Everyone wants a clean house. And whether you’re a neat freak or a lazy cleaner, chances are good you’re getting some of it wrong. Many people overlook tasks like cleaning washers or garbage disposals, and it’s easy to get things wrong, like adding too much detergent to your wash or putting soap on a cast iron pan. We’re here to set you straight and help you clean your home the right way, often saving you money and making your home a nicer place to live.
Using a washing machine seems simple, but there are common mistakes many people make. Forgetting to remove dryer lint or even washing old sneakers can be a problem in the laundry room.
- Not cleaning your washing machine: Your washing machine is one of those appliances that most people think of as self cleaning. After all, they clean your clothes — don’t they clean themselves? Not really. Washing machines can get buildup and start to smell funny. You can keep your laundry fresher and remove odor from your washing machine by cleaning it. Use white vinegar or bleach to clean top or front loaders. With a front loader, you’ll also need to wipe down the rubber seal on the door, as this is where mold and mildew often build up.
- Adding too much detergent to your laundry: When it comes to soap, conventional wisdom says the more, the better. But that’s not true with laundry detergent. Too much detergent can leave a stain or residue on clothes or in your washer, interfere with proper draining, cause leaks, and require extra rinses. The extra detergent can even trap stains and make it difficult to wash them out. It’s best to stick to the guide on the bottle for the amount of detergent you’re using. That way, you’re not overdoing it and putting your clothes or washer at risk.
- Not emptying your dryer’s lint trap: Your dryer’s lint trap captures lint and fabric pieces that can build up. Let it go too long, and you could start a fire. Clear the trap every time you run a load, vacuuming it out along with your dryer vent every few months.
- Washing towels with fabric softener: Everyone loves a soft, fluffy towel. But the way to get one is not by using fabric softener. Fabric softeners will put a coating on fabrics that makes them less absorbent.
- Putting old sneakers in the washer: You can clean shoes in the washer, but they may never fit the same. If you’re just worried about a dingy look on the exterior, you can scrub them to look new with toothpaste and a brillo pad.
Most cleaning mistakes happen in the kitchen. Cookware may require special care, food bacteria can infiltrate your fridge, and many cleaning tasks are forgotten or overlooked.
- Putting your cutting board in the dishwasher: Throwing your cutting board in the dishwasher isn’t enough to get it truly clean. Food can get left stuck in the grooves of wooden cutting boards. To get your cutting board really clean, scrub it with a halved lemon and kosher salt, then wash it with soap and water.
- Using the wrong kitchen counter top cleaner: A basic kitchen all surfaces cleaner may not be the right choice for your counter tops. Granite, laminate, butcher block, and other counter top materials have different cleaning needs. Try to treat them the same, and you can leave residue and even damage your counter tops. Before you buy a cleaner, check the bottle’s instructions to make sure it’s recommended that you use it on your type of counter top.
- Not cleaning your garbage disposal: You might not think about cleaning your garbage disposal, but it certainly needs cleaning. Lots of food and grease pass through it and leave their mark. You can clean it up by freezing a mixture of water and plain white vinegar, then crushing the ice cubes up in the disposal. You can also clean with lemon or orange rinds with cold water.
- Letting counter tops air dry: Cleaning your counter tops isn’t enough. To keep them looking good, you’ll need to dry them, too. While it’s tempting to just let your counter tops air dry, doing so can leave residue behind. Avoid using a paper towel and instead use a soft, dry cloth.
- Cleaning stainless steel with abrasive products: Sponges and abrasive cleaning products can scratch stainless steel appliances. You should use a stainless steel cleaner that’s oil based, or stick to hot water on a soft, clean cloth.
- Not cleaning your kitchen sink: Your kitchen sink is full of dangerous and disease causing bacteria. It’s wet, dark, and a great environment for growing bacteria. It should be wiped down with soap and water every time you do the dishes.
- Not cleaning your cheese grater enough: Cheese graters usually end up with cheese stuck to them no matter what you do, especially on the inside. But if you grate a potato, it will remove cheese residue — and you’ll have potatoes ready for hash browns.
- Washing knives in the dishwasher: Washing knives in the dishwasher can damage the handles or lead to blade dullness. You should wash and dry knives by hand. Don’t leave them to soak, or the handles may shrink.
