Clean and mean here on the Green
July 11, 2007 7:53 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite heavy-duty cleaning products and super-cleaning secrets?

I know about FlyLady. This question is about products and large-scale techniques.

I am moving out of my apartment very soon. I do not relish the apartment-clean that will take place, as we have lived here for 6 years. While I have kept a good house, there are some trouble spots involving recurrent mold/mildew in the bathroom (that will not stay away!), rust stains, and a terrible kitchen floor that I have to make look at least passably good.

I am looking for product recommendations mostly for bath and kitchen, but I welcome all advice. I do not have a ton of money to try out CLR and all that other fancy stuff, so recommendations for excellent products are what I am after. However, if a product really is THAT good, I will spend lots of money on it. I know that sometimes the price is worth the performance (see Anti-Icky Poo versus Nature's Miracle-- only the price is a miracle).

Also, if any of you have clean hacks or other tips/tricks you have learned when it comes to massive, move-out cleaning, please share. While I have plenty of elbow grease myself, I am tackling this alone as DH will be away (lucky bastard).
posted by oflinkey to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
A million people will suggest it, but Magic Eraser is terrific for weird smudges and scuffs that won't come out. It's great for wall scuffs, counter stains, floor scuffs, and even random stuff like bathtubs and sinks. It was especially awesome when I was trying to clean a long-since burnt on stain from the stovetop. It's also cleaned up some rusty-looking spots in the bathroom.

Also, for carpet stains, I really like the Resolve Dual Action crap, and also Fantastic with Oxiclean.
posted by tastybrains at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2007

Scrubbing Bubbles - it'll clean out the nastiest bathtubs/showers without having to break a sweat. Spray, wait, rinse. Repeat if necessary. Make sure the windows are open/there's good ventilation. Haven't been able to fnd it locally, lately, though.

CLR is fancy/expensive? iirc, a bottle of that at the drug store is < $>
Diluted CLR is great especially for mildew and stains on linoleum. Otherwise, dilute bleach down to 10% should be enough; check the bleach bottle to see if there're detergents added to it - those should help a bit.

Just plain bleach is good for mildew and old stains. Let it soak a while, maybe give it more than one go around for really bad spots.
posted by porpoise at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

You have to be really careful about the Magic Eraser. Don't rub to hard because it takes off a slight layer of paint/finish from the surface.

One time my parents wanted me to clean the mildew off the ceilings in the bathroom so before I got down to scrubbing, I sprayed a helluva lot of Fantastik on the offending spots. It got hard to breathe so I left for a little while but when I came back to finish the job, the spots were gone. I totally sound like a commercial right now, but it's a true story. Not sure how it would work on surfaces like grout or caulk.
posted by spec80 at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2007

My cleaner requested THP for the worst of the messes in my house. It's basically the active ingredient in other cleaners, but in pure form. Use with caution. Caution and eye protection and really thick gloves.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:14 PM on July 11, 2007

technique: top down, back to front, left to right. Walk into a room, start cleaning to the left side of the door. Clean high areas first. Wipe shelves back to front. Get all dirt onto floor before bothering to clean floor. Work your way around the room. That way, there's no time wasted on "did I clean that already?"
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:20 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hey, I second the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. For really random stains on random surfaces, it's just worked. You just have to test a hidden spot before you use it.
posted by jerryg99 at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2007

Seconding the scrubbing bubbles. Scrubbing Bubbles is the cleaner that does not fuck around. I do not know what it is made of, and I have probably shortened my life expectancy by a shocking number of years by using it religiously for the past 10 or so years. But it has not failed me yet.

Also, consider getting a really good cleaning brush if you do not have one already. Something that feels comfortable in your hand for some hard scrubbing. I find that cleaning the shower/tub goes a hell of a lot faster with a brush vs. a sponge.
posted by brain cloud at 8:27 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Place ice cubes on the carpet divets that furniture leaves behind. It'll perk up, good as new.
posted by idiotfactory at 8:40 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, _don't_ mix ammonia and bleach. It'll create chlorine gas which can kill you very very easily. You hear about it on the news every now and then, and sometimes when a person mixes two random cleaners that just contain these two chemicals. I read about an incident some time ago where a man poured a whole lot of Draino into his kitchen sink, and when it didn't clear the drain, he added something else. He was found dead sometime later, and left a wife and two kids behind. I only mention this because in all these cases, the victim was attempted to make a SUPER POWERFUL cleaning solution.
posted by autojack at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2007

The only one not mentioned yet is Barkeepers Friend which destroys any rust stains on contact and makes any metal surface glow.

