Worst Spring Cleaning Mistakes

25 Spring Cleaning Mistakes You Keep Making Every Year

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Worst Spring Cleaning Mistakes

cleaning conundrum

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and suddenly you feel that familiar urge to get rid of old junk and clean everything in sight. But chances are there are things you could be doing better, and maybe a few chores you're doing flat-out wrong. We asked experts to let us in on the most common spring cleaning mistakes — here are the things they say we keep doing wrong.

Related: 60 Handy Products to Refresh Your Home This Spring

Things Just Wasting Garage Space

biting off more than you can chew

"People get motivated to spring clean their home, but take on a large project too soon," says Stacey Agin Murray, a professional organizer with New Jersey-based Organized Artistry. Then they end up getting overwhelmed, and stop altogether. Instead, she recommends breaking big projects up into smaller "micro tasks." Examples could include "packing away winter items, taking inventory of gardening supplies, and sorting through last year's beach toys," she says. "Each micro task should not take more than an hour."
Decluttering Last, Not First
Hero Images/Getty Images

decluttering last, not first

If you've been inspired by Marie Kondo to declutter your home this spring, join the club. But decide what doesn't spark joy before you begin the deep cleaning of your home, not after, recommends Cyrus Bedwyr, a professional kitchen and oven cleaner with Fantastic Services. "There's no need to clean your kitchen spotlessly first, and take all the clutter out after that. Apart from creating a mess in your just-cleaned kitchen, you will make it dirty again."
Starting At the Bottom

starting at the bottom

Look up, not down — that's where you should start cleaning in every room. "It can be tempting to start with the baseboards and carpets, then work your way up to furniture and drapes," says Natalie Wise, author of "The Modern Organic Home." Instead, "it's much better to start at the top, with ceiling fans and drapes, and let any flyaway dust and dirt settle on the next 'layer' before cleaning that section. Otherwise, you'll have ceiling fan dust falling on your nicely cleaned floors."
Steam Cleaning a Wood Floor

steam cleaning a wood floor

Steam cleaners and wood floors are rarely a match, experts say. "When you clean your wood floors and use water, you need that water to evaporate as soon as possible," says Alberto Navarrete, general manager of Emily's Maids in Dallas. "Using steam can get a great amount of water on your floor and cause damage if your wood is not treated. Microfiber is much better for your wood floors, and often, just enough." Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association, agrees that sweeping, dust mopping, and vacuuming are all you need for regular maintenance, while a professional wood floor cleaning product is best for occasional deep cleaning.
Using Glass Cleaners on Electronics ...

using glass cleaners on electronics ...

You can use glass cleaner for everything, right? Wrong, says Jack Prenter, founder of ChoreBliss, a Toronto-based house cleaning service. "Products like Windex are incredibly harsh because they contain ammonia. When used on your TV or other devices, they can strip away the upper layer of the screen, causing bubbling, liquid damage, and large marks," he cautions. There are specialized screen cleaners, but if you don't want to spend money on them, you don't have to. A damp microfiber cloth works just fine, Prenter says.
... or Stone Countertops

... or stone countertops

Glass cleaners are also a no-no on your stone counters, says Lenny Sciarrino, CEO of Granite Gold. "They can cause costly damage to the stone and lead to dulling over time." DIY vinegar cleaning solutions also aren't a good idea. "The acidity of vinegar can strip off sealant and seep into the pores of the stone leading to discoloration, dulling, and etching," he cautions. Dish soap and water are fine for everyday cleaning of granite if you won't want to spring for a stone-safe commercial cleaner.

Tackling Soap Scum With Normal Cleaners

tackling soap scum with normal cleaners

Most all-purpose cleaners, and even some billed specifically for bathrooms, won't make a dent in that stubborn soap scum. What will might surprise you, however. "The easiest way to break down soap scum is to simply scrub the fixtures with a dryer sheet," says Kathy St. Croix, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Syracuse, N.Y. "Another option is to try putting a small amount of cooking spray on the fixture. However, look for plain cooking spray options that don't have a lot of add-ins. Coat the fixture in your cooking spray and then wipe it clean with a gentle cloth."
Being Too Rough With Windows

