23 Common Cleaning Mistakes That Experts Say Actually Ruin Your Home
You think you know how to mop and dust, but experts say these common cleaning errors cause big problems.
We all love having a spotless home, but the actual down-and-dirty process of dusting, mopping, and vacuuming until every surface shines isn't something most people relish doing. And to make matters worse, many of the things you're doing in the name of getting a cleaner home may actually create more work and problems for you in the long run. From cleaning habits that create serious plumbing issues to ones that can make a mess of your appliances, these are the cleaning mistakes you need to ditch now, according to the experts.
Rubbing stains out of carpets
You may think the only thing standing between you and cleaner carpets is a little elbow grease, but scrubbing those stains might make things worse in the long run. If you're rubbing a stain, you could "cause it to spread or soak deeper into the carpet fibers or fabric," thus making it more difficult to clean, explains Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority.
Instead, she recommends blotting the stain, which removes the excess liquid rather than pushing it down into the carpet.
Vacuuming rugs without a carpet attachment
Using the wrong type of vacuum head on your carpet or rug could lead to threadbare sections underfoot before you know it. Without using the carpet attachment, "you will probably damage your carpet or rug," says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids in Dallas, Texas.
Using a spraying mop on your floors
That spraying mop may seem like the solution to your floor-cleaning problems, but many cleaning professionals see it differently. According to Émie Boies Bastien of Adèle House Cleaning, popular floor cleaners like Swiffer Wet Jets can "leave a sticky coat on floors," which can cause more dirt to stick to it, as well as making messes harder to remove.
Letting water sit on hardwood floors
If you think busting out the mop is the best way to clean your hardwood floors, you're not alone. But unfortunately, this is one of the more common cleaning mistakes people make. "Using too much water on wood floors will warp them," cautions Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services in Colorado.
The best way to clean your hardwood floors, according to Smith, is to use a lightly dampened mop—not a sopping wet one—and go over them with a dry cloth to remove any standing water when you're finished.
Using microfiber dusting pads
Those single-use dusting cloths may be convenient, but they're also making more work for you in the long run. According to Bastien, these pads use static to attract dust, creating static-build that "stays on your surfaces and attracts more dust," forcing you to dust more frequently over time.
Cleaning wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher
While your dishwasher may be effective at cleaning most dishes, tossing those wooden cutting boards in there along with them could be doing more harm than good. The combination of heat and water in your dishwasher's closed environment "can cause the wood to split, warp, or crack," explains Stapf. She recommends washing wooden cutting boards with soap and water, and drying them thoroughly afterward, following up with a mineral oil rub.
Running a half-empty dishwasher
If your dishwasher isn't completely full, you're better off not running it. In addition to using the same amount of energy and water as a full load would, washing partial loads of dishes "increases the chances of damaging your dishwasher with higher usage," says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers.
Using the wrong type of sponges on your pans
A sponge is a sponge is a sponge, right? Well, not exactly. If you're using the wrong kind of scouring pad on your dishes, you could be shortening their lifespan. "You should use the yellow regular sponges for your aluminum pots and non-stick pans and metal sponges for cast iron skillets and stainless steel," says Navas. If you're using an overly abrasive sponge on a non-stick coating or on ceramic, you may cause it to flake off prematurely.
Using an abrasive pad on stainless steel
Though stainless steel may be durable, that doesn't mean it's impossible to damage. In fact, using an abrasive pad on your stainless steel appliances is likely to cause more problems than it solves. "Using any sort of scrub pad on stainless steel will scratch it badly," explains Smith.
To help avoid a potentially-costly situation, she recommends wiping up spills immediately after they occur to prevent them from getting caked on in the first place.
Cleaning reflective surfaces with a Magic Eraser
Magic Erasers are pretty impressive—but they don't work on every surface in your home. "Using a Magic Eraser on any sort of shiny surface will cause dull spots," says Smith, who notes that microwave exteriors, wood floors, countertops, and any area of the home painted with semi-gloss paint shouldn't be cleaned with one of these sponges.
Using acidic cleaners on natural stone
If you want those granite or marble counters to look gorgeous for years and years, it's time to step away from those acidic homemade cleaners and opt for a safer alternative. "Acidic cleaners can cause irreparable damage to natural stone surfaces," explains Henry Paterson, operations executive at London-based house cleaning company Housekeep.
