50 Easy Home Hacks That Will Instantly Improve Your Life
It's never been easier to make your home look like a million bucks.
The more time you spend at home, the more problems you notice about your space. That tiny pile of clutter suddenly seems like a mountain; those dusty surfaces suddenly all you can think about. Luckily, you don't have to spend all of your time cleaning to get your home pristine. With these easy home tips, you can get your home more organized, more efficient, and cleaner in no time—and keep it that way. And if you're short on time, check out these 23 Genius Home Improvement Projects You Can Do in an Hour (or Less!).
Designate a storage space right inside your front door.
Don't allow clutter to follow you into your home and become a larger issue throughout your space. Instead, "Pick the exit/entrance that everyone uses most often, add good vertical storage for coats, shoes, and backpacks/purses/gym bags," suggests organizing coach Lisa Dooley, founder of Your Organized Life.
Dooley also recommends keeping items used outdoors, like bugspray and sunscreen, in this space, and adding some shallow baskets to consolidate any clutter, like toys or miscellaneous accessories. And if you're looking to sell, check out these 50 Clever Ways to Instantly Add Value to Your Home.
Have a "no shoes in the house" rule.
Instead of walking through your home wearing dirty shoes, giving you yet another thing to clean up, make sure to kick off your kicks at the front door. According to Luke Babich, a real estate investor and the co-founder of Clever Real Estate, this simple change "significantly reduces the amount of dirt, muck, and debris that you normally track into the house." It's particularly important for homes with wall-to-wall carpeting or rugs, which require a more involved cleaning process than hardwoods or tile.
Create a cleaning schedule.
If you find that you never seem to have time to clean your house, put it on your calendar and make it a standing event.
"Plan out your to-do list in sections of daily, weekly, and monthly chores to outline what needs to be done first," suggests Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer at The Cleaning Authority.
Make to-do lists for each room.
Want to get your housework done more quickly? Try making to-do lists for each individual space and you won't lose sight of your goals along the way.
"Writing out each room's chores will assist in staying organized and create a visual kudos as you begin to check off each task," explains Stapf, who notes that this is also helpful if you're divvying up tasks among members of your household. And for more great information delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Create a central command center.
That mudroom isn't the only space you should designate as a nerve center for your home—creating a command station within the house will keep important items organized.
"This is a centralized place to keep family schedules, bills and important paperwork, grocery lists and weekly menus, spare keys, and a home management binder with important phone numbers, family medical information and home maintenance schedules (like air filters, water filters, AC checkups, etc.)," says Jen Breitegan, founder of Organizenvy.
Use a squeegee after you shower.
Want to keep your bathroom cleaner without spending hours scrubbing? Then it's time to break out the squeegee.
"Keeping it stored on a hook inside the shower," suggests James Scott, co-founder of Dappir, a residential cleaning company. Scott explains that this is so helpful because "the mineral content of the shower water settles on the tiles, walls, and glass over time," leaving hard-to-clean spots if you don't wipe them away while they're still wet. And if you're looking to get your space spotless, check out these 33 Mind-Blowing Old-Fashioned Cleaning Tips That Actually Work.
Run your shower curtain through the washing machine.
Instead of trying to remove the soap scum from your shower curtain while it's hanging, run it on a gentle wash cycle in your washing machine. To boost the soap scum-removal power, toss a little ammonia in there, and allow it to hang dry.
Put things away immediately instead of putting them down.
Instead of coming home and immediately setting your phone, wallet, and keys on the kitchen table, "put things away where they go," says Tracy McCubbin, founder of dClutterfly, a home organizing company based in Los Angeles, California. "If people can make that part of their daily routine, that's a huge game-changer."
Give yourself the 20-minute test.
If you can't neaten up a room in 20 minutes or less, you've likely got too much stuff in it, says McCubbin. Set a stopwatch, time your clean-up, and if you've still got clutter once the clock runs out, it's time to start giving things away or tossing them.
Open your mail over a shredder.
"You probably only have one or two pieces of mail that are actionable" in every batch, says McCubbin. To quickly separate the things that need your attention from those that don't, open your mail every single day—and do so over a shredder, immediately disintegrating anything that's not pertinent.
Abide by the six-month rule.
If you haven't worn something in six months, it's time to donate it—no ifs, ands, or buts. "If you didn't use it last winter, you're not going to wear it this winter, either," says McCubbin. (If you want to give yourself a bit of leeway, though, feel free to extend that timeline to a year. But no more than that!)
