You can skip those new-fangled gadgets in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket. It turns out you already have plenty of items around the house that can serve double-duty as a cleaning tool—think old toothbrushes, credit cards, and socks. Here are some nifty tips from the pros behind Consumer Reports’ "How to Clean Practically Anything," as well as some how-to videos that will give you a jump-start on spring cleaning.

Clever Cleaning Hacks

Toothbrushes. Don’t toss that old toothbrush. Use it to get into hard-to-reach spots like window mullions, shower-door tracks, switch plates, and around faucets. But never use a dry brush. For deep cleaning, a moistened brush helps trap the dirt.

Sticky lint remover. This handy tool isn’t just for clothes; it’s also good for removing pet hair from sofas and other upholstered furniture. For heavy shedders, try a lint brush.

Umbrellas. Forget the drop cloth. Hang an opened umbrella (the kind with a U-shaped handle) upside down from a chandelier or ceiling fan to catch drips while you’re cleaning.

More on Cleaning

Terry-cloth towels. To remove stubborn gunk on a granite countertop, wet a terry-cloth towel with hot water, then put it over the spot for a few minutes. The heat will help loosen the hardened spill so that you can wipe it up. You can also wrap a towel around a screwdriver and use it to clean grimy shower-door tracks.

Credit cards. Use one for scraping off baked-on spills from oven and microwave interiors. The straight edge will lift the mess without scratching.

Damp socks. Dampen a cotton sock and wear it like a glove to clean the dust from broad-leaf houseplants.

Cloth diapers. Soft and absorbent, they makes great dusting cloths that won’t scratch surfaces. Some experts prefer one with an 8-ply thickness in the center and 4-ply on the sides. Wash diapers four or five times before using to remove lint.

Rain-X. Just like it does on your car’s windshield, Rain-X will repel the water on your shower door to keep it clean longer. Apply a coat to freshly cleaned shower doors.

Plastic wrap. After cleaning the top of the refrigerator, line it with a piece of plastic wrap. You won’t be able to see it, and future cleanings will only require peeling off the plastic, tossing it, and replacing.

Smart Cleaning Tips