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10 Cleaning Tricks You Won't Believe

Use vodka to rid shower mildew and other tips from the Queen of Clean

By Ellen Breslau and

(This article previously appeared on

Cola to clean your toilet? Bread to pick up broken glass? We've all heard of unusual cleaning ideas, but do they really work? We went to the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb, to find out her "A-ha!" cleaning secrets, as well as the lowdown on what really works and what doesn't. Her 10 clever tricks:

1. Bread to pick up broken glass

Some people suggest using Play-Doh to pick up broken glass, which does work, Cobb says, but, "you will have to throw it out, which seems wasteful." Cobb suggests sweeping up the large pieces and then laying a piece of bread over the leftover glass that you can’t sweep up.

"Press the bread gently into the glass areas and it will pick up and hold on to them," she says. Throw out the bread immediately when you are done. A potato, cut in half, also works, Cobb says.

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2. Tang to clean toilets

There's a lot of talk about cola being fantastic at cleaning toilets, but the soda is not the best option, according to Cobb. "It is expensive and the sugar in it helps bacteria to grow." Her pick: An orange-flavored breakfast drink, such as Tang. "Buy generic and buy it at the cheapest place you can find it," she says. "Don’t worry about the freshness date."

Use one or two teaspoons, let it sit for a few minutes, then use the bowl brush to swish, then flush.  
Denture cleaning tablets also work. "One to two dropped into the toilet and allowed to fizz do a great job," Cobb says. 

3. Potato to remove a broken lightbulb

If your lightbulb has broken off in the socket, the best thing to do, Cobb says, is to unplug the light, cut off the end of a potato and trim as needed to fit it on the broken light bulb. Press firmly down into the broken piece, using caution.

"Once it is situated on what is left of the light bulb, turn to unscrew," Cobb says. Voila!

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4. Baby oil for streak-free stainless steel

"Lots of people use WD-40 for this, but I'm not a fan," Cobb says. "WD-40 works, but it is a solvent and flammable, so I don't think it's a good choice for the kitchen." Cobb suggests instead using baby oil or mineral oil, which give stainless appliances great shine.

"The surface must be clean first and the oil used sparingly," Cobb says. "I like to use a damp microfiber cloth to wash the appliances, put on a little baby oil, and then buff with a dry cloth." 

5. Toothpaste for polishing silver

Yes, this works, Cobb says, and is a great alternative if you don't have polish. But it's best for small pieces. "It is time-consuming for larger pieces and doesn’t really clean as well as true polish does," says Cobb.

6. Olive oil and vinegar to polish wood


"I've heard that some people use stale beer to polish wood, so I tried it and did not think it was particularly good," Cobb says. "Plus, how often do you have stale beer, and there's no sense opening a can or bottle just to use it as polish."

Cobb's solution: Mix together 1 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup white vinegar. Put it in a labeled container and shake well prior to each use. Apply to a soft cloth and work into wood going in the direction of the grain. Buff with a dry soft cloth and marvel at the shine. 

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7. Hairspray to remove nail polish stains

This works, but keep in mind that the quicker you act, the better, Cobb says.

Heavily spray the hairspray on the polish, then let it sit about 20 to 30 minutes. When time's up, rub firmly. If all the polish doesn't come off, reapply the hairspray and try again. 

8. Coffee grounds as a deodorizer

Dry coffee grounds are great at minimizing smells in the kitchen or refrigerator. Put a thin layer of grounds on a plate, which allows the air to come in contact with more of the coffee, Cobb says. The grounds act as an absorbent and work right away at freshening the air.

9. Vinegar to get rid of paint smells

This one is so easy, Cobb says. Just put out a glass or small bowl with a bit of white vinegar in it and the paint smells will disappear. 

10. Vodka to remove mildew

Looking for a great way to remove mold and mildew from shower caulking? Buy inexpensive vodka and put some in a spray bottle, Cobb says.

"Spray it on the problem area, let it sit for 15 minutes, re-wet with the vodka spray and rub with a brush," she advises. Mold and mildew will come right off.

Ellen Breslau Read More
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