being too rough with windows

Merin Jay of Top Window Cleaners in London says she understands the impulse to scrub and scrape at windows, especially if dead insects, bird feces, or thick layers of dirt block the sun. But she cautions against "rough brushes, scrub pads or razors. Yes, probably you'll be able to remove the dried up filth, but they will scratch the windows or frames." Instead, she recommends mixing one part water with one part white vinegar and spraying the glass. "Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to scrub off the congealed dirt." Larry Patterson of Glass Doctor in Dallas also recommends microfiber cloths for windows and mirrors, especially over newspaper. "Dry microfiber cloths are much more effective; newspaper quickly deteriorates when it's wet and can leave newsprint spots on your mirror frames and window sills."
Not Giving Chemicals Enough Time to Work

not giving chemicals enough time to work

You might dread spring cleaning because the thought of all that scrubbing is just too tiring. That's actually a sign you might be doing it wrong, Prenter says. "If you're having to scrub at the dirt, you're not being patient enough," he says. "You should spray cleaning chemicals onto a mess and then walk away for five minutes. Chemicals don't work instantaneously." If you find that you still need to scrub after that, Prenter says you're probably using a cleaning product that's not strong enough for the job.
Mixing Different Cleaners

mixing different cleaners

Many warning labels tell you not to do this for an obvious but important reason — it can be very dangerous, especially in the case of ammonia and bleach. "The combination of these two chemicals is toxic and deadly, so always read your labels and be safe," says Sophie Kaemmerle of NeighborWho. "Even natural ingredients can have negative chemical reactions, so always be aware and do your research before trying to mix or make your own cleaners."

Related: 31 Ways to Spring Clean With Everyday Household Items

Using the Same Cleaning Cloth Everywhere

using the same cleaning cloth everywhere

We know, we know, you probably have a certain cleaning cloth that you just love. But don't use the same one in every room of the house, says Derek Hales, editor in chief of Modern Castle. "Not only does this have the tendency to spread grime and germs from surface to surface, but it often times carries a streaky clean with it. If you're noticing your cleaning cloth feeling overly saturated with cleaner or leaving streaky surfaces behind, it may be time to swap out your cleaning cloth for a new, dry one."
Using a Dirty Vacuum

using a dirty vacuum

"For all the work that your vacuum cleaner does, it can be easy to forget to clean the machine itself," Hales warns. But if you want it to suck (in the best possible way, of course) don't forget to show it a little TLC, he says. "Check the brush roll for any clogged debris. You can use a pair of scissors to gently clip off any tangles from around the axle. Also, make sure to check the filter and replace as needed. Lastly, empty the dust bin and wipe it out with a dry cloth."

Related: Best Cheap Vacuum Cleaners

Being Too Rough With Carpet

being too rough with carpet

Your carpet can only withstand so much scrubbing and rubbing before it starts to break down, Hales says, so ditch the brute force. "Scrubbing carpet fibers too roughly can damage the fiber and cause permanent damage. Instead of scrubbing, try blotting the stain with a damp cloth, using mild detergents or cleaning solutions as needed." Match the stain remover to the job: For instance, dish detergent is effective on grease, while hydrogen peroxide is best on blood.
Spreading Dust Around

spreading dust around

"Certainly dry dusting and using a feather duster has its place, but be cautious," Hale says. "Dry dusting has a tendency to spread dust around instead of capturing it and removing it from the space." To make sure you're actually removing dust, not just spreading it around, he recommends using a bit of furniture polish or dusting spray, too. Also make sure you're using the best tool for the job — microfiber does a much better job keeping dust locked onto the duster instead of floating around the room you're trying to clean, notes The Kitchn.
Excuse to Get Out of Things

forgetting about fido

Household cleaners banish germs and grime, but don't forget that they can be toxic for your pets. "Sometimes you can't get away without using bleach and other strong chemicals, so always close off rooms and block areas to keep your precious fur babies from getting ill," recommends Marty Basher, home organization expert for Modular Closets. "Another option is to create a pet-friendly solution of vinegar and baking soda. Not only will this homemade cleaning solution keep floors and counter surfaces clean, it removes grease from ovens, grime from showers, and soap buildup from washing machines."

Related: 25 Ways to Reclaim Your House From Messy Pets

Washing Machine

ignoring your washer ...

Yes, it's responsible for cleaning your clothes, but that doesn't mean your washer can't get dirty. "Your dirty clothes have leftover skin cells and other stains that can attach to the drum of the machine," cautions Emily Walsh, a home improvement expert with Mesothelioma.com. The buildup can leave a funky odor on clothes, but a mixture of vinegar and baking soda added to an empty drum during a regular cycle can banish it for good, she says.

