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Polishing CopperThis treatment for cleaning copper amazes everyone who tries it. A pleasing bonus -- it's chemical-free. All you need is a lemon and coarse salt. Sprinkle the cut side of a lemon half with the salt, then rub it over the copper, which will soon gleam.
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Removing a Red Wine StainRed wine has a way of winding up in the wrong place. Here are some ways to ensure that it doesn't stay there for long. On delicate fabrics: Soak the spot with denatured alcohol. Flush with white vinegar to remove residual stain. On sturdy fabrics: Coat stain with salt; let stand for five minutes. Stretch stained area over a bowl; secure with a rubber band. Place in sink; carefully pour boiling water over stain from a height of at least a foot.
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Waxing FurnitureMany modern wooden furniture pieces come with a protective polyurethane coating, but for older items, nothing beats wax to protect against dust and moisture. Choose paste wax, the solid kind sold in tins. Natural (clear) wax works on any wood, but dark wood may benefit from tinted wax (it will mask tiny scratches). Begin by cleaning with a mild solvent, such as mineral spirits (test first in a hidden spot).Then cover the piece with a thin, even layer of wax using a cotton rag or cheesecloth. Let dry 10 to 25 minutes; buff vigorously.
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Washing WindowsDirty panes are no problem when you use rubber-edged squeegees, which are quicker and more effective than cloth or newspaper. They come in a variety of sizes -- and a screw-on extension will let you reach high spots. To start, dip a sponge into a bucket of warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap. Wet window; rub dirt away. Dampen squeegee; starting at an upper corner, draw it down pane from top to bottom. Repeat, overlapping strokes and wiping rubber edge with sponge after each stroke. (For large windows, ''snake'' squeegee back and forth; then touch up edges.) Dry windowsills with a cloth.
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Removing WaxFlickering candles set the mood for a dinner party, but there's nothing charming about spilled wax. To remove it from tabletops, heat with a blow-dryer on the lowest setting for several seconds; then scrape up using the edge of a credit card. Buff away residue. To remove from fabrics, use ice to freeze wax, or place the item in the freezer; scrape off what you can, then use an oil solvent or mineral spirits to remove residue. Rinse with isopropyl alcohol, let dry, and use an enzyme detergent to wash.
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Choosing DustersThere are many tools beyond the classic feather duster that can serve you well. The oils in a lamb's-wool duster help attract and hold dust; one with an extendable handle lets you reach ceiling fans and other fixtures. A basic wide paintbrush (look for one with natural bristles) can reach into all kinds of nooks; use one to remove dust from a lampshade's pleats. And electrostatic mitts and cloths are wonderful for a variety of jobs -- the material grabs hold of dust; try them on wooden furniture.
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Creating a Cleaning BucketFor easier cleaning, fill a bucket with the basics: all-purpose and glass-cleaning sprays, scouring powder or baking soda, sponges, a toothbrush (for crevices), a squeegee, rubber gloves (hang them on the rim to dry), a scrub brush, and terry-cloth towels. You'll have everything you need as you move from room to room. Store it in the closet when you're through, and the bucket will be at the ready the next time the house needs a shine.
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Cleaning a RefrigeratorThis task is a daunting undertaking; make it more manageable by breaking it down. The first step is to wipe up spills immediately so surfaces won't become stained. Make it a habit to throw out old food once a week. Every few months, wash the interior with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water. Wash removable shelves and drawers in the solution (let glass shelves come to room temperature first so warm water won't crack them). Loosen hardened spills on fixed parts by wetting the area with the solution, allowing the residue to soften. Use a toothbrush to scrub crannies. Twice a year, vacuum or brush dust from the condenser coils to keep the system from overheating.
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Using Vacuum ToolsMany vacuum cleaners come with standard attachments -- but all too often they're forgotten. Know which tool is which, and your vacuuming will be more effective. Run the upholstery tool (top) over couches, beds, and other plush furniture to remove dust. The floor attachment (right) is best for bare floors, delicate or valuable rugs, and materials such as sisal; it has a small brush around its edge to prevent scratches. The angled crevice tool (bottom) reaches tight areas and corners. Use the dusting brush (left) on windowsills, shelves, and chair legs; it's also good for curtains or venetian blinds.