One of the cheapest cleaning tools is also one of the most versatile. Do you know all the things your toothbrush is capable of?
Mary Findley ("Mary Moppins" of GoClean.com) has been a career housekeeper for at least a dozen years. She's also the co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cleaning"
(2005) and wrote a follow-up four years later ("The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning"
). It's the move-outs for private residences that allow her to do the best work -- and remove every single speck of dirt. About every four to five months at each of her client's homes she arms herself with a toothbrush and does a deep clean.
Photo: Getty Images
Here's are some areas of your home -- make that, 13 -- where a toothbrush will come in handy. In most cases, your favorite cleaning products or simply warm, soapy water over the toothbrush bristles will be enough to do the job.
1. Edges of the kitchen and bathroom sinks
"It's those little crevices where dirt goes. Toothbrushes work a lot better than toothpicks, which break off all the time and then get stuck," says Findley.
2. Sink drain
To clean out the drain in your bathroom or kitchen sink, simply pour vinegar (which Findley likes as it's less toxic than most other options) down the drain. Next, take your toothbrush and scrub, scrub, scrub until you don't see any more grime lining the drain.
3. Stove and dishwasher knobs
Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL
If you've ever tried to take a sponge and swipe it over the knobs on your kitchen appliances, then you know this just does not work. The goal is to remove all of the dirt, not just some of it. That's where a toothbrush is your friend. It allows you to get under and behind those pesky little knobs, which is actually where dirt builds up, yes?
4. Faucet base
Photo: Jolie Novak, AOL
Mold and mildew can easily collect on the base of a faucet, says Findley. Gently brush the wet bristles of a toothbrush over the base and more will come off than you could have removed using a rag or a sponge.
5. Linoleum flooring
Put a blob of toothpaste onto a moist toothbrush and get down on all fours to get stubborn stains out, especially marks made from boots or high heels. "That's the only way I get heel marks off my client's floor," says Findley. Note: Do not try this with hardwood or ceramic-tile flooring, however. The toothpaste could stain and the scrubbing leave nasty-looking marks on the floor.
Getting dust off a lampshade might require just a swipe with a microfiber cloth, but what about keeping the color pristine? Grab a children's soft toothbrush and gently rub it against the lampshade. "They are wonderful for cleaning the pleats in a pleated lampshade," says Findley.
7. Framed pictures or art
Take a small piece of gauze and cover the bristles, says Findley. "That does a good job of cleaning the corners of framed pictures." If you don't cover the bristles you run the risk of scratching -- and forever damaging -- a beautiful frame.
8. Toilet-seat hinges
Another tight space that a toothbrush has no problem fitting into.
9. Wall sockets for light switches
You're probably already thoroughly cleaning the socket, but what about the little "off" and "on" areas? The bristles on a toothbrush can get the dirt out of those little letters, no problem.
10. Sliding glass doors
You know the runners on a shower area's sliding glass doors? They get pretty grimy and they're a pain to clean. Findley suggests that next time you tackle this task with a toothbrush. "Runners get moldy pretty quickly. A toothbrush gets in the corners," she says. "Man, a toothbrush just zips that stuff out of there."
11. Window frames
Just like the sliding glass doors, the insides of window frames are prime real estate for collecting mold. Take a toothbrush over the cracks and crevices to do a better cleaning job.
12. Microwave or stove vents
Findley takes a rag (she' s really good at chopping up her husband's old T-shirts into 5" by 5" pieces) and gets it slightly wet with a cleaner before throwing it over a toothbrush. This is perfect for cleaning out microwave or stove vents. "You can't spray a cleaner back there because it will burn out the fan," she says.
13. Refrigerator vents and coils
Ideally these should be cleaned twice a year. "With the slats in those vents, it's real hard to get a cloth down there," says Findley.
Read about more surprising ways to clean:
Weekly Cleaning Tips Put to the Test
Mint Robot Cleaner: We Tried It, You Win It