13 Bad Cleaning Habits You Didn’t Realize You Had
How many of these cleaning mistakes have you made?
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Make your products work for you
Keeping your home and belongings clean, sanitized, and in excellent shape requires a good chunk of effort. Naturally, you want to ensure said efforts aren’t futile. Here’s the thing, though: Many people unknowingly make household chores harder than necessary, and in some cases, they accidentally leave their homes dirtier than they were in the first place. In the name of cleaner homes, we’re breaking down some common bad cleaning habits and mistakes you might not even realize you’re making. While you’re at it, you might want to pick up a few of these genius products that will clean your house in less than an hour.
Cleaning without a plan
Winging it sometimes works, but that’s rarely the case when it comes to cleaning. For example, if you’re dusting your dresser, that’s great, but make sure you dust the ceiling fan above first; otherwise, you’ll just end up backtracking. That’s why a game plan is necessary. “I recommend cleaning from top to bottom and from left to right,” says cleaning expert Diane Regalbuto, CEO of Too Little Time Lifestyle. “For example, dust all ceiling fans and high-reach places and work your way down to baseboards and around the room in a clockwise direction.” When dusting those hard-to-reach areas, use a soft, dry cloth, such as the Swiffer Dusters Super Extender Dusting Kit. Check out these 13 other clever cleaning hacks from professional house cleaners.
Overloading—or poorly loading—your dishwasher
Dishwashers make our lives easier, but in order for them to work as intended, it’s important to load them properly. “Improper loading can keep your machine from working efficiently,” notes Brian Sansoni, senior vice president for the American Cleaning Institute. “Carefully load your dishwasher, putting things in their proper place and not overloading it.” For example, make sure the dirty parts can be reached by the sprayer arms, mix up the silverware so items don’t stick together, and keep your cups on the top drawer and upside down. Sansoni also says it’s important to keep your dishwasher itself clean so it remains efficient and effective. Try the Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner, which breaks down lime, calcium, rust, and grease buildup while also deodorizing. If your dishes aren’t getting clean after a cycle, even when you’re doing everything right, your dishwasher might be dying.
Spraying disinfectant and wiping it up immediately
“Most household disinfectant holds a three- to 10-minute dwell time, which means the product needs to sit wet on a surface for it to actually disinfectant,” says Karina Neff, president and CEO of MaxiMaids. “Also note that it’s important to remove debris or dirt from the surface with a microfiber towel before disinfecting.” To properly disinfect, wipe down the surface with your towel to remove soil, debris, and dirt, and then spray the surface with your disinfectant. Follow the label instructions for the product dwell time, then wipe up. Neff is a fan of Clorox Disinfecting Spray because it’s EPA tested and approved, as is Lysol, which is one of the few products that’s also been proven to kill coronavirus on surfaces.
Using a dirty sponge
Again, the goal is to make sure your products are working for you and not against you! Dirty sponges are just going to spread gunk. “Your sponge is likely the dirtiest thing in your home,” says Samsoni. “Replace it—or disinfect it with diluted bleach—regularly so you don’t transfer germs inadvertently when cleaning your dishes and other surfaces.” Having a backup of sponges at the ready will help. Nab this 12-pack from Amazon. By the way, this is the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing.
Scrubbing a fresh carpet stain
Grabbing a towel and scrubbing at a stain is a knee-jerk reaction, but it’s not doing your carpet any favors. The key is to gently blot the area to pick up as much of the stain as possible—ideally until the spot is dry. This is better than scrubbing, which not only wreaks havoc on the carpet fibers but also presses the stain deeper into the carpet. Once dry, use a stain lifter, such as Blue Magic Carpet Stain & Spot Lifter, and follow the directions on the label. If you’re into DIY cleaners, check out this list of homemade carpet cleaners you probably already have in your house.
Not cleaning your fridge vent
You’ve got a sparkling clean fridge interior, but that’s all for naught if you’ve forgotten to clean the grill and vent! “This often gets missed, which causes dust to build up and ultimately slows down the system,” says Regalbuto. “Once a month, simply wipe it clean.” Spray a soft cloth with an all-purpose spray, such as Seventh Generation All Purpose Cleaner, and gently wipe down the grill and vent. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a hose extension to suck up dirt and grime in tiny, hard-to-reach spots. While you’re at it, don’t forget the top of your fridge and the area behind it, and make sure you’re not guilty of these 7 things that shorten the life of your refrigerator.