He recommends using only products specifically made for porous stone, and spot-testing an inconspicuous area beofre cleaning your entire countertop with any product.
Cleaning stovetops with metal scouring pads
Sure, your stovetop may be sturdy enough to handle high heat, but it can't handle a steel wool scrub down. Paterson explains that steel wool and scouring pads can easily damage or scratch enamel or glass cooktops.
Always using hot water on your laundry
Hot water may help tackle tough stains, but it's not a great choice for daily washes. In addition to leading you to rack up a sizable energy bill, "always using hot water [is] bad for your clothing," Rodriguez points out. Since hot water can damage certain natural fabrics, she recommends using cold water for most clothing and using hot water for all-white loads.
Using hairspray to remove ink stains
Spraying hairspray may have worked to remove ink stains back in the day, but it probably won't yield the results you're looking for now. Stapf says that many hairsprays today don't have alcohol in them—the key component necessary for getting that ink out. "Hairsprays that don't include alcohol won't lift the stain and may make the stain harder to remove," she explains.
The good news is that soaking the stain in rubbing alcohol for 15 minutes should do the trick.
Spraying wood polish directly onto furniture
Wood polish may get your furniture gleaming, but spraying it directly onto those prized pieces will cause you bigger problems down the line. Spraying directly onto your furniture "causes one area to get soaked in polish," says Rodriguez, who notes that this could lead to staining over time. Instead, she recommends spraying your polish onto a clean cloth and wiping the furniture for an even application.
Scrubbing painted surfaces
Want to get a big mess off a painted wall or piece of molding? Think before you scrub. Scrubbing vigorously with an abrasive pad can actually remove the paint from your wall and potentially damage the drywall or plaster underneath, especially on flat paint, which tends to be less moisture-resistant. "If the stain requires scrubbing, you're most likely better off repainting," says Michael Silva-Nash, executive vice president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.
Spraying deodorizers after cleaning your floors
While those home fragrances may make your house smell lovely, spraying them after you've mopped will only leave you with another dirty job to tackle. "Spray your favorite fragrance before you do the floors, otherwise you'll end up with sticky floors with small little blotches," says Silva-Nash.
Using bleach on rust stains
While bleach may be great at getting stains out of most things, using it on rust will only compound the problem. "Bleach works via oxidation, which feeds the rust," explains Smith. As an alternative, she recommends using Bar Keepers Friend, which she says removes rust easily without the damage.
Or using it to kill mold
Bleach can kill stains, but it won't kill mold. In fact, it could even make your mold problem worse. "Bleach removes the color, making the mold less visible," says Silva-Nash. However, because it can remove the color of the mold without removing the mold itself, you may still have mold growing beneath the surface of your paint or in your drywall without knowing it.
Silva-Nash says you should be using hydrogen peroxide on smaller patches of mold, or calling in a professional for bigger jobs.
Or using it on finished wood
Wondering why your wood furniture's looking dingy? It could be your bleach-based cleaner. "Even if you add water to it, [bleach] can take the finish off almost any surface," explains Ashley Winkle, owner of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services.
Worse yet, a little splash of that cleaner onto your furniture's upholstery and you can say goodbye to the fabric's color, too.
Scrubbing your windows with an abrasive cleaner
While messes on your windows may be difficult to remove, using an abrasive pad is one of those cleaning mistakes you're better off avoiding. "This usually ends in a scratched glass that even glass polishing products cannot repair," says Mihaela Davidova, a cleaning expert at Fantastic Cleaners.
To avoid causing your windows harm, she recommends first applying a glass-appropriate cleaning solution and using a squeegee to remove it.
Using lye to clear drains
Sure, the metal hydroxide lye might clear your drains, but if you've got PVC pipes, you might have a bigger problem on your hands when you're done.
"The heat generated during the drain clearing process can cause PVC pipes to soften and melt," explains Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Buyers, a house flipping and rental company in Baltimore, Maryland. Before you pour anything down the drain—including commercial drain cleaner—make sure it's safe for your specific type of plumbing system first.
Cleaning pet stains with an ammonia-based cleaner
If you want those pet stains to be a thing of the past, it's important to avoid using ammonia-based cleaners on them at all costs. "Since ammonia is actually one component of cat urine, your feline companion may mistake the cleaning solution for another cat marking its territory and mark the same spot again right after it has been cleaned," says Matt Clayton, founder of pet-related cleaning website Pet Hair Patrol.