Do an annual coat drive every fall.
Before your local coat drives get inundated with donations, McCubbin suggests having your family go through their coats in the early fall, setting aside anything that's too small. Not only will you be doing a good deed, but you'll also finally have more space in your entryway or closet!
Teach your kids a "like goes with like" organizing mentality.
Even very young kids can learn how to organize if you make it clear where everything goes in their bedroom or playroom. "Organizing bins and baskets of all their My Little Pony or all their trucks is a great way to get them started," says McCubbin. Better yet, this can help stop some of those epic meltdowns when things might otherwise go missing. "If they put something away [themselves], they know exactly where they left it."
Leave the door of your washing machine open to combat mold.
Finding your clothes a bit musty after a wash? Ron Shimek, president of home and commercial appliance repair company Mr. Appliance, recommends leaving the door to your washing machine open for a few hours after your last load has finished.
If this isn't enough to combat the smell, or if you have actual mold in the machine or on its seals, mix white vinegar and baking soda to help freshen things up.
Clean your blinds with a pair of tongs.
If you want to get your blinds clean faster, simply wrap a cloth around each side of a pair of tongs, secure with rubber bands, and use them to dust between the slats.
Clean your garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar.
Instead of shelling out money for an expensive disposal cleaner, use something you likely already have in your fridge: baking soda! "Pour it in the drain, then pour vinegar on top," suggests Christine Dimmick, the founder of natural eco-friendly home cleaning line The Good Home Co. and the author of Detox Your Home. The combination of ingredients will create a foam that both cleans and deodorizes without running the risk of damaging your pipes.
And use baking soda to remove gunk from a pan.
This trick will make that hard-to-clean grime on your pans a thing of the past. "Dust the surface with baking soda, fill the pan with water, and put it on the stove to simmer," says Harriet Jones, cleaning and maintenance supervisor from Go Cleaners in the United Kingdom. Just let the water simmer for a few minutes, turn off the stove, and then scrub it with the brush or sponge of your choice once the water is a bit cooler.
Use baking soda to clean the inside of your oven
You don't need to use noxious cleaners and high heat to get your oven clean. Stan Atanasov, a home cleaning expert at Paul's Cleaning Melbourne, recommends making a paste of baking soda and water and spreading it across the interior of your oven, then letting it sit for 30 minutes. You can then wipe away the paste—and the gunk beneath it—with a damp cloth. Anything left over can be easily removed with a bit of white vinegar in a spray bottle.
And use vinegar to clean your microwave!
Scrubbing the inside of a grimy microwave is no picnic. The good news? Getting it clean doesn't have to be an onerous task. Jones recommends combining one part white vinegar and three parts water in a microwave-safe bowl and letting it heat up in the microwave for two minutes. Once that's done, all that's left to do is wipe the mess away with a paper towel or reusable cloth.
Condition your wooden cutting boards with coconut oil.
You season your skillets, but are you doing enough to ensure your wooden cutting boards remain as good as new? Dimmick suggests using coconut oil on wooden cutting boards to maintain the health of the wood. And if you need more convincing, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that coconut oil is effective at inhibiting bacterial growth.
And use a lemon to clean them off.
Unless you want to have a moldy situation on your hands, your dishwasher is no place for that wooden cutting board. Instead, once you're done using it, clean it by applying some kosher salt and rubbing it in with half a lemon to remove any detritus. Once that's done, use dish soap and hot water to sanitize it, and leave it upright to dry.
Use cornstarch to get your windows spotless.
Getting your windows spotless is easier than you might think—all it takes is a little cornstarch. Atanasov recommends combining two cups of hot water, a quarter cup of vinegar, and a tablespoon of cornstarch in a spray bottle for a streak-free solution. So long, Windex!
Give your kitchen cabinets a once-over every day.
Your kitchen cabinets accumulate more grime than you might imagine, courtesy of the grease particles distributed into the air from cooking. Once those land on your cabinets, they create a sticky film that can collect everything from dust to pet hair. The easiest way to keep them clean, according to Jones, is simply soapy water and a cloth. And make sure this becomes a daily habit: "The older the grease stains are, the harder they are to remove," she says.
Buy your cleaning products in bulk.
