Whether you’re frequently mispronouncing a word, forgetting a name, or making a wrong turn when driving to a place you’ve been a million times before, chances are you’re well aware of the vast majority of the annoying errors you’re making on a daily basis. However, no matter how conscious you are of your behavior, there are likely countless little things you’re doing wrong every day without realizing it.
From the way you eat to how you wash your hands, these minor mistakes are likely flying under your radar. But no longer! Before you start beating yourself up over your perceived lack of competence, just think of these little setbacks as a means of building a better, more capable you. In fact, a study published in the journal Memory reveals that mistakes may play an important role in helping you learn in the long run. So read on, learn, and live smarter!
Starting your meal with any utensil
You’re starving. You’re seated at a restaurant. You grab the nearest fork. Unfortunately, using any fork or knife indiscriminately is a common mistake it’s time to grow out of. The problem? You’re probably using the wrong one. So, how should you go about digging into your meal? The fork and knife on the far left and far right, respectively, are the utensils you should start your first course with. For subsequent courses, move closer to your plate.
Brushing your teeth
If you’re like most people, you’re brushing your teeth twice a day and assuming that you’re doing your oral health a favor by doing so. However, you could be going about this seemingly simple task all wrong. This is particularly true if you’re brushing right after a meal—according to researchers at Georg August University Göttingen in Germany, brushing directly after eating can erode dentin, the layer below your teeth’s enamel, more quickly than if you waited until your regularly scheduled end- or start-of-day brush.
You might feel great after a long, hot shower, but spending a prolonged period of time under that warm tap may actually have a deleterious effect on your health. Not only can showering too frequently wash off some of the good bacteria on your body that keeps you healthy, research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that scrubbing down too often could actually make you more likely to develop annoying skin problems, like eczema. And to get clean the right way, make sure you know these 15 Ways You’re Showering Wrong.
Chilling a drink
Pop that bottle of champagne or six-pack straight into a bucket of ice and you’ll be waiting quite some time to enjoy a chilled beverage. If you want to cool those drinks off quickly, you’re better off using a salt-and-ice-water combo instead.
“Chilling beer is fast and easy: A salt and ice bath is the quickest way,” says Zach Mach, a beverage industry expert and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. “It brings the temperature of the water down lower than a normal ice bath, and the contact with water ensures all surface area is getting hit. If you can manage it without making a mess, stirring the bottle around in the ice bath is even faster.”
And if you’re worried that you don’t have enough time for a proper ice bath, don’t be afraid to place that bottle in the freezer for a few. “If all else fails, 10 to 20 minutes in the freezer is the next best option,” says Mack.
Washing your clothes
Keeping your clothes clean is a more precise business than you might imagine. First, if you’re pouring detergent directly onto your clothes in a top-loading washer, it’s time to put an end to that behavior stat. Instead, fill up the drum with water and pour your detergent in so it can be evenly distributed on your clothes.
Also, just because the machine is frequently full of soap doesn’t mean things are getting clean, too. In fact, research suggests that washing machines often harbor a host of harmful bacteria, from staph to various gram-negative bacteria (a category that includes E. coli). So, make sure to give your machine a thorough wipe down whenever possible, and run a hot-water-and-bleach cycle at least once a month.
Plunging a sink
If you’ve ever wondered why plunging your clogged sink never yields any results, the answer is simple: it’s just one of the things you’re doing wrong. If you want to remove material from a sink, you’ll want to use a cup plunger, a wider plunger with an evenly distributed bottom that can properly affix to the bottom of your sink. For a toilet, you’ll want to use a flange plunger, which is slightly narrower and has a longer plunging mechanism in the center.
Using your napkin
While it may seem to make sense to put your napkin in your lap when your food arrives, if you’re doing so, you’re actually making a relatively major faux pas. Certified Etiquette Educator Karen Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette, says, “Not placing the napkin in your lap immediately upon being seated” is one of the mistakes she sees most frequently.
