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Secret Potions for Tackling Tricky Cleaning Jobs

Not all secret potions are bad! The TOH editors swear by these not-so-toxic concoctions for cleaning and upgrading your house

Task Tacklers

Photo by Ted Morrison

We at This Old House may not stir bubbling cauldrons or fly on broomsticks, but we know which concoctions work like magic when it comes to making home-improvement projects easier. Here, our picks for taking the toil and trouble out of a few common tasks.

The Task: Repainting Baseboards, Molding, and Trim

Photo by Courtesy of Home Depot

The Trick:

Klean Strip Liquid Sander degrimes and deglosses detailed woodwork without kicking up lead dust. (Added bonus: You skip the tedium of sanding.) About $7 for 1 quart; homedepot.com

The Task: Finishing Raw Wood

Photo by Courtesy of Woodcraft

The Trick:

Features editor Amy R. Hughes uses Briwax to yield a matte patina, rather than a high-gloss sheen. The tinted version (in nine shades) builds up gradually, creating a living finish that darkens with each successive coat. About $19 for 16 ounces; woodcraft.com

The Task: Buffing Up Unpolished Stone

Photo by Courtesy of Amazon

The Trick:

Clapham's Salad Bowl Finish—typically used as a food-safe coating on unfinished wood—adds luster to honed marble and granite, and boosts their resistance to water spots. Its butter-like beeswax formula is easy to apply. About $20 for 8 ounces; amazon.com

The Task: Removing Rust

Photo by Courtesy of Amazon

The Trick:

Senior editor Deborah Snoonian mixes Borax with lemon juice to form a paste, then smears a thick layer onto corroded metal. The rust wipes away with a rag after an hour or so. About $12.25 for 76 ounces; amazon.com

The Task: Sealing Wrought Iron

Photo by Courtesy of The Best Things

The Trick:

Renaissance Wax, developed by the British Museum, polishes and coats metals with a hard, durable petroleum-based wax seal—perfect for outdoor railings exposed to the elements. About $16 for 2.25 ounces; restorationproduct.com

The Task: Restoring Grungy Wood Furniture

Photo by Courtesy of Amazon

The Trick:

Editor Scott Omelianuk swears by a homemade concoction—1 part each of boiled linseed oil (shown), turpentine, and white vinegar—to banish dirt and prevent wood from drying out. Test first in a hidden spot.