“My level of clean is a little bit… different,” says Sarah McAllister, laughing into the phone. That is to say it’s spotless, thorough and—as the Go Clean Co founder’s 2.4 million Instagram followers would attest—totally enthralling.
Though McAllister’s Calgary-based residential cleaning business is only three years old, she’s quickly amassed an online #cleaningarmy of fans that spans Canada and the U.S. Much of that growth came when we all suddenly found ourselves locked down at home with little to do and a newfound appreciation for bleach. McAllister’s deep-cleaning tutorials and tips offer a way to keep busy (or, at the very least, soothed by the seeming ease with which she can transform the crustiest sink or grungiest floor).
Best of all, her hacks actually work, as proven by her followers who regularly share their own transformations. And you don’t need pricey professional supplies—so, if your local store is sold out of powdered Tide, you can blame McAllister (more on that in a second).
We asked McAllister for her very best cleaning tips (spoiler alert: I tried them out and I’m completely hooked.) From how to tackle the (surprising) filthiest spot in most homes to her trick for way easier toilet-cleaning, she spilled all of her not-so-dirty secrets.
1. Powdered Tide is your best friend
Of all the cleaning products that McAllister has tried, she keeps returning to the same thing both her mom and grandmother swore by: a box of classic Tide Powder Laundry Detergent. “It works great on floors, walls, baseboards, even bathtubs—you can scrub it into a paste and it takes soap scum off,” she explains. “It’s so versatile; it’s really just magic.”
The combination of surfactants (the sudsy stuff that helps release dirt), enzymes (proteins that break down stains) and the gritty texture make for a powerful cleaner for almost any hard surface (and of course, your laundry itself). Whether you’re scrubbing out the inside of your fridge or mopping your hardwood, McAllister recommends filling your sink or a bucket with hot water and adding one teaspoon of powdered Tide.
2. Get over your bleach aversion
If you want to kick your Tide and hot water up a notch, mix in McAllister’s other trusty staple: bleach. She concedes that many of her followers feel uneasy using bleach but swears by it for disinfecting areas that get especially germy: bathrooms, doorknobs, garbage cans. “After you use it once, you’ll say, ‘Okay, this isn’t so bad,’” she promises.
McAllister dilutes the bleach with her trademark recipe (do not mix bleach with anything else, she urges—bleach can form a dangerous gas if mixed with other products, particularly those containing ammonia):
- 1 gallon of hot water
- 1 teaspoon of Tide Powder Laundry Detergent
- 1/3 cup of liquid bleach
Wear old clothes, rubber gloves and open the windows as you work.
3. Don’t forget the (ironic) dirtiest spot in your house
“Laundry machines are generally the worst,” says McAllister. “It’s always the places that we put things to get clean that we don’t think about cleaning.” She adds that the always-wet environment sets the stage for bacteria, mold and bad smells.
Most people with front-loading washing machines are unaware that there’s a filter they’re supposed to clean monthly, says McAllister. “The filter usually has about $40 in change, baby socks, slime and mould.” Google your serial number for specifics, but typically, there’s a small trap door on the front of the washer (or if you have a top loader, there’s likely a filter in the agitator that you can access). Inside, you’ll find a black hose that you can unplug over a large bowl to drain the (stinky!) water. Then, unscrew the filter and wash it with bleach and water—skip the Tide here so things don’t get foamy. Once you’re done, put everything back very tightly to avoid leaks.
McAllister also recommends scrubbing the seals of your machine with straight bleach, running an empty cycle on hot and always leaving the door ajar between loads. “When there’s no air circulating and it doesn’t dry out, that’s when you have that smell.”
4. Vacuum (the outside of) your toilet
“If you go crazy spraying the back, top and u-bend of the toilet, you spray down hair and dust, which turns it into mud and creates way more work for yourself,” says McAllister. Instead, she goes in first with a horsehair brush attachment on her vacuum to suck everything up—all dry parts of her toilet, as well as her bathtub, baseboards, counters—so that she then just has to disinfect and remove stains afterwards.
She’s tested the method and found that it saves about 30 minutes of bathroom-cleaning each time. “It blows people’s minds,” she says. As for the vacuum brush itself, just dunk it in water and bleach afterwards then pop it on a vent to dry out.
5. Start laundry stripping
Got time to kill at home? Tackle a deeply satisfying task with McAllister’s laundry stripping technique—one of her most-viral hacks ever. “When you think about how your shower and faucets get water spots and calcium and mineral buildup, that also happens with your clothing,” says McAllister, adding that fabric softener and laundry detergent are also culprits for residue.
It all translates to a loss of softness and absorbency. “I like to strip high-performance fabrics like towels, bedding and workout clothes,” says McAllister. “Workout clothes are always the grossest.” (She warns against stripping anything with a decal though, as it may come off.)
First, you’ll need to fill your bathtub about halfway with the hottest water you can and the items you want to strip. Then, mix in McAllister’s laundry-stripping recipe, which she shared from her The Cleaning Army Handbook: Laundry Guide ($23, bleachpraylove.com):
- 2 cups of Tide Powder Laundry Detergent
- 1/4 cup Borax Laundry Detergent and Booster
- 1/4 cup washing soda (try Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda)
- 1/4 cup Calgon Liquid Water Softener (this can be hard to find in Canada, but McAllister says you can skip it and still get great results)
Let it soak for four hours, stirring every hour, and brace yourself for murky water. Once you’re done, use a bucket to move everything over to your washing machine and run a full cycle (without adding detergent) to rinse it all away.
Originally published in 2021, updated in 2023.