Organize & Clean

Your Embarrassing Cleaning Questions, Answered

published Aug 31, 2016
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Keeping your home clean can often be more than you bargained for. Sometimes the cat pees on the rug, you find roaches in your kitchen, or your shower falls victim to surprise mold spores. Whether you’re dealing with pesky pests or stubborn stains, here’s how to solve those common—but kind of gross—cleaning problems, and the answers to household questions you might be too afraid to ask.

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Smells and Stains

Q: How do you get sweat stains out of clothes?

Soaking the stains in a mixture of equal parts water and lemon juice before putting your clothes in the wash should take care of it.

Q: How do you remove blood stains?

If the blood is fresh and hasn’t dried yet, soak (or blot with a sponge or cloth) the stain immediately in cold water. For stains that are harder to get out, pour on hydrogen peroxide, wipe away the foam, and repeat until the stain is gone. If the blood is dry, you can use toothpaste on clothes and linens, or meat tenderizer—the enzymes help break down blood—for sturdier fabrics like denim.

Q: How do you get rid of pet urine smells?

How you proceed depends on what surfaces you’re trying to clean. For tile, scrubbing with hydrogen peroxide should be effective. For rugs and carpeting, try a carpet steamer and enzymatic cleaners. If the smell is on leather, you can clean it with vinegar or enzymatic cleaners, or try covering the surface with clean cat litter for a day.

Q: How do you get weird smells out of furniture?

A thick sprinkling of baking soda on upholstered pieces should do the trick, and if you can, let your furniture sit outside in the process—just make sure it’s in the shade, or the baking soda and sun combination could bleach the fabric. If the smell seems to have permeated the entire area, leave a bowl of vinegar in the room for a day, and it’ll soak up all those nasty scents. You can also hide bars of soap around to keep things extra fresh.

Q: How do you get rid of bad smells in your sink?

For smelly sinks, you have plenty of options, depending on whether or not you have a garbage disposal. Hot water and dish soap might do the trick, but you can also try ice cubes, coarse salt and lemon peels or vinegar and lemon ice cubes (for garbage disposals), or baking soda, vinegar and boiling water and several other combinations (for no garbage disposals).

Q: How do you freshen up smelly shoes?

Stick them in the freezer! The cold will chill out the bacteria—just make sure you put them in a plastic bag first.


Q: How do you get rid of roaches?

Mix equal parts cocoa powder and diatomaceous earth and lightly dust it around areas where you’ve seen roaches, or where you think they’re coming in from. Diatomaceous earth is safe for pets and people, but will destroy roaches’ exoskeletons. You can also mix borax and sugar as an alternative.

Q: How do you get rid of bedbugs?

For bedbugs, you’ll have to call in a professional exterminator, but that won’t absolve you of all the work. You’ll have to launder all the fabric in your home, too. Washing items will drown existing bedbugs as they can’t swim, but you’ll need to either freeze items for 72 hours or put them in a hot dryer for at least 15 minutes to kill the eggs. You should also vacuum regularly, and get rid of the bag afterwards to make sure no more eggs hatch.

Q: How do you deal with lice in your home?

If someone in your household came home with lice recently, it’ll take a little more than special shampoo and a fine-tooth comb to make them go away. Lice can’t live without a host for more than 24 hours, but you should wash all fabrics that the affected people came into contact with, and put anything that can’t be washed in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Also, soak any hairbrushes, combs, clips and other hair supplies in hot water or freeze them for 2 hours, and vacuum any rugs or carpeting and furniture.

General Grossness

Q: How do you get rid of mold?

A mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of clove oil and 1 liter of water can help. Simply spray the mixture on the affected area and let it sit overnight, then clean the next day with a baking soda and vinegar mixture. This infographic has all the details on getting rid of mold from specific surfaces, from tents and clothes to grout and painted walls.

Q: How do you get rid of a stubborn toilet ring?

Try scrubbing with a pumice stone, and using some LimeAway cleaner if you need a little extra cleaning power.

Q: How do you remove vomit smells from carpet?

If you’ve cleaned up the initial mess but a stain and smell still lingers, lightly soak the area with water, then, using a stiff-bristled cleaning brush, brush a little bit of laundry detergent onto the stain. Go over the area with a wet/dry vacuum if possible, or soak up the liquid with a dry towel. If there’s excess soap left on the carpet, spray with water and gently brush it in and repeat until the soap is gone, then repeat the vacuum or towel process. You can also try an enzymatic cleaner, a baking soda paste, or clean with vinegar or window cleaner.

Clean Routines

Q: How often should you replace sponges?

You should be using a fresh sponge every week. Disinfecting sponges at home doesn’t really work, according to a study from Scientific Reports published in the New York Times, so a strict replacement schedule is your best bet at battling bacteria.

Q: How often should you clean your towels?

You should wash your bath towels after 3-4 uses. Wash dish towels weekly, and hand towels every 2-3 days. Bath mats should be washed every week or every other week.

Q: How often should you clean your makeup brushes?

You should clean your brushes daily, so old makeup, bugs and bacteria don’t build up, but you can also use a quick spray cleaner after uses, and deep-clean once a week. Here’s how to clean your makeup brushes, if you need guidance.

Re-edited from a post originally published 8.31.2016 – TW