23 Household Chores You're Definitely Doing Wrong

It's more important now than ever before to stop making these common cleaning mistakes.

While you are probably breaking out the vacuum and duster more than you usual right now because of being in quarantine, any cleaning professional will tell you that there's a major difference between cleaning and cleaning correctly. Even the most avowed neatniks often find themselves making critical cleaning mistakes when it comes to getting their home spotless—ones that are more crucial to avoid now than ever before. So, in order to keep your home clean during the pandemic, read on to discover which household chores you're doing wrong.

Cleaning mirrors with too much cleaning spray

person cleaning a glass window, easy home tips

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." And for all the steps to take when cleaning your house this spring, check out This Deep Cleaning Checklist Will Leave Your Home Gleaming.

Cleaning your mirrors with the lights on

Light switch in home, cleaning mistakes

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. And for things in your home that are probably past their prime, check out 17 Gross Household Items You Should Replace More Often.

Cleaning stainless steel with the wrong 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." And for the best products to use to fight against COVID0-19, Here Are the Household Cleaners That Destroy the Coronavirus.

Hand-washing dishes without soaking them first

Man Cleaning a Glass Cup in the Sink Cleaning Hacks

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."

Running your dishwasher on a low-temp cycle

dishwasher with steam coming out, cleaning mistakes

A little hot water goes a long way when it comes to getting those dishes spotless—especially in a time when disinfecting your home is so important. A 2006 study published in the Saint Martin's University Biology Journal revealed that E.coli grew quickly in environments that were 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but had significantly less growth at 113 degrees. This means that whenever possible, it's best to hit the hot cycle on your dishwasher to keep dangerous bacteria at bay.

Not scrubbing the gaps around your tub

scrubbing tub with gloved hands
Shutterstock/Maryna Pleshkun

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. And for more mistakes you're making in your home's restrooms, check out 15 Ways You're Cleaning Your Bathroom All Wrong, According to Experts.

Scrubbing your tub with lukewarm water

hand with green glove cleaning dirty bath tub

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

young black man vacuuming carpet

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

vacuuming dirty carpet, cleaning mistakes
Shutterstock/Kulikov Alexander

Slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to vacuuming. "Take your time!" says cleaning expert Kait Schulof, founder of cleaning blog A Clean Bee. "Move your vacuum slowly over carpeted floors to ensure fibers are agitated enough to release dirt, dust crumbs, or anything else trapped in there."

Vacuuming in only one direction

woman vacuuming carpet, cleaning mistakes

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.

Using the wrong cleaner on granite counters

Mid section man cleaning black marble counter in kitchen at home

More than likely, you are making a point to clean the various surfaces in your home now more than ever, which is a good thing—if you're using the right cleaner, that is. "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

dusting wood surface, cleaning mistakes

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

woman dusting bookshelf, cleaning mistakes

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 floors with the same cleaner

mopping floor, cleaning mistakes

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

woman dusting countertop, cleaning mistakes

There is a right order when it comes to tackling your cleaning tasks—namely, you should dust first and vacuum after. If you do it the other way around, you're knocking a significant amount of that dust onto your freshly-cleaned floor, meaning you've got more work ahead of you next time you clean.

Doing wet cleaning before dry cleaning in your bathroom

Cleaning the shower door, cleaning mistakes

While you may want to mop those dingy bathroom floors or scrub that streaky glass shower 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. "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

laundry basket

"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 wet clothes sit in the washing machine

clothing in the washing machine, cleaning mistakes

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

washing machine, cleaning mistakes

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 window panes before the frames

wiping windows, cleaning mistakes

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," says Nelli Grancharova, a window-cleaning expert with Fantastic Services. "This also prolongs the time spent on this chore."

Not removing screens before cleaning windows and doors

fly on screen cleaning mistakes

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

woman wiping window with cleaner, cleaning mistakes
Shutterstock/Nina Buday

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

cleaning supplies, cleaning mistakes

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."

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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