Georgia Dixon

Home & Garden

20 things around your home with surprising cleaning powers

20 things around your home with surprising cleaning powers

You definitely bought more than you bargained for when it comes to these unassuming household objects. Everyone knows you can clean your whole house with bicarb soda, lemon and vinegar, but have you ever considered these? Before you throw out that pair of laddered tights, or go to toss that banana peel in the compost, stop and think about these alternative uses for them.

1. Pantyhose

Don’t let snags or runs ruin your day. Why not stuff them with mothballs and hang them in your closet? Fill them with kitty litter and place in damp spots to prevent mildew? Use them to line your plant pots (water seeps out, but soil doesn’t). Or ball them up and use them to scrub your pots and pans? They’re textured enough to scrub, but gentler than metal scourers, so won’t ruin non-stick coatings.

2. Pillowcase

Clean your fan blades with a pillowcase. Simply cover and wipe away to catch any loose dust. You can also take an old pillowcase, cut a hole in the closed end and poke a hanger through to create an instant garment bag. It won’t hold in mildew-causing moisture like the plastic ones you get from the dry cleaner.

3. Aluminium foil

Shrine rusty chrome by scrubbing it with balled up foil. You can also clean the starch off the bottom of your iron by running a hot iron over a sheet of it.

4. Mayonnaise

Not just great on chips, you can use mayonnaise to clean piano keys! Apply a smidgen to a soft cloth and wipe down the keys. Wait a minute before gently buffing with a second clean damp cloth.

5. Newspaper

Everyone knows that newspaper can be used to clean and polish windows without leaving streaks, but how about your shoes? If you’ve got dark-coloured leather soles, rub them with a balled up sheet of newspaper. Use a black-and-white page, as full colour won’t work. They’ll restore shine in a jiffy. No polish necessary.

6. Toothpaste

Want to rid your baby bottles of that sour milk smell? Squeeze some toothpaste on a bottle cleaning brush and scrub to remove the odour in an instant. You can also squeeze a bit on a damp sponge and wipe down your shower glass to keep it clear of icky soap scum. 

7. Nail polish remover

Acetone is a disinfectant. Dunk a razor in to sanitise the blades, dip in a cotton swab and gently dab around your laptop keys to rid them of germs, or pour some on a paper towel and use it to wipe away stains and scuffs on tile, concrete, laminate, and the ring around your porcelain bathtub. (Just make sure you don’t ever use it on wood.)

8. Emery boards

Got a stain on your favourite pair of suede shoes? Simply work an emery board gently over the mark, then hold your shoe over the steam from a kettle to remove the stain. This also works on suede clothing!

9. Denture tablets

Want to clean mineral deposits and stains from your glasses? Drop in one or two denture tablets along with some water. Once the fizzing has stopped, rinse out. You can even drop one into your toilet bowel to get it sparkling clean, or drop a couple down the drain with a cup of vinegar to unclog it. 

10. Shaving cream

Want to clean up marks, glue or paint from a table? Spray some shaving cream on the surface and spread it using a dry sponge. Leave for 15 minutes before wiping away with a damp sponge. This should leave the surface squeaky clean.

11. Shower caps

That cheap hotel shower cap is essentially a plastic baggy with a myriad of uses! Use them to cover the soles of your shoes before you pack them in a suitcase – to protect your other belongings from dirt and bacteria. Slip one over your tablet or phone when following a recipe in the kitchen – to save your screen from greasy fingers. Or fill it with vinegar and secure it around your showerhead with a rubber band overnight to get rid of limescale build-up.

12. Baby oil

Restore the sheen in chrome or stainless steel features by rubbing them down with a few drops of baby oil on a soft clean cloth. Buff in with a towel and repeat if necessary.

13. Fabric softener

Dust clings to static so keep your TV and computer screens static-free by wiping them down with a cloth dampened with fabric softener.

14. Banana peels

The fruit acids in banana peels make them great for polishing silver, leather and even your houseplants. Use the fleshy side of a ripe peel to condition and polish your leather shoes, or restore the shine in your silverware, or make the waxy leaves of your ficus plant glossy again!

15. Peanut butter

Take care of sticky substances – everything from chewing gum on shoes, tar spots on driveways, tree sap on decks and sticker residue on glass – by coating with peanut butter. Rub in, letting the oil work its magic, before wiping away with a clean cloth. You can also use it to rid your house of nasty kitchen smells. After you’re done frying fish, put a spoonful of peanut butter into the hot pan to get rid of odours.

16. Rubber thongs

Live with a furry friend who tends to moult? Slip a rubber thong onto your hand and rub it on your carpets, rugs and car upholstery in the direction of the pile. Any pet hair (or human hair for that matter) will form balls, which can then be picked up and disposed of.

17. Beer

Got half-empty bottles of beer leftover from a party? Pour onto houseplants for extra nourishment – the yeast enriches the soil. You can also put a shallow dish of beer in your garden to ward off slugs.

18. Vaseline

You don’t need special polish to make your leather chairs look like new again. Apply some Vaseline to a clean cloth, rub it in, and then wipe away the excess. Did you girlfriends leave lipstick stains on your cloth napkins? Blot the spot with Vaseline then launder as usual. 

19. Dryer sheets

Deodorise your furry friends by rubbing them down with a dryer sheet before they come into the house. You can also use a balled-up dryer sheet to wipe soap scum from shower doors, bathroom mirrors and tiled walls.

20. Vodka

Vodka’s good for more than martinis! To get rid of stale cigarette smoke, mix one part vodka with three parts water, spray on clothes or upholstery and leave to dry.

Written by Kathleen Lee-Joe. First appeared on

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