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9 Things You Should Never Try to Clean Yourself

Sure you could try to clean these things yourself, but you might just end up completely ruining them instead.

carpet. Background. Textile texture.The_Pixel/Shutterstock


It may seem like an odd choice to hire a professional just to clean your carpets, but James Neal, owner of Rainbow International Restoration of Northern Cook and Lake Counties, highly recommends it. We aren’t saying you need to bring someone in every week, but according to Neal, “carpets tend to collect many pollutants that regular carpet cleaners don’t pick up.” Neal recommends bringing in a professional cleaner once every 12-18 months to deep clean your carpets, and get rid of any dander, mold, pollen, and dust mites that may be collecting in ways you can’t reach on your own.

If you’ve got a particularly tough stain, bring in help sooner rather than later. “Our team has come across scenarios where homeowners have used store-bought products to clean their carpets without taking into consideration the fibers and chemistry of the carpet. As a result, we’ve seen stains get bigger, brighter, and decolorized,” Neal adds. While you’re waiting for the professional, try filling your time by tackling one of the things you can clean in 5 minutes or less.

Room full of box containers and stuff for cleaning. Move, packing and unpacking.Lordn/Shutterstock

Move-in and move-out cleaning

Kathy Turley of Home Clean Heroes suggests leaving these two mammoth undertakings to the professionals. While cleaning an empty home sounds easy enough, it can be a nightmare. One area Home Clean Heroes focuses on during this type of cleaning that you definitely don’t want to tackle yourself is removing the grease build-up off of the kitchen counters and cabinets. Getting a house move-in ready can be a much larger job than you are anticipating, and Turley recommends avoiding the stress altogether and scheduling a professional cleaning before the big date. Want to know how they do it? Here are our favorite house cleaning hacks from professional cleaners.

comfortable beautiful living room with business woman high heel shoes.PR Image Factory/Shutterstock

Area rugs

“Most people don’t realize how easily DIY cleaning can ruin area rugs. These lovely pieces are often family heirlooms. Many are made from expensive materials. Cleaning them requires special products and gentle techniques,” Diana Rodriquez-Zaba, owner of Service Master Restoration by Zaba told Reader’s Digest.

“Just the other day,” says Rodriquez-Zaba, “a customer brought us her distressed cowhide rug. She tried cleaning it with detergent and water, but the rug became bent and distorted as it dried. She didn’t know that you never use water on any type of animal skin. We handle area rug cleaning, stain removal, and restoration for Chicago homeowners every day. If you have a delicate area rug made of silk or exotic materials, don’t try to clean it yourself. Don’t risk ruining a real treasure.”

Cotton buds dipped in ammonia.KRPD/Shutterstock

A chemical spill

It can be hard to focus on the dangerous nature of a spill or mess right when it happens, but Anselm Doering, CEO of EcoLogic Solutions urges everyone to call for help the moment they find themselves with a chemical spill. “Especially spills involving bleach and ammonia,” Doering says. “But I’d also call in professional help for any cleaning involving asbestos or black mold.” Don’t put yourself at risk for injury or illness. Open the windows, get out of the area, and call in professional reinforcements. Something else the professionals want to tell you: You’re probably overcleaning your house.

brown picture of genuine fabric upholsteryAlaettin YILDIRIM/Shutterstock

Upholstery fabric

Harriet Jones, a former cleaner and current supervisor for Go Cleaners London has one thing to ask: Step away from the upholstery! “In my experience, a cleaning pros’ worst nightmare is dealing with spots on textile fabrics, especially those that have already been treated all wrong,” Jones told Reader’s Digest.

“Many people try to cope with messed up upholsteries by themselves,” says Jones. “Whether it’s a money-saving seek or a hands-on enthusiasm, people are often induced to act alone. Unfortunately, more often than not, they fail to overcome the stain and muck up the whole item. As a professional cleaner for a decade now, I have to say—unsuccessfully treated stains become quite hard to remove later on.” Here’s what the professionals do every day in their own homes to keep them in great shape.

White tilesBrostock/Shutterstock

Tile grout

So there’s a tiny discolored mark on that white space between your tiles. No big deal, right? Just grab your favorite cleaning product and a toothbrush and work away at it! After all, that’s what your parents did, so it should work fine! Wrong. Most cleaning agents include some form of bleach and bleach can be harmful both to the grout between your beautifully set tiles, and also the tile itself. According to Jones, even that DIY vinegar solution you heard about can seep into your tiles’ pores and set the stain more permanently. Call a professional for this one. If you really must do this on your own, try using one of the cleaning products professionals swear by.

New wooden houseRuta Saulyte-Laurinaviciene/Shutterstock


According to Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, calling in the professionals for your yearly gutter cleaning is a no-brainer. “In addition to the approximately 500,000 yearly accidents and injuries involved with gutter maintenance, there are many diseases that you are exposed to. Harmful bacteria, mold, and dead animals are often trapped in the gutters, and thin garden gloves simply aren’t enough protection.” It can be a bit unnerving to learn about the secrets your housecleaner knows about you.

Kitchen Detail in Newly Remodeled Home: Hardwood Floors, Stainless Steel Refrigerator, and Quartz CountersBreadmaker/Shutterstock

Behind your refrigerator

Sometimes, failing to do the job properly can lead to larger problems. Andrew Cunningham, founder of DailyPest can attest to that. “One of the biggest problem areas I’ve found is under and behind the refrigerator. People will leave it months, sometimes years before they pull it out and have a good clean,” Cunningham says.

“We had a client back in 2012 with a serious cockroach infestation and they had no idea where the little buggers were coming from,” says Cunningham. “One of the first things I did was pull out the refrigerator (fully) and it was almost like a murder scene. Interestingly, the client had admitted to us that she attempted to clean this area a few months prior, but was unable to move it far enough. If she had called in the professional sooner, the whole situation would have been averted.” Getting in those hard to reach areas can be tough, but it’s a lot easier than you’d think to follow these secrets of people who always have clean houses.

Condensing Boiler, Combi Boiler for house heating. Gas Boiler and Boiler Supplies Radovan1/Shutterstock


This isn’t just a matter of ease or illness, your immediate safety could be at risk. “An examination and cleaning of a boiler could go wrong at any moment,” said Bryan Stoddard of Homewares Insider. “An average person isn’t always aware of all steps needed to secure the boiler before it can be safely cleaned and its parts replaced. An expert will make sure that there is no electricity freely flowing, that the heaters are turned off, and that there is no gas leakage. Since there is always a chance that something could go wrong, it’s best to not tempt fate and leave things in professional hands.” While they’re working, just keep in mind these 38 things your housecleaner secretly wants you to know.

James Neal, owner of Rainbow International Restoration
Kathy Turley of Home Clean Heroes
Diana Rodriquez-Zaba, owner of Service Master Restoration by Zaba
Anselm Doering, CEO of EcoLogic Solutions
Harriet Jones, supervisor for Go Cleaners London
Caleb Backe, expert for Maple Holistics
Andrew Cunningham, founder of DailyPest
Bryan Stoddard of Homewares Insider

Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy is the newsletter editor at Reader’s Digest. She writes and reports on home, culture, and general interest stories. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 2017 with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Writing.