty One, who uses CLR (aka Calcium, Lime, Rust). A 28-ounce bottle is $4.79 on Amazon ($0.17/ounce), or you can get a one-gallon jug (128 ounces) for $19.38 ($0.15/ounce).


Freshen up your wooden cutting boards by scrubbing them down with salt and half a lemon — then season them with a douse of food-grade mineral oil.


Water spotting and funky smells in the dishwasher can be solved by simply running an empty cycle with a cleaner designed exactly for those purposes.


There are a couple of dishwasher cleaners out there. You can get a three-pack of the disinfectant used in the photos above from Amazon for $5.99.


Go through your fridge, freezer, pantry, and any other spots you store food and toss anything that’s expired, that you know you won’t eat, or that’s, y’know, gross and moldy.


Then wash the shelves, drawers, and other removable parts of your fridge like dishes: in hot, soapy water.

Photo by Jason Schmidt. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright © 1998.

You can also use soapy water to wipe out the inside, doors, and seals on your refrigerator and freezer; just make sure to rinse well. If you have glass shelves, let them come to room temperature before you hit them with the hot water — if you don’t, they could crack or shatter. The full tutorial’s on Martha Stewart.


Stop any lingering refrigerator odors in their tracks using a fabric deodorizer filled with activated charcoal.


You can hang it on the included hook or just set it on your shelf; it’s $8.85 on Amazon.


Shine up your refrigerator and any other stainless steel appliances with a coat of Pledge.


This is what I do for my stainless, and it works like a charm; just clean off any big pieces of gunk with soap and water or an all-purpose cleaner, first. From The DIY Girl. Three cans of Pledge are $13.44 ($4.48 each) on Amazon.


Drop a couple of fizzing tablets into your coffee pot to break up any seemingly permanent stains that regular scrubbing leaves behind.


They also work well to break up the buildup left on the inside of reusable to-go coffee mugs. A pack of 12 tablets is $8 on Amazon.


Tackle even the worst, most egregious rust stains with a spray-on cleaning gel that’ll dissolve it right before your eyes.


It’ll also remove any rust stains from color-safe fabrics, among many other surfaces. (Some reviewers use it with a Magic Eraser, for extra oomph). Two bottles are $18.99 ($9.50 each) or three bottles are $24.98 ($8.33 each) on Amazon.


And make short work of stubborn hard water toilet stains by gently scrubbing them off with a pumice stone.


Whether it’s calcium, lime, rust, or some impossible combination, the pumice stone can take care of it. A pack of two is $8.95 on Amazon.


If you have to pumice regularly, start dropping in a weekly-ish hydrogen peroxide-infused toilet bomb and you might not have to scrape those hard water stains off ever again.

Juniperseed Mercantile / Etsy

Just swish once or twice, let it fizz for about five minutes, then scrub for a minute or so with a toilet brush. You’ll probably still need a pumice stone to get it clean the first time, but regular use of these can help keep your toilet hard-water-stain-free for longer. 

These are both made and sold by Juniperseed Mercantile, a Littleton, Colorado-based small business with a passion for great skincare, simple living, and the earth. They’re on Etsy for $10


As you scrub your toilet, make sure to get the water jets under the rim, too — and if you have hard water, consider soaking them with vinegar overnight to dissolve any buildup.


If your regular toilet brush doesn’t get up under there, use a dish brush you keep just for that purpose. Soaking your jets in vinegar involves draining your tank and sealing them with duct tape; get the tutorial on Lil Luna.


And don’t forget to give the outside a good wipe-down with an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaning wipe. Remember to even remove the toilet seat every once in a while so you can get every last nook and cranny.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

I’ve known about the toilet seat tip for ages (h/t Ask Anna Moseley, who has a full tutorial on this) and finally tried it myself, as you can see in the pictures above. I wasn’t able to persuade the screws all the way off, but I got them loose enough that my trusty all purpose cleaner and I could quickly banish the disgusting gunk that had gathered underneath the spot where the toilet seat screws into the toilet.


Once your toilet bowl’s all fresh and clean, a stamp-in gel can actually keep it that way for weeks at a time.

Amazon, Scrubbing Bubbles

Basically it cleans just a little every time your toilet gets flushed. I used this all the time in college and it really does help prevent mildew and toilet rings. Once there’s only a teensy bit of the gel left, you can use that to scrub things down, then add another dab. (Although if you have particularly hard or rusty water, you might need something stronger, like these drop-in tabs). A pack that will last up to ten weeks is $3.53 on Amazon.


