Much of cleaning and homekeeping tends toward drudgery—scrubbing grout, making beds, folding laundry. But there are times when the solution to a particular cleaning conundrum is so odd as to make the entire task a delight. From salvaging scorched pots to defouling filthy ceiling fans, these are some unusual but effective cleaning tips and tricks.
What to Do When Just-Washed Towels Smell Not-So-Clean
It’s both easy and tempting to overuse laundry detergent. Unfortunately, more detergent does not equal more clean — quite the opposite, in fact. In the case of towels that retain a mildew-y smell even when they’re clean, the culprit is too much detergent. To reverse the effect and eliminate those smells, wash the towels with a cup of white vinegar (2 cups if it’s a very large load) but without detergent. Laundering without detergent will allow the lingering excess soap to be washed out of the towels, and the vinegar will help to eliminate smells.
How to Remove Burnt and/or Stuck On Gunk From a Pot
We’ve all been there: You left something too long on the burner, and now your favorite pot has a stubborn layer of cooked-on chili that won’t come up. Not to worry, there’s an easy way to coax burnt-on food off of cookware.
Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the bottom of the scorched pot, and fill it about a third of the way up with water. Bring the baking soda and water solution to a boil over a medium high flame, then take the pot off the heat to cool. When it’s cool enough to handle without burning yourself, dump the baking soda solution and wash the pot with soapy water—the cooked-on food will come off without too much elbow grease. Done and done!
Use White Wine to Nix Red Wine Stains
It seems wrong (and possibly like a waste of good wine!) that white wine removes red wine stains, but it really does. To use white wine for removing red wine stains, apply the white to a cloth and dab at the stain. As the stain begins to come out, refresh the wine on the cloth and repeat as needed.
For set-in stains, combine the white wine with baking soda. Carefully pour white wine onto the stained area, then sprinkle baking soda on the wine and allow it to sit for 30-90 minutes (if the baking soda starts to dry out during this time, add a small amount of water to it). Then wipe up the baking soda poultice and treat any residual staining with a sudsy rag or sponge.
Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Her weekly cleaning advice column, “Ask a Clean Person,” appears on Esquire.com; its companion podcast is available on Acast and iTunes.