These Cleaning Myths Are Only Making Your Home Dirtier

The internet has spread many cleaning hacks supposedly to make your chores easier or more efficient. The problem is that many of these tips are wrong. Some tips, such as using hair spray for stains, are outdated old wives’ tales. Others are common assumptions that people have never fact-checked.

These cleaning myths may be damaging your home. If you follow these myths, you may waste water, pollute your home, or harm your furniture. Learn about the worst cleaning myths and how to correct them.

Bleach Does NOT Clean Everything

Although bleach can effectively kill germs, it doesn’t clean everything. It is not effective at removing dirt, grease, or residue. It may dye the residue white; it will smell fresh, but the surface won’t actually be clean.

A container of Clorox bleach sits on a counter.
CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images
CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

To correctly use bleach, wipe down the surface before bleaching it. Use old-fashioned soap and water to remove grime and let it dry before applying bleach. Dilute the bleach, let it sit on the surface for at least five minutes, and then rinse it.

Hair Spray No Longer Removes Ink Stains

An old wives’ tale suggests that hair spray makes a quick ink stain remover. But this isn’t as true as it once was. Old hair sprays used to contain alcohol. Nowadays, hair sprays are alcohol-free because it would dry out your hair otherwise.

A person sprays hair spray on a model.
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

If you have an alcohol-based hair spray, you can use this technique. But if you’re not sure, reach for rubbing alcohol instead. Place a paper towel under your clothes and pour rubbing alcohol on it. Let it sit, and then wash it out.

Dishwashers Are Ten Times Better Than Hand Washing

You may have heard that hand washing cleans dishes better and saves water. Sorry, but that’s wrong. A study by the University of Michigan found that dishwashers save water, reduce gas emissions, and sanitize dishes compared to hand washing. It saves thousands of gallons of water.

A woman washes dishes by hand in her kitchen.
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Miguel Schincariol/AFP via Getty Images

While old dishwashers may have been less efficient than hand washing, new models are designed to clean more and save water. Plus, the washer’s drying cycle sanitizes dishes better than towels or air drying.

Air Fresheners Make Air Quality Worse

Air fresheners release around 100 different chemicals to mask odors indoors. Although they smell nice, they do not clean the air. The opposite is true. University of Melbourne researcher Anne Steinemann found that at least half of the ingredients in air fresheners are toxic.

A man sprays a can of Air Wick freshener.
Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Research debates over how much air freshener exposure harms your health. Normal use should be fine, but if you want to clean the air, you’ll have better luck opening a window and lighting a candle.

You’re Likely Wasting Laundry Detergent

Believe it or not, you can use too much laundry detergent. If you use too much, your clothes could get dark stains or smell sour. Laundry detergent lids, which usually act as a measuring cup, contain ten times more detergent than you need.

Several brands of laundry detergent sit on shelves in a CVS Pharmacy.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For every regular load, you only need a tablespoon of detergent. If you have Tide Pods, one pod is usually enough. You may need two tablespoons or pods for large loads, such as with bedsheets.

Slow Down While Cleaning!

How long do you wait between spraying a surface with cleaner and wiping? If you’re like most people, you may remove the cleaner instantly. But cleaning solutions take time to remove bacteria, explains home cleaning expert Debra Johnson.

A man sprays a gym tool with a disinfectant.
Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Check the container for directions. Many companies explain how long the solution needs to kill bacteria; some require up to ten minutes. Waiting a few seconds may remove more germs than wiping or rinsing the solution right away.

Never Use Vinegar On These Surfaces

Vinegar is an incredibly flexible cleaner. According to Jessica Samson, spokesperson for The Maid, cleaning vinegar can remove dirt, grease, and grime from almost any kitchen surface. However, it’s incredibly acidic and should never go on solid wood furniture.

A man pours vinegar into water to clean.
John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Vinegar also degrades porous surfaces, like marble, soapstone, and granite. If you pour a vinegar solution on iron, it could permanently damage the metal. Never clean knives or eggs with vinegar. The eggs will react with the oil, making it much harder to clean.

Yes, You Need To Clean Your Dishwasher

Your dishwasher does not clean itself. Washing your dishwasher is just as important as cleaning your dishes. Food bits, grease, and undissolved detergent gather and make your dishes dirtier.

A woman loads her dishwasher.
Carsten Koall/picture alliance via Getty Images
Carsten Koall/picture alliance via Getty Images

To clean your dishwasher, remove any food bits. Wipe away the grime with a sponge or cloth. Open the and scrub it clean. If the filter isn’t clean, your dishes won’t be, either. Every month, add two cups of white vinegar to the dishwasher and run it while empty to deep clean it.

Microwaving Your Sponge Makes It Dirtier

Many websites advise people to clean their kitchen sponge by heating it in the microwave. They claim that heat will kill bacteria–and they are partially right. It kills the small, harmless bacteria and leaves stronger pathogens. Some of these are the same bacteria in human stool.

A person washes a mug with a sponge.
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Research in Scientific Reports found that microwaving a sponge helps dangerous pathogens grow. In other words, heating your sponge results in more bacteria. You’re better off replacing your kitchen sponge every few weeks.

