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Doing All The Dirty Work?: Experts Brush Up The Mistakes We Make When Cleaning Our Homes

February 2, 2024

Many of us (if we’re honest) are stuck in a cleaning rut. We might do it every week but tend to stick to a routine and focus on ‘getting through it’ rather than thinking about what we’re doing and the products we’re using.

However, did you know that there are right and wrong ways to clean and that many of the methods we use are counterproductive – often making things dirtier, rather than cleaner?

For instance, when you’re cleaning a room – the best way to do it is top to bottom. This is so that any dust/dirt and debris fall downwards and can be cleaned up properly from floors and surfaces when you damp dust and hoover, sweep, or steam clean.

If you’re using cleaners with a disinfecting element – then it’s important to give them time to work on the surface they’re being sprayed on, as simply applying and wiping off doesn’t give the active ingredients time to work and kill bacteria and germs.

common home cleaning mistakes 2

The same goes for steam cleaning. It’s important to give 10 seconds of application time to each area you’re cleaning so that the high-temperature steam can get to work, kill bugs, and leave surfaces clean and safe.

These days, sustainability and eco-friendly products are key to keeping our homes clean and healthy without damaging the environment. How we clean appliances affects how effective they are and how long they last.

One misconception many people still believe is that they need to use strong chemicals to deep clean things like their washing machine or dishwasher when this isn’t the case. Oxygen and enzyme-based products work quickly, effectively, and gently to maintain the efficient running of important household appliances without causing detriment to the world around us!

If you’re still not sure, then read on and check out some of the comments we’ve garnered from experts in their field – they’re here to sort out the sparkling microfibres from the dirty dishcloths! Let’s take a look and see what they say about the best ways to make sure your home is sparkling clean.

Is cleaning the same as disinfecting?

“There’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and the distinction can make or break the way you clean surfaces. While cleaning can physically remove germs from a surface, disinfecting uses chemicals to actually kill the germs. If the surface is covered in dust or dirt, however, the disinfectant won’t be able to effectively target the germs, which is why cleaning is an important first step. Before you reach for the disinfecting spray, ensure the surface is free from residue and debris so the chemicals can do their job.”

– Jessica Bennett writing for Better Homes and Gardens

What are two of the biggest no no’s when it comes to cleaning?

Adding dish soap to the dishwasher.

You might not know if you’ve never had a dishwasher that you should be using dishwasher-specific soap. One Redditor learned the hard way that normal dish soap will leak out of the appliance and into the kitchen, creating a thick, foamy mess.

common home cleaning mistakes dish soap dishwasher

Mixing bleach with other chemicals.

One of the cardinal rules of cleaning with bleach? Don’t ever mix it with other chemicals. Back in college, a Redditor and his roommates had the very valid thought to combine two strong cleaners — bleach and ammonia — to deep clean their messy apartment. They learned the hard route that the off-gasses can pose major health risks, but luckily, they only ended up with burning eyes and throats.”

– Ashley Abramson writing for Apartment Therapy

What is the biggest floor cleaning error people make?

“Does your mop and bucket just get shoved in your cleaning closet as soon as you’re done? Turns out you need to do a bit more than that to get it ready for its next outing. Mopping using a dirty mop head will spread dirt and bacteria all around your floors so be sure to use a clean one for every use. Luckily, most mop heads are removable and machine washable so they can be cleaned easily. Ensure the water you are using to mop is also clean, as mopping using dirty water is going to be counterproductive.”

– Eve Smallman writing for Real Homes

Are there any commonly overlooked areas in homes or offices that people tend to neglect while cleaning?

“I would say the most commonly overlooked areas that people tend to neglect while cleaning would be: air vents. Specifically air vents that are in ceilings or the tops of walls. It’s funny, if you ever look up in stores or restaurants, you’ll always notice dusty air vents. But you see them in houses too not houses that are cleaned by though!”

Warren WeissScrub! Residential Cleaning

Can you share some insights into the impact of using incorrect cleaning products on various surfaces?

“Using incorrect cleaning products can have a significant impact on both the surfaces themselves and the individuals using them. When the wrong products are used, surfaces can be damaged, leading to discoloration, scratches, and even permanent marks. For example, using a harsh chemical cleaner on a delicate surface like marble or granite can cause etching and dullness. Similarly, using a bleach-based cleaner on a surface that is not compatible with bleach can result in discoloration and deterioration– not to mention bleach is toxic for your skin and lungs!

