DIY Cleaning & Organizing

10 Products You’ve Been Using Wrong All Along

You’ve got your home care routine down—but a few of your go-tos might be doing more harm than good, losing you money and even damaging your possessions. Here are 10 common household products you’ve been using wrong all along—and the right way to use them.

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Using Vinegar to Clean Everything

Vinegar’s a cheap and natural cleaner, but if you’ve been using it on every surfaces, stop right there! If you’ve got hardwood floors, the acidity in the vinegar can actually strip the finish as it cleans, which over time will ruin its shine. Instead, use a neutral-pH cleanser or one specifically formulated for hardwood.

Related: 11 Chores You’ve Been Doing Wrong All Along

Dumping in the Laundry Detergent

The average household does more than seven loads of laundry a week—but if you’re just dumping in the laundry detergent, you’re probably using WAY more than you need, which not only wastes money but can lead to sudsy buildup in some fabrics. So next time you go to start the wash, take the time to read the instructions and measure accordingly. Your clothes really will be just as clean!

Related: 9 Smart Hacks for Laundry Day

Swiping Paper Towels on Mirrors

It’s tempting to grab your fluffy, absorbent paper towels when it’s time to clean a window or mirror, but those soft fibers can detach with vigorous wiping, leaving lint-y streaks on your surface. Instead, use newspaper or a microfiber cleaning cloth with your preferred cleaning fluid (now here’s where you can use vinegar!) to get those glass surfaces squeaky clean.

Letting Cling Wrap Cling to Itself

You know how to use cling wrap: Open the box, pull it out, watch it clump into a tangled mess, curse in frustration? Turns out the manufacturers have been trying to help you out this whole time! Look on the end of the box: do you see the “press here” signs? Do it, you’ll create little tabs to hold the roll in place as you pull out the wrap, no swearing necessary!

Dabbing Club Soda on All Stains

Oops, dinner gone rogue—grab the club soda! While it is a good rule of thumb to tackle stains right away and club soda will work for many spills, it won’t do much against oil-based stains like salad dressing, lipstick, or most sauces. For those stains, apply a liberal amount of cornstarch or talcum powder to the area, let it sit for at least an hour, then blot it up. Another club soda no-no: Ballpoint ink (it’ll just set the stain further).

Popping Reusable Plastic Containers into the Microwave

Wahoo, leftovers! Pull them out of the fridge, pop ‘em into the microwave, and you have dinner in minutes. But if you’re using the same plastic container to reheat your food as you used to store it, beware: Not all plastic storage containers are microwave-safe, and if they’re not, those high temperatures could leak plastics into your food. So before you reheat, check the bottom of the container to make sure it’s microwave-safe, or better yet, reheat the food in a glass or ceramic bowl or plate.

Related: 7 Clever (Unauthorized) Uses for Common Appliances

Using Antibacterial Wipes on Your Screens

Your coworker’s got the flu—break out the wipes! But if you’re tempted to clean your computer monitor while you’re disinfecting your cube, stop now! The harsh chemicals in the wipes can corrode the screen and applying any amount of liquid directly to the screen runs the risk of that liquid getting inside the computer. Instead, use a microfiber cloth (you can add just a teeny bit of water if necessary) to pick up germs.

Swiping the Same Sponge Everywhere

If you’re like most people, you use the same sponge to clean your dishes, wipe down the countertop, and scrub spills off the floor—and only toss them once they’re gray and fraying. But if you’re not regularly cleaning your sponge and using it to clean up spills that could contain bacteria, like egg yolks or meat juice, they could be laden with bacteria. Be sure to disinfect your sponge regularly in the microwave or dishwasher, and trade it out frequently. And for those tricky spills, use paper towels.

Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Microwave Can Do

Applying Fertilizer Too Early

As you start to see those first shoots of spring, it’s tempting to dump fertilizer all over your yard to get things growing—well, don’t! Fertilizer works best on plants that are already into their growth cycle, and adding it too early can make your plants susceptible to to pests or cold damage. Instead, wait until later in the season to feed them, and be sure you know what kinds of plants you have, and check your soil’s pH level so you can select the right mix type of fertilizer to begin with.

Related: 7 Lawn Care Myths Debunked

Using Your Broom on Damp Messes

Your kid may love the bacon and eggs your made for breakfast—but half of it still ended up on the floor! Before you grab the broom to manage the spillage, beware: You should only use it for truly dry messes. If your debris has any kind of moisture it in, it can get caught in your broom’s fibers, where it’ll just breed more bacteria. Instead, use a wipe or paper towel to lift the mess and any debris that’s stuck to the floor, too. And if you’ve never cleaned your broom, put that on your list! A rinse with vinegar and water can disinfect it, just make sure to give it a chance to dry completely before using it again.