16 mistakes you're making while cleaning
Here's how to clean your home the right way.
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Ah, spring is in the air (finally!). As you survey your domain, you might find yourself bitten by the spring cleaning bug. Many people feel spring is the perfect time to tackle a long-awaited project or to simply declutter, clean, and organize. After all, that fresh air wafting in through your open windows is an excellent motivator, particularly if it's accompanied by a delightful floral fragrance coming in from the outdoors. More hours of daylight can also highlight troublesome areas in your home that can really make you want to get cleaning.
It's tempting to dive in without a plan, especially when inspiration strikes, but if you clean a certain way, it might just be a waste of time, or even worse, dangerous. Before you go elbow-deep into your first foray of cleaning this year and start vacuuming that certain corner of the living room that you normally ignore, here are some of the most common mistakes people make while cleaning—and what you can do instead to ensure your projects go as planned and you're not putting yourself (or your family) at risk.
1. Cleaning from the bottom up
Sure, it's easy enough to glance at a room and just dive in, but in the process, you might be cleaning in the wrong order and getting already-clean surfaces grimy again. It's a good idea to start at the top of the room and work your way to lower areas, so any dust or dirt that rains down will settle on something you'll be cleaning later. Make the first part of this job easier with a Swiffer 360 Extendable Duster, which gets rave reviews on Amazon from happy customers, who note that these dusters trap dust really well and have an excellent reach and an adjustable handle.
2. Not making a plan
It can be overwhelming to look at your home and become overwhelmed when you note all the things that need to be organized and cleaned. Instead, make a plan and write it down. You can use your phone for this, of course, but sometimes it helps to write it down in an actual notebook. This classic Moleskine Notebook gets fantastic reviews and might be just what you need to get started. Yes, you can jot down notes on a piece of scrap paper, but putting your plan into a quality notebook means it's less likely to get lost, and it might be easier to stick to a plan when you can go back to it and mark off tasks as they're complete. Focus on smaller areas in one room, complete that task, and move on to the next.
3. Ignoring the clutter
You might just want to ignore that stack of papers and books on your desk, but cleaning around it won't do you any favors—and when you do tackle it later, you'll get dust everywhere and have to start over from scratch. Spend some time with the piles of junk that seem to lurk in the corners, and after deciding what to keep and what to give (or throw) away, invest in some easy DIY organizing. This six-cube organizing system from Better Homes and Gardens gets excellent reviews for its sturdy design as well as how great it looks, and soon you'll be able to enjoy that spot once again while keeping clutter out of sight.
4. Lacking adequate ventilation
Proper ventilation is crucial when you're spring cleaning. Sifting through areas you haven't touched in a few months can trigger a dusty tornado, and also it's important to keep a window open when using certain cleaning agents, if not all. In addition to opening as many windows as possible, an electric fan can help ventilate your area, too. This oscillating pedestal fan from PELONIS is popular with reviewers on Amazon who love the fact that it comes with a remote control, it's easy to assemble, and it really helps with air circulation.
5. Using a standard mop
Sure, a dry mop can move dust around and can seem to get things clean, but it's also basically sending those flecks of grime back into the air to enter your airways or settle back on surfaces in your house. Instead, use a mop specifically designed to trap dirt and dust, like the Gladwell Cordless Rechargeable Electric Mop, which we found was the best mop after testing.
6. Lifting furniture incorrectly
Moving bulky furniture is often a good first step to reach the corners of the room you're trying to clean, but lifting it wrong can lead to injury. Stretch out first, lift with your legs instead of your back, and consider grabbing these furniture sliders to make the job that much easier. Reviewers note they work well on many different surfaces and make the job so much easier.
7. Vacuuming without a good filter
It's possible you'll need to upgrade your vacuum if yours doesn't already have a quality filter on it. Filterless vacuums can send bits of dust into the air, which you can breathe in (or watch it fall right back into place). A HEPA filter is your best bet, but a less expensive vacuum that still has a great filter would work, too. We've tested a lot of vacuums over the years, and found the Bissell CleanView Bagless Vacuum is the best vacuum for your money, as it has a terrific balance of performance and price (although pet owners might need to look for something with a little more oomph).
