The most helpful cleaning tips we’ve ever learned (thanks, grandma!)

Sometimes our loved ones truly do know best, especially when it comes to cleaning up

Published May 19, 2022 4:59PM (EDT)

 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

Clean Like You Mean It shows you how to tackle the trickiest spots in your home — whether they're just plain gross or need some elbow grease. You'll get the cleaning secrets we've learned from grandma, a guide to our handiest tools and helpers, and so much more. Pull on those rubber gloves and queue up the tunes: It's scour hour!

There have been times when you hear or read about a cleaning tip or hack from a friend or family member (or, let's face it, the Internet) that just sticks with you and that you use for the rest of your life. Here's a roundup of some of our favorites.

"Saving a squeezed lemon half during cooking and then using it to scrub down the inside of your kitchen sink after cleanup leaves it shiny and smelling great! That was from my grandmother."  Kaleigh Embree, Product Development Coordinator

"My Aunt Jayanti taught me that when you're storing empty containers in the cupboard, wash them and cover them with paper towels. If you don't, you'll get a musty, stinky smell. She also says to always keep Bon AmiBar Keepers Friend, and Goo Gone handy at all times." — Brinda Ayer, Content Director

"From my mom: Hairspray takes out ball-point pen ink. And creamy peanut butter gets gum out of your hair if you fell asleep on a road trip and woke up with gum in your hair . . ." — Cyndy Chan, Continuous Improvement Technician

"I have a stash of warped sheet pans that I use as pantry and refrigerator shelf liners. I don't use them in the oven anymore because I'm afraid of burning my house down, so I repurpose them elsewhere. The sheet pans catch flour and sugar that leak out of their bags before I can decant them into deli containers and contain spills in the fridge so they're less annoying to clean." Jada Wong, Market Editor

"My old roommate and I used to cook literally everything in our oven and would 'forget' about wiping it down. So once a year (I know, gross), we would finally clean it, using 1/2 cup of baking soda and about ¼ cup of white vinegar to create a paste. The oven would come out spotless. I still use this method to clean my kitchen sink and if my oven gets grimy these days." — Janine Sanabria, Senior Product Development Associate

"Use a dough scraper to get hard bits (or even grease stains!) off surfaces or even caked-on sticky stuff in the fridge. I prefer a plastic one so I don't scratch the walls, but a metal one works well if I'm not worried about scratching." — Genevieve Yam, Recipe Developer

"Dawn dish soap is great at getting grease stains out of clothes, particularly grimy bike grease/brake dust."  Erin Sanders, Customer Care Operations Manager

"My parents got me totally hooked on Bar Keepers Friend for stubborn dishes. And in my current kitchen, I learned it works wonders on the always-getting-scratched white sink too." — Emma Laperruque, Food Editor

"Here's my tip for avoiding pine needles everywhere when the sad time comes when you need to take the Christmas tree out to the curb. (Disclaimer: This has only been tested in an NYC apartment.) Open the window next to where the tree is standing (because everyone puts their tree by a window), look both ways, and shove the tree out. Then walk down the stairs and drag it to the curb or, preferably, your local composting location. No, I don't expect you to actually use this."  Mark Linderman, VP, Engineering

"My dad taught me to use dry newspapers for streak-free windows and mirrors when he was out washing his car." — Danielle Curtis-Williams, Manager, Marketing

"White vinegar and hot water also for streak-free windows but also literally for anything."  Stacey Rivera, SVP, Content

"Most stains: Dampen the fabric with cold water. Rub a bar of soap into the stain. Then scrub the stain (using the fabric) under cold running water. Also, never paint your house yellow — it attracts bugs."  Amanda Hesser, Cofounder and CEO

"This isn't revolutionary, but recently good old baking soda has been my cleaning default. For a slightly clumsy, messy cook like me, it's a lifesaver. Such a lifesaver that I have a giant Costco-sized-bag under the sink. A grease fire stains your new oven? Baking soda. Accidentally burned an entire pot of farro? Baking soda. Your stainless steel pans are discolored? Baking soda. I like making a paste of baking soda and a bit of water, sometimes I'll add a bit of white vinegar if I want it to be a more heavy-duty paste."  Delaney Vetter, Recipe Developer

"The best duster in the world, according to my mum, is an old sock! I have to agree. Just pick up a cleaner in one hand and wear your sock like a glove over the other and spray and wipe. My favorite uses include dusting my plants and wiping down my fan's blades (dampen your sock for this one). What better use than this for those orphan socks in your drawer (we know you have 'em)."  Arati Menon, Senior Content Lead

"My mama always told me to clean wood with soapy water, dry completely, then seal with oil. She often used olive oil because of what she had on hand. I do this at home too on all my cutting boards, wooden bowls, wood serving platters, wooden spoons. Important to gently clean the wood without removing too much of the oil natural oils, and replenish with more oil to keep a barrier against moisture, which will make wood warp and crack."  Sean Patrick Gallagher, Recipe Developer

"My grandmother taught me to stretch an old pillowcase over a ceiling fan blade, so you can catch the dust in it, then dump it in the trash afterward."  Ellery Hight, Customer Care Specialist

"Using dish soap to clean your shower, it breaks up the people-grease and soap scum. Also, keeping a sponge and small bottle of soap IN the shower at all times to clean while you condition your hair."  Johanna Hagan, Trade Account Representative

"Remove built-up minerals in your coffee maker by mixing half vinegar to half water and a tablespoon of a hard, clear liquor like vodka. Boil the two mixtures as you would coffee without the filter and coffee grounds so it's running clean, then add a pot of regular water to rinse it out!"  Catherine Yoo, Recipe Developer

"Well here's one I just learned . . . If you're reworking a Schoolhouse Factory Sconce with a dead LED and then it suddenly explodes with a thousand live ants, you can use glass cleaner to get rid of most of them."  Lou Lanning, CID Technician

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By Jill Baughman

MORE FROM Jill Baughman

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Cleaning Food Food52 How-to Kitchen Hacks