- Trusting your dishwasher to deep clean cookie sheets: Over the years, well used cookie sheets can start to look really beat up. Burn marks and residue are common and won’t come out with a trip through the dishwasher. You can use a solution of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide combined with a little time and elbow grease to get cookie sheets looking new again.
- Just wiping down your microwave: Exploding eggs, grease, splattered sauces, and more can make any microwave look downright gross. Wiping down and even scrubbing the inside often isn’t enough. To make it easier to remove buildup inside your microwave, just use vinegar. Put a bowl of water and white vinegar inside, heat for two minutes, and then wipe down the inside. The steam created by the water and vinegar will loosen up the buildup and make it easy to remove.
- Not cleaning your coffee maker: Coffee makers aren’t a common item on kitchen cleaning to do lists, but they need cleaning nonetheless. They can get buildup inside and pots can become dingy. You can clean a coffee maker using water and vinegar. Fill your pot with half water and half vinegar and run a brew cycle, pausing halfway. Then, keep brewing with just plain water until the vinegar smell is gone.
- Soaking stainless steel: Soaking stainless steel in your sink might help remove tough to scrub messes, but it’s not a good idea because it can cause pitting. It’s a better idea to rub it with vinegar. If that doesn’t work, try lemon juice.
- Organizing spoons in your dishwasher: Spoons placed in the dishwasher next to each other can nest during the wash cycle, leaving part of the spoons unexposed and unclean. To stop this, you should put spoons next to forks and knives, or flip some upside down.
- Using soap on cast iron: Cast iron cookware is versatile and a great investment for your kitchen. But you can do damage to it if you’re cleaning it wrong. You shouldn’t use soap or steel wool on cast iron, or ever put it in the dishwasher. Instead, you should clean cast iron right after use. Don’t put it in the sink, or it may rust. Wash with hot water and a sponge or stiff brush, using kosher salt to remove stuck on food. Use a towel to dry it, then put on a light coat of vegetable oil.
- Not using enough dish soap: If you see scum buildup in your sink, you may not be using enough dish soap. Without enough dish soap, fats and dirt can cling to your sink. But if you use enough, the suds will help to prevent them from sticking to the sides of your sink.
- Soaking burned on food: Tough grease and burnt food are hard to remove. Most people simply soak their cookware, but there’s another way. While your cookware is still warm, add club soda to it. The bubbles will pull the grease and burnt food off of the cookware.
- Using oven cleaner: You can clean your oven with traditional oven cleaner or even with a self cleaning cycle, but many households find it more effective to clean it with baking soda and water. Simply make a paste of 1 1/4 cups baking soda and seven tablespoons of water. Wipe the oven surfaces with the paste, then lightly spray inside the oven with plain white vinegar and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
- Not cleaning the stove hood: Right above, the action of the stove with grease and food, stove hoods attract oil and messes easily, but they’re often neglected. You can keep your stove hood looking clean by adding a few drops of cooking oil to a paper towel and wiping it down. This will erase greasy spots and repel future stains.
- Not cleaning your dishwasher: Your dishwasher cleans dishes every day — it’s self cleaning, right? Wrong. Dishwashers develop buildup that can make your dishes dirty and your dishwasher more effective. Use vinegar and baking soda to wipe out grime. Just run a cycle with a glass full of vinegar, then another cycle with hot water and baking soda sprinkled on the bottom of the dishwasher.
- Neglecting kitchen cabinets: It’s not just your counter top that needs wiping down, your cabinets need regular cleaning, too. They can accumulate spills, dust, and dirty fingerprints. Remove the gunk from your cabinets with a mixture of two parts baking soda and one part coconut oil.
- Washing your sponge in the dishwasher: You can wash your sponge in the dishwasher, or even sterilize it by putting it wet in the microwave. But it’s more effective to just wash your sponge in the washing machine — or throw it away when it’s too dirty.
- Washing the dirtiest dishes first: When you’re hand washing dishes, you might want to tackle the worst of it first to get it out of the way. But to keep the rest of your dishes clean, it’s better to hand wash cleaner items first, saving the dirty, greasy dishes for the end.
- Not deep cleaning your fridge: You may not give your fridge’s cleanliness a second thought, but spills and cross contamination along with dirty hands can be a real problem. And if your fridge is too full, it may not run at peak efficiency, costing you money as it uses more energy to run. You should deep clean your fridge, discarding old items and cleaning shelves and drawers. Soak shelves and drawers in a cleaning solution, wipe them down, and replace them once they’re dried.