You can try hydrogen peroxide on mold/mildew. It's not as aggressive as a bleach based product but if you have it on hand, it works and doesn't make your eyes and lungs scream.

My hardcore tip for move out cleaning: Don't. At least not much. My last place I lived for 11 years and it looked it. I went as far as a quick mop and vacuum so it wasn't nasty, but I didn't scrub anything. I got docked $50 off my deposit for the cost of cleaning, but when I consider the cost of all the cleaning supplies plus the amount of time I would have spent it felt like a great deal. They will have their own person clean the place anyway so why not take advantage of it.
posted by Ookseer at 9:59 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

You need a friend. Nothing worse then cleaning alone.

Seconding the scrubby brush, or two or three so you can rotate instead of rinsing all the time!

Also, oddly, a thin piece of wood...or folded up cardboard, or whatever, something stiff with a bit of an edge, but not hard enough to gouge.. worked miracles for removing paint, silver packing tape residue, and I was afraid to ask what else that my friend's dorm mate left on their shared door when she checked out.
posted by anaelith at 10:22 PM on July 11, 2007

You didn't mention carpets, but if you've got spots, get yourself some Folex. It used to be found only in the floor cleaning section of Home Depot, but it's making its way into Target and such.

It comes in kind of a giant bottle, but it's really really worth it. My dad regularly entertains up to six grandkids at a time and Folex has saved our bacon pretty often (white furniture + chocolate in every form imaginable = gallon bottles of Folex and remarkably still-white furniture).

For the whole carpet, you may want to ask your landlord about carpet cleaning. I nearly did it myself until I found out that my landlord preferred to use his own guy and that it was cheap to have him do it. That's some elbow grease you'll be glad to save if you can.

Also, don't forget good old (and cheap) vinegar. It's good for grime, deodorizing, and getting hard water gunk out of your sink and bath.

Commonly missed areas (that your landlord may or may not care all that much about):
above/behind/below the fridge
behind/below the stove
under the drip pans on the stovetop
posted by stefanie at 10:53 PM on July 11, 2007

3rding Scrubbing Bubbles. When I was doing housekeeping, I learned from a friend that it does everything; in a pinch, you can even use it for oven cleaner!
posted by Lynsey at 11:37 PM on July 11, 2007

The basic Vim cream bleach bleaches a lot better than bleach. So long as it's not spread too thin, and it's left in place for a bit (no scrubbing required) it'll get decades-old apartment counters and floors back to what're probably their original colours. Works a treat on floor/counter/etc stains.

CLR really is all that. I'd be surprised if a generic version didn't do the trick as well, though.
posted by kmennie at 12:09 AM on July 12, 2007

Concentrated Phosphoric Acid for tiles and porcelain.

Carbon Tetrachloride for grease stains. (Or Chloroform of methylene chloride)

Hexanes also for degreasing.

Note I am a chemist so your ability to acquire these chemicals might be less than mine.
posted by koolkat at 1:33 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Basic cleaning tip that spec80 alluded to, "give your cleaners time to work". Got a bad area? Spray the hell out of it with cleaner, then go do something else for 5 minutes. Let it soak in, let the chemicals activate and break down the dirt/mildew/grease/whatever. Then go at it. You will be amazed at the difference.
posted by sophist at 1:47 AM on July 12, 2007

Citrus-based degreasers.
posted by box at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2007

tagging on the question....
What is the best way to clean an oven? What should I use? I only have one small window in the kitchen so nothing to harsh.
posted by nimsey lou at 8:08 AM on July 12, 2007

Agreeing with Ookseer - don't worry too much about it. We moved out of an apartment that we'd lived in for several years, during a time of high stress (hence, no desire/time/energy for cleaning). I cleaned the tub and toilet, vacuumed and swept the floors, and that was about it. After the apartment manager did her move-out inspection, she charged us a whopping $12 - to replace the drip pans on the stove. Everything else she chalked up to normal wear and tear, and had her own cleaner come in after we left.
posted by spinturtle at 8:32 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

The easiest way I've found to clean an oven (note: normal, not self-cleaning oven) is to put a glass bowl of ammonia inside the cool oven. Leave it there overnight. It will soften the gunk. Wipe everything off in the morning with the ammonia in the bowl (add water first).
posted by veronica sawyer at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2007

Yes, definitely get someone to do it with you, preferably someone who can be an evil taskmaster. No mercy! (I know you said that DH was gone, but maybe another person in your building might help you in exchange for dinner or some other favor.)

