The Almost-Invisible Residue

Open shelves have dominated kitchen remodels for the past few years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing: The 2014 Zillow Digs Home Design Report lists open kitchen shelving as a continuing top trend, and designers are smitten with the concepts of prettily arranged bowls and easy-to-grab glasses for visitors. But even squeaky-clean dishware can quickly accumulate dust if it's tucked on a high shelf and infrequently used. If your shelves are located near the stove, also beware of a greasy film that can build up quickly. The fast-fix: Wash upper-shelf items at least bimonthly to keep those open shelves inviting.

The Environmentally Friendly Bulb

If you can't figure out why your living room looks a little dingy—even after a good scrubbing—it might be the lighting. As costs drop and quality rises, energy-efficient LED bulbs are increasingly popular. But there's more to consider than brightness when picking a bulb. LEDs have different color temperatures, meaning the light they cast can look warmer or cooler (higher numbers on the packaging indicate cooler undertones). They also vary in "color rendering index," a measure of how accurately the light renders color (80 looks good; 90, even better). "Bright, well-lit spaces seem much cleaner," says Jaymee Sohmer, a realtor with Dream Town Realty. But with LEDs, mastering well-lit takes trial and error to find a hue you love.

The Popular Countertop

If you've committed to marble countertops seen in home-d├ęcor photos everywhere, you've noticed that even when yours are clean enough to eat off of, they can still look grimy. Marble is a porous material that soaks up spills after just 30 minutes, but those stains can also be removed—even if they're older, according to Fredrick Hueston, author of Stain Removal Guide for Stone, Tile and Concrete. For organic stains, mix hydrogen peroxide and flour to the consistency of peanut butter; for oil-based stains, use dishwashing liquid and flour. Spread the mixture over the stain and let it sit for 24 hours, then scrape it off with a putty knife. For truly stubborn stains, you might have to repeat the process.

The Decorative Towels

You've cleaned the bathroom from shower stall to bath mat, but three days later it's feeling less than fresh? Blame the hand towels. The humidity in bathrooms makes textiles look limp quickly, even if they've recently been laundered, says Laura Dellutri, author of Speed Cleaning 101. To lessen the effect, leave the bathroom door ajar after showers and baths, and turn on ventilation fans. Or, for the truly fast-fix, swap out towels more frequently.

The Superconvenient Dryer

When washing machines and dryers migrated out of the basement and closer to the bedrooms, our backs took a break from schlepping all those baskets of laundry. But many of us swapped one problem for another: messy laundry nooks that peek out from the periphery any time we're upstairs. "Usually people are good at getting dirty clothes into the laundry, but not at getting clean clothes folded and put away. It just builds up, in piles and in baskets," says Sarah Gabriele, a professional organizer and founder of the organizing service A Place for Everything. If creating a system for regularly folding and stowing clothes feels impossible, consider instituting a closed-door rule on the laundry closet—or, if the machines are in a nook, installing inexpensive bifold doors—to bring an instant sense of order to the upstairs.


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