Frustrated with cleaning your house from top to bottom and feeling like it still isn’t sparkling? You may have fallen victim to some cleaning myths.
We asked home cleaning expert Jan M. Dougherty, author of "The Lost Art of Housecleaning,” to bust five common cleaning myths, so you can stop wasting time and start cleaning right.
Myth #1: Something will smell “clean” when it is clean.
Reality: What does “clean” smell like exactly? Nothing, Daugherty says.
“The simple truth of the matter is, when something is clean, it doesn't smell, period,” she says. “It doesn't have an odor because when most things smell, you're smelling dirt, you're smelling grease or you're smelling cleaning products with perfumes and other fragrance.”
Myth #2: Bleach is the ultimate cleaner.
Reality: Not only has home use of bleach been linked to an increased risk of infection in kids, but bleach isn’t great for cleaning everything in your house.
“A lot of people think they should use bleach to disinfect, to clean the germs,” Dougherty says, but she recommends using 100-percent white vinegar instead. “It's not caustic and it will not damage anything — not your clothes, your hands or anything it gets near.”
One of the biggest myths about bleach is that it is the best way to clean grout between tiles. Not so, Daugherty says. “It is the worst thing you can do because bleach will eat the grout,” she warns. Instead, she recommends spraying your grout with Krud Kutter and scrubbing it with a toothbrush or small detail brush. “It will come up absolutely clean,” she says.
Myth #3: Use different cleaning products to clean different things.
Reality: You only need a handful of products to clean everything in your home, Daugherty says.
“I’ve run my business for 10 years, cleaning 100 houses a week with my crew,” she says. "And I only use three products in my business and in my home — and there is nothing that doesn’t come clean."
Thinking you need one cleaner for the kitchen counter and a different one for the bathroom sink is a marketing ploy, Daugherty says.
“People literally have hundreds of dollars' worth of products, from every company that promised they're going to get their house clean,” she says. “And their houses are still dirty.” Instead, she advocates understanding the science behind cleaning so you know what “ingredients” — or cleaning products — to use on what kind of dirt.
“If I were to go into my kitchen and put everything on the counter you need to bake a cake, but I did not give you the recipe, you couldn’t make a chocolate cake,” Dougherty says. “Cleaning is exactly the same way. You need both the proper ingredients and the recipe on how to use these ingredients.”
Myth #4: Paper towels are great for cleaning.
Reality: Paper towels are great for quickly wiping up spills and splashes, but not for real cleaning.
“Using paper towels to clean your house is an absolutely terrible waste of resources and very, very, very expensive,” Daugherty says.
“You need paper towels at your sink for whenever you have a really quick clean-up emergency, and cleaning rags for cleaning,” says Daugherty, who only goes through one roll of paper towels each month. She instead uses white terry cloth rags and microfiber cloths, which she keeps under her sink.
Myth #5: Immediately wipe surfaces down after spraying cleaner on them.
Reality: Wipe off a cleaner before it dries on a surface, Daugherty says, but you might need to let it sit a bit, especially on old dirt.
“If you’re just cleaning the stove and counters after cooking dinner, then just spray and wipe, spray and wipe, spray and wipe,” she says. If you're cleaning a space that hasn't been cleaned properly in a while, spray it on and give it a few minutes to do its job before wiping away.
Ellen Sturm Niz is an editor and writer living, parenting, and working in New York City. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.