We found simple ways to tackle pain-in-the-neck cleaning tasks (think heater vents, lamp shades, and flat screens).
By Sarah Stebbins
Solution: Whitish or brownish mineral deposits from tap water, and residue from detergent and fabric softener can clog the iron's steam holes and cause it to "drag." To restore the surface, wipe the metal plate with a cloth dampened with warm water and a little dish soap. Use a toothbrush to scrub inside vents, then wipe with a cloth dampened with plain water. Iron a clean towel with steam to remove any soap inside the holes. If this doesn't work, or if something has melted on the plate, try a hot-iron cleaner, available in tubes at hardware and crafts stores—put a dab on an old towel and run the hot iron over it. Iron a clean towel to remove residue.
Stickler: Computer Keyboard
Solution: "Studies have shown that the average keyboard has more germs than a public toilet seat," says Edelman, who recommends a de-crumbing and sanitizing regimen. Disconnect the keyboard or power down your laptop and use a hair dryer set on cool or a can of compressed air (try Dust Destroyer, staples.com, $9) to lift dust and debris from between the keys. Turn the panel over, gently shake and apply air again. Next, wring out the excess moisture from a bleach-free disinfecting wipe (like Seventh Generation, drugstore.com, $4) and rub that over and around the keys. While you're at it, wipe down the mouse and mouse pad. Another option, great for getting kids to clean their own keyboards (plus cell phones, video game controllers, and more), is a slime-colored Silly Putty-like substance known as Cyber Clean (cyberclean.tv, from $6). Press the gob, which is treated with germ-killing chemicals and can be reused, over keys to pick up dirt and bacteria.