20 Cleaning Tips to Make Your Home Sparkle

With coronavirus forcing many of us to spend more time at home than we'd like, cleaning has become more important than ever - not least because it's essential to protect the health and wellbeing of you and your family.

With that in mind, The Cleaning Collective has pulled together 20 proven cleaning tips and hacks that will help you simplify the cleaning process while saving you time, money and perhaps even a little of your sanity!

1. Disinfect your sponge in 30 seconds

Sponges can become breeding grounds for bacteria and could harm your health if they're not disinfected regularly. Dish soap alone won't do the job so many people turn to harsh chemicals, but there's an easier way. Simply saturate your sponge with water, place it in a dish in the microwave and heat it on the high setting for 30 seconds.

You can also drop sponges on the top tray of the dishwasher, as long as you use the heated dry setting.

Holding disinfected sponge

2. Use vinegar to remove hard water spots

There are countless uses for vinegar around the home and even in the garden, but it comes into its own as a universal cleaner. It's particularly good at tackling the most stubborn marks, from mineral deposits to water spots.

To remove water spots, prepare a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and warm water before applying the solution to the affected area. Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes then rub the marks away with a clean cloth. Filling a spray bottle with the solution will allow you to store it and make it easier to apply in future.

3. Remove stubborn fingerprints from stainless steel

Dip a cloth into some white or spirit vinegar and apply to the stainless steel surface, before wiping away with a damp cloth. You can then apply olive or even baby oil with a paper towel to get the perfect finish.

Vinegar substitutes that work almost as well include lemon juice, soda water and Windolene/Windex. Don't use baking soda as it is abrasive and will scratch the surface.

4. Rescue a burnt pan before it ends up in the trash

There are a few ways to rescue burnt pans but the most effective is to drop a dishwasher tablet into the pan, fill it with hot water from the tap and then bring the water to the boil on the hob. Occasionally stir the water and wait until the burnt material has been loosened from the pan surface. You can then wash as normal or repeat if necessary. Dish soap is a decent alternative if you don't have a dishwasher tablet to hand.

Pan encrusted with burnt food

5. Clean up dust and dirt instead of moving it around

Using a dry dusting rag or feather duster often just moves dust and dirt around your home rather than picking it up. A slightly damp cloth will work better as dust is more likely to adhere, but a microfibre or antistatic cloth is the way to go. These types of cleaning cloths are positively charged, so dust and dirt - which is negatively charged - are attracted to them. This means that they can be used effectively without water or cleaning chemicals.

6. Control dust with an air purifier

What better way to tackle dust than before it settles on surfaces? While it's not possible to make any home completely dust-free, an air purifier will help. By circulating air around the room and trapping dust particles in the unit's HEPA filter before they have a chance to settle, the amount of dust accumulating on your countertops, furniture and floor surfaces is reduced. This is also great news for allergy sufferers, as dust is composed of things like dead skin cells, mould spores, insect by-products and pet dander - all of which can cause or aggravate allergies.

7. Change your bed sheets weekly

While we're on the subject of dust, changing your bedding more frequently can help reduce build-up in your home. It's not pleasant to think about, but as you lie in bed you're shedding dead skin cells which can be transferred to other surfaces in your bedroom. Accumulated dead skin also attracts various nasties like dust mites, which will then compound the problem by producing their own waste as they feed on your dead skin.

Changing your bed sheets more often will help tackle this and you can also vacuum your mattress with the appropriate attachment. If you have a spring coil mattress with a fabric cover you can also sprinkle a mixture of essential oil and baking soda on the mattress, leaving it to sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming it thoroughly. Do not use this method with latex or memory foam mattresses, however.

8. Dry clothes faster and prevent condensation

Another contributor to household allergies is damp caused by condensation in the home. Hanging washing indoors or using a dryer that doesn't vent properly can cause condensation that encourages mould to proliferate. A dehumidifier is ideal to reduce the amount of moisture in your home, as it's able to suck moisture out of the air and capture it in a water tank. You can then empty the tank down the drain or use it to water your plants.

A dehumidifier can also help dry clothes quickly, or if you're using a dryer you can throw a dry towel in with the wet items to speed up the process.

9. Repurpose dryer sheets

Are you throwing out your tumble dryer sheets once your laundry's dry? Don't! Dryer sheets are surprisingly versatile around the home, even after they've done their work on your laundry.

Use as a dusting cloth

Much like microfibre cloths, dryer sheets have antistatic properties that make them perfect for collecting dust and debris from your household surfaces.

Freshen up drawers

Even after a go-round in the dryer, these sheets will often have enough fragrance leftover that they can be dropped into closets, drawers and laundry baskets to keep them smelling fresh. You could even drop a couple in the door pockets of a stale-smelling car.

Polish stainless steel and chrome

If you have stainless steel appliances or chrome furniture, you'll be amazed at how easily a used dryer sheet will remove stubborn fingerprints and water spots.

10. Your washing machine doesn't wash itself

It's tempting to imagine that your washing machine washes itself while it cleans your laundry, but sadly the opposite is often the case. Dirt, clothing fibres, hair and built-up detergent can accumulate in the drum, around the seals, on the door and even in the detergent dispenser. Any dirt stuck in or around the gasket is likely to get on your clean clothes as you remove them from the appliance, and over time this gunk will begin to smell rather unpleasant.

Dirty washing machine gasket

11. Your dishwasher also needs washing from time to time

Dishwashers are another of those appliances that many people assume don't need cleaning, but cleaning your dishwasher is as important as cleaning your dishes.

