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13 House-Cleaning Hacks Reviewed

Cleaning is right up there with childbirth: it's messy, necessary, painful, and you don't want to spend too much time doing it. Thus, the invention of hacks — or if you were born before 1985, "helpful tips to accomplish domestic duties with ease."

I'm all about finding easier ways to get chores done, but I don't want to get tricked into wasting time on something that won't work. Neither should you. I took 13 popular hacks to task so you'll know what works, and what doesn't.

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1. Walnuts fix scratched wood. I took a raw walnut (unroasted and unsalted) and rubbed it across a piece of furniture (that just so happened to actually be walnut wood), which had numerous scratches and chips. I rubbed firmly, which caused the nut to break in small bits, and leave a scant amount of natural oil.

Verdict: False. The scratches and chips were still visible, but it does shine the wood nicely. Save your walnuts for eating, instead.

2. Baking soda cleans barf. I have two long-haired cats, which means frequent hairballs and cat puke on my carpet, leaving me numerous opportunities to try this hack. First, I picked up the solids from the carpet using a paper towel and plastic baggy. Then, I sprinkled a heavy layer of baking soda all over the wet area, and let it sit for a few hours. Finally, I used my vacuum to clean it up.

Verdict: False. I found that some of the baking soda had stuck to the carpet fibers and the stain was still visible on my light-colored carpet. Plus, it still reeked of vomit. Good old fashioned hot water works much better in these situations.


3. Vinegar cleans a shower head. My shower head is old and has lots of hard water stains and lime build up, which made this hack super appealing. I filled a plastic baggy with apple cider vinegar, attached it to my shower head at night, and secured it to the base with a rubber band. The next morning, I removed the baggie and ran my shower for several minutes. I was hoping the vinegar would help the water spray from the shower head more evenly.

Verdict: False. There was no change in my shower head, (the build-up was still visible) but my shower did stink like salad dressing for an entire day.


4. Pillowcases clean fan blades. This super easy hack makes all kinds of sense. I used an older pillowcase and simply covered each fan blade one at a time, firmly pulling along the blade to take the thick line of dust off in one swoop.
Verdict: True. I loved that this kept all the dust inside the pillowcase and out of my eyes. No need to vacuum after cleaning the fan anymore!

5. Shoe polish covers scratches in leather furniture. I have a beautiful, expensive leather couch and now, courtesy of my kitties, a few scratches in the arm and headrest. I'd hoped that this trick would hide the damage. I went to a specialty shoe repair store and found a deep brown shoe polish that matched my couch color. Then, I scuffed and buffed the affected areas according to the instructions.

Verdict: True, but you definitely don't want to do this hack. Yes, the scratches were temporarily covered, but the color came right up on the backs of our shirts and sleeves. Not a fix when you're ruining your clothes in the process.

6. Vinegar and baking soda cleans burnt gunk from pans. If you love to cook like me, then burnt food on pans is inevitable. The hack seems simple enough. Sprinkle a good amount of baking soda on the pan and moisten with vinegar, then scrub.

Verdict: False. This foamy combo is the same recipe kids use for volcano displays at their fourth grade science fair. It creates a big mess if you're not prepared, and still requires you to scrub pretty hard. A better way to loosen grime is to put some water in the pan, place it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Let it cool down for about 15 minutes, then drain, add baking soda and scrub gently with a damp sponge. Voila!

7. Bread and baking soda cleans coffee/spice grinders. I love buying whole spices and grinding them myself in a coffee grinder set aside specifically for spices (you never want to use one grinder for both coffee and spices, or you'll have spicy coffee and coffee-flavored spice mixes). This hack was simple — use a torn up slice of white bread and a tablespoon of baking soda and whirl them through your grinder to clean it.

Verdict: False. "Clean" to me also means smells are removed, and while this did remove most (but not all) of the build-up, it didn't do a thing for the smell. I did it three times, but no luck. Also, you'll need to wipe the grinder out with a clean dry paper towel afterward to remove the lingering baking soda.

8. Dryer sheets repel dust. I live near the beach, which means there is always dust coming in through the windows. This hack is awesome because it finds a way to repurpose a normally one-use item. I saved up a week's worth of used dryer sheets (an unscented major label brand) and then got to work dusting my house.
Verdict: True. I was skeptical that the used dryer sheets would both remove and repel future dust, but, a week has passed and my wood surfaces are still dust-free. Win!

9. Wet paper towels clean dirty George Foreman Grills. First, I plugged in my Foreman grill to get it screaming hot. Then, I took about four full size paper towels and folded them to the size of one. I wet them and then squeezed enough water out so that they were no longer dripping, but still very damp. I placed them on the inside of the grill, flat, and then closed the lid and let it sit for approximately 2 minutes.
Verdict: False. The paper towels were too thin to even touch the top of the grill, and they dry out very quickly. Half a raw onion cleans a hot grill far better and with less waste.

10. Chalk removes grease stains from clothes. I cook all the time, and many of my shirts are dotted with grease stains, so this hack sounded promising. I took an old top with numerous grease stains and rubbed white chalk over each spot, and then I made a fresh grease stain to see if it worked better when the oil hadn't set. Afterward, I washed and dried the top.

Verdict: Mixed. While the old stains were definitely lighter, they were still there. The new stain didn't budge, and it was really hard to get chalk on the fresh oil. I'll definitely do a few more applications to see if that does the trick.

11. Run a metal hanger over clothes to remove static instantly. Every winter, we battle static cling. Dryer sheets don't even touch the static, and sometimes it gets so bad we accidentally shock each other just walking through the house. When I read that metal was a natural diffuser for static, I was, well, ecstatic. Taking an old wire hanger I had from the dry cleaner (paper removed) I ran it through my static-fused clothes and even over my hair.

Verdict: False. My clothes still had static (I even had that embarrassing back of the dress ride-up) and my hair didn't fare much better.

12. Lemons remove hard water stains on faucets. I love using lemons (they smell so good) so I was happy to hear of this hack, especially since we have ultra hard water in Southern California. I rubbed the open side of a cut lemon over my bathtub faucets where the worst damage was, and also on my newer kitchen faucet that had just a few spots. After, I rinsed with water.

Verdict: Mixed. The lemon was not enough to remove the tough hard water stains on the bathtub faucet, but it did work well in the kitchen.

13. Shaving cream stops mirrors from fogging. I used my husband's shaving cream and spread one pump (a small handful) over the center of my bathroom mirror. I then used a clean, dry paper towel to wipe it off. This took more paper towels than I thought it would, and was quite messy. I then closed my bathroom window and door, and turned the shower on hot.

Verdict: False. This hack did not work for me, but it is possible that other brands of shaving cream would work better. It also left noticeable streaks on my bathroom mirror, which means I'm less likely to try this in the future.

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