So, you got a compost bin: good job! You’ve already taken the first step toward making the planet a healthier place. That said, odds are you’re adding some things to the mix that you shouldn’t. In fact, common kitchen scraps, like citrus peels and onions (which can be harmful to the compost’s acidity level), bread (which can attract vermin), and walnuts (which contain juglone, a compound that can either halt the growth of other plants or kill them entirely), shouldn’t be tossed in at all.
While you may take your recycling out on a regular basis, odds are it numbers among the things you’re doing wrong. According to the EPA, people routinely recycle non-recyclable items, including bottle tops, plastic bags, colored paper, aerosol cans, and greasy pizza boxes. Oh, and not to mention the fact that a minuscule 9.1 percent of all plastic in the United States gets recycled. The figures don’t lie: we could all do better.
Removing your trash bag
You might be wondering: “How could I possibly be removing my trash bag wrong?” Well, if your bag routinely sticks to the inside of the can—which erodes your can’s lining—you’re not exactly doing things the right way. To mitigate the risk of pulling the whole can out, drill a couple of venting holes in the side of your trash can near the bottom and you won’t end up taking the whole can with you.
Clipping your nails
Those nail clippers may seem perfect for cutting a straight line across your nail, but if that’s how you snip, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, make a single horizontal cut at the top of your nail, and make a slanted cut on either side. Not only will this provide a more even trim, it may even reduce your risk of pesky hangnails.
It’s an age-old adage: most of your body heat is lost through your head. However, if you’re actually trying to keep your body warm by loading up on cozy hats, you’re making a mistake. According to a report published in the BMJ, just seven percent of a person’s body heat is lost through their head—far short of the 45 to 50 percent that’s commonly reported—so focus on a full-body warming solution instead.
Holding a glass of wine
While the stem of a wine glass may feel like a precarious part to hold, if you’re holding it by the bowl, you’re making a common mistake. When you hold a wine glass, Belgian tulip, or Teku glass by the bowl, the heat from your hand can alter the flavor of your beverage.
“People don’t realize how quickly they warm up their wine or beer by holding the bulb of the glass with their palm,” says Mack. “Holding the glass by the stem also makes it easier to swirl or agitate the wine or beer to get more oxygen into the glass and aerate the wine, and also to get aromas up and out of the glass.” So, what’s the proper by-the-stem hold? Pinch the stem between your thumb and forefinger and you’ll maintain the proper temperature for your drink while keeping its intended flavor.
Using a bobby pin
If you’ve ever wondered why your bobby pins never stay put, the answer is simple: you’re using them wrong. Instead of putting the wavy side up, make sure it’s facing your head when you secure your hair. According to multiple bobby pin manufacturers—like Goody, the brand you’re likely used to buying at your local CVS—it provides a stronger hold.
Holding a knife
While your cuts may be as precise as they come, odds are you’re not actually holding your knife properly. Instead of gripping the handle in a fist or putting your index finger atop the blade, your index finger and thumb should be pinching the back of the blade near the handle for the most secure grip.
Keeping just-prepared food warm
Keeping your dishes warm by covering them with a towel (or heating them up again in the microwave) is hardly the most effective means of maintaining their temperature. Instead, use the warming drawer below the door to your stove—that’s right: it’s not just for storing extra baking sheets and muffin tins.
Storing your wine glasses
Even if you’re an amateur sommelier, it’s entirely possible that you’re making a major mistake when it comes to storing your wine glasses. While storing your glasses rim-down may keep dust from getting into them, it could also make them more prone to breakage. Since the rim of a wine glass is its thinnest—and therefore, most delicate—part, storing a glass rim-down actually increases its risk of developing pressure cracks over time. Instead, stand them stem-down and you’ll not only increase their longevity, but reduce the risk of getting moisture trapped inside the cup.
