Do those hard-to-remove stains have you stymied? Are those hard-to-reach spots in your home backing you into a corner? And does your household garbage raise a stink? Well, rejoice. There are simple solutions to many of the most challenging of your cleaning tasks…

Stop trash can odors. Garbage smells are unpleasant to human noses…and they can lure critters to your garbage can when you put the trash out.

Solution: To control odors in outdoor trash cans, spray the inside of the cans with ammonia diluted 50% with water, a disinfectant that’s very effective at removing trash odors. As an added benefit, the smell of ammonia repels most animals, reducing the odds that raccoons or neighborhood dogs will get into your garbage. If animals are a recurring problem, spray the outside of the trash can with ammonia as well.

But the smell of ammonia can be overwhelming indoors. To prevent garbage odors with an indoor trash can, place a section of old newspaper flat on the bottom of the can below the trash bag, then another section into each new bag when it’s placed in the can. The paper will absorb any liquids that drip to the bottom of trash cans and trash bags, a common cause of garbage odors. If newspaper alone doesn’t solve the problem, also add one cup of scented kitty litter.

If the smelly trash can is inside a cabinet or closet, place a charcoal briquette or two inside this space. Charcoal is a wonderful odor absorber—more effective than even baking soda, the traditional bad-odor home remedy.

Remove pet hair from carpets and upholstered furniture. Pet hair clings to carpet and fabric fibers so tenaciously that vacuums often cannot dislodge much of it.

Solution: Rake the rubber edge of a glass-cleaning squeegee (the edge intended to wipe water off windows) through your carpets. Pet hair clings to rubber even more than it does to carpet fibers, so most of the hair will be pulled up into clumps on the carpet surface where it can be easily removed by hand and/or a vacuum. For upholstered furniture, don disposable rubber gloves and run your hands over the fabric a few times to achieve the same result. The straight rubber edge of a squeegee won’t work as well on furniture as on floors because furniture surfaces aren’t as flat.

Clean between the panes of an oven window. You cleaned the outside and inside surfaces of your oven door, but there still are splatters on its doubleglass window, most likely between the panes.

Solution: Straighten a wire hanger, then use a pair of plyers to create a loop at one end. Tie a cleaning wipe designed for glass tightly to this loop. Examples: Windex Glass and Surface Wipes ($24 for three 28-count packs)…MiracleWipes for Glass ($10 for a 30-count pack). For most ovens, you can remove a panel below or at the top of the oven door or open the drawer below the door to gain access to the bottom edge of the door. There will be slots in this bottom edge that allow access up inside the oven door. Insert the end of the wire with the wipe up into each of these slots, and move this improvised “wand” back and forth to clean these stains. Oven doors vary—and some stains are stubborn—but usually this is a simple task if you can access the inside of the oven door.

Remove grease residue from wood cabinets near your stovetop without damaging the finish. Homeowners often resort to aggressive scrubbing and harsh chemicals to remove the stubborn grease residue that builds up on surfaces near stovetops. Unfortunately, those tactics can remove the finish from wood cabinets as well.

Solution: Spray cabinets with an “orange oil” cleaner featuring d- limonene, a natural chemical found in citrus fruits. D-limonene is an extremely effective degreaser that won’t harm wood finishes. It’s effective on tile surfaces, too. Examples: Green Gobbler Orange Oil Concentrate ($24 for 32 ounces). Spray this on, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then microwave a damp sponge for 30 to 40 seconds and use this to easily wipe away both the cleaner and the grease. Dry using paper towels.

Clear away cooked-on microwave stains with ease. Stains inside microwaves can be especially challenging to remove because they become cooked on.

Solution: Combine one cup of water and one cup of white vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl, then toss in a wood toothpick or wooden coffee stirrer. Microwave this on high for four minutes, then remove the bowl from the microwave, using oven mitts or other hand protection to avoid burns. Don rubber gloves, dip a scouring sponge into this heated water/vinegar mixture, and use this to wipe away stains inside the microwave. The stains should wipe away easily thanks to the “steam cleaning” treatment the stains received when you microwaved the water/vinegar mix. Wondering why the wood toothpick or coffee stirrer was placed in the bowl? On rare occasions, water can superheat when microwaved, causing it to suddenly and dramatically boil up, potentially causing serious burns. A piece of wood allows bubbles to form along the sides of the wood, eliminating this risk.

Prevent water spots on glass shower doors. Your shower keeps you clean— but how clean is your shower? In many homes, shower doors are a cleaning trouble spot requiring regular attention.

Solution: Clean your glass shower door using a plastic-bristled brush and a cleaning solution made from one cup of white vinegar mixed into one-half gallon of warm, soapy water. When you’re done scrubbing, rinse off this solution, dry the shower door and apply a coat of windshield rain repellent before the shower is used again. Though designed for vehicle windshields, these products are equally effective at making water bead up and roll off glass shower doors before water spots form. Example: Rain-X Original Glass Water Repellent ($8.50 for a seven-ounce bottle).

Clean the inside of lighting fixtures. Some fixtures—especially outdoor fixtures— enclose their bulbs inside small glassed-in spaces. It can be a hassle to clean the inside surfaces of this glass if your hand doesn’t fit inside. Removing the bulb can help somewhat, but even the socket could block access to part of the interior glass.

Solution: Buy a pair of two-inchwide foam paint brushes—these can be obtained for about $1 apiece at a home or craft center. Spray one of these with glass cleaner, and reach this inside the fixture to “paint” the cleaner onto hardto- access interior glass surfaces. When you’re done, use the second brush, this one dry, to wipe away any excess cleaner. Do this with the bulb inside when the light is off and cold to avoid any risk of burning your hand or getting a shock…or remove the bulb temporarily (make sure the power to the socket is turned off ).

Vacuum under a fridge. Dust that gets under a refrigerator can stick to its condenser coils, reducing energy efficiency and potentially shortening the life of the fridge. A thin brush can remove some of this dust, but brushes often just push dust around the tight space under a fridge rather than remove it.

Solution: Use the cardboard tube from a used-up roll of gift wrap to create a thin extension wand for your vacuum. Poke small holes every three inches or so along the length of the cardboard tube on both top and bottom. Use duct tape to seal one end of this tube to the end of your vacuum hose, then squash the rest of the tube so it fits into the gap under your refrigerator. Every few months, slide this around under your fridge to suck up the dust underneath.

Dust ceiling fan blades. Ceiling fans often are too high to dust by hand without hauling a ladder into the house or perching precariously on a chair.

Solution: Attach a paint roller to the end of an extender arm, as if you were planning to paint your ceiling. Wrap a dryer sheet around the roller cover, secure this sheet in place with a pair of rubber bands, then wipe the roller along fan blade surfaces on top and bottom. The roller is attached to the handle only on one side, so you can reach it around the blades to do the top. Dryer sheets do a wonderful job picking up dust.

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