Give Household Products New Use: Clever Cleaning Tips From the Motherland

Photo: Indy138

Out of all the famous shows to come out of the UK, who would have thought my favorite would star two nanny-like figures clad with rubber gloves? But as a girl who moves around from city to city every few months, I've found the housekeeping tips from the show How Clean Is Your House to be extremely helpful budget-wise and also in minimizing clutter.

The premise of the show is clean-gurus Aggie and Kim visit the UK's filthiest houses and miraculously tidy them up with the motto: cleaning shouldn't be impossible. And to convey this fact, they often use regular household materials to work their magic.

So for those of you who don't have access to the show, I will share some of these neat tips here. (Note: these tips have come from one episode I was able to record. I will try to post more as they air).

Shaving Cream to clean kitchen/bathroom tiles: Good for removing stains and grime. (WB guest Joe suggests it works for other stains as well). You don't have to get anything fancy - the cheaper, foam version should do just fine. Spray the foam over the tiles and let soak for a few minutes. Then get either a nail brush or toothbrush and scrub away. How does it work? Apparently, shaving cream is just a foamy version of soap, so it has all the cleaning benefits plus a good, thick consistency. As always, test a small area before cleaning your entire surface, especially for colored or expensive tiles.

Charcoal Briquets to remove fridge odors: To use in empty refrigerators/freezers - good for when you are moving out. The ladies filled a normal baking tin with unlit, plain (with no fuel or other products added) charcoal briquets and let them sit in the fridge with the door closed. The porous property of the charcoal will absorb the odors. To read a more detailed explanation, click here .

Mayonnaise to remove old stickers: Remember those tweeny stickers you used to slap on your dressers and closets? Well if you do, you know they are the most annoying to remove, especially when they get old and leave behind that torn paper look. Well, apparently mayo can do the trick! Slather on and let sit for about half an hour. With a plastic scraper (avoid metal as it can scratch surfaces) gently remove your softened old stickers. Also, with this tip you want to test surfaces before using.

Spray cooking oil onto car/motorcycle headlights to avoid squashed bugs: This one is self-explanatory. The ladies added some cooking oil into an old spray bottle and pumped directly onto headlights. Then with an old rag, they spread it evenly around.

The show also has a website full of more suggestions, including a forum on which people can share their personal tips and an eco-friendly section.

My favorites from their site:

One part olive oil with one part lemon juice to polish wood.

Use baby oil to prevent mold from growing on shower curtains.

Have any cool tricks you'd like to share? Post them in the comments!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Excellent post, Joann! I'm also a huge fan of having lots of extra brushes around the house in places where I need them, and the saving of the old toothbrushes is a trick we've also used for some time. They really get into the nooks and crannies (sink faucet, shower corners, etc. ). Other brushes are helpful as well, and particularly cut down on the amount of steel pads one needs to use in the dish scrubbing arena.

I have to say I've never heard of the shaving foam on tiles thing. I'm a big fan of borax to help deal with build up or to give it an extra shine (works on old fine china from the thrift stores, too). But I can see why they'd want to use the foam for places they need a few minutes of cling. Good tip.

Enjoyed your post, and hope to read more from you soon.

Guest's picture
Rob O.

1 cup of white vinegar mixed with a bucket of very hot water makes an excellent wallpaper or border remover - cuts right through the adhesive! This is completely non-toxic so it's easy on you and splatters or dribbles won't discolor your flooring.

Guest's picture

I happened to watch the episode last night. They used an old toothbrush and plain white toothpaste to clean the grunge out of the folds of a fridge door seal.
They also used grapefruit juice and salt to clean the inside of the grossest fridge I have ever seen.
I ran across one that worked very well. I found it online somewhere. If you have one of those plastic molded tub shower combos and can't get the grime and soap scum out of the texture on the bottom. Use lemon oil, like you use to restore furniture. That and a stiff brush got up gray grime that we could not get with toxic cleaners and had been there since we moved it. It does make the tub slippery though so I went back over it with regular surface cleaner.

