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There’s nothing I love more than having a clean house, but more often than not, before I can even enjoy my celebratory glass of wine, I’ll spot something I missed–a dusty shelf over here, a streaky window there, or a stray cobweb up in the corner. No matter how hard I try, those little cleaning tasks are seemingly never done.
Chances are, we’ve all been there! Whether you are a housework perfectionist or a cleaning protester, there are times when we just have to let a few dust bunnies go. Even so, there may be a few key cleaning steps might be missing, ones that are actually creating more work for you later. Even worse, certain cleaning mistakes can even be harmful to your family’s health.
The next time you clean, take some time to consider if you’re guilty of any of these cleaning mistakes. With just a few changes, you’ll be able to kick up your feet and enjoy that glass of wine sooner than you think!
1. Mixing Cleaners
Never mix bleach with well, pretty much any other cleaner. Mixing bleach with vinegar, ammonia, or rubbing alcohol can create a dangerous chemical reaction, resulting in harmful fumes, and skin and eye irritation.
If you’re looking for some natural alternatives to the more caustic store-bought cleaners, never fear! Try one of our DIY home-cleaning solutions without worry. Combine vinegar, lemon juice, and other common household items with essential oils to craft cleaners that you and your family can feel good about using.
2. Not Letting Cleaner Soak In
If you’re like me, you’re usually in a hurry. But, as it turns out, the “spray and wipe” method isn’t the most effective way to get things clean. Commercial cleaning products often have a suggested soak time to allow the product to soften grime and dirt. The recommended time is usually found on the label and is typically only a minute or two for most sprays…but those 60 seconds can make the difference between a surface wipe and a deep clean. Allowing the spray to set also gives the cleaner more time to kill germs and bacteria. Carpet cleaner and pet stain remover usually take even longer, so be sure read the recommendations on the package.
The next time you’re cleaning, do your spraying first, then move on to another area before coming back. Resist the urge to spray and wipe and you’ll get a more thorough clean.
3. Taking the Term “All Purpose” Too Literally
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a truly “all purpose” cleaner. Though some cleaners work on many surfaces, some areas of the house need special attention.
If you have expensive or absorbent surfaces, it’s worth investing in cleaning products intended for them. Natural countertops such as granite or marble, wood furniture, and electronics all need specific cleaning products. The same is true when cleaning or treating wood flooring, antiques, or suede and other upholstery. The result of selecting the wrong cleaning product for any of these surfaces could be a thousand dollar mistake.
Also bear in mind that you’ll get a better clean if you use products for the purpose they’re intended. You’ll find streaks and spots if you use dishwashing soap instead of dishwashing liquid, or counter spray instead of window spray. Many natural cleaning solutions still vary depending on the surface. Vinegar might be fine for a bathroom, but too harsh for wooden door frames. Do a little research beforehand and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache later.
4. Trying to Tackle Everything at Once
Always go into cleaning in an organized manner. Remember what I said before about boycotting perfection? Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you’re unprepared in the face of an insurmountable task.
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Instead, try creating a cleaning schedule. This will help you tackle bite-sized chunks of work each day rather than the whole shebang at one time. If you aren’t sure where to get started, try reading my Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning. Though it may seem silly to read about cleaning, if you’ve ever seen a college dorm room, you know not everyone goes out into the world knowing how to actually clean. It’s not an inherent talent. For those of you who’ve been cleaning since you were a youngster helping mom with chores, it never hurts to take a refresher course. I’ve learned some nifty tricks to save time and money while cleaning over the years. Either way, it’s important to take an organized approach and divide and conquer! You can do it!
5. Ignoring Mildew and Mold
Yuck—no one ignores mildew and mold on purpose, of course. But anyone can be surprised by how quickly mildew can form. It’s a major problem for many households and can emerge in some surprising places, potentially making you and your family ill.
According to the CDC, kitchens and bathrooms are the most common areas for mold and mildew. But, any area of your house can be subject to them if you have a humidity problem or lack proper ventilation. Be sure to always put items away completely dry, including towels, laundry, shoes, jackets, and any other fabric. Mold can grow on carpeting, upholstery, paper, drywall, and other porous or soft surfaces.
You should also check the seals on your windows, caulking around your shower and sink, and any area that suddenly appears gray, gold, black, green or brown. Even appliance seals, like those on front-loading washers, refrigerators and freezers, can cause house mold.
Try to keep your home well ventilated and quickly clean up any leaks or spills. Check basements and areas around windows. Ceilings and crawl spaces can also be common mildew areas, so watch for any staining or other suspicious signs. Call an expert if you suspect something is seriously awry.
