Want a cleaner home? Replace these bad cleaning habits with good ones and your home will stay tidier all week.
We all have things we’d rather do than clean house. That’s why cleaning hacks and shortcuts are so popular! But the point of taking a shortcut is to save time now and then, not on a regular basis. When cleaning shortcuts become your routine — rather than a break from it — your home will get dirtier day after day.
Of course, you wouldn’t take cleaning shortcuts if you didn’t care about having a clean home. After all, doing some cleaning is better than none, right? Not always. If you’ve picked up bad cleaning habits, you can make your home dirtier than if you did nothing at all.
Break these Bad Cleaning Habits for a Cleaner Home
The fastest way to break any bad habit is by replacing it with a good one. But, trying to break too many bad ones at once is overwhelming. So, try changing a couple of your bad habits each week. Once you’ve developed new, good cleaning habits, break a couple more of the bad ones. Before long, you’ll have a tidier home that will stay clean longer, too.
Ignoring Small Messes
Look around and you’ll likely find little messes everywhere. Coffee splashes on the kitchen counter. Toothpaste splatters in the sink. Yesterday’s junk mail piled on the dining table. These things happen to everyone. But ignoring small messes lets them pile up until your entire home looks like one big mess. Ignoring small messes is a bad cleaning habit that winds up costing you more time and effort. That’s because some small messes — like those toothpaste platters — take longer to clean the longer you leave them in place. Do a quick clean up as you go, or spend a few minutes following a daily cleaning routine that includes a quick wipe of counters and picking up trash.
Not Putting Away Food and Dishes
Cooking dinner every night and making endless snacks for the kids gets tiresome. Sometimes, it feels pointless putting away food and dirty dishes when you know you’ll be getting them out again soon. The real problem with open food containers and dirty pots and pans isn’t just the odor and mess they cause, though those are real concerns. Such things also attract household pests like ants and cockroaches that you’ll wind up spending days, even weeks getting rid of. (And, in the case of open food containers, you might also have to throw out foods you haven’t even opened if you attract pantry moths!) So, break that bad habit by putting food away and loading the dishwasher after every meal, then give those counters a quick swipe to clean them.
Confusing Cleaning and Disinfecting
No one wants to live with dangerous germs teeming on household surfaces. But using disinfectants as cleaners is a bad cleaning habit that poses significant risks. Dirt and greasy messes on a surface can overwhelm a disinfectant’s germ-killing abilities. So, you may think you’re knocking out dangerous microbes, but they’re still there. If you want to disinfect, go over surfaces with a soapy microfiber cloth to remove soil first then apply disinfectant. (Related: 13 Places to Disinfect Daily.)
Using Disinfecting Wipes the Wrong Way
Disinfecting wipes are a convenient way to kill harmful microorganisms. The problem is, we often try to do too much with one wipe to get the most out of it. Now that it’s so hard to find them in stores, many of us are falling into this bad cleaning habit. But, to be effective, a disinfectant needs to get a surface wet and keep it wet for several minutes. How long it takes varies between manufacturers and the germs targeted, so check the label. To break this bad habit, you’ll need to use separate ones for the sink, the counter, the outside of the toilet, and the seat. If the cost worries you, consider learning how to make your own disinfecting wipes.
Letting Laundry Pile Up — Literally
If it feels like you’re stuck in a never-ending loop doing laundry, you may have a bad habit of leaving it unfinished. It’s not enough to transfer your wash to the dryer. You also need to put away the laundry or you aren’t really done. That means, no piles of unfolded clothes on your sofa or bed. You’ll only end up shoving those onto the floor when you want to sit or lie down. Then they’ll get dirty, which means they’ll wind up back in the hamper. And so the cycle continues. Learn how to stay on top of laundry to break this bad cleaning habit. Wash, dry, fold, and put away one load of laundry every day if you can. Or, if you use a laundromat, make sure you put away the clean clothes as soon as you get home. Your clothes will stay cleaner and you won’t have to shove piles of laundry around in an endless loop.
Overestimating the Time or Effort Required
Procrastination isn’t always about disinterest. Sometimes, we put tasks off because we think they’ll take a long time. That often happens with house cleaning because “cleaning” can involve different things. For example, you can clean a bathroom in 15 minutes if you put your mind to it. You could also spend three times as long if you wanted to do a bathroom deep-cleaning. The thing is, your brain’s going to remember the longer time, but not the reason why it took longer. So, the next time your bathroom gets dirty, you’ll wind up thinking you need to set aside forty-five minutes to do it — when, in reality, you only need fifteen.
To break this bad cleaning habit, give yourself timed assignments. Set a 15-minute timer for bathrooms. Give yourself 30 minutes in the kitchen, since things get greasy in there. Living rooms? Ten to fifteen minutes. Bedrooms? About the same, unless you’re also changing the sheets. Get in there and hustle to get it done.
Not Cleaning your Cleaning Tools
Grimy rags leave surfaces grimy. Messy vacuums lose suction. Messy vacuums lose suction. Filthy mops leave streaks. Break the bad habit of putting your cleaning supplies away dirty, or you’re wasting time when you clean. If you’re using a rag, stop often and rinse it under a running faucet, not in a bucket of dirty water. Pull threads and hairs out of your vacuum’s brush head and wipe it after use. (Be sure to deep clean your vacuum cleaner regularly, too.) Wash your broom’s bristles and your mop after use, and let them air dry handle-down in bright sunlight. The cleaner your cleaning gear, the better it works!
Not Cleaning in the Right Order
The goal of cleaning your house is to get the dirt out of it. The best way to do this is by cleaning top to bottom to move dirt down then out. That doesn’t mean starting on the top floor of your home, though. It refers to the order in which you clean a room. To clean from top to bottom, you do the light fixtures, then walls, window sills, furniture, and floors. As for what rooms to clean first, for most homes, it’s best to do the kitchen then bathrooms. These are usually the dirtiest, germiest places. From there, clean the bedrooms, followed by living rooms or wherever your family hangs out. Finish by cleaning smaller spaces — laundry rooms, mudrooms, and closets. Last, but not least, tidy the area near the front door. Using this order puts your family’s health first — and that’s the real point of cleaning the house.
Binge-watching your favorite show on a Saturday is a great way to catch up with it. Binge-cleaning your house? Not so much. The reason it’s a bad cleaning habit is that binge-cleaning wears you out. So, you take cleaning shortcuts to make it faster, but then things don’t get truly clean. The next day, you’re exhausted or resentful that you spent an entire day cleaning the house. (Sometimes both.) Then, any little messes get ignored because you don’t feel like dealing with them. In other words, the bad habit of binge-cleaning leads to more bad cleaning habits. Overcome it by breaking the other bad habits then create a cleaning schedule that fits your life.