- Shaking your toaster to clean it: Shaking the crumbs out of your toaster isn’t enough. Use a clean tooth brush to get all of the crumbs out of it, then wash the exterior. You can use tartar with a few drops of water and a sponge to get the shine back.
- Not cleaning your can opener: Your can opener comes into contact with food and should be cleaned after each use. You should at least run it through the dishwasher now and then or wash it in warm water with soap. If you have serious buildup, use a toothbrush to scrub the blade and remove gunk.
Home to mold, mildew, and other nasties, your bathroom can harbor serious germs and bacteria. You should make sure that the place where you get clean stays clean, too.
- Wiping down a clogged shower head: If you’re cleaning your shower head like the rest of your shower or bath and then calling it a day, you’re not doing anything to address the clogged jets. Minerals in your water build up over time and make your shower head less effective. But you can clear them out with plain white vinegar and a plastic bag. All you need to do is pour the vinegar into the bag, then place it around your shower head. It will loosen the clogs and make your shower head work better and look cleaner.
- Wiping down faucets with regular cleaner: Faucets can get pretty gross and even accumulate mineral buildup. You can get your faucet looking sparkling new with waxed paper and rubbing alcohol. Wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to clean it, then follow up waxed paper to prevent water spots and fingerprints.
- Not cleaning your shower curtain: Just like the rest of your shower area, your shower curtain can attract mold, mildew, and soap scum. You might be tempted to throw it away and start over, but they can be cleaned and restored. You can wash it in your washing machine. It’s best to add an old towel, detergent, and a cup of white vinegar, wash as usual, and then hang to dry.
- Cleaning bath and shower mold with regular bathroom cleaner: Bathtubs and showers are warm, moist places — perfect for harboring mold growth. Mold is notoriously stubborn and difficult to remove once it takes hold. But you can kill it with bleach. Soak beauty coils or old towel strips in bleach and lay them along the caulk overnight to remove mold stains.
The place where you sleep should be clean and comfortable. Make sure your bed is clean and healthy for a good night’s sleep.
- Not cleaning your mattress: Most people clean mattresses simply by changing sheets and pads and brushing off any obvious debris. But dead skin, dirt, even bugs can linger. But it’s easy to clean and refresh your mattress. When you throw your sheets in the washer, sprinkle the surface with baking soda. Then, vacuum it up before you make your bed again for a fresher and deodorized bed.
- Not washing pillows: Pillows can build up with dead skin and sweat and should be washed occasionally. They can be put in the washing machine. Make sure to balance your load with multiple pillows and dry them thoroughly before putting them on the bed again. To get them especially fresh, put them out on the line to dry rather than putting them in the dryer. The sun will bleach out any stains on the surface.
- Washing your comforter too often: Your comforter doesn’t need to be washed as often as your sheets — not even close. While your sheets come into contact with your body and pick up sweat, dirt, and skin, your comforter will stay clean unless there’s an accident.
- Not washing your sheets every week: Many people don’t treat their sheets like clothes, only washing them once every few weeks — or even once every few months. But with dirt, sweat, and germ buildup, you should be washing them more often than that. It’s a good idea to wash about every week, or at least every other week. Avoid hot temperatures, as they can weaken fibers in the sheets.
Keeping floors clean can be a challenge. After all, people walk on them. Are you making things worse with these mistakes?
- You’re vacuuming before dusting: When you dust and wipe down counter tops, dust, dirt, and crumbs will fall to the floor. Take a top down approach to cleaning, dusting shelves and cabinets, then counter tops and other surfaces, finishing up by vacuuming floors and mopping.
- Not cleaning baseboards: Baseboards collect dust, but they don’t always get cleaned when you’re vacuuming and mopping the rest of the floor. Pay attention to your baseboards, vacuuming them and wiping them down. Consider using a dryer sheet to repel dust in the future.
- Using too much water to clean floors: Water and/ or steam may be needed to clean your floor, but be careful not to use too much. Too much water can warp wood or laminate floors. It’s better to use cleaners that are specifically formulated for cleaning wood floors.
Furniture and Electronics
Using wood polish seems like a good idea — but it’s not. Neither is using a vacuum to clean your electronics. Learn about these cleaning mistakes and more.