Rubber-band a plastic bag filled with vinegar around your shower head to de-scale and deep-clean it with basically zero effort.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

Leave it anywhere from a couple hours to overnight, then remove and voila!

To get the bubbles, add in a dash of baking soda. I’ve had it work well both with the combo and with just plain vinegar, some people swear the bubbling reaction loosens the particles more quickly. Others note that, once the reaction’s over and the bubbles stop, the vinegar will just be water with a bit of salt; but you do you.


Transform your grimy bathtub into something that’s actually spa-worthy with a classic soft cleanser.


Soft cleanser will also erase any trace of mineral and soap scum buildup from your glass shower doors, so they sparkle like they’ve never seen even a single speck of water.


This is another good tip Ask Anna Moseley (who pairs the cleanser with special scouring pads, like these, $4.99 on Amazon) swears by, along with several Amazon reviewers.

Any version of BKF should work just fine, but some people swear the glass cooktop version does this particular task better; two bottles are $11.79 on Amazon (but if for any reason you wanted only one, you can get it for $13.99).


Banish any persistent mildew from your tub or shower caulking with gel cleaner. The gel stays put on the nasty spots much longer than a spray would so the cleaner can actually do its job.


You do have to let it sit for four to five hours (or even overnight), but the results, at least according to reviewers, are worth it. This is another item that’s recommended by our readers (see the review below from a now-defunct listing). You can get a bottle on Amazon for $12.99.

Promising review: “After living in my place for a few years, my shower was super gross. I tried to use elbow grease and disinfecting wipes but failed. Then I discovered this product through BuzzFeed. Holy moly, am I glad I tried it. I left it on for 4–5 hours, per the instructions, and every place this gel touched, the mold/mildew disappeared.” —Gracielou Freebush

(You can also use cotton coil and bleach to the same effect — here’s a tutorial — but I’ve done this and, while effective, it’s very fume-y.)


Wash your grimy plastic shower curtain liner with a couple of towels to get rid of any mildew or other buildup.


And wash your shower curtain itself, separately and according to the directions on the tag. While you’re at it, throw in your bath mats, and change out your towels. Freshen everything! Bitz ‘n’ Giggles has the step-by-step for washing a shower curtain liner.


Vacuum the dust from the outside of your exhaust fan with a dusting brush attachment, then pull the cover off to wash it well in soap and water.


Wrap your faucet and sink in vinegar-soaked paper towels so stubborn hard water buildup literally just wipes away.


Unclog your slow-draining tub or sink using a simple drain clearer.


You just insert it down your drain, twist it a few times via the handle, let the grabby micro-hooks on the tip (similar to Velcro) do their work on the stuck, clogging hair and debris. Then pull it up, and your sink will drain like it’s new! Get one (with five included refills) on Amazon for $17.95.


Skip the heavy-duty elbow grease but still make your grout look brand new: let an automatic scrubbing brush do all the work for you.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

I use and LOVE this brush, and it’s absolutely the easiest and fastest way to clean grout (maybe besides bleach, which I don’t like to use). You literally see the dirt come up and the grout lighten with just 30 seconds of use. They make a specialty grout head you can buy for it, but TBH the default brush works just as well, unless you have incredibly narrow grout lines. (Some reviewers like to use it with a grout and tile cleaner, but I just use some Castile soap diluted with water. I haven’t tested to see if one is faster than the other!)

You can read my full review of the scrubber brush for more, and it’s on Amazon for $19.61.


Remove years of sticky, built-up hairspray residue from tile by scrubbing your floors down with a paste of Borax and water.


Adventures of a DIY Mom tested a bunch of different solutions, and this one — tile seven — clearly made the most difference. A two-pound bag of Borax is $11.99 on Amazon.

She used an old toothbrush which totally works, but for something like this I’d reach for a bigger scrub brush to cover more area with less scrubbing effort, like this handled one, $7.98 on Amazon.


Sort through your shower and all of your cabinets, and toss every single thing that’s past its expiration date, because yes, even bath and beauty products expire.


Then simply spray down your mirror, sink, and everything else with your favorite all purpose spray cleaner, and give it a good wipe-down.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed / Getty / Amazon

You can make your own spray cleaner by mixing one part dish soap with one part warm vinegar (full directions from Goodful); or mix an all-purpose cleaner from a concentrate like Simple Green ($9.98 for one gallon) or Mrs. Meyers ($15.98 for 64 ounces), both on Amazon.