Yes, make sure to get the burner pans on the stove; they're always picky about that. I think you can buy replacement ones for fairly cheap if they're in awful condition.

I found that the rust remover junk for the toilet cost a lot and smelled terrible. Get a pumice stone at the hardware store; it'll sound like it's ripping up the porcelain, but it works like a DREAM and is both cheap and non-smelly. A godsend.

Seconding the tip about the order of operations. If you can, finish a whole room and then close the door so you know it's done and you don't have to go in there again.

Now's also a great time to think about how to prevent stuff in your next apartment :) I got a great removable oven protector pad that costs 18 bucks and will prevent me from having to scrub crusty dried pizza cheese off the floor of the oven ever again.
posted by Madamina at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2007

Oh, and if you have WHITE grout in your bathroom, get a Tide Bleach Pen. (If it's not white, even just cream, I've heard it can be a little odd. Do a test first.)
posted by Madamina at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2007


Phosphoric acid, Carbon tet, Chloroform, methylene chloride, hexane? What the hell do you wear while your're cleaning - full level A hazmat outfit?
posted by X4ster at 9:49 AM on July 12, 2007

Ja Koolkat... and how's the skin on the soles of your feet? ;)
posted by MiffyCLB at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2007

Tilex Mildew Root is great. Spray it on tough spots, let it sit, then scrub with a grout brush.

Get some Ajax or Comet and one of those handled-sponge thingies (I have one by Mr. Clean), which will save your back when scrubbing the tub.

Also, my best suggestion for cleaning is to get a box of latex doctor's gloves (you can get them at the drugstore). Cleaning feels like less of a chore when you don't have to touch any of the nasty stuff.

Oh, and if you don't have a broom, make sure you buy one with corn bristles and not plastic. The plastic ones just collect dust in clumps. Yuk.
posted by radioamy at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2007

Mildew - get a sprayer, fill with 50/50 bleach/water. Spray copiously, leave overnight. Simple, cheap, easy. Do this with the windows open.

Tub/sink grime - ajax cleanser. Let it sit if there's stains.

Greasy dirt - straight ammonia, also cheap.

General cleaning - I like Pine-Sol. Pine oil disinfects, and the smell advertises the fact that you cleaned.

Spic'n'span is tsp, and boosts the cleaning power of detergents. Not great for the environment, so only use if needed.

Check with the landlord about the level of cleaning required.
posted by theora55 at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2007

Rust: I use a product called Whink, sold in the laundry section of supermarkets. It's odorless and very fast. You need to rinse right away.

Mildew: it needs to stay wet with bleach for "long enough." For vertical surfaces, mix some laundry detergent in with the bleach and water to help it cling to the surface. For even more staying power, make a thin paste -- lots of detergent, less water and bleach.

TSP/Spick n Span can leave a haze when it dries. It's easy to wipe off with clear water -- just mentioning it because it can be scary to see residue on a freshly-washed surface.

Cleaning an oven is a lot less odious if you don't do it all at once, and if you have a few sponges instead of just one.
posted by wryly at 11:52 PM on July 12, 2007

For the kitchen floor, try biological washing powder (laundry detergent) dissolved in lukewarm water. Slop it on, leave it for a while and mop off again. Scrub for problem areas. Then scrub the whole lot when you realise that the former problem areas are now two shades lighter than everything else. If it's really bad, do this once before you clean the kitchen, without bothering too much about the scrubbing, and then do it properly once you've cleaned the rest of the room. Wear gloves.

I mention the lukewarm water specifically because my usual cleaning methods involve lots of very hot water and things like soda crystals (wear gloves, and clothes you really don't care about), and I don't always immediately remember that hot is no good for biological agents, as it'll just cook them before they can dissolve the crap off the floor.
posted by Lebannen at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2007

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