I’ve always found it ironic that the places in our homes that should be the cleanest—the washing machine, kitchen sink, bathroom tub, shower, sinks—are often the dirtiest.

Harsh chemicals, soap deposits, food stains, rust, hard water minerals, and water spots, when allowed to build up, will eventually not only look bad but cause permanent and irreversible damage.

The good news is that you can halt—even reverse—much if not all of this kind of damage.


DE-STAIN SURFACES.  Erase those orange and brown streaks and spots with a paste made of 1/2 cup powdered borax and the juice of one-half lemon (or the amount needed to make a thick paste). Dab a clean sponge in the mixture, rub over the stain. Once you see the stain fade, rinse with running water. This works like magic on sinks and tubs made of porcelain enamel, stainless steel, or any other material. An old, stubborn stain may require multiple treatments, allowing the mixture to sit on the stain for a few minutes before rinsing. (It’s always a good idea to test any treatment like this in an inconspicuous place, first.)

LIME DEPOSITS. The stubborn white spots on and around the faucets are lime deposits from mineral-rich hard water. They’re easy to remove with good old white vinegar. Soak a paper towel in vinegar, then wrap the towel around the spotted area. Wait 10 minutes or so then remove the paper towel and buff with a dry paper towel or soft clean cloth. CAUTION: This works well on all types of fixtures except brass or colored fixtures, which may become discolored when treated with vinegar.

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PITTED CHROME.  Chrome fixtures are beautiful because they are so shiny. But chrome is also quite susceptible to an ugly condition known as pitting—the result of being introduced to bleach, harsh chemicals, and hard water minerals over an extended period of time. Small white bumps on the chrome or areas where the texture has become uneven and rusty—these are all signs of pitting. Good news! It’s possible to arrest that deteriorating process and even reverse the damage.

Step 1. Using an old rag and blue Dawn dishwashing soap, scrub the fixture vigorously to remove any bits of rust and debris.

Step 2. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil and crumple it a bit. Now dip the dull side into white vinegar and use it to scrub the pitted fixture. The reaction between the foil and the acidic vinegar will help to remove the pitting.

Step 3. Sand the area with a high-quality, super fine-grit wet/dry sandpaper and water (3M 32023 Imperial Wetordry 1500 Grit is ideal). Rinse with clear water, then wipe dry with a soft cloth. CAUTION: Always wear eye protection to avoid getting fine sanding dust in your eyes.

Step 4. Apply a generous layer of chrome polish (Simichrome All Metal Polish is the best; I use it to clean and polish all kinds of metal including fine silver) and allow it to sit for at least an hour. Gently buff away the polish residue with a clean soft rag, using the same circular motion you used in Step 3.

Step 5. Carefully examine to see if there are any areas that need a repeat of this process.

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CLOG-FREE DRAINS. Mix together 1 cup baking soda with 1 cup table salt and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Keep it in an airtight, childproof container. To perform routine maintenance on all household drains: Every few weeks, pour 1/2 cup of this mixture into each drain, followed by a quart of boiling water. This process should keep you clog-free. As a regular practice, do your best to keep hair, grease, food, and other debris out of your sink drains in the first place.

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