How to Clean Your Most Frustrating Messes

Four tips to keep your home spotless.

Photograph by Fuse/Getty Images

Even if you fancy yourself a cleaning expert, there are still those times you wish you had the inside track on tricky stains. James Savary, a remodeling consultant at Washington home-repair company Fred, who has more than 20 years’ experience, shares the industry’s best-kept secrets to a spotless home.

Crayon on walls

If you’ve been living with unwanted abstract art on your walls for fear of stripping the paint underneath, pick up a bottle of Goo Gone or baby oil. Pour some on a cotton washcloth and blot the greasy marks away. “Push against the marks and then pull away. And don’t rub.”

Grimy granite countertops

Most cleaners are too acidic for the silicone-based sealant that coats granite, and can break it down over time. Good, old-fashioned water is your best bet. Add a drop of soap to cut grease, and wipe down with more water to prevent filmy residue from dulling the surface. Wipe with the grain so streaks are less noticeable.

Yellow, grungy bathroom grout

Make a 10-percent bleach solution—that’s one part bleach to ten parts water—and apply it to the grout with a paintbrush. Let it sit for 10 to 12 hours and rinse with clean water for a major brightening effect. “People are amazed at the difference this easy trick makes.” Bonus: The solution can also be put into a pressure washer or spray bottle to clean the outside of your house.

Stains on carpets, rugs & upholstery

Tackle the stain as soon as possible with soap and water (time is of the essence). Take a coffee cup and fill it with lukewarm water (avoid hot, since it will set the stain). Add just one drop of dishwashing liquid. That’s it—not a drop more! Soap’s job is to attract dirt. One drop will do its best to pull out the stain. Finally, remember to dab the stain away—no scrubbing!