- You’re vacuuming blinds: Blinds pick up dust and grime, fingerprints, and more. Many people just vacuum them, but that doesn’t get everything. To get them really clean, wipe them down blade by blade. You can make it easier by rubber banding two microfiber cleaners together.
- Using wood polish: Using wood polish on furniture seems like a good idea, but it’s not. They may make your furniture look shiny, but they actually attract dust over time. Dry dusting is a better choice for regular maintenance. Clean up spills and other marks with a damp cloth.
- Vacuuming electronics with a regular vacuum cleaner: Using a regular vacuum cleaner can be hazardous to electronics, creating static that can cause damage. Look for an anti static vacuum specially designed for vacuuming electronics.
- Removing pet hair with a lint brush: You can remove pet hair from furniture with a lint brush, but a rubber glove is faster and more effective.
- Not cleaning your couch: Families often spend a lot of time on the couch and that means couches can attract a lot of mess. Food, sweat, spills, pet hair, and more can make couches gross in a hurry — especially microfiber couches. You should vacuum your couch every other week, spot cleaning as you go. If you have a microfiber couch that’s showing lots of stains, clean it up by spraying rubbing alcohol on it, scrubbing with a white sponge, and brushing it with a stiff white brush.
- Not cleaning knobs and handles: You may not clean your fridge handles, cabinet knobs, door knobs, or your oven door, but these spots can be some of the dirtiest in your home. Coming into contact with hands often multiple times per day, they can catch and spread bacteria including listeria and E.coli, making your family sick. They should be wiped down daily.
- Not cleaning light switches: Like knobs and handles, light switches attract germs and bacteria. And even worse, they’re bathroom germs and bacteria. Wipe them down every day to keep them clean.
- Not cleaning your keyboard: Your keyboard can be dirtier than a toilet seat, picking up messes from sneezing, coughing, eating, and more. You may have loose hair, crumbs, dust, beverage stains, and other messes in and on your keyboard — and you’re touching it every day. At a minimum, clean your keyboard with a light vacuuming and wipe down with a soft cloth. If you want to get really detailed, pop out the keys and use cotton swabs and a deep cleaner.
- Not cleaning your cell phone: Like your keyboard, your cell phone can harbor serious germs and bacteria. Think of all the places you may take your cell phone — including your bathroom. They can get pretty dirty. Keep your cell phone clean by wiping it down with a microfiber cloth. To keep it cleaner in the future, wash your hands before using your cell phone.
- Washing windows when the sun is out: When the sun is out and the weather is warm, glass cleaner dries too quickly. This can lead to streaks on your windows. Rather than washing your windows in the heat of the day, you should wait until the late afternoon or evening. The sky should be overcast and below 70 degrees. (This is a good excuse for putting off window washing during the summer.)
Have you thought about how dirty toys, cell phones, even computer keyboards get? Learn about household items you may be overlooking in your cleaning — and the right way to clean them and other items in your home.
- Not cleaning up toys: Toys can get covered in germs, food, and just general kid messes. They need to be sanitized, but it takes a lot of effort to clean them by hand. Instead of doing that, you can clean all hard plastic toys in the dishwasher. They’ll be sanitized and clean.
- Vacuuming up broken glass: It’s easy to get large pieces of broken glass cleaned up, but small pieces are more difficult. You can vacuum them up, but you may not get them all. Try picking them up better by pressing a piece of glass against the area, then follow up with vacuuming.
- Not cleaning your TV remote: TV remotes are touched often and can pick up plenty of germs and bacteria. Dead skin and spills can end up on them, too. Wipe your remote down with an antibacterial wipe regularly to keep it clean.
- Not washing reusable bags: Reusable bags are handy and eco conscious — and they can also be dirty. These bags come into contact with dirty grocery carts, raw meat, and more. The bacteria can build up and get onto your food. Clean your bags by washing them in your washing machine.
- Cleaning coffee stains with soap: Coffee stains can be difficult to remove, especially if you’re just using soap. Baking soda, salt, vinegar, even egg yolks can help bring coffee stains up.
- Not cleaning your humidifier: If you’re running your humidifier regularly, you’re building up serious deposits and possibly even mold — and you’re breathing it all in. Your humidifier should be cleaned every third day with bleach, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, and water.