As a cleaning expert, I’ve collected all sorts of problem-solving knowledge over the past decade or so. Some of these problems are fairly common, like how to remove an ink stain from a shirt, but some are more rare, like what to do when a candle topples over and spills hot wax on the carpet.
Next, I’ve rounded up 23 of my favorite alternative cleaning products and common products that can be used in unexpected ways to tackle problems like oil stains on clothes or cat pee in your suitcase (often!) You want Any more recommendations? Check out my favorite kitchen, bath and laundry products.
This is one of the best stain-removal tips I have to offer, so I’ll start with this: Hand sanitizer is great for removing dark stains from fabrics—from sriracha to ink. It’s also great to know because hand sanitizer is ubiquitous and we often have it on hand when other laundry products aren’t available.
I recently bought a walking mat that reminded me of Soilove when it came to setting it up: I got my hands a bit of the silicone lube I use to keep running belts running smoothly, and then it got on to a nearly new sports bra! curse! But I’m me, and I know Soilove is the secret to getting tricky silicone lube out of fabric. Now you know too.
DampRid is a desiccant – it absorbs moisture from the air, helping to regulate humidity and moisture levels. Rooms such as basements, attics or bathrooms that are prone to dampness due to environmental or design factors can be unpleasant on the one hand and difficult to keep clean on the other as high humidity encourages bacterial growth and leads to lingering odors. DampRid solves this problem.
Basements and attics aren’t the only spaces that can have odor problems from excess moisture—closets can also develop musty smells from excess moisture. DampRid manufactures hanging dehumidifiers to solve this particular problem.
When deep cleaning, experts tell you to look up, then down—some of the dirtiest places in our homes are out of our sight, like cabinet tops or ceiling fan blades. But there’s a reason hard-to-reach places are rarely cleaned—they’re hard to reach! Telescoping dust collectors solve this problem.
Vents and vent hoses need cleaning, but sometimes a vacuum isn’t enough to do the job. Enter: exhaust brushes! Vent brushes can also be used to clean air conditioning units, refrigerator coils, floor and wall vents, and of course, dryer vent hoses. Now you know!
Last entry in the Weird Dusting Tools category: Electric Dusters! It’s more of a thing to have than a necessity, but it’s a lot of fun for anyone who loves power tools. It has seven attachments and can be used to clean everything from the interior of your car to your disgusting keyboard. Can it be used to blow dry pets? Yes, yes, it does.
You might think that dishwasher detergent isn’t a cleaning product, but it’s not—it’s surprising what it does: Cascade Powdered Dishwasher Detergent is ace for cleaning white tablecloths. Dissolve the Cascade powder in very hot water and soak the sheets before washing as usual. It acts as a pre-soak for whites because it has a little bleaching effect. However, it can be harsh, so avoid using it on very delicate linens.
Do you think I’d let you hang without recommending those very delicate sheets? ! ? Engleside Restoration is a miracle product that reverses yellowing and removes permanent stains from vintage delicate fabrics such as lace and linen. Do you need to restore Grandma’s fine tablecloth or her wedding dress? This is what you want.
This is one of my favorite laundry products because it’s so weird and wonderful. Bluishing is exactly what it sounds like: it makes things very slightly blue, and because of the way color perception works, it counteracts yellowing and makes whites appear whiter. It’s especially helpful to know if you have white bedding that needs a refresh.
If you’ve ever had spilled wax or candle drops hardened on a hard or soft surface, here’s a tip for you: Place a piece of vellum paper over the wax, then place the iron in the lowest position on top of the wax paper. If the wax softens, the paper will absorb it.
Pet parents and long-haired humans, gather together! Squeegee brooms are great for quickly picking up hair from hard floors and carpets. (You can sweep the rugs!)
Elsewhere in the pet world, Biokleen Bac-Out is matter For cat urine odor remediation. If you have a cat, you know that at some point in its little feline life, it will pee on your stuff to express its displeasure with the choices you have made. Bac-Out is something that holds anything Kitty sprays.
Speaking of funky smells! Sometimes an item will give off a bad smell and no amount of washing with regular detergent will be able to touch it. Enter: Dr. For reasons I can’t explain scientifically, Bronner’s is absolutely incredible at eliminating fabric odors. In the years I’ve written my cleaning advice column, my readers have successfully used Dr. Bronner for eliminating strong odors from clothing, from gasoline to fish can oil.
Speaking of oil from fish cans: If you’re someone who’s prone to dripping pizza oil down your pants, or salad oil onto the front of your shirt, you’ll love this: Lestoil is a master at picking up oil and grease stains on clothes. To use, dab a small amount directly onto the stain before washing as usual.
But what about grease and oil stains on non-washable fabrics? Those happen too, when they make a pantry staple – cornstarch – which is what you want. Place an anthill mound of cornstarch on the stained fabric and let it sit for an hour up to overnight; the cornstarch will absorb the oil, pulling it out of the fabric.
Dobie Pads solve a seemingly insoluble problem: how do you get food stuck to cookware or kitchen appliances like microwaves or refrigerators off without scratching delicate plastic, stainless steel or glass surfaces? Dobies are non-abrasive scrubbing sponges that are safe to use on almost any material, making them an indispensable cleaning tool worth knowing.
You won’t find a box of baking soda in my freezer – I keep it where it belongs with the baking supplies. Baking soda isn’t the great odor absorber it claims to be, but activated charcoal (also known as activated charcoal, charcoal, and activated charcoal) is a very effective alternative for keeping strong food odors from overrunning your refrigerator.
Bathroom sinks never stay clean for very long, but a microfiber sponge can keep things tidy between deep cleanings. Place one on the sink ledge for a quick cleanup during the week and wash the sponge with a weekly towel.
Pot deodorants are the “set and forget” of the deodorization world. They’re a great option for preventing odors in spaces like the bathroom or kitchen because you can turn them off and let them do the work for you without any action on your part. There are a lot of these on the market, but I like the Bad Air Sponge because it works and because it has a hilarious name!
Hand washing is easier than you think and worth trying (can’t resist the laundry pun, sorry!), because it really is the best way to care for delicate items like underwear, swimwear, and sweaters. Soak Wash is a no-rinse detergent formula that makes hand washing a breeze.
Linen spray solves a very specific problem I had and many of you probably have too: I love the look of ironed sheets, but I hate ironing them. So instead of spending a lot of time and energy ironing or steaming the crumpled duvet cover, I put it on the bed, spray it with linen spray and zip it tight. When the duvet cover dries, the wrinkles disappear on their own from the fabric, giving the bed a very catalog look.
The dryer balls help to eliminate wrinkles and static cling while moving laundry in the drum, allowing for better airflow and reduced drying time. Dryer balls are also key when drying bulky and/or stuffed items, as they help redistribute and loosen the filling of pillows, duvets, parkas, down vests, and more.