Common Cleaning Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Home

It’s time for a revelation: Not everything that you read on the internet is true.

With smartphones and Pinterest, cleaning enthusiasts can now type “how to deep clean leather” into a quick Google search and come up with an answer in less than five seconds. This is a great tool in theory, but the sad reality is that not all advice you read on the web is necessarily accurate. Just talk to all those people who followed one “helpful tip” that went viral and destroyed their cell phones by trying to charge them in the microwave (true story).

Bad cleaning advice is out there, and it’s important to ignore it or you could risk damaging your furniture and floors. Here are a few of the most common cleaning mistakes that people make due to bad advice or just because they don’t know any better.

1. Myth: You should make your bed every day

bedroom in white color
Making your bed causes more dust mites. | JZhuk/iStock/Getty Images

Lazy people of the world, rejoice! This is your excuse to stop making the bed. It may look neat and tidy, but a crisply made bed is actually a great place for dust mites to breed.

One study found that the average bed can hold up to 1.5 million dust mites. They thrive in a made bed but tend to decrease when that same bed is left unmade. The study says, “Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die.”

2. Myth: Vinegar cleans everything

Baking soda vinegar cleaning
Be careful of vinegar on stone. | Eskaylim/iStock/Getty Images

The web is full of inexpensive cleaning solutions, but you can’t use all of them in every part of your home. Case in point? While it’s true that vinegar is an effective and cheap natural cleaner, it’s still quite acidic and should never be used on granite, stone, or marble. It can also strip the seal off of waxed furniture. Go ahead and use vinegar to clean — just be smart about where and how.

3. Myth: Washing machines clean themselves

Mildew can build up in machines. | iStock/Getty Images

It sounds plausible, but unfortunately this is far from factual. Washing machines just don’t get cleaned as much as they should. If you’re like most people, then you’ve probably forgotten about a load of wet clothes for a day or two. The longer they sit there, the more they build up mildew, which sticks around in your washer and causes all of your future loads to smell yucky.

To keep your washing machine smelling fresh, try running an empty cleaning cycle a few times per season. Newer machines have a setting for it, but if yours doesn’t, simply combine one cup of vinegar and one cup of baking soda and add it into the detergent dispenser. Run a normal cycle on hot water, and you’re done!

4. Myth: You should clean your bathroom with bleach

Cleaning floor in room
Remove dirt before bleaching. | Serezniy/iStock/Getty Images

Bleach may disinfect your surface, but it won’t clean it. Before you use a diluted bleach solution, you need to use a multi-purpose cleaner to remove the dirt. Wipe down your entire bathroom with your choice of cleaner and then follow up with bleach.

Just remember to never mix bleach with ammonia while cleaning. Also, you’ll need to follow the bleach bottle instructions and leave it on a surface for 10 minutes to kill all the germs.

5. Myth: Wood polish is great for furniture and floors

cleaning hardwood floor
A special wood polish leaves residue. | iStock/Getty Images

Most of the wood polish you find on grocery store shelves contains a ton of unnatural ingredients. They make your wood look shiny and new, but they also leave behind a waxy buildup that can have the opposite effect over time, making everything appear greasy and dull.

You don’t really need any kind of cleaner to properly care for the wood in your home. To get it good and clean, just hand polish your furniture with a damp microfiber cloth.

6. Myth: Spray cleaning product directly onto the surface to achieve the deepest clean

Housewife cleaning carpet
Spray the cloth not the carpet. | Scyther5/Getty Images

The natural tendency to spray and then wipe your surface clean may lead you to make this common cleaning faux pas. But this method isn’t the most practical for a lot of household items.

To conserve your cleaning solutions, spray a bit on a microfiber cloth and use that to wipe down the area. You’ll save time and money since you won’t use as much of the product.

7. Myth: Your toilet brush should be out of sight, out of mind

Toilet brush
Make sure you leave it out to dry before putting it away. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

After scrubbing the toilet, you’ll naturally want to stow your toilet brush in its handy little holder and not think about it again until the next time you need it. Unfortunately, this habit can cause bacteria and germs to thrive.