Incorrect cleaning products can also pose health risks to the people using them. Strong chemicals in cleaning products can emit harmful fumes that can irritate the respiratory system, trigger allergies, and worsen existing health conditions. In some cases, using the wrong cleaning products can even lead to chemical burns or skin irritation.

To avoid these negative consequences, it is essential to carefully read labels and instructions on cleaning products before using them. Additionally, it is crucial to understand the compatibility of cleaning products with different surfaces to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance. By using the right cleaning products, surfaces can be effectively cleaned without causing any damage or health risks. With so many natural and less toxic alternative cleaning products available these days, it’s much easier to keep both your home’s surfaces and your health in mind while still having a clean home to work and relax in.”

Amanda May, CEOThe Purple Fig Cleaning Co

How do you adapt your cleaning methods to different spaces or unique challenges?

“We’ve seen countless cleaning mishaps, some harmless, others leaving homeowners with bigger messes. So, let’s shed light on some common mistakes and offer solutions to keep your cleaning routine efficient and damage-free.

Mistake 1: One-Size-Fits-All Cleaning Products: Various surfaces demand tailored solutions. Different surfaces need different cleaners. Harsh chemicals can damage delicate surfaces like granite countertops or wood floors, causing etching, dullness, or warping. Always check labels and choose the right cleaners for each surface.

common cleaning mistakes towel scaled

Mistake 2: Neglecting the Microfiber Magic: Ditch the all-purpose cloths! Microfiber cloths are your best friend for dust and grime removal. Their unique fibers trap dirt without harsh chemicals, minimizing the risk of scratching delicate surfaces. Plus, they’re eco-friendly and reusable.

Mistake 3: Forgetting the Power of Pre-Treatment: Stains become a nightmare when set in. Tackle them immediately with pre-treatment solutions, especially for greasy spills or food stains on carpets and upholstery. Follow product instructions and blot, don’t rub, to prevent spreading the stain further.

Mistake 4: Overlooking the Vacuum’s Potential: Vacuuming carpets isn’t just about surface dirt. Regularly adjust the height setting to extract deep-seated dust and allergens trapped within the fibers. Empty the canister frequently to maintain optimal suction power.

Mistake 5: Ignoring the Hidden Corners:Dust loves to hide in those tricky spots under furniture and behind appliances. Grab a crevice attachment for your vacuum or a long-handled duster to tackle those hidden areas with ease. Happy cleaning

By avoiding these common pitfalls and adopting simple strategies, you can transform your cleaning routine from a chore to an efficient and satisfying experience, leaving your home sparkling and protected.”

What are some practical tips you can offer to prevent individuals from making common cleaning errors?

  1. Cleaning from the Ground Up: Starting cleaning tasks from the ground can result in dust and debris settling on already-cleaned surfaces, requiring rework. Begin cleaning from the top and work downward to prevent this.
  2. Using Dirty Tools Before Cleaning: Employing dirty tools such as mops or cloths spreads germs rather than eliminating them. Always ensure tools are clean and sanitized before use.
  3. Not Cleaning Before Disinfecting: Disinfectants are less effective on dirty surfaces. Clean surfaces with soap and water before applying disinfectants to maximize their efficacy.
  4. Not Providing Proper Ventilation: Using harsh chemicals without proper ventilation can lead to respiratory issues. Ensure adequate airflow by opening windows or using fans when cleaning with chemicals.
  5. Wiping Surfaces Too Soon: Rushing to wipe surfaces after applying cleaning solutions can diminish their effectiveness. Allow sufficient contact time as per product instructions before wiping.
  6. Cleaning Out of Order: Randomly cleaning different areas can lead to missed spots and inefficiencies. Follow a systematic approach, starting from one corner and progressing logically through the space.

“By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance the effectiveness and safety of your home cleaning routine, ensuring a healthier and more pleasant living environment.”

Michael A. Gomez, President of Building Services, Inc

What are the key differences between cleaning a vacation rental and a regular residential space?

Many cleaning companies advertise both residential and vacation rental services, but it’s important to distinguish the differences. All professional cleaners require proficiency in cleaning and disinfecting techniques, proper product usage, and stain and odor removal, but a vacation rental cleaner brings added skills to the job.