Most people think bleach is the best way to rid your home of mold. Not true! Bleach actually only kills surface mold you can see—but on porous surfaces, mold has stubborn roots bleach simply cannot reach. Instead try Lysol Disinfectant Spray to keep that mold from coming back.
6. Using Fabric Softener with your Towels
What?! Yes, it’s true. Using fabric softener causes towels to be fluffy and soft, but it coats them in a chemical that won’t let them absorb a lick of water. Next time you do a batch of towels, try adding a little splash of vinegar instead. Your towels will come out smelling just fine, plus they’ll be soft and they’ll still get you dry.
Also watch out for fabric softener with microfiber cleaning towels. These towels buff surfaces to a beautiful shine, but they no longer do their job after one cycle with fabric softener.
7. Washing Windows in the Sunshine
Can you think of a better time to wash windows than a bright sunshine-filled morning? You can almost hear the bluebirds as you channel Snow White and make your house sparkle. Unfortunately, Disney princesses must have magic window cleaner as well. Sunshine and heat make cleaners evaporate almost the moment they hit your window, leaving streaks behind.
Avoid fighting an uphill battle against your windows and Mother Nature and instead pick a day that’s a bit cooler and overcast. You may not feel quite the same zest for cleaning as you would in the sunshine, but your sparkly windows will make you feel much happier in the end.
8. Spraying to Disinfect (Before Cleaning)
When you spray cleaner on a surface, first make sure there aren’t any crumbs or dirt on the surface. Disinfecting spray kills germs but it doesn’t magically dissolve crumbs and food particles. Not only that, but babies, small children and pets may ingest these chemical-laden morsels and become ill. It seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed someone spray, and then sweep the dirty (and now damp) crumbs onto the floor.
You should first remove debris, dust, vacuum, and THEN use water and cleaners to disinfect your surfaces. This won’t only make the job smoother, but safer as well.
9. Scrubbing in Stains
Scrubbing spills actually grinds them into the surface. The next time someone spills a glass of soda or tomato sauce, remove as much as possible and then blot the stain with an oxygenated cleaner (like OxiClean) to keep it from working its way into the fibers. This is one case where elbow grease isn’t needed, but rather patience and the correct type of cleaner for the stain. If you aren’t sure how to treat something, please refer to my guide on how to remove (almost) any stain.
10. Starting From the Bottom and Moving Up
Always clean from the top of the room down—or , you’re just creating more work for yourself. Start with the ceiling corners, walls, windows and sills and move on to furniture, upholstery, and then the floors. Dusting after you vacuum just pushes more dirt onto the floor you just cleaned!
Floors should be the final step in any room. You’ll find cleaning from the top down makes your routine go much faster and will help you feel more organized and truly finished with a room when you’re done. No more looking up to discover cobwebs on the ceiling!
11. Ignoring Throw Pillows, Curtains, etc
Pillows are home to dust mites, skin cells, dirt, and other particles. I know some of us find that horrifying, but truth is: they’re all around us! Putting clean pillowcases on dirty pillows or tossing dust-filled pillows on clean bedding is counterintuitive. You should wash throws, pillows and other fabric items frequently.
Curtains, and particularly shower curtains, can get much dirtier than you think. They’re often the barrier between moisture and dirt and the rest of your home. Fabric is a porous surface that can trap these little goodies and harbor them, which does keep the rest of your house cleaner, but also means they should be washed at least a few times per year.
12. Keeping Sponges Too Long
I’m always amazed at how many people try to eke out the last bit of life from their kitchen sponge. I’m as frugal as the next gal (okay, we all know just how frugal I can be), but a kitchen sponge past its prime is just about the dirtiest thing in your house, short of a toilet brush.
Toss the sponge in the microwave for a minute every day to kill any bacteria and throw it out after a week or two, tops. Allow sponges, brushes, and any cleaning items to completely dry before you put them away because bacteria and germs just LOVE a wet sponge or brush.
And finally….never forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
One of the best ways to keep your house sparkling clean is to head off dirt at the front end—don’t even let it in your house in the first place! If you swore you’d never be one of those people who removed their shoes at the door, you might want to reconsider. Shoes can track in dirt, allergens, mud, and germs, and drag them through the rest of your house. There’s nothing fussy or offensive about asking guests to remove their shoes. You’ll find a shoeless home has cleaner floors. If you just can’t, then at the very least invest in an absorbent welcome mat.
Keep kiddos corralled in the kitchen if they’re eating, rather than running around the house with food. Yes, it’s less fun than eating cookies in bed, BUT you’ll never have to Google “how to remove chocolate from carpet” again.
When all else fails, remain calm. Approach cleaning with a plan and in an organized manner. Give yourself room to relax now and again. Next time, finish your glass of wine before you tackle those ceiling cobwebs.