I Tested These Four Cleaning Hacks!

by Katy on March 20, 2017 · 35 comments

This blog post originally appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

What is it about the word “hack” that elevates a mundane chore into something more fun? Is it because a hack implies a clever solution to an otherwise frustrating household dilemma? Whatever it is, I love a good hack and I know that I’m not alone. Especially when those hacks require zero extra purchases and require nothing more than my frugal supplies already on hand.

However, a lot of these supposed miraculous internet hacks are a bust, so I went through the trouble of testing four of them to save Clark Howard readers from wasting your precious time and energy.

Hack #1: Squeegee on carpet.

This hack has legions of fans who love how the lowly squeegee easily removes pet hair from hard to clean carpeted stairs. For this test, I borrowed my neighbor’s cat friendly stairs, as my own are wood. I doubted whether there’d be anything to clean, as my neighbor’s house appears immaculate at all times. Lo and behold, I was rewarded with a satisfying amount of cat hair after just a few swipes with my $1 Dollar Tree squeegee.

Hack #1 — thumbs up!

Hack #2: Polish silver with boiling water, baking soda and aluminum foil.

This hack promises to polish silver without the work of scrubbing, and it’s actually been in my rotation for a number of years. I love my old silverware, but I hate, hate, hate the work of polishing it. (Hand cramps.) My mother has informed me that this method is incorrect, as it temporarily removes the dark details, but I still rebelliously dip my silver into this magical elixir.

Instructions: Line a pan with aluminum foil, add in a couple tablespoons of baking soda and boiling water almost to the top. Dip your silver into the solution and watch the tarnish magically disappear. Pro tip: Use tongs, as the silver quickly gets very hot.

Hack #2 –Thumbs up! (Sorry, mom.)

Hack #3: Use an extra stretchy sock for your Swiffer Sweeper.

I love the convenience of a Swiffer to clean my 104-year-old hardwood floors, but I hate spending money on expensive and wasteful disposable cloths. Enter an extra stretchy sock to the rescue! I have a couple pairs of these puffy socks, which are extremely stretchy and work perfectly for this function. I simply dampen the sock, and then swiff and sweep to my heart’s content. I then switch it out with a new sock to dry any wet areas. The best part is that the sock has enough texture for actual cleaning, plus they’re washable for reuse.

Hack #3 — Thumbs up!

Hack #4: Clean your oven door using vinegar and baking soda.

It seems like however much I clean it, the inside of my oven door reverts to being a baked on mess. I’d seen online tips for sprinkling the door with baking soda and then spraying with vinegar as an eco-friendly cleaning hack. This method sounded easy, so I happily gave it a try. Unfortunately, this hack was a bust. Yes, I was able to get a decent before-and-after photo, but it was only with a tremendous amount of back breaking scrubbing and elbow grease. This was far from being any type of clever solution. Seriously, it took forever.

Hack #4 — Thumbs down!


Although the fourth hack got a resounding thumbs down in my book, it was still worth a try. I want to work smarter not harder when it comes to maintaining my home and its contents, and without a bit of experimentation I’d never have discovered how well the other three hacks worked. And nothing makes me feel smarter than finding clever solutions to life’s little problems.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen March 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

Haha, this is funny timing! I just scrubbed my oven window with an SOS pad yesterday. It does still take elbow grease, but probably not as much as yours did.


AmyWW March 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Katy, I had tried the baking soda/vinegar hack before so I knew that one didn’t work. Then I saw Kristen’s post about the SOS pad this morning, remembered that I have SOS pads, and now my oven door/window are sparkling clean. Thanks! When my husband came downstairs early this morning and saw me in front of the oven in my nightgown scrubbing away with an SOS pad he thanked me for working so hard for him. : )
I don’t have dog hair, silver, or a Swiffer in the house but the hacks sound good.


Hannah March 20, 2017 at 11:04 am

I don’t know about baking soda and vinegar, but making a paste out of baking soda and water and letting a thick coating of it sit overnight has worked wonders on the inside of my oven. Burned on food is my main problem though, I don’t remember how much it did for grease stains on the oven window.


Amanda March 20, 2017 at 11:21 am

I am been neglecting my small collection of silver since I went back to grad school, in part because I didn’t want to buy silver polish. I will be trying this very soon. Thank you for the tip!


Christian March 20, 2017 at 11:43 am

100 years ago (approximately), I read that an ecologically sound hack to clean your oven was to put a shallow dish of ammonia in the oven overnight. That would “soften” the schmutz, etc., and in the morning you could just wipe it away!

Well, I did so. And when I opened the oven door in the morning, I fell to the ground because the fumes damn near stabbed me in the eyes. I really thought I had been blinded. Ever since then, I steer clear of oven hacks. UGH!


Lindsey March 21, 2017 at 11:06 am

Not funny to have happen to you but the “fumes damn near stabbed me in the eyes” made me laugh!


Betty Winslow March 20, 2017 at 11:45 am

My favorite hack is hot soapy water. Put it in pots with burned on food, on a hard-to-remove spot on your stovetop, on stains on the floor, let sit for a while, then wash/wipe up as usual. Works wonders!!


Jennifer March 20, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I love the cup of plain water heated in a cup in the microwave to make the grime steam right off. I always add a lemon slice to the water to freshen the microwave a bit, too


That Other Jean March 20, 2017 at 7:40 pm

This works wonders. Heat for about five minutes, and you can wipe the crud off practically effortlessly.


