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Weird Cooking and Cleaning Hacks That Really Work

Some might sound strange, but they’re worth trying

spinner image Cleaning supplies - sponge, lemon, salt, and rubber gloves
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​The Internet is filled with cooking and cleaning hacks, but it’s hard to know what works and what just looks cool on video.

So we gathered some tips and tricks to help tackle home challenges: stubborn stains, stuck-on crud, making leftovers palatable. These creative techniques get the job done, often rely on things you already have in your home, and can be fun to try.

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Cleaning house

spinner image Grapefruit halved, against a white background
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Use grapefruit and salt on soap scum. No need for fancy soap or chemicals to get rid of soap scum in your shower and tub or elsewhere — you can use grapefruit and salt. “Take half a grapefruit and pour a layer of salt over the top. Then rub the grapefruit on the affected areas and you’ll see the soap scum start to lift,” says Kathy Cohoon, franchise owner at cleaning service Two Maids & a Mop. “The grapefruit’s citric acid and the coarseness of the salt work together to power through stubborn scum.” It also leaves a pleasant, citrusy smell.

Microwave damp sponges for easy cleanup. Splattered food means microwaves can get messy. For a quick clean, Cohoon suggests microwaving a few damp sponges on high for one minute. The sponges will create moisture, making it easier to wipe down anything stuck inside the machine. You can also use the warmed sponges to do the wiping. Just be careful not to grab overheated sponges to avoid getting burned.

Deep clean a toilet with vinegar. Pour a cup or two of white vinegar in a toilet bowl and let it sit overnight to break down any debris or hard water stains, says Michael Green, vice president of operations at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. “In the morning, use a toilet brush to scrub around the bowl. An extra toothbrush and a little baking soda can help you get to the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies,” he says.

Ice cubes clean the garbage disposal. A common hack is putting a piece of citrus peel into the garbage disposal to improve the smell, but what about actually cleaning it? Green suggests ice cubes. “These will remove any food scraps that are stuck under the disposal blades or impellers, depending on your model, as well as the grind chamber,” Green says. You’ll only want to use a handful or you can clog the drain. As a bonus, ice cubes also help to sharpen the disposal blades.

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Denture tablets clean auto-drip coffee makers (and water bottles). Denture tabs are designed to clean, disinfect, whiten and remove stains — the recipe for a great cleaning product. That extends to your drip coffee maker which can get gunky over time with buildup from minerals and bacteria. “Simply fill up the auto-drip tank with warm water, drop two tablets into the water and let them fully dissolve,” says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer at the Cleaning Authority. “Run the coffeepot through a regular cycle and, once complete, fill the tank up with only warm water and start again.” Denture tabs are also great for cleaning out the coffeepot and water bottles as well. Let the tablet dissolve in warm water and then rinse and wipe clean.

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Stain removal

White wine for red wine stains. If you happen to be drinking both white and red wine and a little red spills, use white wine to attack the stain right away. The white wine will dilute the stain; follow up with a clean wet cloth to get out the rest. Don’t want to open a bottle of white? Hydrogen peroxide mixed with dish soap will work on lighter clothes (be careful, hydrogen peroxide can bleach a little) or use salt on darker clothes. No matter what method you choose, make sure to always blot the stain. Scrubbing will only make things spread.

Lemon on pasta sauce stains. Red sauce is delicious — until it gets on your clothes. “If you notice pasta sauce on your clothes, soak a clean cloth in cold water and blot from the outside in,” Stapf says. “Then grab a slice of lemon and rub it into the stain. Once the splatter appears to be mostly gone, pour a generous amount of water to cover the area and blot again with a clean cloth.”

spinner image mayonnaise in jar with blue lid, without a label
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Mayo for crayon stains on walls. Admittedly, using mayonnaise on the walls sounds strange, but there is a method to the madness. “Mayonnaise consists of oils that help break down the wax in crayons,” Stapf says. “Apply a small amount of mayo to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping away with a damp microfiber cloth.” If the grandkids get a little overzealous with their coloring, you’ll want to save this tip.

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Cooking up new strategies

Avoid sticking. It can be infuriating to try to get sticky stuff out of your measuring cup or spoon when following a recipe. Spraying a spoon or cup with nonstick cooking oil before measuring will help ingredients like honey and maple syrup slide right off. If you are making a recipe that calls for oil, measure that first and then fill the same cup with the sticky stuff and you’ll be able to add it with ease.

spinner image Red Electric Mixer on White Background
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Shred meat in the mixer. A stand mixer is good for more than just baking. This kitchen tool can easily shred meat for tacos, pulled pork and more. Using the mixer’s paddle attachment, add meat to the bowl and shred on low speed to prevent splatters. Take care not to over-shred and or you’ll turn your meat to mush.

Make leftover rice fluffy. Reheating rice in the microwave can result in unappetizing, dry grains. Try warming rice in the microwave with an ice cube on top to create steam. Cook for a minute and remove what’s left of the ice cube (it won’t melt all the way). The result is fluffy rice.

Video: Surprising Ways to Use Salt

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