1 Double up on your welcome mats. A nice welcome mat gives guests a place to wipe their feet—but a second mat inside the door will catch a lot of the dirt they knocked loose outside. Be sure to shake the dirt off of welcome mats from time to time; otherwise, you’re just giving your guests a place to pick up debris to track around your house!

2 Consider adopting a shoes-off policy. Getting into the habit of removing shoes at the door will keep your family from tracking dirt into the house. Keep a pair of slippers for each family member near the door, so you can change from your outdoor to your indoor footwear.

3 Choose the broom your floor wants. Brooms for the house come in two basic designs: made with either soft plastic bristles or straw. Straw brooms are best for rough, worn flooring, but they are too harsh for delicate finishes. If your floor is new and (as yet) undamaged, you’ll want to use a plastic model to keep it that way.

4 Sweep thoroughly. Select a broom with an angled head if you need to get under cabinets. Before sweeping, don’t forget to turn off any fans or other devices that might blow the dust around the room. Got a little line of dirt that just won’t get into the dustpan? Pull out your hand vacuum and suck it up, or use a moistened towel to mop up the dirt’s last line of defense.

5 Strategize your sweep. If your room is square, use the perimeter method. Pick one corner and sweep inward along the walls. Then work around the room, spiraling inward, until you have a neat little pile of dirt in the middle of the room. If your room is more rectangular, start at one end and work toward the other. You’ll end up with a series of small dirt piles at the end of each row, which you can combine into one at the very end.

6 Absorb household odors with coffee. Keep an open can of ground coffee near the cat’s litter box, or in the corner of the laundry room. Your nose will thank you!

7 Shellac the walls to seal away bad smells. Walls are particularly absorbent of smoke and other odors. If yours are giving you trouble, you can try implementing the technique experts use in buildings that have absorbed smoke from fires. After you seal the walls and ceilings with shellac or a shellac-based primer—this helps lock in the odor—then repaint.

8 Charcoal rids a room of paint fumes. Place a few charcoal briquettes in a pan in the center of a newly painted room, and close the door. The smell will be gone soon—sometimes within a day!

9 Leave the dishwashing to the dishwasher. Don’t rinse your dishes before you put them in—besides wasting water, it’s bad for your dishes. Dishwashing detergent was created to dissolve food, and if it’s in there without food to dissolve, it will start attacking the dishes and glassware.

10 Don’t overdo it on dishwashing detergent. Dishwashers use less water than they did in days gone by, and detergents are more concentrated. This means you need less soap. Otherwise, not only are you spending more than you have to on something that’s (literally) going down the drain—but also, too much soap leads to cloudy glasses.

11 Use vinegar to clean your dishwasher. Are your dishes coming out of the dishwasher with a frosty white film on them? This is a residue of minerals that new phosphate-free detergents can leave behind. Try this mineral-removing trick to get your dishwasher back to normal: Put two cups of white vinegar into a bowl and place it in your dishwasher’s bottom rack. Run the washer without detergent, with only the bowl of vinegar in it. Once it has completed its cycle, run it a second time (this time completely empty) to remove the leftover vinegar.

12 Load your dishwasher outside-in. Place large items at the side and back of the dishwasher. This prevents them from keeping water and detergent from reaching other dishes. The dirtier side of each dish should face toward the center, where it’ll be more exposed to the spray.

13 Know your mildews and don’ts. One of the most common household stinks is caused by mildew, which thrives in areas with prolonged moisture. If you want to prevent it from growing in your bathroom, get the air circulating when all that post-shower steam is in the air. A dehumidifier or an exhaust fan will do the trick. Also, make sure you hang your damp towels so they aren’t touching each other—that way they can dry more quickly and thoroughly.

14 Freshen up your towels. Mix equal parts Borax and laundry soap, and pour the mixture into the washing machine with the offensive towels. Start the machine on a regular cycle to let it fill with water, then pause the cycle to let the towels (or clothing or shoes) soak for about twenty minutes before you allow it to resume.

15 Don’t mix commercial cleaners. You may be tempted when you’re dealing with stubborn filth that no single product is defeating, but this is a big mistake. Certain cleaning agents, great on their own, can produce dangerous chemical reactions when mixed. Most people have heard not to mix straight ammonia and bleach—the gas can inflame your airways and damage the lining of your lungs. They might not put two and two together about other hazards, though: when blended, the chemicals in that great new toilet cleanser and fantastic toilet scrub can create chlorine gas… which can be deadly.

16 Use spray cleaners sparingly. More is not always better. Spraying too much cleaner for a job just gives you more junk to wipe up, causing you to waste your energy and money and inhale extra chemicals that can give you respiratory problems over time.

In "Reader's Digest Everyday Survival Hacks", Reader's Digest Adult Trade Publishing, USA, 2020. Digitized, adapted and illustrated to be posted by Leopoldo Costa.