And yes, you can substitute a glass cleaner for your mirror, if you prefer!


Clean all sorts of plastic, glass, and metal from around the house in the dishwasher: from light fixture shades to vent hood filters to AC vent covers.


If you have a rope mop, use the ~slop mop~ method to give your tile or linoleum floors a truly deep wash.


Basically, you use a saturated mop to get your floors wet, then squeeze out your mop, use it to soak up the dirty water (in no more than three swoops at a time), and squeeze that dirty water back into your bucket. The Creek Line House has the full how-to. A similar microfiber easy-wring mop (that includes three refill washable mop heads) is $22.54 on Amazon.


Erase those mysterious (and not so mysterious) carpet and upholstery stains with a nontoxic and odor-free spot remover spray — all you have to do it spritz, gently massage it into the stain a little, then blot everything up with a paper towel.


In my experience it might take a couple of rounds for your carpet to look brand spankin’ new, but it’s worth it because this particular spray doesn’t bleach out the fibers, doesn’t need to be vacuumed up or rinsed, and doesn’t attract new dirt to the area after you’re done. It works well on all kinds of stains, like grease and oil, pet stains, wine, coffee, rust, food, makeup, and dirt. And can of course it doubles as a laundry stain remover. A 32-ounce bottle is $11.99 on Amazon.


Capture all the dust lingering on your ceiling fan by wiping the blades down with an old pillowcase.


You’ll capture all the dust inside the case, so you can go dump it outside or in the trash. And then wash the case, of course. From Homemaker Chic.


Or just get an extendable microfiber duster set that makes it easy to follow the cardinal rule of cleaning — start at the top, and work your way down to the bottom, so you don’t vacuum first then end up with dust on the floor from your fan.


It comes with two duster options that you can either use with a handle or the extending pole (which starts at 29 inches and telescopes up to 49 inches). Get it on Amazon for $15.99.


Strip your bed and wash all your bedding, then freshen your mattress with a quick sprinkle of baking soda and a good vacuuming.


Launder your pillows in hot water to wash out all the sweat, skin cells, drool, and other gross things lurking where you rest your head every night.


Knock out that sour washer smell by running a cleaning tablet through it once a month.

amazon.com, amazon.com

It works for both top and front loaders, and is yet another product recommended by thousands of reviewers. Six tablets are $10.80 on Amazon.

(Note that if you have a front loader with mold problems, this may help some but probably won’t completely fix it. I think the best solution for that problem is prevention: every time you’re done with the washing for the day, dry off as many nooks and crannies as you can reach with a towel, and make sure to leave the door open. And yes, that includes that lip under the rubber seal, and I’d even pulls out the detergent drawer all the way to dry that and the area where it sits.)


Besides pulling the lint off your dryer’s screen after every load, regularly get the lint out of the spot where the screen sits using your vacuum or a lint brush.

Amazon, amazon.com

A lint brush is $6.99 on Amazon, and can also be used to clean your refrigerator coils so it works more efficiently (check your fridge’s manual to see if that’s something you need to do).


Set-in mattress stains are no joke, but you can make ’em look better by using a carpet stain remover and a carpet washer.


The carpet washer that pulled off this before and after — and has over seven thousand five-star reviews — is $129 on Amazon. And a jug of stain remover is $19.97. Because you’re wondering: it’s a coffee stain.

You can also try to bleach them out using hydrogen peroxide; that may not remove more than the surface stains, though. Get a how-to here.


Use any old squeegee and some water in a spray bottle to easily clean pet hair off your sofa, furniture, and basically anything that’s upholstered with fabric.


Or try an infinitely reusable pet hair roller to pick up gobs of hair all at once.


I’ve witnessed one of these in action at a family gathering and y’all, it’s so quick and really does pick up like, all the hair. My sister also uses one and swears by it for picking up the small mountains of hair her pet bunnies leave lying around. You open up the back to empty the hair out when you’re done, and it’s ready to reuse. It’s $24.95 on Amazon.


And grab a squeegee broom to sweep up the hair embedded in your carpet and scattered over your hardwood or tile floor.

amazon.com, amazon.com

Of course you could use your hand-held squeegee for this too, but this telescoping broom could make it easier on your back. Reviewers recommend using short, quick, rake-like strokes for the best effect. It’s also handy for cleaning big windows and pushing snow off of cars in one swoop. It’s $12.44 on Amazon.

You, walking around your home impressed with how incredibly clean it is now:

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