Instead, you should rest the toilet brush on a clean, dry surface and allow it to air dry for at least five minutes before you put it away.

8. Myth: Wash your windows on a sunny day

Cleaning window
The sunlight leaves streaks. | Ultra F/iStock/Getty Images

The sunshine should help you see all the spots you’re missing, right? Wrong.

A sunny day is actually the worst time to clean windows. When the sun heats up your windows, you get streaks because the soap and water dries too quickly, leaving you with more work and more effort. Instead, wash windows on a cloudy day to get the best results.

9. Myth: Use coffee grounds to clean your garbage disposal

Coffee grounds can actually make things worse. | iStock/Getty Images

Blame the internet for this little tidbit. Rumor says that if you pour coffee grounds down the disposal, it will help to de-gunk the blades and deodorize. But the fact is, excessive coffee grounds can clog your drain and cause more harm than good.

Instead, put a few small citrus slices such as grapefruit, lemon, or lime in your disposal and then run it with warm water. Alternately, you can run warm water and pour a half cup of baking soda down to achieve that same deodorizing effect.

10. Myth: You don’t need to read the directions

Woman cleaning kitchen top in rubber protective gloves
Read the label. | Djedzura/iStock/Getty Images

At this point you’ve probably been cleaning for years. But just because you have experience under your belt, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the instructions on the label.

Cleaning manufacturers spend a lot of time testing the most effective uses for their products, which is why you should always pay close attention to what’s written on the back of the bottle. Many common cleaners require a specific amount of time to sit before they kill all the germs and bacteria. Wiping them away prematurely could mean that the surface is still dirty, meaning all your efforts were a total waste of time.

11. Myth: Over-vacuuming can wreck your carpets

Vacuum as much as you want. | iStock/Getty Images

Chances are that someone who hates running the vacuum started this rumer. But like all the other myths on the list, it’s totally false. Frequent vacuuming helps to free up dirt that gets trapped between carpet fibers. This can actually help to prolong the life of your rug and doesn’t harm it at all.

You should use the proper technique while doing your vacuuming, however, to avoid melting the carpet fibers. Never let your vacuum stand still in one spot while it’s running, or it could potentially leave a burn mark in that spot.

12. Myth: All mops are equal

Cleaning tools on parquet floor
Get a microfiber mop to clean better. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to mopping, the quality of the mop head really does matter.

Regular mops and sponge mops fail because once you get the water dirty, you’re essentially just using that same gross water to clean the rest of the floor. Instead, get a microfiber mop that will grip onto the dirt and won’t cross contaminate the whole area. When you’re finished, just put the mop head in the wash and reuse it.

13. Myth: Hand washing dishes achieves the same effect as the dishwasher

Dirty dishes in sink
Dish washers do a better job. | Ikrents/iStock/Getty Images

For this one, laziness actually does pay off. No matter how good you are at scrubbing, you’re still no match for your dishwasher when it comes to getting your plates clean. During a cycle, your dishes are exposed to soap for longer in very hot water. Plus, the drying cycle helps to sanitize everything, which is much more effective than a halfhearted swipe with a dishtowel.

14. Myth: Each cleaning task requires its own products and tools

Plastic bucket with cleaning supplies on wood background
Most chores are fine with multi-tasking tools. | Logoff/iStock/Getty Images

The folks who manufacture cleaning tools may wish you believed this, but it’s just not true. For most tasks, a high quality microfiber cloth and some warm water are all you need to clean. The cloth contains millions of tiny fibers that trap dirt and bacteria, giving you a clean surface without the use of cleaning products.

If the whole idea of microfiber makes you skeptical, a simple all-purpose cleaner is all you need to effectively bacteria-prone surfaces such as bathrooms and countertops.

15. Myth: Cold water won’t clean your clothes

fabric softener
The cleaning power comes from the detergent, not the temperature. | Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images

You can save a ton of money on electricity if you stop believing this common myth. In fact, 90% of the energy used on a load of laundry is for heating the water.

But will cold water clean your clothes? The answer is yes! Most of the cleaning power comes from your detergent, not from the water temperature. Plus, since newer washing machines are so advanced, you don’t necessarily need scalding water to get your clothing clean.