September 29, 2020

Clean Smarter: Follow the 5-Minute Rule . . . another tip from

Another household tip from

Another household tip from

Easy Fixes for 4 Household Problems

Problems like squeaky stairs and oil stains on the garage floor are common household troubles and they’re relatively easy for a do-it-yourselfer to fix.

Lynda Lyday—carpenter, professional contractor, and a featured expert on the DIY cable network—provides dozens of simple fixes for common household problems in The Homeowner’s Manual (Que Publishing, 2006).

 While it’s always best to bring in an expert to correct big problems, Lyday provides these tips for capable home owners who want to try their own hand at a solution.

PROBLEM: Oil Stains on Garage Floor
Lyday’s solution: “You can remove most of a stubborn stain with a bit of elbow grease and scrubbing. First, remove the surface oil by sprinkling some cat litter on it to soak it up. Then clear away the cat litter and focus on the stain.

Make a paste of hot water and dry dish or laundry detergent. Use a stiff bristle scrub brush to scrub the area with the paste. Hose the area and let it dry. Another method is to use a product such as Spray ’n Wash on the stain for 10 minutes, along with a dry detergent.

Your last option is to spray on some oven cleaner. Use this sparingly, wash it down thoroughly, and keep children and pets away from it.”

PROBLEM: Leaky Faucets
Lyday’s solution: “Most faucet leaks can easily be fixed with a rubber washer, an O-ring, or seals—depending on what type of faucet it is. By fixing the problem yourself, you can save a good bit of money since plumbers can be expensive and will charge you a standard fee even if it takes only 10 minutes to fix the problem.”

PROBLEM: Nail Pops
Lyday’s solution: “Nail pops are a problem across the country. The term comes from the nails that hold the drywall to the studs actually popping out through the face of the drywall. This is from either a house settling or the wood studs drying out over time, squeezing the nail out of the wood and pushing it through the drywall.

The fix for this isn’t terribly hard, but it’s tedious because there are up to 32 nails in a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of drywall. My suggestion is to pound the nail through the drywall to the stud. Then, just above it, place a drywall screw to hold the drywall to the stud, and finish it off with a few coats of spackle or joint compound. Finally, seal and paint it.

Most home-improvement stores also sell nail pop kits that can make this job easier.”

PROBLEM: Squeaky Stairs
Lyday’s solution: “The most common problems that occur in a staircase are the treads (horizontal surface of the steps) coming loose, which causes squeaking. Also common are the spindles or balusters coming loose. If you can get underneath the staircase, fixing the treads is easy.

You will need to attach an L bracket from the underside of the tread to the stringer (the long piece of wood that connects the treads and runs diagonally up the wall). If you can’t get underneath the staircase, you’ll have to make the repair from above.

Squeaky stair kits are available that allow you to make this fix even through carpet. Otherwise, you can secure the tread to the stringer with a trim screw.”


Keeping your house clean doesn’t have to take hours. By learning a few tricks and shortcuts, you can have an orderly home in minutes.


— Clear all counters — put food away in the refrigerator and cupboards, place utensils in drawers and sweep papers into a basket to sort later. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

— Wipe counters with a sponge sprayed with disinfecting cleaner.

— Spray the sink with disinfecting cleaner, and wipe with a damp sponge. Dry handles and faucet with a dish towel or microfiber cloth to prevent spots.

— Pick up stray items from the floor, and put them away.

— Take throw rugs outside, and shake for 10 seconds. Vacuum the floor. If it looks like it needs it, give the floor a quick mopping. Put throw rugs back.

— Spray disinfecting cleaner onto a sponge and wipe the refrigerator, stove, microwave and other appliances.

— If you have a window over the sink, spray it with window cleaner and wipe with a microfiber cloth.


Keeping your house clean doesn’t have to take hours. By learning a few tricks and shortcuts, you can have an orderly home in minutes. 


— De-clutter all surfaces by putting magazines in racks, DVDs in the TV cabinet and books on shelves.

— Move all lightweight furniture — such as chairs, end tables and magazine racks — into the center of the room (to make vacuuming and dusting easier).

— Dust from the top down. Walk around the room in a circle, using your duster’s extension wand and a stepstool if needed to reach high moldings, shelves and lighting fixtures.

— Walk around in a circle again, using an electrostatic cloth to dust any surfaces between your head and knees. Switch to a clean cloth when necessary.

— Run your dusting wand along the baseboards.

— Vacuum the perimeter of the room.

— Put furniture back in place, and vacuum the center of the room. Vacuum sofa and chairs with the upholstery attachment. If you have an extra few minutes, mop hard-surface floors.


Keeping your house clean doesn’t have to take hours. By learning a few tricks and shortcuts, you can have an orderly home in minutes.

— Clear counters by putting toothbrushes, deodorant and other toiletries into drawers and cabinets.

— Squirt toilet bowl cleaner around the inner rim of the toilet.

— Spray disinfecting cleaner on the toilet seat and exterior, as well as on the sink, faucet, counter and tub.

— Using a toilet brush, scrub the toilet bowl for 10 seconds. Flush.

— Spray glass cleaner on the mirror, and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

— Use a damp sponge to wipe (in order) sink and faucets, counter, tub, toilet seat, toilet exterior. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe chrome so that it doesn’t spot.

— Tear off a six-inch length of toilet paper, and use it to sweep up loose hair and other debris from floor and corners.

If you have an extra five minutes, add these steps: Toss the bath mat, tub mat and towels into the washing machine. Hang fresh towels. Mop the floor. Empty the trash can. Spray cleaner onto a microfiber cloth, and wipe off the doorknobs and any smudges on the door, light switches and cabinets.


Keeping your house clean doesn’t have to take hours. By learning a few tricks and shortcuts, you can have an orderly home in minutes.

Keep cleaning supplies in a plastic caddy with handles so that you can easily move items around the house as you work. If you live in a multistory home, keep a caddy and cleaning supplies on each floor.

Supplies that you should never be without (all available at supermarkets, discount stores and online)…

Microfiber cloths. Microfiber pulls dirt into the fabric better than standard cotton fiber cloths or paper towels, requiring fewer swipes — often just one — to clean a surface. Between launderings, microfiber is easy to clean — just rinse under warm water and squeeze.

Electrostatic cloths. Treated with chemicals to make them negatively charged, electrostatic clothes pick up dust particularly well. You can buy washable or disposable cloths.

Scrubber sponges. Buy sponges that have a white, abrasive surface on one side. The white scrubber pad is abrasive enough to scour tough grime but less likely than other types of sponges to scratch surfaces.

Plastic toilet brush. Unlike wire brushes, plastic won’t scratch porcelain. Look for the type that comes with its own stand to catch drips.

Duster with extension wand. Lamb’s wool dusters and disposable dusting heads work well. (With feather dusters, sometimes the feathers break and the sharp ends can scratch furniture.)

Flat mop. The flat style reaches under furniture easily. The removable pad can be washed in the washing machine. Or you can use a Swiffer mop with disposable moist pads.

Cleaning solutions and sprays. You’ll need a disinfecting cleaner. Look for both words — “disinfecting” and “cleaner” — on the label. A cleaner without disinfectant may not kill germs, while a disinfectant without cleaner won’t loosen as much dirt from surfaces. You also will need glass cleaner and toilet bowl cleaner.