23 Household Chores You’re Definitely Doing Wrong
These simple corrections will help spiff up your home in no time.
While you may break out the vacuum or duster on a regular basis, any cleaning professional will tell you that there’s a major difference between cleaning your home and cleaning it correctly. Even the most avowed neatniks may find themselves making critical errors when it comes to getting their home spotless—ones that can cost time and money in the long run. So, what mistakes are you making around the house? Read on to discover which household chores you’re doing wrong.
Hand washing your dishes without soaking them first
Tackling those dishes without giving them a pre-soak only increases the likelihood that you’ll have to give them another pass with that dish brush later.
“If you don’t soak your dishes and separate [greasy dishes] from other dishes, you are making it way harder for yourself,” says Arthur Ruth, vice president of operations at Memphis Maids. “If you have hard-to-remove solids, you should leave it to soak for a while to remove it more easily later saving you time and resources.”
Not running your dishes on a hot enough cycle
A little hot water goes a long way when it comes to getting those dishes spotless. A 2006 study published in the Saint Martin’s University Biology Journal reveals that E.coli grew quickly in 98.6-degree Fahrenheit environments, but had significantly less growth at 113 degrees, meaning that, whenever possible, it’s best to hit the hot cycle on your dishwasher to keep dangerous bacteria at bay.
Cleaning the gaps around your tub without scrubbing
Think those crevices around your tub are being effectively cleaned by simply spritzing some cleaning solution? Think again. “You need to scrub with a brush and baking soda” to get those caulked areas spotless, says Ruth.
Scrubbing the interior of your tub with room-temperature water
Sure, lukewarm water may be easier on your hands, but if you want to get that tub spotless, it’s time to turn up the heat. “You should be using hot water to really clean your tub,” says Abe Navas, general manager of Dallas-based Emily’s Maids. “[Room temperature] tap water is just not enough to clean all of the buildup that soap and shampoo create over time.”
Using only one vacuum attachment
Your vacuum came with a handful of attachments, but you still use just one—and that means you’re making more work for yourself as you straighten up the place. “Every accessory has a purpose,” says Ruth. “If you use just one, you’re limiting yourself and possibly causing harm to your machine.”
Moving too quickly while vacuuming
Slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to vacuuming. “When vacuuming, take your time! Move your vacuum slowly over carpeted floors to ensure fibers are agitated enough to release dirt, dust crumbs, or anything else trapped in there,” says cleaning expert Kait Schulof, founder of cleaning blog A Clean Bee.
Vacuuming in only one direction
If you’re not pushing your vacuum back and forth over your carpet, you’re likely leaving a significant amount and dirt and debris behind. “You need to pass over the carpet forward and then backward to sweep and vacuum effectively,” says Jeremy Powers, the owner and operator of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services in Cincinnati. He also recommends going in one direction around a room to make sure you’re tackling the most dirt without inadvertently redistributing it in the process.
Cleaning your mirrors with too much cleaning spray
You definitely can have too much of a good thing—especially when it comes to cleaning your mirrors. “The secret to streak-free mirrors is very, very little liquid,” says Laura Smith, a cleaning expert with All Star Cleaning Services. “Spray lightly across the bottom where the toothpaste splatters are likely to be, and then wipe upward from there using a microfiber cloth and that small amount of moisture for the rest of the mirror.”
Cleaning your mirrors with the lights on
As surprising as it may seem, cleaning your mirrors with the lights on can actually do more harm than good. According to Smith, those spots are far more visible with the lights off, so when in doubt, flip the switch before you break out your cleaning supplies.
Cleaning stainless steel with a metal-specific cleaner
Just because a cleaner is billed as safe for stainless steel doesn’t actually mean it’s the best product for the job. “Fancy stainless steel cleaners actually compound the streak problem over time,” says Smith. “The best thing to do is to wash it all off with hot water (sometimes it will take a few passes to remove the buildup), and then maintain with plain water on a microfiber cloth going forward.”
Using the wrong cleaner on granite counters
While DIY cleaners have their place, certain ingredients in them may be doing more harm than good. “Stone countertops are porous, so using a harsh, acidic cleaning agent (like vinegar or lemon juice) can damage these surfaces over time,” says Schulof. For daily cleaning, Schulof recommends a combination of one teaspoon dish soap dissolved in two cups of water, while for disinfecting, a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water will do the trick.
Dusting with the lights on
Some things are just better with the lights off. Get your mind out of the gutter: we’re talking dusting, here, folks! “People dust with all the lights on, which, in general, actually makes the dust harder to see,” says Smith. “[It’s] best to dust with the lights off and the blinds open on a sunny day. Natural light is your best friend when dusting!”