Myscha Theriault's picture

One of the reasons I use the vinegar-water combo with citrus oil for a homemade cleaning spray is because I read somewhere years ago that the main reason those store bought shower sprays that "prevent soap scum" work is because of something called citracidals (sp?). One of the main places to get those (at least a healthy version) is in citrus oils like orange, lemon or grapefruit. I was also told once by a health food store rep that grapefruit seed oil is the strongest one around.It's also a powerful sterilizer.  That's apparently why they use it in that nutribiotic product you can take traveling to assist with making water safer to drink. I haven't done a formal research project on this or anything, but it seems to have worked in the shower quite nicely for me, and apparently the person who posted previously had some luck with the lemon oil. Does anyone else know about this citracidal issue?

Guest's picture

Shaving Cream also works wonders on bathroom mirrors: If you rub shaving cream into a mirror (until it becomes transparent/disappears), it limits fog from appearing on the mirror after a shower! I've done this for years, and it always works.

Guest's picture

I like vinegar, like someone else already said. It works great. Also baking soda. I've also heard of peanut butter to clean really sticky stuff (like gum).

Guest's picture

A cup of vinegar followed by a quart of boiling water helps unclog & freshen kitchen drains.

A lemon rind in your garbage disposal will make it smell lemony fresh.

Guest's picture

Shaving cream is also a great tactile playtoy for children (esp. those with issues when it comes to touching things--plus it cleans the table like you wouldn't believe!)

For shower curtains (plastic), I just throw them in the washing machine with a bit of detergent, bleach and hot water. They come out looking like brand new, and I have never had one of the little holes rip out. Takes off all the built up crud, mildew, etc. But don't put them in the dryer!

Guest's picture

Shaving cream is also a great tactile playtoy for children (esp. those with issues when it comes to touching things--plus it cleans the table like you wouldn't believe!)

The charcoal works great in the fridge--I've been doing this for years. A couple of briquettes in a coffee mug in the back, and you don't need to change them more than once or twice a year (unlike baking soda). Got the idea when my hubby was working an internship for a big pet product company, studying cat litter. Works in that, why not in my fridge? (I draw the line at putting cat litter in my fridge, though.)

For shower curtains (plastic), I just throw them in the washing machine with a bit of detergent, bleach and hot water. They come out looking like brand new, and I have never had one of the little holes rip out. Takes off all the built up crud, soap scum, mildew, etc. But don't put them in the dryer!

Guest's picture

If you were to get a hol ein your shower curtain, put boxing tape over the hold, loop it across the other side of the torn hole, then take a paper hole punch and create a new great.

Guest's picture

Mix hydrogen peroxide and regular dish soap together. Soak fabric. In 20 minutes, the red wine is gone. I've used this on various articles of clothing and carpet.

Myscha Theriault's picture

OK, that's one of those tips that just might change my life. Salt sometimes works if you can get it soon enough, but this looks like it might work for slightly older stains as well. Gotta write this one down. . . .

Guest's picture

Vinegar works great for removing odors from clothes, like body odor. Or musty/mildew odors from wet towels. Just keep a spray bottle by your washing machine. Give the clothes a few sprays prior to putting them in the wash. Or pour about 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar directly in the wash for the towels.

Guest's picture

Everyone has, at one time or another, gotten gum in their hair. Use peanut butter to remove!

Guest's picture

Hydrogen peroxide on blood stains works very well. Just pour on stain and it will start to bubble and you will watch the stain go away. Then throw in wash or give a rinse.

Hairspray works really well on ink stains. Just spray and you will see the ink go away.

If you have black streaking on your trailer it is because water is dripping from the roof of your trailer onto the sides. If you create a ledge from the roof out an inch or so then the water does not have the opportunity to drip down the sides.

Sometimes it can be as simple as clothes pinning or clamping a plastic card in the spot where water is dripping down the side.