man wiping bench with blue gloves and a yellow sponge

When embarking on a big clean-up, most of us will buy a range of sprays and bleaches to use for wiping surfaces, mopping floors and sanitising toilets.

But for many jobs, there are many products which are just as effective much closer to home.

So don’t bother with those expensive chemical cleaners. These common household products can help you restore, revive and clean just about every corner of your home.


Get rid of tough stains on marble

Marble stains can be hard to remove, but here is a simple method that should do the trick. Cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt and rub it vigorously on the stain.

Clean tarnished brass

Make a paste of lemon juice and salt, or substitute bicarbonate of soda or cream of tartar for the salt, and coat the affected area of brass. Leave it on for about 5 minutes, then wash in warm water, rinse and polish dry.

Use the same mixture to clean metal kitchen sinks, too. Apply the paste, scrub gently, then rinse.


Make fireplace clean-ups easy

To extinguish a fire, douse the flames with salt. The fire will burn out more quickly, so you’ll wind up with less soot than if you let it smoulder.

Clean-up is easier, too, because the salt helps the ash and residue gather into easy sweepings.

Remove wine from carpet

If you spill red wine, first pour some white wine on it to dilute the colour, then clean the spot with a sponge and cold water. Sprinkle the area with salt and wait about 10 minutes. Now vacuum up the whole mess.

Clean grease stains from rugs

For greasy rug stains just mix up one part salt to four parts methylated spirits and rub it hard on the grease stain, being careful to rub in the direction of the carpet’s natural nap.

Remove water marks from wood

Make water marks on a wood table disappear by mixing one teaspoon of salt with a few drops of water to form a paste. Gently rub the paste onto the ring with a soft cloth or sponge and work it over the spot until it’s gone.

Restore the lustre of your wood with furniture polish.


Clean your piano keys

Clean up piano keys with toothpaste and a toothbrush, then wipe them down with a damp cloth. It should work just as well on both old and modern pianos.

Remove ink or lipstick stains from fabric

For an ink stain, put non-gel toothpaste on the area and rub the fabric vigorously together, then rinse with water. Most or all of the ink should have come out.

Repeat the process a few more times until you get rid of all the ink. This works for lipstick, too.

Remove water marks from furniture

Another way of getting rid of those telltale water-mark rings left by hot drinks is to gently rub some non-gel toothpaste on the wood with a soft cloth, then wipe it off with a damp cloth and let it dry before applying your regular furniture polish.


Clean your coffee maker

Fill your percolator or the water chamber of your drip coffee maker with water and drop in four Alka-Seltzer tablets. When the tablets have dissolved, put the coffee maker through a brew cycle to clean the tubes.

Rinse the chamber out two or three times, then run a brew cycle with plain water.

Clean a vase

That stuck-on residue at the bottom of narrow-necked vases may seem impossible to scrub out, but you can easily bubble it away. Fill the vase halfway up with water and drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets.

Wait until the fizzing stops, then rinse the vase clean. The same trick works for cleaning glass thermoses.

Clean your toilet

The citric acid in Alka-Seltzer combined with its fizzing action is an effective toilet-bowl cleaner. Just drop a couple of tablets into the bowl and find something else to do for 20 minutes or so.

When you return, a few swipes with a toilet brush will make your bowl gleam.


Clean your oven

To give your oven an effortless clean, turn the oven on, let it warm to 65°C and then turn it off.

Place a small bowl containing 1⁄2 cup of ammonia on the top shelf and a large dish of boiling water on the bottom shelf. Close the oven door and let it sit overnight.

The next morning, remove the bowl and dish, and let the oven air out for a while before wiping it clean using the ammonia and a few drops of dish-washing liquid diluted in one litre of warm water.

Warning Do not use this cleaning method with a gas oven unless the pilot lights are out and the main gas lines are shut off.

Clean oven racks

Get the cooked-on grime off your oven racks by laying them out on an old towel in a large laundry tub. You can also use your bathtub, though you might need to clean it afterwards.

Fill the laundry tub or bathtub with warm water and add 1⁄2 cup of ammonia. Let the racks soak for at least 15 minutes, then remove, rinse off and wipe clean.

Remove grease and soap scum

To get rid of those ugly grease and soap-scum build-ups in your porcelain enamel sink or bathtub, scrub it with a solution of one tablespoon of ammonia in four litres of hot water.

Rinse thoroughly when done.

Clean carpets and upholstery

Lift out stains from carpeting and upholstery by sponging them with one cup of clear ammonia in two litres of warm water.

Allow to dry thoroughly, and repeat if needed.

Brighten up windows

Dirty, grimy windows can make any house look dingy.

But it’s easy to wipe away the dirt, fingerprints, soot and dust covering your windows. Just wipe them down with a soft cloth dampened with a solution of one cup of clear ammonia in three cups of water.

Your windows will not only be crystal-clear, but streak-free to boot.

Fabric-softener sheets

Wipe soap scum from shower doors

If you’re tired of scrubbing scummy shower doors, give it up. It’s just as easy to wipe the soap scum away with a used dryer fabric-softener sheet.

Buff chrome to a brilliant shine

After chrome is cleaned, it can still look streaky and dull, but whether it’s your toaster or the hub caps on your car, you can easily buff up the shine with a used dryer fabric-softener sheet.


Remove tough scuff marks

Those tough black scuff marks on your kitchen floor won’t be so tough anymore if you spray them with WD-40. It won’t harm the surface, and you won’t have to scrub nearly as much.

Remember to open the windows if you are cleaning a lot of marks.

Clean dried glue off surfaces

Simply spray WD-40 onto the dried glue, wait at least 30 seconds, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Remove stickers from glass

When soap and water doesn’t work at getting a label or sticker off glass, and you don’t want to ruin a fingernail or risk scratching delicate glass with a blade, try a little WD-40.

Spray it on the sticker and glass, wait a few minutes and then use a plastic spatula or acrylic scraper to scrape the sticker off. The solvents in WD-40 cause the adhesive to lose its stickiness.

Clean toilet bowls

You don’t need a bald genie or a specialised product to clean ugly gunk and lime stains from your toilet bowl. Use WD-40 instead. Spray it into the bowl for a couple of seconds and swish with a nylon toilet brush.

The solvents in the WD-40 will help dissolve the gunk and lime.

Clean your fridge

When soap and water can’t get rid of old bits of food stuck in and around your refrigerator, it’s time to reach for the WD-40.

After clearing all foodstuffs from the areas to be treated, spray a small amount of WD-40 on each resistant spot, then wipe them away with a rag or sponge.

Make sure you wash off all the WD-40 before returning food to the fridge.