May 18, 2024


Swing Your Home

14 of the biggest cleaning mistakes you’re making at home


toilet brush thumb

Toilet brushes can carry a lot of bacteria.rawf8/Shutterstock

  • There are some household items that you may be cleaning wrong, but most of them are easy to fix.

  • Dirty glassware shouldn’t be pre-washed, and wooden cutting boards should always be washed by hand.

  • Washing your windows on a sunny day and using too much laundry detergent are also common missteps.

Your silverware might end up kind of grimy if you sort if by type when you load it into the dishwasher

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Mix up silverware and disperse it evenly for the best clean.Saroj Khuendee/Shutterstock

According to General Electric Appliances, which produces kitchen appliances, to achieve the best results, silverware should be “mixed and evenly distributed” when you load it into the dishwasher.

That means all the spoons shouldn’t go together, but rather spoons, forks, and knives should be all mixed up. And, to ensure you get the best results, flatware should also be evenly spread out in the holder.

To protect your hands from being poked, the company also recommends placing knives and forks in the holder with their handles facing up.

Rising your coffee pot isn’t enough to save it from build-up.

coffee pot brewing

Wash coffee makers after every use.Simon Mayer/Shutterstock

Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Appliances and Cleaning Lab, told Good Housekeeping that coffee machines should actually be dissembled and cleaned with soap after every single use.

As Forte explained to the publication, you should remove the built-up mineral deposits in your machine by using a vinegar and water mixture.

Washing windows when it’s sunny can lead to streaky glass.

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Clean windows on cloudy days.Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The sunshine spilling through your windows on a clear day may inspire you to break out the glass cleaner and give them a wipe-down, but there’s actually a good reason you should avoid cleaning your windows on a sunny day.

According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, the heat of the sun warming the glass can cause the cleaner to dry too quickly, allowing it to form streaks before you get the chance to wipe it off.

Feel the glass with your fingertips before you start washing. If the glass is cool to the touch, you’ll likely end up with a better shine.

Leaving toilet brushes in their holders can cause bacteria to grow.

toilet brush

Disinfect toilet brushes after each use.rawf8/Shutterstock

Scrubbing the inside of your toilet and placing the wet, soiled brush back into a canister isn’t exactly hygienic. The moist environment inside the holder is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

With that in mind, you may want to clean the brush before you actually use it to clean your toilet bowl.

Cleaning-services professional Esther Gantus told Over Sixty that a toilet brush should be regularly soaked in disinfectant for at least a few hours to help stop the growth of bacteria.

Using too much detergent can actually damage your clothes and washing machine.

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Use the recommended amount of detergent.Saroj Khuendee/Shutterstock

You may think that more is better when it comes to laundry detergent, but using too much soap can be bad for your clothing.

Mary Gagliardi, a scientist at The Clorox Company, told Reader’s Digest that adding more than the recommended amount of detergent to a load of laundry can actually cause residue to build up on clothing and may cause excess strain on the machine’s motor and inner workings.

You could be ruining your wooden cutting board by putting it in the dishwasher.

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Wash cutting boards by hand.NaNaReviewProducts/Shuttershock

According to, a distributor of cutting boards and butcher blocks, allowing your board to soak in water can cause the wood fibers to warp and split.

Over time, this can cause tiny cracks that allow food particles and bacteria to hide and escape future cleanings.

Instead, use hot water and soap to scrub debris from your cutting board before disinfecting it with either pure white vinegar or a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Using bleach on stainless steel can damage the surface of your appliances.

stainless steel

Clean stainless steel with warm water and dish soap.Daniel Krylov/Shutterstock

Chlorine bleach can discolor and damage stainless steel. If you mistakenly apply chlorine bleach to your appliances, be sure to rinse it off as quickly and completely as you can.

Another major stainless-steel cleaning faux pas is using steel wool or harsh scrubbing tools on the shiny surface. These may scratch the steel and make it more susceptible to rust and staining in the future.

As Nancy Bock of the American Cleaning Institute told Consumer Reports in 2018, you should clean your stainless-steel appliances using a microfiber towel dipped in warm water and mild dish detergent.

Soaking carpet stains with cleaner may do more harm than good.