... And Your Dryer
Bill Oxford/istockphoto

... and your dryer

The most important part of your dryer to clean? The duct in the back, especially after a long winter's use. John Bodrozic of HomeZada cautions that the lint that builds up there "causes your dryer to work longer to dry clothes, which increases your energy bills, and it is highly flammable and source of home fires." If you would rather call in a pro to do it, average fees are around $130, according to HomeAdvisor.
Cleaning Only the Inside of the Fridge

cleaning only the inside of the fridge

Ever cleaned your refrigerator coils? If not, you could be setting yourself up for a pricey, premature breakdown. "Over time, the coils collect dirt, hair, grease, grime, and other debris that reduces refrigeration efficiency and eventually causes the appliance to overheat," says Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance. "To access the coils, remove the grill from the bottom or back of the fridge. Then, vacuum the coils with the brush attachment to remove any buildup." Another oft-neglected spot that needs to be cleaned, Rogers says: The door gasket, which can wear out if it gets too grimy. "Simply wipe it with a damp sponge. Avoid using detergents, which can damage the gasket."
Spraying Appliance Knobs and Buttons

spraying appliance knobs and buttons

While you're cleaning appliance, Rogers also cautions that you don't want to spray oven knobs, microwave buttons, and other sensitive areas directly with a ton of cleaner. "Break this habit. The liquid could get behind the knobs and switches and short out the control panel," he says. "Instead, spray a rag with liquid cleaner and then rub the controls to prevent shorting."
Trusting Your Self-Cleaning Oven

trusting your self-cleaning oven

What could be better than an appliance that cleans itself? Sadly, in the case of ovens, it's best to use the self-cleaning feature sparingly, Bedwyr says. Usually, "it's far better to scrub your oven down manually," he cautions. "Ovens use really high temperatures to burn out food bits and grease. This can damage various parts of your oven and create harmful fumes for pets and humans." When you do tackle your messy oven, the harsh chemicals in commercial oven cleaners are a no-no because they can break down the self-cleaning coating, he warns. Stick to dish soap and water, GE recommends.
Neglecting the Great Outdoors

neglecting the great outdoors

In a rush to get our indoor spaces spic and span, many of us ignore the porch, deck, garage, and other outdoor spaces during spring cleaning. But Wise recommends gritting your teeth and cleaning them now, "before the first warm day when you're desperate to be out on the porch, and find yourself with patio furniture still stacked under dirty covers, snow salt tracked all over the screened-in porch, and dead leaves swept in every corner."
Forgoing Curbside Pickup

forgoing curbside pickup

Piling up clothing and household goods that you want to donate is fantastic. Letting them sit around for months after your purge? Not so great. Murray says it's easy to break the cycle by scheduling a curbside pickup. "Unless you live in a remote area, there is always an organization collecting clothes and household goods, especially around springtime," she advises. "Usually, they send postcards alerting neighborhoods that they'll be collecting on certain days. It's as easy as scheduling a pickup and leaving marked bags on your doorstep." You can schedule donation pickups with The Salvation Army all year long.

Related: 17 Places to Unload All the Stuff You Don't Need

Stashing Everything in Cardboard Boxes

stashing everything in cardboard boxes

Les Englund, owner of Bin There Dump That in Phoenix, recommends ditching traditional cardboard boxes altogether while you declutter. Aside from being vulnerable to water, "cardboard boxes can be a breeding ground for many different bugs," he cautions. "I recommend plastic storage containers; they tend to be much sturdier and will keep items dry and protected from pests." They also don't have to be pricey — you can get large 18-gallon bins at Walmart for under $5 each.

Related: 30 Essentials You Need to Buy to Keep Your House Organized

Not Stopping to Use Labels

not stopping to use labels

Unless you're using clear bins to stow clutter, every box packed away for storage needs a clear label, says Dawn Ventura of California-based Meathead Movers. "Just when you think you've packed everything into organized boxes or bins, you'll realize just how unorganized you still are if you can't find anything that you put away." You don't need to get fancy, she says — just use the thickest black marker you can find.
Forgetting to Make It Fun

forgetting to make it fun

Joshua Helm, district partner with JDog Junk Removal & Hauling in the Twin Cities, says cleaning and decluttering doesn't have to feel like an endless slog. "Once the project is completed, celebrate with a pizza party, movie, bowling, or another fun activity for your family. Having something to work toward will help motivate the whole family during spring cleaning season."