When To Use Warm Water For Laundry

While doing laundry, many people resort to cold water for everything. Cold washes preserve colors and help some detergents work better. However, cold water does not kill germs or pathogens; only warm water does that.

A man pushes laundry into a washing machine.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

Whenever you need to sanitize laundry, use warm water. Bedsheets, diapers, and bath and kitchen towels require warmer water. Man-made fibers survive in warm water rather than hot water, according to WASH Laundry. Cold wash helps dark colored-clothes retain their vibrance.

Not All Feather Dusters Work

Do feather dusters pick up dust, or do they just move them around? It depends on the type of feather duster that you buy. If you own an ostrich duster, it could work. The static between the feathers and the furniture is what picks up dust.

A woman dusts a picture frame with a feather duster.
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

If you have to choose between a towel and a duster, use a towel to dust. The mesh will collect dust, while a duster will only spread the dust around.

Not All Green Products Are Safe To Use

A common cleaning myth is that all-natural automatically equals better. “A green product does not automatically translate to nontoxic or non-hazardous to human health,” says toxicologist Scott Masten. The government does not regulate green cleaning products.

A person sprays a towel with a disinfectant.
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

In 2011, a study found that green cleaning products have the same volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as traditional cleaners. The difference? Traditional cleaning supplies often kill more germs. If you are concerned about certain chemicals, always read the label before buying a product.

Dust First, Vacuum Later

Some sources assert that you should vacuum before dusting. According to them, the vacuum raises dust from the floor to the furniture. But Sonia Alexander Hill, a spokesperson for Merry Maids, says that this is hardly a concern.

A woman vacuums her grey rug.
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

There is no guarantee that a vacuum will raise dust to the furniture, but dusting will drop dust to the floor. If you vacuum and then dust, you’ll have to vacuum again. Plus, vacuums can suck dust from the air.

Washing Machines Don’t Clean Themselves

If your clothes smell funky when they come out of the washer, it may be time to clean your washing machine. Laundry machines don’t clean themselves. If you don’t sanitize your washing machine, hard water buildup and mold will make your clothes dirtier.

Towels are seen inside of a washing machine.
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Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Fortunately, many washing machines come with a self-cleaning cycle. If yours doesn’t, run an empty cycle with hot water and two cups of vinegar. Your next load of laundry will smell better and be cleaner.

Don’t Polish Wood Furniture Every Week

Good news for lazy cleaners: you don’t have to polish wood furniture often. Michael Hodges, the vice president of finish design for Guardsman Products Inc., recommends polishing every six weeks. If you do it too often, you could damage your furniture.

A close-up shows grains of wood.

Because polish contains water, using too much can warp wood. Combine this with certain types of rags, and you could scratch your furniture. To not trap grime in wood, dust your wooden furniture before polishing it.

You’re Probably Not Washing Your Sheets Enough

How often do you wash your sheets? If you’re like 44% of Americans, probably once a month. But the Good Housekeeping Institute recommends that people wash their sheets every two weeks. Some should wash their sheets once a week.

A woman hangs bed sheets to dry in India.
ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images
ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

If you have asthma or night sweats, you should clean your sheets once a week. When you get sick, wash your sheets immediately after you feel better. And don’t forget your pillow covers like 27% of Americans do, according to a 2017 survey.

There’s No Such Thing As “Too Much Vaccuming”

Some people assert that too much vacuuming can damage your carpets. But the opposite is true. Cleaning coach Leslie Reichert says that excess dust is more likely to harm your carpet over time.

An employee vacuums a green carpet.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That said, vacuuming incorrectly can harm your carpet. If you leave the vacuum on one spot for too long, it could melt the carpet’s fibers. Take care while vacuuming more delicate spots, such as rugs, handmade carpet, and corners where the seams are exposed.

Never Put Coffee Grounds Down Your Sink!

Some people have recommended throwing coffee grounds down the sink to clean and freshen it. Don’t fall for it! Coffee grounds clump together when they get wet. This trick can clog your drains and cause more food to build up.

A man dishes coffee grounds from cups.
Arief Priyono/LightRocket via Getty Images

Always toss your coffee grounds in the trash. If you want a natural drain cleaner, use lemon juice. Pour 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it sit for a while; then toss boiling water down the drain.

Steam Cleaning Doesn’t Damage Your Carpet

Some people advise against steam cleaning with claims that it will grow mold or inject dangerous chemicals. But steam cleaning is the most thorough method for sanitizing your carpet. Yes, the carpet becomes damp, but it is not wet enough to mold or attract more dust.

A man steam cleans a corner of a carpet.
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

According to Ben’s Cleaner Sales, most companies use safe chemicals for steam cleaning. Dry cleaning has more abrasive chemicals, especially for people with asthma. Steam cleans also provide the freshest carpets.

String Mops Are Not Your Best Option

Although some companies still use industrial-style string mops, they aren’t the cleanest option. In 2007, a study reported that microfiber mops pick up 27% more germs and dirt than string mops.

A string mop leans against a wall.
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images

With a string mop, you continually dip it in dirty water to rinse it. This could spread germs throughout your home. Because you remove microfibers, new mops don’t cross-contaminate. Plus, microfiber mops don’t dump water all over your floor. Switch to a newer mop if you haven’t yet.