If you want to save money and keep your home cleaner, be sure to purchase those cleaning supplies in larger quantities. Not only do cleaning products have long shelf lives, "if you buy them in bulk they can be really cheap," says Arthur Ruth, vice president of operations at Memphis Maids.
Or DIY your own kitchen floor cleaner.
The worst enemy of grimy kitchen floors is not a store-bought cleaner—it's one you can make using materials you likely already have on hand. "In a bucket, make a mixture of water, baking soda, a bit of kitchen soap, and white vinegar," says Atanasov. "Spread a bit on the floor and mop away!"
But don't use lemon-based cleaners on your counters.
While homemade cleaning products made with lemon work well on many surfaces, your stone counters aren't among them. Materials like granite and marble are porous, and substances like vinegar and lemon can corrode them over time. When in doubt, stick to surface-specific cleaning products instead.
Alternate utensils in the dishwasher.
If you're grouping your utensils together in the dishwasher, odds are you're not getting them sufficiently clean. When utensils are grouped together, they can quite literally spoon one another, making it impossible for water and cleaning solution to make its way between them. Instead, group different utensils in each basket to allow for maximal water flow.
Keep large items out of your dishwasher's utensil basket.
If you don't find that your dishes are getting sufficiently clean, make sure you're not putting spatulas in your dishwasher's utensil basket. Doing so can block the flow of water and the release of detergent. Lay them on the top rack instead.
Air out your sheets to reduce dust mites.
While you might want to make your bed the second you get out of it in the morning, refraining from doing so can keep you healthier in the long run. The moisture from your body can attract dust mites, says Jennifer Gregory, brand manager at Molly Maid. So when in doubt, "air your sheets out," and only make the bed once they're completely dry.
And freshen up your mattress with some baking soda.
You wash your sheets regularly, but when's the last time you cleaned your mattress? To keep this expensive investment piece in tip-top shape, sprinkle some baking soda on it, let it sit for an hour, and vacuum it up—any lingering scents or debris will be sucked up right along with it.
Dust before you vacuum.
If you're vacuuming first and dusting after, you're only making your job harder. "As you dust, particles of dirt and dust fall to the floor," explains Gregory. "Dusting before you vacuum saves you from having to clean the same floor twice."
Use microfiber cloths instead of disposable dusters.
If you want to clean your home and reduce your carbon footprint in one fell swoop, swap out those disposable dusting cloths in favor of reusable microfiber ones. "They're the single best way to clean your house," says Ruth. "They trap dust and any type of gunk really well and the best part is that they are reusable. Just put the cloth in the washing machine, dry it, and it will be like new."
Use a seam ripper to get hair out of your vacuum.
Find that your hair keeps clogging the rollers in your vacuum? Instead of using scissors and risking cutting the vacuum's brush bristles, use a seam ripper from your sewing kit to cut open the hair for easy removal.
Make the most of your vacuum's attachments.
If you're only using a single vacuum head, you probably aren't getting your home as clean as it could be. "People rarely use all of the accessories of their machines, but every one is for a specific thing in your house," says Ruth. That means attaching the upholstery attachment when cleaning your furniture, using the appropriate rollers for carpets, and using the pet hair attachment so that things don't get clogged when you're cleaning up after your furry friends.
Stop using your vacuum if the motor's getting louder.
What you want to hear while you're using your vacuum is a consistent purr, not a sudden roar. So, if it sounds like your vacuum cleaner is working extra hard to pick up dirt, it's time to replace your machine. If you keep using it anyway, that's "a sure way to fry up your machine," explains Ruth.
Vacuum daily to extend the life of your carpets.
Think you're saving your carpets from an early demise by limiting how often you vacuum them? Think again. "Vacuuming allows carpets to breathe and release tangled fibers, which can extend [their] life," says David Serville, CEO of commercial cleaning company Crewcare.
And make sure stains have dried completely before vacuuming them.
While you might want to vacuum up a stain before it sets into your carpet, doing so is actually a pretty risky move. "Not only are you risking malfunctions, [you risk] having to deal with a mold problem as a result of trapping the water inside the machine," says Marieta Ivanova, a home improvement expert with Fantastic Cleaners in Brisbane, Australia.
Use hydrogen peroxide to remove tough stains from carpets.
If you've dropped red wine on your cream-colored rug, there's no need to panic—a bit of hydrogen peroxide should take it out in no time. "Just pour through the fabric and rinse and repeat until the stain disappears," says Dimmick. Pro tip: Make sure to try it out on an inconspicuous part of the carpet first to test for colorfastness before applying it to a larger area.
