Interior Cleaning

A Cleaning Expert Debunks—or Validates—13 Myths Ahead of Your Spring Clean

The verdicts are in! Turns out, some of the most common cleaning and pest-control techniques simply don’t work.

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Spring Cleaning Checklist

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to emerge from the cave you’ve hunkered down in all winter long. Celebrate the season of renewal by swapping out heavy blankets for lighter ones, putting away clunky boots and bulky outerwear, and taking a vacuum attachment to the cobwebs and dust bunnies that have collected in the recesses of your rooms.

As you prepare to freshen up, cleaning expert Alice Shaw-Beckett of Cleanipedia invites you to rethink your seasonal routine, as some commonly held spring cleaning beliefs simply aren’t true. Read on to find out which cleaning and pest-control tactics you should ditch and which you should keep this spring.

Myth: Putting chestnuts on windowsills and in the corners of rooms prevents spiders from entering your home.

Verdict: False

“This myth comes from the claim that chestnuts contain a noxious chemical that repels spiders,” says Shaw-Beckett. 

“However, this has never been scientifically proven, meaning there is no evidence to suggest this method works. Lemon, on the other hand, has been proven to repel spiders, so rubbing a raw lemon wedge around the areas where a spider might enter your house is a much better alternative. Spritzing the areas with a mix of lemon juice and water will also work, as will getting rid of spiderwebs.”

Myth: Feather dusters remove dust.

Verdict: True and False

“This is true in the case of ostrich feather dusters, as the electric charge of the ostrich feathers traps the dust, ensuring it doesn’t disperse back into the room. However, other mainstream feather dusters will only move the dust around and not absorb it, essentially making dusting pointless. Instead, opt for a reusable damp cloth or microfiber duster.”

Related: How To: Clean Your Cleaning Tools

Myth: Eating garlic will prevent you from being bitten by mosquitoes.

Verdict: False

If only diet choices could so easily sway the bites of pesky insects like mosquitoes! “Despite garlic’s strong odor (which many firmly believe puts mosquitoes off), it will do nothing to prevent you from being bitten,” says Shaw-Beckett. “Rather, it comes down to genetic factors such as your blood type. Proven methods for repelling mosquitoes include smoke, giving you another good reason to fire up the barbecue!”

Myth: Bitter cucumber peel helps to prevent ants from invading your home.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence to suggest that cucumber peel is effective at warding off ants. For a tried-and-true method, Shaw-Beckett suggests focusing on cleanliness.

“The best way to keep ants from entering your home is prevention: Discourage their behavior by being better at cleaning up food spills and leftovers, and not letting food sit out for too long. Even keeping food in sealed containers in the fridge will help. Ants aren’t just a problem in the summer (although they are a lot more prevalent then). In the winter, they may enter your house to escape the cold and might form colonies in between bricks and in wood piles. Seal up any cracks and gaps in your walls to prevent an infestation.”

Related: 12 Tried-and-True Tricks to Stamp Out Ants

Myth: Cheese attracts mice to traps.

Verdict: True

“It might be a cliché, but it actually works. Mice enter your house largely for one reason, and that is to find food, making cheese a fantastic product to lure them into traps. However, if you don’t want to waste precious cheese on a rodent, peanut butter, a sugar cube, or sweets are great alternatives.”

Myth: Peppermint will repel rats.

Verdict: True

For a more gentle and natural approach to repelling rats, try peppermint oil.

“It won’t kill them, but it will certainly put them off entering. Simply sprinkle a few drops around potential entryways or in places where rats like to congregate (for instance, your kitchen and pantry).”

Myth: Hairspray is the ideal product for removing ink stains.

Verdict: True and False

“This is true if your hairspray contains alcohol (which is the ingredient that removes the stain), but this is less and less normal nowadays,” says Shaw-Beckett. “Most modern hairsprays are alcohol-free, making them extremely ineffective when it comes to removing ink. In fact, some hairsprays can make the situation worse, leading to additional staining and sticky marks that are hard to remove, and resulting in more work for you! You’re better off just using pure alcohol or an alcohol-based antibacterial hand wash.”

Myth: Coca-Cola can clean your toilet.

Verdict: True

In a pinch, you can skip the expensive cleaning products and reach for something as simple as a Coke to make toilets sparkle! According to Shaw-Beckett, the high levels of acid in the soda work to break down dirt and discoloration in the toilet. To make the most of this method, allow the fizzy drink to sit in the toilet for at least a couple of hours to overnight.

But is all that time worth it? Probably not. “You can’t get away without scrubbing, so you might as well invest in a dedicated liquid toilet cleaner, which works much more quickly and reduces the need for vigorous scrubbing!” says Shaw-Beckett.

Myth: Bleach cleans everything.

Verdict: False

“Bleach is a much-loved cleaning product in most households, thanks to its powerful disinfectant qualities for cleaning surfaces and preventing the spread of bacteria. It’s also great at whitening clothes and removing mold. That said, bleach should not be your go-to for everything. Avoid using it in your kitchen, for instance, as it has a hard time removing grease and can damage wooden surfaces.”

Related: 7 Surprising Alternative Uses for Clorox Bleach

Myth: Newspaper gives windows a streak-free shine.

Verdict: False

Could something as simple as a piece of newspaper be the magic ticket to streak-free windows? Sadly, no. “With the change of material and ink used for modern newspapers, pages of the daily print news aren’t effective window cleaners anymore,” says Shaw-Beckett. “The material is too flimsy, making it liable to disintegrate during use, and the ink is likely to leave residue on the window, ultimately giving you another mess to clean up. Instead, go for a good microfiber cloth.”

Myth: Vinegar works on everything.

Verdict: False 

“Just as with bleach, vinegar can be a fantastic all-around cleaning product for a lot of rooms, surfaces, and purposes. But just as with bleach, its effect is not universal. Vinegar’s acidic nature makes it excellent for removing grease, limescale, and water marks on steel fixtures and appliances, and it’s a great window cleaner. Mix it with lemon for even better results. However, avoid using vinegar on surfaces such as granite or wood, which can be damaged by the acidity.”

Related: 20 Handy Household Uses for Vinegar

Myth: Air freshener helps clean the air.

Verdict: False

An air freshener is simply that: a product that makes the surrounding environment smell better. It doesn’t, however, function as an air purifier.

“The key to cleaning the air is circulation, which can be done naturally by opening windows, keeping your home smoke-free, and dotting your home with air-purifying plants such as gardenias,” says Shaw-Beckett. “Electrical appliances like vacuums (regular vacuuming prevents dust from muddying the air) and electrical air purifiers will do the trick too.”

Myth: You should wash your clothes in cold water.

Verdict: False

“Using cold water is a great energy saver and can certainly be beneficial for some types of fabrics, but your best bet is to follow the temperature instructions on the care labels on clothing and other washables—they are there for a reason. Plus, there’s no disputing hot water’s powers when it comes to stain removal, and certain types of dirt can be cleaned only with warm water. Towels, bedsheets, and cotton underwear should always be washed in warm or hot water, so pay special attention to these items at least.”