10 Cleaning Habits to Blame for Your Messy Home

Everybody seems to have a different recommendation for how to clean each surface in the house… but not all of these cleaning habits do what their proponents claim. Many materials require specific cleansers, and using the wrong one may render your efforts useless, or worse yet damage the surface that you’re trying to clean. Keep reading to find out which bad cleaning habits you should ditch and learn about some better alternatives you should adopt.

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  1. Replacing Disinfectant with Vinegar


    Vinegar is an effective cleaner, busting through grease and creating a wonderfully inhospitable environment for some bacteria. But vinegar won't prevent the spread of certain persistent germs like the flu virus, so be sure to use a home cleaning solution that is labeled as a disinfectant every now and then during flu season.

    Related: 10 Handy Household Uses for Vinegar


  2. Using Bleach for Everything


    Conversely, bleach is a very effective disinfectant, but it may not be a successful general cleaner. To actually lift dirt, mildew, and residue from a surface, scrub and rinse the area before applying bleach. Bleach may also be too harsh for certain surfaces like granite or marble.

    Related: 7 Surprising Alternative Uses for Clorox Bleach


  3. Mixing Ammonia with Other Cleaners


    Ammonia is considered to be less harmful to the environment than bleach, and it can be found in many household cleaners, but mixing ammonia-based cleaners with bleach can be dangerous. Likewise, using ammonia straight is not advisable. Instead, it should be diluted and used in a well-ventilated area. Better yet, avoid using ammonia altogether, especially if you have any type of respiratory disorder.

    Related: 11 Home Hazards to Know and Avoid


  4. Ignoring Floor Finishes


    We've all heard that the type of wood floor you have determines the cleaner that's required. That's not entirely true— what really matters is your floor's finish. Find out what type of finish is on your floors before you clean, or you could end up damaging them. Surface-sealed floors can be swept and then mopped with a gentle pH-balanced cleaner. Untreated or oil-treated floors should be coddled, simply wiped with a damp rag when necessary and protected with a liquid or paste wax.

    Related: 7 Unusual Tricks for Your Cleanest Floors Ever


  5. Cleaning Pet Accidents with Vinegar


    When Fido has an accident on the carpet, it's important to act fast to avoid stains and odors. Diluted vinegar is a green cleaning method that's gained in popularity, but if you'd rather not contend with the pungent smell of vinegar on top of everything else, opt for a commercial pet stain remover instead.

    Related: 13 Lazy Cleaning Tricks for a Spotless Home


  6. Skimping on the Vacuum


    Take note, wary vacuumers! Contrary to popular belief, frequent vacuuming does not ruin carpets and rugs. In fact, it can extend the life of your carpet by removing dirt and debris that would otherwise become ground into the fibers. Dirt is abrasive and will ultimately damage the rug more than any vacuum would.

    Related: The 9 Rules for Rugs That Everyone Should Know


  7. Confusing Disinfectant with Sanitizer


    Many people confuse sanitizing with disinfecting and therefore end up using cleaning products incorrectly. Here's the difference: To be labeled a sanitizer, a solution must kill 99.9 percent of bacteria in 30 seconds, while disinfectants must kill all organisms within 10 minutes. You should use a sanitizer to clean anything that comes into contact with food, while a disinfectant is more appropriate for cleaning the toilet. Read product labels to make sure you let a product sit long enough to do its work.

    Related: 8 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Bathroom Ever


  8. Avoiding the Hot-Water Cycle


    It is true that setting your washing machine to the cold cycle saves money and energy, but cold water is less effective at destroying viruses, bacteria, and allergens. Choose hot water when washing sheets and towels to kick up your cleaning power. And if family members are sick, be sure to wash their clothing in hot water too. Drying laundry on high heat will further protect against germs.

    Related: 9 Smart Hacks for Laundry Day


  9. Wiping with the Wrong Rags


    Not all cleaning rags are created equal. Many people dismiss microfiber cloths as a gimmick, but in truth they have much smaller fibers than ordinary cleaning rags. This enables them to attract even microscopic particles of dirt that a cotton cloth would probably miss, making them perfect for household dusting.

    Related: 9 Brilliant Cleaning Hacks Everyone Should Know


  10. Leaving Behind Pet Hair


    Vacuuming may remove some pet hair from upholstered furniture, but it will most likely leave behind many stubborn strands and may also damage the fabric. Instead, try a squeegee. The rubber blade will safely and effectively collect the hair into a pile that you can then vacuum.

    Related: 7 Ways You're Vacuuming Wrong


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