  • Serving the Customer: Vacation rental cleaners serve two customers – the property host and the visiting guest. They understand the impact of guest ratings and reviews, and they work in partnership with property hosts as the “eyes and ears” of the home.
  • More than Cleaning: Great vacation rental cleaners take inventory, restock, restage, flip linens, report problems, and deliver added touches of hospitality – all in addition to ensuring a high level of cleanliness in every space of the property.
  • Efficiency and Flexibility: Vacation rental cleaners often work under tight deadlines and must efficiently complete every job in the time allotted. Same-day turnarounds, late checkouts, early check-ins, and everyday changes to travelers’ schedules create inherent fluidity in a vacation rental cleaner’s weekly schedule.
  • An Eye for Every Detail: nothing can be missed or saved for the following week. Every guest expects to arrive at a home that is perfectly cleaned, from ceiling fans to baseboards. Seemingly slight misses that would be nonplus in a residential clean, like a spill inside a microwave or some hair in the bathroom, could cost the property host financially and reputationally.
  • Professional Credentials: Vacation rental cleaners access unoccupied properties and their experience, reliability, and trustworthiness should be verified. Business licenses, liability insurance, and background checks are considered must-haves by most vacation rental hosts.

Amy Plummer, Head of Brand – Turno

What’s the worst mistake you can make when trying to clean a carpet yourself at home?

carpet cleaning tips

In the DIY world of carpet cleaning, the biggest oops we see is the well-intentioned yet misguided use of home steam cleaners to combat pet pee-pee misdemeanors. These nifty gadgets may promise the moon, but they often only manage to give stains an express elevator down to the lower levels of the carpet, the padding, or – gasp – the subfloor. It’s like watering a plant; too much, and you’re swimming in a mess. And let’s not even start on their ‘suction’ power, which couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat if it tried. True carpet cleaning is an art form that whispers rather than shouts, using the least moisture possible to gently coax out stains, preserving your carpet’s dignity and dryness.

Cheyenne Tufts, Tufts Carpet Cleaning

What’s the best and most sustainable way to clean an epoxy floor?

Epoxy floors, while often pitched as maintenance free, do indeed require general cleaning just as any other flooring surface does. Due to their impervious nature, epoxy floors are generally quite easy to clean and do not require special chemicals or techniques to keep looking-like new. Epoxy floors are best maintained with regular care that includes daily dust mopping or sweeping to remove loose dirt and debris. For more thorough cleaning, use a soft broom or a non-abrasive blue commercial dust mop with a mild, non-foaming cleaner diluted in warm water. Avoid soap-based products as they can leave a slippery residue.

For heavier dirt, a mix of ammonia and water (2 to 3 ounces of ammonia per gallon of water) or Simple Green can be effective without leaving any film. It’s crucial to steer clear of abrasive materials and low PH acidic products, which can damage the epoxy surface. Always rinse the floor with clean water after cleaning to maintain its gloss and anti-slip properties, ensuring the floor remains in excellent condition. For garage and patio surfaces, often simply spraying with a hose and squeegeeing away the dirty water is all that is needed–simple and easy.

Ryan Workman Owner, Operator United Floor Coatings

What are a few ways to be better organized with cleaning products?

Cleaning is part of our lives. What are some ways that we can keep those must have cleaning products functional and organized in our home?

organizing cleaning products

1. Keep the cleaning products near the rooms they will be used in. If you have two floors, store products on both. This makes cleaning the bathrooms and other spaces easier and more likely to get done if the products are right there within reach.
2. Contain your cleaning products in a bin and keep cleaners, rags, sponges, etc all together to make cleaning a breeze. This way you do not have to search for what you need before you clean. It is all there.
3. Label bottles clearly so you know what is in them and know if you are running low.
4. Regularly declutter and get rid of expired products or things you no longer need. This will keep your cleaning cabinet nice and tidy.

Audra, owner and pro-organizer at Pretty Neat: An Organization Solution in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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Tell us why natural/organic cleaning solutions really are better for
the home?

Have you thought about eco-friendly cleaning using organic products but not sure why it’s so much better than conventional cleaning? My Organic Clean focus on providing our clients with a meticulously clean space with no harmful chemicals. We believe an eco clean and hygienic environment at home and in the office is essential as it helps keep diseases and pests away protecting the health of you and your family.

Warning! Flammable! Toxic! With labels like these on conventional cleaning products, you get a good idea that they are not safe. A lot of chemicals are used in the manufacture of conventional cleaning products. As much as these products clean, the impact they leave on the environment and people can be devastating. This means that your family or work colleagues will really benefit since there will be no toxins in the atmosphere or on the surfaces of the home or office.