If you leave your dishwasher to fend for itself its performance will suffer and it may begin to smell unpleasant. To prevent this, remember to check the filter every couple weeks to make sure it's free of food waste. A clogged filter can impede drainage and may even lead to a clogged pump, which isn't so easy to fix. The filter can normally be found on the floor of the dishwasher, accessed from inside. Remove it carefully so any trapped food waste stays put, emptying the contents into the bin. Soak the filter in warm soapy water while you give the dishwasher's door seals a good wipe down. Give the filter a good clean before placing it back in the appliance. This should have resolved any drainage issues but if strong odours linger, sprinkle baking soda on the floor of the dishwasher and leave overnight, before running empty the following morning.

12. Clean your microwave with minimal effort

The inside of some microwaves are horrifying places, but it's surprising how quickly you can turn things around with our genius microwave cleaning hack.

We'll be using our old friends vinegar and baking soda again. Mix equal parts warm water, white vinegar and baking soda in a microwave safe bowl. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture and wipe all the inside surfaces of the microwave before placing the bowl inside the appliance and turning it on high for three minutes. Once this is complete, take any removable components and soak them in soapy water while you thoroughly wipe all the interior surfaces again, this time with a clean, damp cloth. To clean the outside of the microwave a water and white vinegar solution will do the job - no baking soda this time as it's abrasive and may damage surfaces.

13. Clean your food mixer or blender the easy way

This is so obvious you'll kick yourself for not having already thought of it.

Half fill your dirty blender or food mixer with hot water, add a bit of dish soap and run it for about 10-15 seconds. Empty and rinse. Job done! Because this process is so quick you can do it immediately after using your appliance, before the remnants of smoothie or pureed soup dry and become difficult to remove.

14. Use denture tablets to clean your kettle or coffee maker

Kettles and coffee makers can really suffer from the build-up of mineral deposits if you live in a hard water area. Not only does limescale look unsightly, it can damage small appliances and reduce performance.

Denture tabs contain our favourite cleaning hack - baking or bicarbonate soda, as well as a mild bleach and citric acid (think lemon juice). Drop a couple tabs into your kettle and fill with water, leave for a few hours and then follow up with a thorough scrub. Rinse to ensure all mineral deposits and any remnants of the denture tabs have been removed, and your kettle should be like new.

To clean your coffee maker, add two tablets to the tank and fill with water. Run the coffee maker without coffee, pouring away the pot of water, before repeating the process a couple times without tablets. This will thoroughly rinse the system so that no nasty stuff gets in your coffee. Once complete, you've just extended the life of the machine, improved its performance and no doubt improved the taste of your coffee.

15. Use lemon to deal with a smelly waste disposal unit

Waste disposal units are often thought of as self cleaning, but food waste can build up inside the unit and release an unpleasant odour. To remedy, cut a lemon in half and feed it into the sink disposal. The lemon rind and acidic citrus juice will combine to help break down food particles and will leave your sink smelling lemony fresh.

16. Use magic erasers everywhere

Magic erasers have been around for a while now but their versatility never fails to amaze.

Crayon doodle on pink wall

They're able to tackle scuffs and marks on surfaces that other sponges can't shift, making short work of dog drool and crayon doodles on painted walls.

They lift soap scum from bathroom tiles, can rid your grouting of built-up grime and have no trouble dealing with hard water spots on sink faucets.

You can use them to clean white fabric and leather, including shoes.

They can help you smash the post-cooking clean-up in record time - so make sure you always have a couple of these invaluable cleaning tools to hand.

17. Prevent soap scum from building up in the shower

The best way to prevent soap scum from building up is to use a soap alternative, either synthetic soap, liquid soap or shower gel. While this won't completely resolve the issue, it will make it much easier to manage than if you were to continue using traditional bar soap.

To clean any existing build up you can use a commercial bathroom spray to break down the scum, allowing you to wipe it away with a damp cloth. The go-to natural alternative is an equal measure of baking soda and white vinegar, mixed into a paste and applied liberally on the affected areas. Be aware that any paste that contains baking soda will be abrasive and could scratch surfaces if you rub too vigorously.

18. Use a sock to clean your blinds

Venetian blinds can be frustrating to clean and are easy to damage if you're not careful. Some vacuums have brush attachments that are ideal for the job, but an even more effective method is to place an old sock on your hand so you can easily get in between the slats. Make sure you clean or swap out the sock regularly so you're not just moving dust around. A little dish soap can help if the blinds are in your kitchen and have accumulated kitchen grease.

19. Use toothpaste to restore your white trainers

Toothpaste's great for cleaning white trainers and sneakers, as long as you use white, non-gel toothpaste. Also bear in mind that ingredients vary from brand to brand, so test on a small area first to make sure the toothpaste doesn't cause any discolouration. If all seems well, use an old toothbrush to work the paste into the dirty areas and leave for 10-15 minutes before wiping off with a clean rag or paper towel. Repeat if necessary.

20. Safely clean all the screens in your home

TV and laptop screens can get grubby in any busy household, but it's important not to use any harsh chemicals as they can damage anti-reflective and other coatings. That includes products such as Windolene, Windex and even some baby wipes.

Woman cleaning a TV screen

The best approach is simply use a dry microfibre cloth to remove dust, or a slightly damp cloth to remove stubborn marks. Make sure the cloth is perfectly clean as dirt particles can be abrasive and could scratch the screen. If you're struggling with a particularly stubborn fingerprint, a little dish soap won't do any harm but the less liquid and chemicals you use the better. Phone screens can be cleaned with 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes, as their screens tend to have tougher coatings.