STOP Making These Common Cleaning Mistakes!

Even if you love to clean, you probably don’t want to spend all day doing it. If you’re making mistakes while you’re cleaning, well, that’s even more frustrating and will take you even longer. Just because I am a cleaning expert, does not mean that I didn’t make mistakes before I learned what I know now! Mistakes are frustrating, time-consuming and expensive. If I can save you any of that hassle, I’m definitely going to do it. That’s why I am going to tell you seven cleaning mistakes that you might be making and how to fix them.

Cleaning vs Disinfecting

When I’m reading about cleaning or researching the topic (and I spend way too much time doing that) I see cleaning and disinfecting often used interchangeably. Why not use cleaning here, disinfecting there, it all kind of means the same thing, Right? No, it matters. Cleaning and disinfecting are totally different things. Let me break it on down.

Cleaning is literally cleaning a surface. It’s lifting dirt off the surface and leaving it shiny underneath. Disinfecting is what happens after you remove all of that dirt and then kill any bacteria that remain on the surface. Many people think disinfectant will both clean and disinfect the surface, which isn’t entirely true. A great example is bleach. Using bleach to clean say, a shower, will whiten the dirt, and disinfect, but it won’t actually remove the dirt. The dirt remains, it’s just bleached. So make sure that if you’re cleaning something, you’re cleaning it and if you’re disinfecting something, you’re disinfecting it. Be purposeful and use the right products, tools and techniques. (And there’s a lot of information about this, check out another video I made here).

Vacuum First

Strictly my opinion here, but vacuuming is like the worst cleaning task and I try to avoid it as much as I can, which is why I always vacuum at the end. But a lot of people vacuum first and then clean. The truth you need to vacuum at the end because as you clean additional dust falls. That’s why it’s important that you vacuum once you’ve done all your cleaning. Some people like to vacuum before they start cleaning and then vacuum again at the end. This is a great technique if you have the patience, especially if you have pets like me. I’ll do a quick cursory vacuum before getting down to business. Then I’ll go back and vacuum again at the end, which helps remove some of that pet hair that might be floating around while cleaning, settling on other services, basically driving me crazy and making me sneeze. If you want to double it up then go for it, otherwise, vacuum at the end.

Cleaning Without Decluttering

I see a lot of comments and emails come in from people who say “Melissa! I don’t even know where to start cleaning. My place is so messy” and I know that feeling. At CleanMySpace, I’m really big on our three-wave system because wave one is all about decluttering. The idea is to avoid that overwhelming feeling. Declutter first, tidy your space, and then clean. I promise it will help you get your place cleaner. Declutter first, get rid of garbage and then you can actually start cleaning.

If it Smells Good, It’s Clean

When I walk into a public bathroom and it smells like flowers or fruit or something artificial but it looks disgusting, well, you’re not fooling me. I know that bathroom is dirty and they are just trying to make it feel clean with a lot of air fresheners. We need to avoid doing this. If something smells, don’t just spray a product on it to make it clean, instead find the source of that odor, clean it, or remove the odor. The truth is, if something is clean, it shouldn’t smell.

More is Better

I’ve learned a lot about cleaning since starting my cleaning service 11 years ago and I’ve trained a lot of people. I have seen that a lot of people make this one mistake but luckily it is really easy to fix. They use more products because they think more is better and in most cases, it is. I mean more chocolate, more diamonds, more champagne, more vacations, all that stuff is great. More cleaning product is the rare exception, and there are a few reasons why. First of all, if you use too much of it, you actually create a stickiness on the surface that you clean. That residue attracts more dirt which means you have to clean more frequently. Also, you’re wasting product. It costs you more money by using more than you need. Remember you’ll only need a little bit of product to lift up dirt off the surface and if you use the right amount, you shouldn’t even have to do a rinse afterward.

Self-Cleaning Washing Machines

Just because you use the washing machine to wash things, doesn’t mean that it washes itself. This is a mistake that a lot of people make when they think about their appliances that clean, even your dishwasher falls into this category. Just because it cleans something else does not mean that it cleans itself. If you give your machine a quick inspection, (smell it, look right in it) it might smell a little dingy, it might look a little gross, you might even see some buildup in the gasket, some soap scum around the wall or even your little detergent tray might be really gunky. The point is, you have got to clean that machine. We have a video on how to do it. It’s super simple. You just use vinegar, baking soda, a little bit of elbow grease and you’re all good. It’s pretty easy to do. The other thing to keep in mind is that when you’re not using your washing machine you should make sure that you leave the washing machine door open. That’s important, because it stops odor-causing bacteria from forming. Additionally using the right amount of laundry detergent will also help reduce odors and dirt buildup in your washing machines.

Paper Towel is Great for Cleaning

Paper towel is not the be-all and end-all cleaning cloth. I know a lot of people just take a roll of paper towel, stick it onto their arm and start cleaning, and that is wrong on so many levels. Okay, paper towel definitely has its place in the world; public bathrooms, cleaning out a greasy pot or pan, wiping up meat juices, or wiping your toilet. Aside from those cleaning tasks, paper towel is not the best cleaning tool. It doesn’t absorb water well so it leaves a lot of streaks behind. It’s papery, so it can leave lint behind as well. Not to mention that it’s wasteful and expensive. As an alternative to using something with all of those issues, why not use the right tool for the job that you’re doing? If you’re dusting you should use an all-purpose microfiber cloth. If you’re cleaning glass or a mirror or a television, you might want to use something that doesn’t scratch but that can help remove fingerprints, like a flat leaf microfiber cloth (and yes, I know I mention microfiber cloths often but they really are an amazing cleaning alternative and they help reduce the amount of waste that we’re throwing out when we’re cleaning). If you’re interested in microfiber cloths, why not look into Maker’s Cleaning Cloth? Yes, they bare my last name because they are that good. You can visit to learn more about those.

Now that you know what not to do I know you are going rock all your cleaning. Good luck!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. I love your advise and techniques. I have a problem I need to resolve and do not know how. My dogs have peed on my hardwood floor and I did not realize it right away. It has left the floor darkly discolored. There also seems to be this grit on the floor where the stain is. Please help me

  2. My washing machine has its own self-washing eco program, that I run every week, no detergents required to add, just hot water.


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