Cleaning: You can do it wrong. You can damage a surface, waste time doing a task that doesn’t address the real problem, miss opportunities to make your life easier, and more! To help you clean better, faster and more easily, I’m sharing seven of the most common cleaning mistakes. Are you making any of these?
#1 Over-Cleaning The Bathroom
Good news, everyone: You can probably get away with cleaning your bathroom less! When I read your comments on our bathroom cleaning videos, I can see that many of you are simply doing more work in there than you need to. You don’t have to go in there wearing rubber gloves up to your elbows wielding heavy-duty disinfectants every time. Unless someone’s been sick or missed the toilet, regular bathroom cleaning is a matter of managing the soap scum that builds up in your shower or tub, disinfecting very specific areas (like the toilet) and shining or polishing fixtures. As far as the heavy-duty stuff, think of it more as spot cleaning—use it where, and as, needed.
#2 No Gameplan
Before I got into the cleaning world, I had no plans when it came to cleaning. I would just go into a room and start cleaning things at random. I’d invest so much time but my results were terrible and I’d end up more frustrated than when I started. This is one of the reasons I talk about how much I used to hate cleaning—I just didn’t know how to do it. Once I got into cleaning, I realized the importance of understanding how to clean and having a plan, which is what I now call my 3-Wave System. I detail this system in my book and recently made a video all about it. Essentially, you can think of it as a method to your cleaning madness. I promise this approach will totally change the way that you clean. No longer will you be embarking on a cleaning task with frustration and sadness; you’ll come at it with meaning, you’ll get your cleaning done quickly, and your results will be better for it.
#3 Not Reading Directions
It may seem unnecessary, but reading the directions on your cleaning products is well worth your time. Companies dedicate a lot of energy to formulating and testing their cleaners—but what good are they if you’re not using them as intended? That bathroom cleaning spray or window cleaner, for example, is only as effective as the person who uses it. Plus, companies must abide by many rules and regulations, so correct usage ensures safety as well as prevents surface damage. Simply put: It’s in your best interests to let the product do the work for you. So, if you pick up a new cleaning product, flip it over, quickly read the label and make sure you understand where and how it’s supposed to be used.
#4 Disinfecting Too Much
As a society, we seem to be in a panic about disinfecting. I need to tell you—not everything in your home needs sanitizing and certainly not all the time. If someone has the flu or a cold, of course, you want to do some special cleaning to get rid of germs (we’ve got a great article about post-flu clean-up.) Or maybe someone has had an accident in the corner—oh, the joys of pets and kids! Or, perhaps some chicken juice has spilled on the kitchen counter; certainly, you want to clean these messes up using the proper disinfection methods. But disinfecting is not the same as cleaning, and doing it too much over-sanitizes your living environment. Remember: our bodies need a lot of bacteria so that we can stay healthy, so you don’t want to kill off every microorganism. For regular cleaning tasks, skip the disinfectant, and reach instead for soap and water or a vinegar-based solution.
#5 Over-Relying On All Purpose Cleaner
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Not all cleaning products are created equal! Even though I tout all-purpose cleaner as a kind of general salve for cleaning, it can’t actually do everything. There are specialty products that exist (or, if you’re into the DIY thing, different cleaning solution recipes), each of which is specially formulated to perform a certain task brilliantly. Take advantage of that! All-purpose cleaners are not the best on glass, for example. The soap can leave streaks, potentially leaving the surface dirtier than when you started. Worse yet, in some very rare cases, like with unfinished leather or unfinished wood, you can even damage a surface if you’re using an all-purpose cleaner instead of a specialty one. So, always think about what you’re cleaning and measure whether or you should use all-purpose or a more specific cleaning product.
#6 Masking Odors (Instead Of Cleaning Them)
I want to make a distinction here. There is a big difference between masking an odor and killing the odor at the source. Masking the odor is like putting on deodorant. Killing the odor at the source is like taking a shower and cleaning under your arms. Imagine if you decided to never take a shower again and instead just used deodorant all the time? Gross! That’s exactly what people do when they’re using air fresheners or fabric refreshers in lieu of cleaning a surface. Typically upholstery and other soft surfaces get treated this way for prolonged periods of time. Now, using these products in between cleans is ok, but, if you walk into a room and you smell something you can never seem to get rid of, you’re not doing yourself or your home any favors. You want to find where the odor-causing bacteria is coming from. Maybe it’s the armchair, a pair of shoes, an old rug or maybe even some milk that’s spilled under the fridge—whatever it is, that’s what needs cleaning. Only then will the smell truly be gone, and the bacteria along with it.
#7 Hacking It Too Much
This is one that really gets my blood boiling. I see a lot of cleaning hacks popping up online and on social media. I get it—who doesn’t want a shortcut, especially when it comes to cleaning? But in reality, the results are almost always disappointing. Not to mention that some hacks fail altogether. Now that’s a waste of time and effort if I’ve ever seen one! The truth is, in cleaning, if you’re looking for a shortcut, you first need to have traveled the long way. Only once you’ve mastered proper techniques should you look for ways to shave time off tasks.
Now you’re seven tips closer to achieving expert status in your cleaning! Recently or in the distant past, have you made any cleaning mistakes—and what damage did you do? Please share below.