On TikTok, a subgenre exists for cleaning hacks that promise to easily turn grimy bathrooms, serious spills and piles of dishes into sparkling, organized neatness.
Of course, we know the internet isn't always the most truthful. As someone who is addicted to watching #CleanTok videos and who could definitely use a few home improvement pointers, I set out to test some of the most viral cleaning advice. Could the tips actually help me tidy my apartment better while also saving time? Read on for the results, ordered from best to worst and ranked on cleanliness, efficiency and "hackability" — i.e., the likelihood I would try it again or suggest it to a friend.
Dust baseboards and trim with dryer sheets
In a video that was viewed more than 500,000 times, user @ken.c.long asks: "Have you ever used dryer sheets to clean your baseboards? Well, maybe you should." Not only will this trick clean the baseboards, he claims, but the film left behind by the sheets will also prevent more dust from accumulating.
OK, I'll admit: I was biased going into this hack, because I've done it before and can attest that it absolutely works. One sweep with a dryer sheet along the trim of my walls picks up all visible dust and dirt. This time, I ran the sheets along my doors and door frames, because I haven't been as mindful about dusting there, and I was very satisfied by how much they were able to clean. Two weeks later, I checked the same spots, and, sure enough, they were still dust-free. So, if you already have a package of dryer sheets, you've also got an effective duster — and preventive measure.
Fight pet hair with one rubber glove
Animal rescuer Felicia Wilson shared her secret to keeping her home free of pet hair in April, and it has since gained more than half a million views. The key? A rubber dish glove. That's it. Put one on and run it over a surface with a lot of pet hair, and the hair will allegedly cling to the glove and come right off.
My cat Honey loves to hang out on my velvet couch, leaving behind plenty of hair. Quick back story: I was once influenced by TikTok to buy an approximately $30 reusable contraption called the ChomChom pet-hair remover. It's definitely better than your average lint roller, but the clingy part wore out after about a year. All in all, not worth the money, in my opinion. Would TikTok again steer me to a subpar pet-hair solution?
Not this time! Using a glove that I already owned, I followed Wilson's instructions. It took six or seven firm sweeps to collect all the cat hair, but the glove picked it up and left my couch and my cat's favorite blanket totally fur-free.
Deodorize your garbage disposal with pantry items
Nearly 100,000 people have liked a video in which user @partyideas4you (previously @homehacksforyou) describes a favorite "kitchen cleaning hack": Pour about two cups of baking soda into the garbage disposal, let it sit for 30 minutes, add white distilled vinegar until it stops fizzing, then finish with a pot of boiling water to deep-clean your disposal and keep it smelling fresh. Repeat about once a week.
If you're worried about potentially messing up your disposal like I was, plumbing expert Paul Abrams from Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup assured me via email that baking soda and vinegar make an excellent cleaning combination, though he did offer a few revisions to the TikTok instructions.
Abrams says that two cups of baking soda may be a little heavy for a single application and that you can opt for one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar instead. And he does not recommend using the boiling water unless your sink is made of stainless steel or porcelain over steel, because superhot water can cause cracks "in some of the newer composite sink materials," such as quartz or granite, and "very hot water from the tap is more than adequate." Luckily, my sink is stainless steel.
In preparation, I made sure to run plenty of onions and garlic down the disposal. Cleaning it was a simple, if lengthy, process. I gave a few solid shakes of Arm & Hammer to coat the drain, then let it sit for a half-hour. It took a few glugs of vinegar — no more than a cup — until the fizzing stopped. Finally, I tipped in the pot of boiling water. Once everything had drained, I immediately noticed that the sink looked sparkling clean and that any lingering food smells were gone. I plan on incorporating this into my cleaning routine once a month. For a two-person apartment, once a week feels like overkill.
Use a Swiffer for sparkling windows
Jacqueline Stein's video, viewed more than 65,000 times, assures viewers that cleaning windows with a microfiber towel attached to a Swiffer sweeper "takes less than 5 minutes and your windows will be GORGEOUS!"
I have tall windows that I ordinarily need a step stool to clean, so I thought, "All right, let's give it a go." After dousing a microfiber towel with cleaner, I secured it onto the corners of the Swiffer pad. (I used Safeway brand glass cleaner; in the video, Stein uses a mixture of vinegar, water and dish soap.)
The Swiffer immediately felt very clumsy and awkward to use; there was little control or glide, and it kept flopping around. Looking back, Stein had suggested dunking the Swiffer into a bucket of cleaning solution. I figured my own materials would be fine, but it took a lot of sprays to soak the towel, and even then, not much was transferred onto the windows.
In the end, I had to ask my 6-foot-3 fiance to directly spray the windows for me. The consensus? A step stool, rag and spray (or actual window-cleaning kit) would have done a better job.
Clean your disposal with ice
Maybe I did something wrong, but this hack simply did not work for me. Professional organizer Jamie Hayes went viral over the summer for running lots of ice and water through her garbage disposal until it essentially vomited up a disgusting, brown liquid.
Not only did nothing happen when I tried, but ice also got stuck and came close to breaking my disposal. I consulted Abrams, who said readers shouldn't feel totally dissuaded by my failure. Next time, he suggested adding a bit of ice with the aforementioned baking soda and vinegar, or with a degreasing dishwashing liquid, such as Dawn.
"We think adding ice cubes helps with the cleaning process, and it helps to knock off stuck-on food particles," Abrams says.
Nonetheless, for me, it was a zero in all categories. Would not recommend.
Where I drew the line: Stick a container of Fabuloso in your toilet tank.
Wary from my garbage-disposal mishap, I decided not to pursue this hack from TikTok user @lexi_gray_, who cut a hole in a bottle of the cleaning solution Fabuloso and kept it in her toilet tank. Essentially, every time she flushed, a bit of Fabuloso was released into the tank and bowl, allegedly freshening up the toilet automatically.
I envisioned my cat drinking toilet water laced with chemicals, plus the comments for the video screamed: DO NOT DO THIS. Abrams confirmed that commenters were correct.
He warns that the bottle could fall out of position and block moving parts inside your toilet tank, either keeping the toilet from working altogether or causing it to run continuously. And because the shape and size of toilet tanks vary, the likelihood that this would work for everyone is slim. Some things just can't be hacked.
Kalina Newman is a D.C.-based freelance writer who covers food and culture.