8. Shimmying up any old ladder
Ladders are great for cleaning hard-to-reach spots, but it's vital to use the proper ladder for the job. The CDC reports that 43 percent of fatal falls over the last decade have involved a ladder. A general rule of thumb is to use a ladder that's a few feet shorter than the area you want to reach. This Flip-N-Lite Six-Foot Stepladder with Platform has a solid 5-star rating with over 1,438 reviews. Reviewers note that its lightweight build doesn't negatively impact its durability or performance, and it's extremely sturdy.
9. Mixing cleaning agents
Basically, if you mix cleaning materials (either intentionally or unintentionally), it can negatively affect your health and you could get very sick. Use one cleaning agent at a time, and never try to combine bleach with something that contains ammonia or acids. To keep everything straight, grab some empty bottles and clearly mark them so you're not tempted to refill a mostly-empty one with something that could cause problems. These specific spray bottles get fantastic reviews, with some reviewers mentioning that they work better and clog far less than more expensive sprayers.
10. Reusing rags and sponges
You're not going to clean your house with your bare hands, so you're probably using rags and/or sponges. If you're reusing rags and sponges, though, you may be doing more harm than good and could be spreading bacteria around. Instead, wash your rags after each use, and replace any sponges well before they start to look dirty (and definitely do not use the same sponge for everything you clean). We like this nine-pack of sponges from Scotch-Brite, and the 1,488 reviews agree that they're pretty great, and work well without damaging surfaces of what's being cleaned.
11. Cleaning without proper protection
When you clean, you're not only applying a cleaning agent to an item—you're potentially getting it on yourself, too. Even if you're taking pains to avoid spreading dust in the air and trying to keep your cleaning solution in the toilet where it belongs, sometimes things happen and all of a sudden you have bleach landing precariously close to your eyeballs. Grab gloves, a mask, and goggles if you're using bleach to help keep you safe. Reviewers say the N95 Particulate Respirator Mask works well, as long as it's not winter and you're outside wearing glasses.
12. Not following directions
You may know how to use one particular bottle of cleaner, but it can't hurt to familiarize yourself again if it's been a few months since you last used it. If you use too much, it can leave residue behind, or you might make an error diluting it, which can be just as bad. If you're looking for an alternative to harsh cleaning agents that can be a little on the dangerous side, try something like castile soap. Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap can be used everywhere in your house even though it's known as a body wash and shampoo. Check out suggestions for its use as a cleaner on Dr. Bronner's site, and consider using this type of cleaner for your spring clean. Reviewers rave about Dr. Bronner's products and how it works well for cleaning, although one reviewer notes that it might be best to avoid placing your cleaning solution in a bottle with a pump, as it tends to clog the opening.
13. Ignoring your windows
Sure, they may be hiding behind window treatments, but clean windows add a nice touch to a clean room, especially with some of that springtime sunshine coming in. While window cleaner is easy to come by, grab a squeegee (yes, really) to help make the job even easier. This squeegee from Unger is paired with a microfiber bit for the ultimate shine. Reviewers rave about how well it cleans without leaving behind streaks that can leave your windows looking worse than they did before you cleaned them.
14. Using aerosol chemical air fresheners
It's easy to reach for a can to add some pleasant smells once your room is clean, but aerosol air fresheners often send volatile organic compounds (VOCs) straight into the air and into your lungs. Small amounts may be fine, but why take the risk? Instead, look into essential oil diffusers. We tested a bunch and discovered the InnoGear Upgraded 150ml Diffuser is the best oil diffuser out there due to its ease of use and modest price point.
15. Using paper towels
Yes, paper towels are easy and accessible, but there are better options that do not leave lint behind (because who wants more lint in an area they just cleaned?). Washcloths made from 100 percent cotton work, but microfiber cleaning cloths are even better. We think this 50-pack of microfiber cloths are a great buy, and so do the 1,600-plus reviewers, many of whom swear that they'll never go back to other cleaning methods again, especially as they can prove effective on many different surfaces. Don't forget, though, to wash them after use.
16. Avoiding the gross jobs, like cleaning your oven
When the oven door is closed, the sketchy mess inside ceases to exist, right? Unfortunately for everyone who's elbow-deep in spring cleaning, no, it most certainly does not. It can be intimidating to tackle a big job like an oft-ignored oven, but with the right product, your job will be far easier. This oven cleaner from Diversey gets fantastic reviews. Customers noted that it worked well even in ovens that hadn't been touched for half a decade, and it doesn't require a ton of elbow grease to really get the job done.
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