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Spray carpet stains with a mist of cleaner and water.Victoria 1/Shutterstock

A spilled glass of wine or a stray glob of ketchup may have you dousing your carpet in liquid stain remover, but you’re better off handling the situation with a lighter touch.

According to Forte of Good Housekeeping, saturating a carpet stain with cleaner can leave behind a sticky residue that may actually lead to further staining.

The excess moisture may also soak through the carpet to the pad and floor below, leading to damage and possible mold growth.

A better method is to lightly spritz the stain with cleaner and use several clean, absorbent cloths to dab (not rub) the stain. To rinse, apply plain water using a spray bottle and blot until the carpet is dry.

Rinsing your toothbrush with plain water may leave bacteria behind.

toothbrush holders

Sanitize toothbrushes with hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash.Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), toothbrushes have been found to harbor bacteria, including fecal coliform bacteria that can be released into the air when nearby toilets are flushed.

Though it may not be strictly necessary to sanitize your toothbrush after every use, the ADA suggests soaking your brush in hydrogen peroxide or Listerine mouthwash, which can reduce the bacterial load on your brush by about 85%.

The ADA also recommends swapping your toothbrush out for a new one about every three months, or sooner if the brush’s bristles have started to look bent or worn.

Rinsing your glassware before putting it in the dishwasher can be damaging.

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Place dirty glassware directly into the dishwasher.CKP1001/Shutterstock

You may have been taught to always rinse items before slotting them into the dishwasher, but this can actually cause your glassware to suffer over time.

According to Hunker, a home-improvement site, by pre-rinsing your glassware before putting it in the dishwasher, you’re actually allowing that detergent to act directly on the surface of the glass.

Over time, this can cause permanent “etching,” or microscopic scratching, that makes the glass appear cloudy.

Using too much detergent can also cause etching, so it may be worth cutting back a bit if you notice that your dishes lose their sparkle after a few rounds in the dishwasher.

Cleaning your vacuum involves more than just clearing out the brush-roller.


Disassemble and clean the interior of a vacuum often.Jenson/Shutterstock

If your vacuum isn’t cleaned often enough, debris can collect in the vents and even be blown back out into the air. Worst of all, a clogged vacuum is more likely to overheat and experience motor failure.

You can prevent a vacuum disaster by emptying its bag or canister of debris when it’s halfway full, according to Merry Maids, an international cleaning-service franchise.

You should also regularly disassemble your vacuum and wipe down all internal parts with warm water and a bit of dish soap using a microfiber cloth.

Washing cast-iron pans with soap can break down the protective coating.

Cast Iron Skillet

Clean cast-iron pans while they are still warm.Marie C Fields/Shutterstock

According to The Kitchn, home chefs should not use soap or steel wool on their cast-iron pans, nor should they place them in the dishwasher.

These methods can remove the “seasoning” or protective coating from the pan. Instead, you’ll want to gently scrub the pan while it is still warm.

The Kitchn has also shared tips for dealing with stuck-on bits, including making a paste that can help you gently clean your pan without wrecking its coating.

Using household towels and dish soap to wash your car can damage the wax and paint.

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Wash cars with a microfiber towel.Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock

Professional auto detailer Rob Schruefer told Farmer’s Insurance that using household towels or terry-cloth rags to clean the exterior of your car may actually cause tiny scratches that make the paint look duller over time.

Instead, car owners should switch to microfiber towels that are gentler on automotive wax and paint.

Schruefer also said drivers should avoid using dish soap on their car, as it can break down a car’s wax. They may want to instead use a pH-balanced car soap that can protect against water spotting and safeguard a vehicle’s shine.

Shower curtains can start to develop mold and mildew if they aren’t properly cleaned.

shower curtain bathroom

Clean shower curtains in the washing machine.Shutterstock

Over time, plastic and fabric curtains can develop mold and mildew that can be unsightly and even aggravate allergies.

To keep your shower curtain looking and smelling presentable, handyman Bob Vila told NBC’s “Today” in 2016 that you should throw your curtain and liner in the washing machine. He also said that adding a few towels to the load will provide added scrubbing power.

Vila also shared the best detergent “recipe” for cleaning these bulky fabrics on the show’s website.

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