The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.
Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.—Andria Head, Bremerton, Wash.
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A great way to recycle dog hair is composting—I put some in my worm box.—Tima Priess, Ester, Alaska
When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.—Nyla Wright, Bellingham, Wash.
I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!—Abby Smith, Arbor Vitae, Wisc.
I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.—Sharon Phillips, Ashford, Ala.
Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.—Irma Aguirre, San Francisco, Calif.
The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It's a snap.—Barbara Morgan, Tucson, Ariz.
For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great.—Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.
Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.—Nikki King, Federal Way, Wash.
Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.—Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo.
Never get just one use out of bathwater. Recycle used water for houseplants, and to soak rags and clean waste baskets, dirty galoshes and the rest of the house.—Elissa Sara, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Add baking soda to a fresh vacuum cleaner bag to cut down odors.—Debby Aceves, Goleta, Calif.
Birds love the stuffing out of old dog toys to build nests...a new way to reuse those worn out toys!—Anna Hamel, Birmingham, Ala.
Buy large packages and divide them up into Tupperware to avoid all the wasteful packaging of individual servings.—Jennifer Hunter, Pepperell, Mass.
Don't throw out used toothbrushes. They can clean all sorts of things!—Dawn Nordquist, Albuquerque, N.M.
Eucalyptus leaves are natural flea and tick deterrents.—Meghann Pierce, Napa, Calif.
How many ways can you reuse plastic grocery bags? 1. To line small garbage cans. 2. I cut them up in strips and then tie them together to make a plastic yarn to knit with. This makes great tote bags. 3. As a poop scooper when you walk your dog.—Diane Jay, Fort Worth, Texas
I have laminate flooring and a dog that slobbers. I run a dust mop with a bit of white vinegar between cleanings to cuts down on stains.—Erika Bongort, Cedar Park, Texas
I use lemon peel to clean my sink, and afterwards I put it down the waste disposal. It cuts the grease and smells lovely.—Ali French, Parker, Colo.
I use diatomaceous earth on my floors and yard to keep fleas away; I use borax as a cleaner on hard surfaces and add it to the washing machine as a laundry booster; I clean clogged/slow-moving drains with baking soda and vinegar, flushed with a gallon of boiling water.—Elizabeth Beavers, Lawrence, Kan.
Lavender oil in a spray bottle (4 parts water to 1 part oil) keeps fleas, ticks and other bugs off you and your animals!—Wendy Bennett, Micanopy, Fla.
To keep drains from clogging, use 1/4 baking soda followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar and flush down the drain. It foams way up and works!—Pat Byrnes, Northampton, Mass.
To remove candle wax off of carpet: place some ice cubes in a plastic bag against the wax on the carpet. The ice should make the wax brittle and easy to pick/pull off of the carpet.—Dianne Houghtaling, Lansdale, Pa.
Wash windows with vinegar and water instead of window cleaners.—Boni Tenenbaum, Dublin, Calif.
Using a steam cleaner eliminates the need for chemicals.—Roz Granitz, Novi, Mich.
We use beeswax or soy candles with lead-free wicks so not to poison ourselves or our puppy when we use candles.—Susan Weis-Bohlen, Baltimore, Md.
Use hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and bacteria instead of bleach.—Amy Miller, Eagle point, Ore.
To replace disposable paper towels for cleaning, cut up old bath towels and worn t-shirts. Socks make great furniture dusters.—Gina Isaac, Eugene, Ore.
Microfiber cloths are about the best there is to attract and grab pet hair and with 2 Dalmatians, I need them! They're washable and reusable.—Barbara Brandon, Parma, Ohio
We take advantage of our building's composting so that we cut down on trash. Since there's not rotting food in the trash bin, we don't have to take it out as often. With the combo of compost and recycling, the volume of trash really dwindles.—Lijay Shih, San Francisco, Calif.
When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.—Linda DeCelles, Rowley, Mass.