Denise March 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm

My hack is biological laundry powder: use it for cleaning floors, bathroom and usually very good on burnt-on food too.


Tonya Tawana March 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

I got a pack of micro fiber cloths a few years back and they work wonderfully on the swiffer and can just be washed and reused. Though, really, I imagine a washcloth would work as well too. It’ just something to get the cat fur and dust up with.

I’ve not been very frugal the last couple of months…so I’m really going to recommit now!


Jennifer March 20, 2017 at 1:45 pm

I have been using the sock on the swifter for many years. It’s works well and my house has an abundance of mis-matched socks. Can’t wait to try the squeegee on the carpet.


Denise March 21, 2017 at 2:43 pm

So, does your house have an abundance of mismatched socks because:

a). One of these pairs has been taking itself off in a huff to Malta for an extended holiday; or

b). Because you’ve been Sniffering for your Swiffering??

Fess up, now. You’re among friends…


Cynthia Huntington March 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Anybody know any hacks for the swifter wet jet?


Diane C March 21, 2017 at 10:03 am

Yup, I inherited one of these when my mother passed away. Just look on You Tube, because it’s easier to watch how to do it than to read how.


Mrs. Picky Pincher March 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I know everyone loves baking soda and vinegar, but it’s not good for everything! Sometimes you just gotta get the oven cleaner if you don’t want to put in the elbow grease. But thanks for these tips! that squeegee one would have really come in handy when I lived in an apartment with carpet.


Carol in CT March 20, 2017 at 4:01 pm

I inherited a nasty, greasy, dirty oven (former tenant was a single man) here at a rental. I made a thick paste of baking soda and scrubbed it in with an old toothbrush, let it sit. I then spritzed it with white vingar, full strength. Really worked well! I was impressed.


Ruby March 20, 2017 at 5:44 pm

I always clean the oven window with one of those razor blade paint scrapers. There’s not a lot of difference between baked-on grime on the glass oven window and paint smears on on regular windows.


Laura March 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm

I second the razor blade scraper on the oven door – but after I spray it with oven cleaner and the grease has softened.


Karen March 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Me three!! But wear rubber gloves when wiping up the “scrapings”. They can be really, really sharp. Ask how I know.


livingrichonthecheap March 20, 2017 at 6:47 pm

I did the baking soda/vinegar treatment on our last stove in our house right before we sold it. Unfortunately it dribbled between the glass and the door which looked like crap on a high end double oven. I ended up paying $100 to have a repairman fix it so that everything looked beautiful in order to sell it. I would never ever ever do that hack again and would warn others off of it.


Cindy March 21, 2017 at 4:46 am

Don’t know why so many cleaning sites advocate baking soda plus vinegar. While it makes a satisfying fizz all you are doing is making water. Baking soda is a base, vinegar is an acid. Add the two and you neutralize both.


Mrs. Daisy @ Dirt Road Daisy March 21, 2017 at 5:18 am

I have stumbled across too many Pinterest fails to trust hacks anymore! The only tried and true one that works for me is sitting a cup of distilled water in the dishwasher to clean it.


Kathleen in Kansas March 21, 2017 at 7:39 am

Sorry for asking, but what does a cup of water do in a dishwasher? I put several cups of vinegar in the bottom of mine, and run a cycle with no soap, and then wipe the corners and the seal when it’s done.


Bee March 21, 2017 at 9:34 am

I do this too, Kathleen. Vinegar is the only thing that seems to cut through the hard water build up. Because of this, I also use vinegar and water to clean faucets, bathroom tile, and my washing machine.


Melody Pond March 21, 2017 at 5:27 am

I worked briefly for a housecleaning company a few years ago, and one of the things we did for really tough oven grime was scrub it with a wet pumice stone, repeatedly dipped/rinsed into a little bucket of water.


WilliamB March 21, 2017 at 6:56 am

Re Hack #2: what does this do the silver? How long till the silverware is visibly affected or, eventually, disappears?

Another way to clean silver is to spread ketchup on it. The acid (vinegar and/or tomato) in the ketchup reacts with the silver, cleaning it as a side effect. But again, over the long run doing this erodes the silver.

My favorite hack is that the easiest way to clean a sponge is to heat it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. This boils the water in the sponge, sanitizing it. Along the way, the steam loosens the gunk in the microwave, making it easier to clean.

Another hack, or maybe just an efficiency: on the rare occasions that I self-clean my oven, I include really dirty all-metal pots or pans as well. The same high heat that cleans the oven, cleans the pots as well but doesn’t use any extra energy.


Denise March 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm


I just slap my sponge into the dishwasher every time I run it. It gets sink-washed in between, but it gets dirt off, as well as washing/cleansing it. The microwave tip is a really good addition for me, as it will sanitise it better, and I don’t have to use chlorine bleach…

I think I’m a tad obsessive about disinfecting things. Or so my family tell me.


Laura March 21, 2017 at 10:35 am

Everything you ever needed to know about cleaning silver is her in this info sheet from The Powerhouse Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney – https://maas.museum/app/uploads/2017/02/looking_after_silver.pdf


Diane C March 24, 2017 at 5:43 am

Very informative article. Thanks for the link, Laura.


Ruby March 21, 2017 at 10:54 am

Also, Katy, if you don’t have a squeegee, a pair of good old fashioned yellow dishwashing gloves will remove cat hair from carpet. Just put them on and scrub with the palm of your hand. This is a good way to use gloves that have sprung a leak and can’t be used in water anymore.


Mary W March 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Ooooh, I like this one. I have those gloves with holes!


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