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Tough Cleaning Made Easy

We found simple ways to tackle pain-in-the-neck cleaning tasks (think heater vents, lamp shades, and flat screens).

By Sarah Stebbins

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Cleaning houseplants
Dan Sipple
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Stickler: Houseplants

Solution: A feather duster is good for getting dust off leaves without doing any damage. You can also set the plant in the tub and gently hose it down with room- temperature water—cold water can leave spots on the foliage. Use a cotton cloth or damp microfiber dust mitt (Quickie,, $3.50) to wipe leaves on larger plants and trees; this makes it easy to target each frond quickly and precisely. Mix water with a little dish soap for leaves that have been exposed to kitchen grease. Clean dusty fabric flowers and plants by holding them upside down (if possible) and blasting with a hair dryer set on cool or a can of compressed air, says Diane James, a designer of high-end faux bouquets. If needed, spray on a silk flower cleaner, like Silk 'n Splendor (, $4), which dissolves dust and grease, no wiping required.

Stickler: Grill Grates

Solution: Every time you cook, preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes (with gas, turn it up to high) to sterilize the grates and loosen any baked-on debris, says Steven Raichlen, author of Planet Barbecue (Workman). Then brush vigorously with a steel or brass-bristle grill brush. Before you start cooking, oil the grates: Fold a paper towel into a small pad, and, using tongs, dip it in a bowl of vegetable oil and rub it over the entire surface. When you're done, keep the grill going for about 10 minutes (turn gas burners back up to high) and brush the grates again. Once a year, run stainless steel grates through the dishwasher. Hand-wash and lightly scour enameled or cast-iron ones (re-season the latter afterward). Or, next time you're using "self-clean" on the oven, put crusty grill grates inside and take care of two dirty jobs at once.

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