Even the most well-meaning (and enthusiastic!) cleaner can get it wrong from time to time – here are 15 common cleaning mistakes you don’t want to make.
1. Going too heavy on the laundry detergent
Too much laundry liquid can cause smells to become trapped in fabric - it’s a common cause of armpit odour build up and mildewed towels. Being heavy handed with the washing powder can also shorten the life of your washing machine because it creates extra suds. This foam builds up between the outer drum wall and the inner drum of the washer, often creating a suction issue, causing the motor to burn out.
2. Using the wrong kind of laundry detergent
We’re not talking brands here. Using a detergent designed for the type of machine you have is important. Why? Front-loading machines use much less water in general and more mechanical action (turning), and detergents made for front loaders have an anti-foam ingredient. So if you use a top loading formulation, you’ll once again have an avalanche of suds to build up and shorten the life of your machine.
3. Going too heavy on the cleaning products
Amount also counts when it comes to other household cleaning products, as they can build up and leave residue on surfaces. Cleaning expert for Helping Australia, Johann Grunberger, says soap and detergent residue can also aid the growth of bacteria. Use a damp microfibre cloth where you can, and use products sparingly when you do bring them out.
4. Believing vinegar cleans everything
While vinegar is good to lift stains and clean laundry, Johann says it’s important to note it is acidic, meaning it shouldn’t be used on granite and marble countertops or stone floor tiles as it can etch the surface.
5. Using the same cleaning cloth in different surfaces
Always remember to change the cloths when you’re cleaning different places because the bacteria from the bathroom and kitchen can infect surfaces from other rooms. "Ideally you should keep one cloth for each area of the house," Johann says.
6. Using a duster
Dusters are good at flinging dust into the air (your broom can be guilty of the same cleaning crime), while microfiber cloths are designed to trap them.
7. Not caring for your rubber gloves
While rubber gloves might protect us from germs on the outside, Johann says the humidity inside the gloves is a perfect habitat for bacteria. If you like to use them, he recommends placing them in hot water mixed with 2 teaspoons of vinegar and a little detergent for 10-15 minutes after each use. Afterwards, wring out the gloves and leave them to dry in a cool place.
8. Using the wrong tool for the job
Be careful not to use too abrasive a scrub on delicate surfaces, the co-founder at UrbanYou, Elke Keeley, says. Using steel wool or harsh sponges can work wonders to remove stubborn grime, but they also wreak havoc on delicate surfaces such as plastic and ceramic cooktops, and may even scratch non-stick coatings.
9. Wet before dry
Forgetting to thoroughly vacuum, dust or sweep before mopping simply moves dust, dirt and grime around, rather than picking it up, says Elke.
10. Scrubbing stains out of carpets
This can actually cause the particles of the stain to get ground into the carpet fibres, which can lead to the stain becoming even worse. A much better approach is to blot the stain, as this will apply just enough pressure to pick the stain up rather than spreading it around the carpet.
11. Applying stain removers without spot testing
Using a stain remover can potentially ruin your carpet beyond repair. If you catch the stain early enough then water should suffice, but if it has been there for a while then shaving cream can work wonders. Always use caution with stain removal on any surface - make sure you’ve picked the correct stain remover, and spot tested in a hidden spot first.
12. Neglecting to clean your ‘cleaners’
The inside of a dishwasher should be cleaned monthly, Johann says. It is a perfect place for fungus and black yeast to grow. Pour vinegar into a dishwasher-safe cup and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher (empty) and run it for a full cycle at a hot temperature. The same can be said for your washing machine, which can also be cleaned out by running a very hot cycle with a cup of vinegar (also make sure you get in and clean out the rubber seal around the door and clean the filter).
13. Neglecting the outdoor paint work
Shutters, wooden painted fences, posts or window sills build up dirt and dust over time the same way our windows sills and skirting boards do indoors. If you leave it too long to clean, the dust will because stubborn and you may damage it when giving it the more vigorous clean it will then require.
14. Leaving mess to hang around too long
Prema Deva from All Pure Cleaning says it’s always better to clean and tidy as you go - and regularly - instead of once every now and then, because it can take hours when you leave things to accumulate, and as with the outdoors, items can deteriorate when neglected.