9 Bad Cleaning Habits to Break ASAP

Clean

Break these bad cleaning habits and discover new ones that take the stress out of cleaning your house.

Woman in the middle of cleaning sits on sofa listening to music

We all have things we’d rather do than clean our homes. That’s why cleaning hacks and shortcuts are so popular! But taking shortcuts every time you clean means you never do a really thorough job. Then your home feels grimy even when you’ve just cleaned it.

Break these Bad Cleaning Habits for a Cleaner Home

Trying to change all of your bad habits at once leads to disaster. (Remember those New Year’s Resolutions when you were going to drink more water, eat more plants, sleep more, exercise daily, and keep a clean house? How’s that going? Yeah, I broke mine by January 2, too.)

I can’t help you with the daily exercise part, but here’s my advice on keeping your house clean: change one bad cleaning habit at a time. When that change is a normal part of your routine, break another bad cleaning habit. Before long, you’ll have a tidier home that will stay clean longer, too.

Bad Habit #1: Ignoring The Little Stuff

The bad habit: Leaving little messes until cleaning day. Look around, and you’ll likely find little messes everywhere. Coffee splashes on the counter. Toothpaste in the sink. Yesterday’s mail 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 that takes a lot of effort to clean.

The new habit: Adopt a 2-minute rule about messes. That means if you can clean it up in 2 minutes, then do it immediately. This rule will have you wiping up coffee spills when they happen, dealing with toothpaste splatters after you make them, even picking up your dirty clothes as you take them off. Before you know it, your home will start looking cleaner because it is.

Bad Habit #2: Soaking Dishes After Dinner

The bad habit: Leaving the kitchen a mess after dinner. You want to crash on the sofa and watch Netflix, but what about those dirty dinner dishes? Stop leaving them to soak until morning when you do them while your coffee brews. That might loosen cooked-on grime, but it does nothing for the spills and crumbs. And left overnight, that mess will attract cockroaches and ants that you’ll work forever to be rid of.

The new habit: Adopt a tidy person’s habit of cleaning as you cook. Add dirty utensils and measuring cups to the dishwasher as you use them. Wipe counters after you transfer ingredients to the cooking pan. As soon as your meal is over, put food away, run the dishwasher, and then give your counters a quick wipe with a soapy rag.

Bad Habit #3: Decluttering When You Clean

The bad habit: Trying to clean and declutter at the same time. When an area is cluttered, it takes longer to clean. You’ve either got to put everything away first or else clean around it. Either way, you’re likely to run out of time or energy before it’s clean, so it just gets dirtier. That’s another vicious cycle caused by bad cleaning habits.

The fix: Declutter every day or two. A 10-minute tidying session is all it takes. Set a timer on your phone and (without looking at your phone again) buzz around the house, putting things away. Toss trash while you’re at it, and stick things you no longer want into a Donation Box in your coat closet. When you’re ready to clean, you won’t have to work around all that mess, so it’ll go faster.

Bad Habit #4: Disinfecting When You’re Cleaning

The bad habit: Thinking that your disinfectant is also a cleaning product. Cleaning and disinfecting are two separate things. Cleaning removes dirt and grime. Disinfecting deals with germs. But disinfectants can’t do their job properly if they’re overwhelmed by organic matter on a surface.

The fix: Clean before you apply disinfectant. Soap and water are enough for most areas, especially if you use a good microfiber cloth. (The set I use* has three different colors, so I use one color for the kitchen, another for the bathroom, and the third for everything else.) Follow with your favorite disinfecting product, then use a fresh microfiber cloth to wipe the surface once you’re done.

Bad Habit #5: Using Disinfecting Wipes Wrong

The bad habit: Most people use disinfecting wipes wrong. Although they can do a great job killing germs, we often try to get too much use out of one. (Especially now that it’s hard to find them in the stores.) A disinfecting wipe needs to get a surface wet and keep it visibly wet for several minutes. So, it can take three or more to disinfect an average kitchen counter.

The fix: Since the time required varies between manufacturers, always check the product label on your disinfecting wipes to see how long they need to kill germs. Then, use separate ones for the sink, counter, outside of the toilet, and the seat. If the cost worries you, consider learning how to make your own disinfecting wipes.

Woman folding sweaters on sofa

Bad Habit #6: That Literal Pile of Laundry

The bad habit: You wait until you’re completely done to put laundry away to avoid making several trips. But, by the time it’s all done, you don’t have the energy to figure out what clothes go where. The pile on the sofa gets shoved to the floor so you can rest, and you wind up rewashing half of it.

The fix: As you fold a load, keep each family member’s stuff separate and stacked by type. Once you’ve folded the entire load, collect each person’s stacks and put them away. (Or, for older kids, put them in their room so they can put them away.) Repeat after every load, and it won’t matter if you run out of time or energy: there won’t be a pile of clothes on the sofa when you’re done.

Bad Habit #7: Overestimating the Job

The bad habit: You put off housework because you don’t have time for it right now. But messes don’t get the message and keep happening. Meanwhile, you’re stuck living in an increasingly dirty home but feel helpless because you don’t have a lot of time.

The fix: Instead of waiting until you’ve got enough time to do a thorough job, clean a room until it’s just good enough. Set a 5-minute timer for bathrooms. Give yourself 10 minutes in the kitchen. Living rooms? Ten to fifteen minutes. Bedrooms? About the same. Get in there and hustle. It takes a lot less time than you think to get your house clean enough for comfort.

Woman leaning on counter and holding up a microfiber cloth

Bad Habit #8: Using Dirty Cleaning Tools

The bad habit: After you finish cleaning, you chuck everything in the cabinet and call it a day. The problem is, those dirty cleaning rags are going to breed bacteria and grow mildew. Your dusty vacuum cleaner will lose suction. And that filthy mop will leave streaks on your floor.

The fix: Use a fresh cloth to wipe your cleaning supplies once you’re done. Toss dirty rags and mop heads into the wash. Pull threads and hairs out of your vacuum’s brush head and empty it after use. (Be sure to deep clean your vacuum cleaner regularly, too.) The cleaner your cleaning gear, the better it works.

Bad Habit #9: Task-Based Cleaning

The bad habit: You dust furniture one day, vacuum floors on another, and mop the day after that. Then it’s the sink and counter-cleaning day, followed by a day doing the tubs and toilets. Saturdays are for laundry, and on Sundays, you rest. Yet you feel like your house is never completely clean. It’s not. You’re using the wrong system.

The fix: Switch to room-based cleaning and clean a room from top to bottom before moving onto the next. To clean a room from top to bottom, do the light fixtures, then walls, window sills, furniture, and floors. (My free printable cleaning checklists show you the right order.) Start in the kitchen, then clean bathrooms, followed by living areas and bedrooms. You’ll get your entire home cleaner in less time, and you’ll be able to see what you’ve accomplished, too.

2 Comments

  1. I love your checklists but dont have access to a printer!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Perhaps a friend does?

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