Whether you’re trying to reduce the amount of harsh chemicals in your home, or you’ve simply run out of your favorite cleanser and don’t have time to head to the store, it’s always nice to know of an alternative way to clean in a pinch. Below are 14 helpful hints for using common household items to keep your space spic and span.

Newspaper as Deodorizer
Your go-to source for local and national news can be put to good use after being read. Remove lingering smells from food storage containers by stuffing a balled-up piece of newspaper into the plastic container, sealing it, and letting it sit overnight. By the time your new morning paper arrives, the old newspaper will have absorbed stubborn smells.

Car Wax to Polish Fixtures
The wax that you normally use to shine your car can also be used to add some extra gleam to your faucets, sinks, tiles, and shower doors. Turtle Wax provides a protective barrier against water and soap buildup. After your next bathroom cleaning session, polish your fixtures with car wax to make the sparkle in your sink last a lot longer.

Cooking Oil to Remove Adhesives
Cooking oil can make a mean fried chicken, but it can also serve a purpose beyond the frying pan. To remove adhesives from glass, apply cooking oil to the sticker using a soft cloth, rub firmly, and then rinse with warm, soapy water. (If the stickiness is extra stubborn, use a bit of toothpaste along with the oil.) If you’re low on cooking oil, look no further than your fridge for an alternative adhesive remover. Mayonnaise is also effective in lifting old stickers from mirrors, glass, or the bumper of your car. Simply apply a generous dollop of mayo to a stubborn sticker and ease it off with a flexible putty knife.

Baking Soda to Polish Silver
Baking soda can put some extra bounce in a birthday cake, or filter foul smells in the fridge. A lesser-known use for this versatile pantry item is polishing silver. Place aluminum foil in the bottom of a large pot, and place silver items on the foil. Add ¼ cup of baking soda, a few teaspoons of salt, and one quart of water, and bring it to a boil. In just a few seconds, this solution should take the black tarnish off of your silver gravy boat.

Lemon as a Stain Remover
Aside from adding some kick to your water or zip to your chicken, a fresh lemon can come in handy to remove food stains from light wood and plastic cutting boards. Slice a lemon in half, squeeze the juice onto the surface of the cutting board, rub it in with the open side of the lemon, and let it sit for about 20 minutes before rinsing. Stains will disappear, and your kitchen will smell lemony fresh.

Salt to Mop Up Spilled Egg
Far more than milk, it’s tempting to cry over spilled egg, as it can be quite the mess to clean. The next time you drop an egg on the floor or counter, pour a handful of salt on the gooey glop, leave it for two minutes, and then wipe it up. You’ll find that the egg sticks to just one paper towel, instead of sliding off of half a dozen.

Kool-Aid to Clean the Dishwasher
Kool-Aid has long been known to quench our thirst during hot summer months. Lemonade flavored Kool-Aid can serve another purpose throughout the year, as it effectively cleans lime deposits and iron stains inside the dishwasher. Pour a packet of lemonade Kool-Aid (this is the only flavor that works) into the detergent cup and run the dishwasher while it is empty. The citric acid in the mix wipes out stains, so you can save your elbow grease for another task.

Rice to Scour the Coffee Grinder
Beyond its role as a tasty side dish or the base of a sizzling stir-fry, rice can get you on your way to a cleaner cup of coffee. Add a handful of uncooked rice to your coffee grinder, mill the grains into fine particles, then discard the ground rice and wipe the grinder clean. The rice absorbs stale odors and cleans out residual coffee grounds and oil. Thanks to this different take on rice and beans, you’ll be sipping a smoother cup of coffee in no time.

Cornmeal to Absorb Grease Stains
Cornmeal can make delicious, crumbly bread – but it can also provide on-the-spot grease cleaning for your cushions. If a drop of grease slides off of your pizza and onto your light-colored fabric or upholstery, pour some cornmeal on the soiled area and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Vacuum the area to remove the cornmeal, and you should notice a cleaner cushion on the spot.


WD-40 to Remove Crayon Marks
You probably already use WD-40 to take the squeak out of your wheels, but this staple of a well-stocked garage might also be useful on your living room wall. In fact, WD-40 can remove crayon marks from almost any surface, including plastic, metal, television screens, and freshly painted walls. Just apply a small amount to the colorful area and rub away with a clean cloth. If children or grandchildren have made a masterpiece with markers on your kitchen countertops, rubbing alcohol could save the day. Dampen a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and scrub the stained surface until the marks disappear. (Note that it’s always a good idea to test this on a hidden area first, to make sure that the alcohol will not damage your countertop.)

Oil, Starch, or Vinegar for Shinier Shoes
From patent leather pumps to canvas sneakers, all of your soles can benefit from a few common household items.

  • Vegetable oil can give you a polished look by shining your leather shoes. Use a damp cloth to wipe shoes clean, then apply a small drop of oil to a soft cloth and rub the surface of the shoes to remove scuffmarks and restore shine.
  • The same starch that keeps your collars stiff can keep your sneakers looking brand new. Spray a light coat of starch all over the interiors and exteriors of canvas or nylon sneakers before you wear them. The starch will repel dirt and grime and your sneakers will stay fresh and clean.
  • White vinegar can clean leather and suede shoes that have been stained by salt from slushy, winter roads. Make a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, and dab it onto a cotton rag (or a nylon-bristle brush, if you’re cleaning suede). Rub gently over the entire surface of the shoe, and then let it dry. You’ll no longer have to worry about stomping through slush in your favorite pair of boots.

Wax Paper to Lift Dirt and Dust
While it certainly makes it easier to lift freshly baked cookies from a baking sheet, wax paper is also effective at lifting dirt and dust from the floor. Rip off a piece of wax paper that is roughly the size of your floor sweeper (such as a Swiffer Sweeper), and attach it just as you would a cleaning cloth. As you sweep high-traffic areas, the dirt and grime lifts from the floor and sticks to the paper. You’ll have a cleaner kitchen floor without buying Swiffer refills. For some additional alternatives to the usual dusters, try using a lint roller to dust your lampshades, or use your garden gloves to dust the blinds. (Simply shut the blinds and, wearing clean, cotton garden gloves, wipe away the grime. Wash the gloves and re-use them in the garden or for future dusting duties.)

Shoe Polish as Furniture Polish
You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get the arms and legs of your wooden furniture looking like new again. Just as shoe polish keeps your wingtips in top shape, it can keep your furniture looking new and polished even after years of wear and tear. If you find nicks or gouges on your wooden chairs or tables, apply a pea-size dot of wax shoe polish to the wood, then use a soft cloth to buff it in, just you as would on your shoes. The wax will fill in the nicks and leave your furniture looking like it just came off of the showroom floor.

Toothpaste to Save Your CDs
Beyond its abilities to brighten your pearly whites and leave your mouth minty fresh, toothpaste can bring a scratched and skipping CD back to life. Apply a small dot of toothpaste (not the gel type) to a cotton pad and rub it in a straight line from the center of the CD outward and over the scratched area. After a brief buffing, rinse off the toothpaste with water, and your tunes will no longer skip a beat.

Do you have a tip for cleaning with common household items?  If so, feel free to share it by adding a comment below.