We are convinced that shifting to eco-friendly cleaning is the best way of ensuring that we live and work in a healthy, clean and toxic-free environment. When you choose to use eco-friendly cleaning products, you are making a vote to protect the environment and your family.

– From Justin at

What is your number one tip for a sparkling sink clean?

For a sparkling clean sink, you only need a handful of common household ingredients / items. You’ll need a bristled dish brush, dish soap, baking soda, and a few terry cloth cleaning towels (an absorbent hand towel will do, too). To clean: squirt a zig zag of dish soap and sprinkle some baking soda on top. Using your bristled dish brush, turn the faucet on for a second to make the sink and dish brush wet. Scrub the sink, drain, and on and around the faucet. Rinse the sink and use super dry cleaning towels to polish dry.

Stainless steel sinks: after drying the sink, use a small amount of cooking oil on a fresh dry towel to polish the sink (this will make it sparkle!). Porcelain sinks: the baking soda and bristled brush are especially important to lift dirt and debris from the pores of the sink.

Lora Ladd, Founder of The Tidy People

What’s your top tip for busy people who don’t have much time to devote to household cleaning?

From an organizer’s perspective, the top tip for busy people is to decrease the time you spend on cleaning. Devote more time to gratifying activities unless you adore cleaning catharsis. If hiring a professional cleaner to regularly or periodically clean your home isn’t an option, how do you manage the process to avoid overwhelm and fit it into your busy calendar? Minimize! Less stuff on your surfaces means more rapid dusting and deep cleaning. Fewer items cluttering your floors enables faster vacuuming and mopping.

To pass cleaning time swiftly and more enjoyably, don a phone headset and catch up with a friend as you dust, scrub, or dry mop or listen to a favorite podcast. If housecleaning feels overwhelming or your schedule doesn’t allow enough time to do it all, split tasks into segments. Set a schedule to clean one room per day, or one small area whenever you have an opening in your calendar. Focus on dusting one day, vacuuming another. While dinner is cooking, stow away ingredients, place prep-ware in the dishwasher or hand wash, and wipe down your prep area. Post-dinner clean-up will be a breeze. During TV relaxation time, use commercials to pick up debris and dust surfaces in your entertainment room. Keep it simple and manageable.

Sherri Curley, organizing success coach, motivator, speaker, and writer at The Practical Sort Eco-Organizing Solutions

Give us one or two tips for great ways to organize your cleaning products?

Organizing your cleaning products can make your cleaning routine more efficient. Here are some great ways to organize them:

1. Categorize by Purpose: Group similar products together, such as all-purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, etc. This makes it easy to find the right product for the task at hand.

how to organize cleaning supplies

2. Use Containers or Baskets: Invest in containers or baskets to store your cleaning products. Clear containers work well because you can easily see what’s inside, but you can also label them for extra organization.

3. Utilize Vertical Space: Install shelves or use vertical storage solutions to maximize space. This is especially helpful if you have a small storage area.

4. Create a Cleaning Caddy: Put your most commonly used cleaning products in a portable caddy or basket. This makes it easy to carry them from room to room as you clean.

5. Keep Dangerous Products Secure: If you have children or pets, be sure to keep any dangerous cleaning products out of their reach. Consider using childproof locks on cabinets or storing them in a high cabinet.

6. Label Everything: Labeling shelves, containers, and baskets can help everyone in your household know where things belong and make it easier to keep everything organized.

7. Declutter Regularly: Periodically go through your cleaning products and get rid of anything you no longer use or need. This helps prevent clutter and ensures that you only keep the products you actually use.

8. Consider Space-Saving Solutions: Look for space-saving solutions like over-the-door organizers or wall-mounted racks to make the most of your storage space.

By organizing your cleaning products, you can streamline your cleaning routine and make it simpler and quicker.

Beth Spiroff from Beth Spiroff Pro Organizing

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Ava Thompson

Ava Thompson is a cleaning specialist and home organization guru. Her profound knowledge, honed through years of experience, is thoughtfully shared in her thorough walkthroughs here on our blog. Ava’s pragmatic tips and innovative strategies empower individuals to transform their living spaces into models of cleanliness and order. She’s a go-to source for those seeking to enhance their home environment efficiently and effectively. She has become a key contributor on the ACTIVE blog.

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