As busy parents, the last thing we have the time and space for is a bunch of fancy special cleaning products. But sometimes we run into a problem that is beyond what we can take care of with that random bottle of window cleaner we all have under our kitchen sink.
Fortunately there are a lot of household items that can serve double duty as cleaning products. As a professional house cleaner and parent to two young children, here are some of my favorite cleaning hacks.
Scuff Marks on the Floor
What causes all of those little black scuff marks on your tile and hardwood floors that are too stubborn to remove?
Does it really matter?
A quick solution is to grab a tennis ball, put a little bit of water on the spot and rub it with the tennis ball and the spot will come right up.
This trick is very popular with janitors all across America. If you do not want to bend over to do the scrubbing, just cut a slit in the tennis ball and put it over the end of a broom handle. Or you can just give the tennis ball to your kids and ask them to help.
There are no chemicals involved, so it is 100% safe, and my kids love watching those marks go away like magic.
Red Wine on the Carpet
When red wine is spilled on the carpet it can be a disaster if that stain sets in. However, it is easy to remove using a little bit of vodka.
First, soak up as much of the red wine as you can by pressing down on the stain with either terry cloth or paper towels. Do not rub the carpet, just press straight down because rubbing on the carpet can damage the carpet more than the original stain, even possibly melting the carpet fibers.
Once you get most of the liquid up, you will still have a red spot. Pour a clear liquor, ideally vodka, from the outside of the stain towards the center. Soak it up immediately with your towels and repeat as needed and in to time the stain will be gone.
Tarnished Metals like Brass, Copper, and Silver
Maybe it’s your favorite pot that is tarnished, or you unpack your great grandmother’s silver an hour before your mom is set to arrive and you realize it is tarnished.
Most of us do not have fancy metal polishes in the house, but if you have kids, you probably have ketchup. Ketchup has two types of mild acids from the tomatoes and vinegar as well as just the right amount of salt to make it an excellent metal polish.
Just rub it onto tarnished metals, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it clean to see the original shine restored.
Killing Germs without Chlorine Bleach
We want to kill germs but we don’t like leaving chlorine bleach residue and scent in our homes. Well it turns out that good old-fashioned hydrogen peroxide is an excellent disinfectant that chemically works using the same method as chlorine bleach without the residue.
The chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2 but that extra oxygen molecule does not like to hang around. Once exposed to air, hydrogen peroxide quickly breaks down into water (H2O) and oxygen (O) leaving behind no residue at all on the surfaces you clean.
Greasy spills on carpet
Okay, red wine is fun to talk about, but in my house a much more common stain on the carpet is from greasy oily food spills. These spots on the carpet can be hard to remove because oil and water don’t mix.
In fact, most oils are hydrophobic or water hating, so if you try to clean the spot with water you can actually press it deeper into the carpet as the oil tries to get away from the water it hates so much.
A simple trick is to put some cornstarch on the stain and gently push it into the stain. Let it sit until it dries and as it dries, the cornstarch will work like a sponge and pull the oil into it. Vacuum it up and you’re all done.
This is a real way to clean used by professional carpet cleaners, we did not make this one up.
Here’s an example of how it works. The only hard part with this trick is keeping your kids from playing with the spot until it dries.
Meet the Author
Derek Christian is the founder and owner of My Maid Service, Cincinnati’s largest, independent professional cleaning company. Prior to that, he spent 12 years at P&G working on household cleaning products. Derek is co-founder and Editor in Chief of the online magazine and website Cleaning Business Today. Derek has been featured in CNN Money, CBS News, BizJournals, Better Homes & Gardens, and more. Derek and his wife, Rebecca live in Montgomery with their two children: Lindsay age 7 and Colin age 2.