Using the same cloth to clean an entire space
We get it. You want to conserve time and materials. Unfortunately, using the same disinfectant wipe, sponge, or cloth to clean an entire space—such as the bathroom or kitchen—will backfire since you’ll eventually just start spreading grime from one place to another. To cut back on waste, keep a pile of cleaning cloths handy, such as these multicolored ones from AmazonBasics. Simply throw them in the washer when you’re finished, and they’ll be ready for the next deep clean!
Forgetting to clean kitchen handles and knobs
Of course you know that the kitchen has its fair share of grime, but chances are, you’re neglecting a few problem spots: pulls, handles, and doorknobs! Worst of all, these areas are grease, grime, dust, and bacteria magnets. “Use a gentle household cleaner—such as Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner or plain soapy water—making sure to wipe dry afterward in order to remove water stains,” advises Regalbuto. Looking to power through this chore? Here’s how to clean your kitchen in 5 minutes flat.
Not cleaning your light switches
This is another easy-to-forget spot to clean, but boy, is it important! “Bacteria and germs are super high on light switches,” says Regalbuto. They also start looking really grimy and dirty from all that touching. “Clean them about once a week, and increase frequency if you or someone in your family is sick.” Antibacterial wipes are real heroes for this job. Try Clorox Disinfecting Wipes if you can find them in stock; if not, basic disinfectant wipes from Target will get the job done. Light switches are among the things you should actually be cleaning every day.
Using way too much laundry detergent
“Using too much laundry detergent not only wastes product, but it can leave residue on your clothes rather than clean them,” notes Sansoni. At the same time, you also don’t want to use too little. “Using too little product prevents your laundry from getting as clean as it should, perhaps requiring you to wash it again, wasting water.” The solution is to check the laundry detergent label and follow their directions to a T; they’ve done a ton of research to find that Goldilocks amount, so listen to them. If you’re in the market for a new detergent, try HEX Performance Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent, which effectively eliminates bacteria-related odors and stains while also keeping your clothing in tip-top shape. To avoid laundry mistakes, here’s a guide on the right way to do laundry.
Cleaning everything all at once
Having a designated cleaning day is wonderful, but note that some things need to be cleaned with more frequency. “When you wait to clean your home all at once, the surfaces that should be cleaned more often—such as doorknobs, keyboards, cabinet handles, and other frequently touched surfaces—stay dirty,” says Sansoni. He recommends making a set cleaning schedule. Pick a day or days of the week to wipe down and clean the “hot spots,” and spread the rest of your cleaning out over time. Having the right products on hand will help, too. A multipurpose cleaner, such as Everspring Lemon & Mint All Purpose Cleaner, is a great option. You should also stock up on these cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy.
Using liquid drain cleaner in your toilet
Liquid drain cleaners are great for tackling your gunked-up sink, but they are not meant for toilets. If you’re dealing with a clogged toilet, this is where a good, old-fashioned plunger comes into play. It’ll help clear your toilet without causing any damage, explains plumbing company Laney’s. The simplehuman plunger looks a bit more sophisticated than the rest if you’re concerned about appearances.
Neglecting your microwave
Out of sight, out of mind—right? Well, until you open up your microwave and see a splattery mess! It’s best to clean your microwave after every use (a simple wipe-down will do), but if you end up with a dry, caked-on mess, you’ve got some options. Regalbuto says, “Place a bowl inside with lemon juice, water, and vinegar and turn the microwave on for two minutes to let it steam up. After, wipe down the interior with a damp cloth.” Make sure to clean the buttons on the outside, too. If you want to make this microwave cleaning chore more fun, try this Smart Microwave Steam Cleaner, a volcano-shaped gadget that “erupts” with steam and vinegar.
- Diane Regalbuto, CEO of Too Little Time Lifestyle
- Brian Sansoni, senior vice president for the American Cleaning Institute
- Karina Neff, president and CEO of MaxiMaids
- Laney’s: “5 Worst Toilet Habits You May Be Guilty Of”