Cleaning your jeans
Ask any jeans-wearer and they’ll tell you: there’s no better way to ruin the shape and color of your favorite denim than washing after every wear. According to a study conducted at the University of Alberta, frequently-washed jeans lost four percent of their total fibers over the course of a study—twice that of a less-frequently-washed pair—but didn’t have a significantly lower bacterial load than their frequently-laundered counterparts. If you’re eager to make your jeans a little less gross, try freezing them instead to kill some of the remaining bacteria on them. And for more incentive to make use of cold storage, discover these 20 Ways to Do Laundry in Your Freezer.
Brushing your hair
While you may find that you have more tangles in your hair toward the bottom, if you’re not brushing from the top, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Brushing from the scalp downward helps distribute some of the oils produced by your scalp, making your hair look shinier and helping you keep your scalp from looking greasy. And for more ways to nail that perfect style, check out these 40 Ways to Have Your Best Hair After 40.
Unwrapping aluminum foil
Always find that your aluminum foil shreds before you can get a full sheet out of the box? It’s just another one of the small things you’re doing wrong without realizing it. Want to fix the issue? Simply push the tabs in on the side of the packaging and you’ll secure the roll, making those shredded sheets a thing of the past.
Loading a dishwasher
If you think all parts of your dishwasher are created equal, think again. There are, in fact, specific parts of your dishwasher that are more adept at cleaning specific products. For example, one study reveals that carbohydrate-heavy foods will get cleaner placed closer to the center of the machine, while protein-rich foods are better off on the perimeter of the bottom rack.
Putting away hot food
One of the more surprising things you’re doing wrong in the kitchen? Waiting for hot food to cool before putting it away. While many people believe this is a safer way to store those leftovers, the opposite is actually true. In fact, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, food should never spend more than two hours outside of a refrigerator, because it’s more likely to enter the so-called danger zone—temperatures between 40º and 140º Fahrenheit—if not refrigerated quickly. And for your best bet, make sure to separate large batches into smaller containers so your food cools off quickly, and pop it into the fridge as soon as possible.
Using your ceiling fan
Though you might only use your ceiling fan during the warmer months, it’s an essential tool for keeping warm in the winter—if you know how to use it, that is. In the spring and summer, you’ll want to run your fan counter-clockwise to push cool air down toward your body, making you feel cooler. In the fall and winter, you’ll want to flip the switch on your fan’s base so that it spins clockwise, pushing warm air down, thus keeping the whole room warmer.
Peeling a banana
You’ve probably done it the same way a million times, but if you’re still peeling a banana from the stem down, you’re making a crucial mistake. Not only is this method difficult, it puts those clumsy fingers at risk of bruising your beautiful piece of fruit. Instead, lightly pinch the bottom of the banana peel and it will open up in an instant for easy peeling.
While it’s nice to imagine that using mouthwash is helping you keep your mouth healthy, using it too frequently could have the opposite effect. In addition to washing away beneficial bacteria, one study reveals that frequent mouthwash use may actually increase a person’s risk of diabetes.
Keeping ice cream soft
Want to ensure that your ice cream is so soft you can effortlessly scoop it at all times? Stop putting that container in the microwave to warm it up. Instead, pop it into a sealed, freezer-safe plastic bag and it won’t harden as much while you’re keeping it cold.
Washing your hands
If you’re like most people, you’re probably washing your hands with relative frequency throughout the day—in fact, according to the National Cleaning Institute, 50 percent of adults wash their hands more than 10 times every single day. However, 73 percent of those individuals wash their hands for under 20 seconds, and a study conducted at the University of Michigan reveals that just five percent of people monitored washed their hands correctly. If you want to rid your hands of potentially-harmful germs, wet your hands first, lather with soap, spend at least 20 seconds washing them together, and rinse with clean water, turning off the tap with your elbow for maximum benefit. And for more insight in to this, Here’s How You’re Washing Your Hands All Wrong.
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