Dusting from bottom to top
If you’re starting with your baseboards and working your way up to your crown molding as you dust, you’re only making more work for yourself. According to Sean Parry, founder of Neat, a high-end domestic cleaning company based in the United Kingdom, if you want to get your home dust-free, it pays to start at the top and work your way down to the bottom—otherwise, you’re simply redistributing dust as you go.
Mopping all your flooring with the same cleaner
Not all cleaning products are created equal—and that’s especially true when it comes to preserving the health and appearance of your floors. “It is important to know what type of flooring you’re working with to avoid streaks and ensure a thorough clean,” says Smith. “Wood flooring and natural tile is extremely porous and requires more water to dissolve buildup properly, whereas laminate flooring needs very little water or it will streak badly, as all the water just sits on top.”
Dusting after you vacuum
There is a right order when it comes to tackling your cleaning tasks—namely, you should dust first and vacuum after. If you dust after you vacuum, you’re knocking a significant amount of that dust onto your freshly-cleaned floor, meaning you’ve got more work ahead of you if you want to get it clean again.
Going from wet to dry cleaning in your bathroom
While you may want to mop those dingy bathroom floors or scrub that streaky glass shower surround before tackling the dusting in your bathroom, doing so will actually mean you have more to do in the long run. “Think dry, then wet,” says Powers. “Remove as much dust and debris from the room before introducing cleaning chemicals: Remove trash, dust, dry-wipe flat surfaces, and sweep. You will be less frustrated, save time and have better results if you don’t use water or chemicals in the beginning.”
Only separating your laundry by color
“Most people simply separate their laundry by whites and colors, but it’s just as important to sort your laundry by fabric weight and type,” says Schulof. “For instance, avoid washing lighter, synthetic fabrics like workout clothes with thick cotton towels, heavy denim, or sweatshirts. This will ensure that each laundry load receives the appropriate level of fabric agitation and will extend the longevity of your clothing.” And once you’re done with those loads, check out the 15 Life-Changing Laundry Folding Tips.
Letting your wet clothes sit in the washing machine
Leaving those wet clothes in the washing machine while you’re out for the day may not seem like a big deal, but it could eventually lead to the untimely demise of some of your favorite pieces. “If your clothes are sitting wet in the washer, bacteria and mold are thriving in them,” says Lily Cameron, cleaning professional and supervisor at Fantastic Services. The sooner you transfer those wet clothes to the dryer, the faster you’ll stop that mold and mildew.
Adding fabric softener at the beginning of a wash cycle
If you’re adding your fabric softener at the beginning of your wash cycle, you might as well be pouring it down the drain. According to Alberto Navarrete, another general manager of Dallas-based cleaning service Emily’s Maids, if your machine doesn’t have a dedicated fabric softener compartment, it will wash off your clothing in the first rinse cycle. To get your clothes soft and sweet-smelling, add your fabric softener before the second rinse cycle instead.
Cleaning your window panes before the frames
While it may seem obvious that you’d clean your window panes before attacking the frames that surround them, doing so is actually a major misstep. “If you do not wash the window frames first, there is a risk that the accumulated dirt and cobwebs will fall onto the cleaned panes. This also prolongs the time spent on this chore,” says window cleaning expert Nelli Grancharova with Fantastic Services.
Not removing window and door screens before cleaning the glass
Those window and door screens can harbor a serious amount of dirt and grime, so if you’re not cleaning them before wiping down your panes and frames, you’re only adding work to your plate. “The dust and pollen buildup can be easily transferred onto the clean windows by the wind,” says Grancharova. “If you clean your window and door screens first, the windows will stay cleaner for longer.”
Washing your windows on a sunny day
Cleaning your windows on a bright, sunny day means they’ll dry in no time—and that might actually be a problem in the long run. “It’s better to clean your windows on an overcast day, because the cleaning solution won’t dry as quickly and it won’t leave any streaks,” says Grancharova.
Storing your cleaning supplies in a bucket
Where you keep your cleaning supplies is nearly as important as how you use them. “Tossing your supplies in a bucket, shoving dirty brooms and full vacuum sweepers into a storage closet, and leaving wet microfibers in a wadded mess is sure to create problems,” says Powers. “When you have a spill or see a small mess, you are less likely to take care of it right away if your supplies are not ready for action. The final task of cleaning is always to organize your supplies for next time.” And for more ways to get your home spotless, discover these 27 Ways to Clean Your House Like a Pro Housekeeper.
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