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There are many tiny, “I’ll get to it at some point” messes around all our homes. It sometimes feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to address the larger housekeeping tasks—laundry, dishes, cooking—and tackle the smaller things, like cleaning marks on the wall, shining your jewelry, and polishing car headlights.
What might come as a fun surprise is that toothpaste, a sleeper agent in the cleaning department, can come to your rescue as you consider how to handle those pesky small chores. Why? Toothpaste acts as an abrasive, which (of course) helps us keep our pearly whites shining, but is mild enough to be used twice a day in our mouths without causing problems. That helpful quality (abrasive but not too abrasive) is what many household projects need. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of cleaning with toothpaste in your home.
What Kind of Toothpaste to Use
Before you begin, take note of the type of toothpaste you’re using. Any whitening agents in your toothpaste can bleach the color out of your surfaces, so it’s vital that you use a standard toothpaste (not charcoal, not whitening, and not colored or gel). A simple, basic white toothpaste will do.
Put away the bucket of multiple solutions, creams, powders, and scrubs…pull out a tube of toothpaste, and let’s get cracking!
Once you’ve secured your plain white toothpaste, use it (and a microfiber cloth) to tackle surfaces around your house that need a little attention.
Dull copper pieces can be shined by using a dry cloth and a dab of toothpaste. Buff the toothpaste into the copper using circular motions, then rinse with warm water and dry completely. If the copper is heavily tarnished, let the toothpaste’s active ingredients work on the patina for ten minutes or so before buffing. The extra time will allow the toothpaste to do some of the work for you.
The same treatment can be used for iron plates and hot styling tools (like curling irons or straighteners, which tend to get a little cruddy over years of use). Use the same technique as above (dry cloth, dab of toothpaste, buff) to remove scum, built-up hair and skin cells, or rust stains. After your cleaning is done, wipe toothpaste residue away with a damp cloth.
Crayon and Marker Stains
For crayon marks on your walls, the method is a bit different: Start with a damp cloth rather than a dry one. Apply toothpaste directly to the mark in question using your finger, then use your damp cloth to work the stain out of the wall, drying things off when it’s completely lifted out.
Cutting Board Odors
When you cook often, odors can get trapped in wooden cutting boards. Onion, garlic, and other aromatics sometimes linger longer than we’d like. Toothpaste can help solve this problem: Instead of Dawn, use toothpaste. Scrub, rinse, and you’re done.
One of the most dazzling superpowers of using toothpaste as a cleaner can be seen in a gleaming shower door. Using a good amount of toothpaste and a damp cloth, buff your door to perfection. Don’t be afraid to use a little muscle here—your door can take it—and rinse thoroughly when completed.
Carpet and Upholstery
Gone are the days of having to call a professional or renting a machine to remove ink or lipstick stains from your carpet. Dab the affected area with a generous amount of toothpaste and rub it gently into the stain. The key here is to wait for the toothpaste to completely dry; doing so allows for maximum stain absorption. After it’s dried, come back through with a warm, damp cloth to blot the toothpaste away. Bonus points if you can vacuum over the area to remove any tiny residue. The quicker you attend to a stain, the more effective this process will be.
Household and Personal Items
Simply replace your silver cleaner with toothpaste to achieve the same result. Using a dry cloth and a dab of toothpaste, polish your silver to perfection and rinse.
For scratched and scuffed linoleum, you’ll need a little elbow grease along with your toothpaste and cloth: Using lots of pressure, rub toothpaste into the scuff or scratch until the offending mark is resolved and the toothpaste is completely buffed out. The same method as cleaning linoleum works for buffing scratches or scuffs out of patent leather, soft white leather, sneaker midsoles, or vinyl. Dab, buff, polish, and voila!
Scratches, germs, bacteria, skin cells…so many unsavory things are being carted around on our cell phones. If you’ve got a small scratch on your screen, you can apply a small amount of toothpaste to your fingertip and use it to buff out the scratch. Wipe away any residue, of course. Bonus: Your phone now smells great.
For jewelry, the jury is slightly split on using toothpaste as a cleaner. It’s safe to use on silver, but using it on gold jewelry requires a slight dilution in the mixture. Add a dab of toothpaste to 1-2 T of water. Use the paste to clean solid gold. Do not use toothpaste to clean any jewelry with stones (like an engagement ring) as it can cause abrasions to the stone over time. It’s best to consult your jeweler to make sure this method of cleaning is acceptable for your particular pieces.
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