Remove everything from an area before you start organizing.
Before you start reorganizing any part of your home, be sure to clear the area first and assess your possessions. So, if you're decluttering your closet, take all—and we mean all—of your clothes out and put them in a pile on your bed. If you're making space in your kitchen cabinets, take out all of the plates and glasses and line them up on a counter. "You have to see all 30 pairs of scissors to realize how many excess items you have," says professional organizer Katy Winter, founder of Katy's Organized Home, which serves New York City and Miami.
Line up items on a shelf before putting them away.
If you find yourself facing cluttered shelves, there's an easy solution, according of Winter: Line up all of your belongings on a single shelf. This way, it makes it far easier to decide what to keep—and what to get rid of. For the items you want to keep but not necessarily display, this trick will also help you better determine what size storage bin you'll need for the excess.
Make your bookshelves look custom by adjusting the shelves.
To instantly level-up your shelving style, try adjusting the space between shelves. So, rather than a perfectly symmetrical unit, you'll have shelves of various heights—some short, some tall, some wide, some in the middle.
On most modern shelving units, you can do this by simply moving the holding pins up or down a few notches. From there, intersperse rows of decorative items and rows of books and, voila, you'll have a new focal point in your living room.
Caulk between pieces of molding to make it appear seamless.
If you don't have the cash to install custom moldings, there's a hack to make it seem like you can: Use the pieces you can buy at a hardware store and a little caulk to make your moldings look like they were custom-made for your home. Filling in the gaps with caulk will allow them to expand and contract along with the changes in weather and will make those edges between pieces look seamless.
Use painter's tape to make perfect caulk lines.
When you're caulking between your moldings, around the tub, or another tough spot, apply painter's tape above and below where you're caulking to keep the the product contained. When it's dry, remove the tape and you'll have a perfectly-straight line of caulk.
Eliminate drafts by applying your own weatherstripping.
Feeling the chill at home? A little weatherstripping can help you lower your energy costs and keep your home more comfortable. To test if you need to add weatherstripping, Brad Roberson, the president of glass repair company Glass Doctor, suggests closing your window on a dollar bill. If you can pull it out easily, that means you need to add some self-adhesive weatherstripping.
Use some basic kitchen ingredients to unclog a sink drain.
If you're out of drain cleaner, don't rush to the store to get some. Instead, use the trusty combo you likely have on hand. According to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, equal parts baking soda and vinegar will get that clog out in no time without damaging your pipes.
Use a plunger to get rid of clogs in standing water.
If you're facing a clog so bad there's standing water over it, don't try to unclog it with a chemical cleaner, which will end up saturating in the stagnant water, causing potential danger to children and pets. Instead, use a plunger!
"Place the plunger head firmly over the drain, covering it entirely. Push the plunger rapidly up and down five to 10 times, wait a moment, then repeat," says James. Once the water has gone down, the baking soda and vinegar approach can clear any remaining material.
Keep your fabrics from fading by keeping your curtains closed during the day.
If you're eager to keep your upholstered furniture looking brand new, make sure you're closing your blinds when the sun's at its brightest in the morning and afternoon. Direct sunlight can significantly fade fabrics or even paintings, so wait until it's gone down slightly to open them up again.
Clean up your interior air with the right house plants.
If you find yourself walking into a home with stuffy air, consider investing in some greenery. Marla Mock, vice president of operations at heating and air conditioning company Aire Serv, suggests investing in English ivy, bamboo palms, corn plants, gerbera daisies, or Janet Craigs, which all act as natural air filters.
Clean HVAC filters regularly to keep air moving throughout your home.
"HVAC filters can collect a lot of dust and debris over time, leading to lower air quality and reduced air flow," says Babich. Regular cleanings—every three months or so—can help maximize airflow efficiency throughout your home, ensuring things stay temperate and comfortable on those especially balmy or chilly days.
And replace them to keep your home cleaner.
Dusty air filters are also making your home dirtier by the minute. "Dirty air filters contain contaminants that can be easily distributed through your ductwork and your home, forcing your system to work harder to distribute air, and sabotaging performance," says Mock. It's yet another reason to clean your filters every few months and replace them every six months or so. And for more easy ways to get your home spotless, try these 30 Amazing Cleaning Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner.