16 Traditional Cleaning Tricks That Don’t Actually Work
Cleaning experts are calling the bluff on these popular cleaning “hacks.”
Removing gum with peanut butter
Save the PB for your sandwiches and skip putting it on gum-matted hair or upholstery, says Melissa Maker, a cleaning expert and host of the YouTube channel Clean My Space. Not only does this hack waste food, but it will also create a bigger mess to clean up afterward. Maker recommends applying coconut or olive oil to the sticky area, instead. Don’t miss more cleaning myths you need to stop believing.
Mixing baking soda and vinegar makes a super cleaner
Don’t get us wrong—baking soda and vinegar are great cleaning products on their own. But mix them together, and you’re left with nothing but water. What gives? Because vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base, together they will fizz up and neutralize each other. “People may think that the fizz helps to remove dirt or grime, but all it will do is create a big mess,” Maker says. Stick to these household vinegar uses you never knew about.
Soaking clothes in salt prevents fading
Experts at Goodhousekeeping.com tested this trick and found that it’s bogus. Turns out, whether or not the dye bleeds actually depends on how the material was made. “If a fabric runs, it’s just not properly finished,” Carolyn Forte, the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Cleaning Lab, says. So if the colors of your clothes are running in the washer, you should blame your wardrobe—not the water you wash it in. Watch out for more laundry mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
Rubbing wax paper on baseboards prevents dust build-up
Wrong again! Wax paper leaves behind a sticky, chemical-loaded coating on your baseboards that is almost guaranteed to need a second clean. Even worse, it may attract more dust and dirt in the process. Maker suggests wiping your baseboards with a dry microfiber cloth, and you can even attach it to a flat-head mop or long pole for any hard-to-reach spots. These cleaning mistakes are making your home dirtier, too.
Spraying hairspray removes ink and marker stains
This trick worked back in the day when hairspray contained alcohol, the ingredient needed to remove pesky stains. But these days, you are better off applying rubbing alcohol to the offending spot, according to Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning. Dab the fabric with a stain remover and give it a spin in the washing machine to make sure the stain is gone for good.
Placing dryer sheets in the air vent freshens the house
Dryer sheets belong in your laundry, not your air vents. “An HVAC system isn’t one you want to mess around with,” Maker says. Leaving dryer sheets in the vents can block airflow and spread synthetic chemicals throughout your home. Luckily, there are many more effective ways to make your home smell fresh. Maker suggests changing your furnace filter, deodorizing your soft surfaces, or using an essential oils diffuser. Check out more simple deodorizer ideas for your home.
Using wood polish spiffs up furniture
Polishing furniture made of raw wood is a no-brainer. But most wood furniture sold today is coated in a finish, so polishing it can actually make your furniture appear duller. Polyurethane, urethane, shellac, or varnish finishes are all made of plastic, which should be cleaned rather than polished, according to Jan M. Dougherty, author of The Lost Art of House Cleaning. She cleans her wood furniture with white vinegar and a microfiber rag.
Mixing vinegar and dish soap removes pet stains
Vinegar is a stain remover superhero, but it’s not strong enough to remove odors and discoloration caused by pet urine or vomit. Same goes for dish soap. An enzyme cleaner, on the other hand, is able to break down the proteins in the stain and make your carpet or upholstery look spotless. Here are more simple household cleaning tricks you’ll wish you knew sooner.
Dusting shelves with a coffee filter
Using a coffee filter to dust your home seems like a cheap alternative for a store-bought duster. But Reichert, a.k.a. The Cleaning Coach, has one question for this hack: Why? “It doesn’t produce static and doesn’t attract dust,” she says. “It’s made to filter coffee!” Instead, opt for a vacuum with a nozzle attachment or a soft, damp cloth.
Washing grime off a car with dishwashing detergent
While it’s true that you should clean your car with soap that fights off grease, dishwashing detergent is not the answer. This cleaning product is made to remove everything—including the polymers in your car’s paint, which speeds up its oxidation process. A proper car-wash cleaner is specifically designed to be used on automotive paint, so it will be much gentler on your vehicle. Try more weird tricks to clean your car.