A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Things You Shouldn’t Clean with Water

It might seem like water is the most harmless cleaning agent out there, but there are a few things you should never clean with it.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

hands wringing out a sponge under running water with a "no" symbol overlay
rd.com, Getty Images

Cleaning with water

Even though water is much more plentiful (and cheaper) than any cleaning product you can buy at the store, like bleach or dish soap, it shouldn’t always be your go-to when you need to scrub down every surface in your home. Sometimes it does more damage than good and you need to use cleaning products meant for specific finishes or surfaces. Read on to find out what you should never clean with water. Also, learn about the things you should never clean with vinegar.

Fold soft waved red velour fabric textured background.
Pattadis Walarput/Getty Images


You should never use water to clean velvet or other fuzzy fabrics such as suede or microfiber. “When the fibers on these fabrics get wet and then dry, they can get stuck in their new position,” says Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services. “This could mean you will have a swipe pattern permanently on our furniture as a result.” Smith recommends hiring a professional cleaner for fuzzy fabrics. They will clean it but also use a special brush to make sure the material looks good as new. Don’t miss these cleaning mistakes that are making your home dirtier.

hardwood floor texture
Rouzes/Getty Images

Hardwood and laminate floors

Even though there is a water-resistant finish on hardwood and laminate floors, it wears off over time, and cleaning them with water could cause damage. If water gets into the wood it can cause it to swell and turn black. “The proper way to clean a wood or laminate floor is to use a flat microfiber mop and spray-on cleaning solution with a spray bottle a little bit at a time,” says Smith. “Most flooring manufacturers make specific recommendations on which product they recommend on their flooring.” These are 11 things you should never clean with baking soda.

close up of wooden acoustic guitar and strings
felixR/Getty Images

Wooden instruments

Musical instruments can be tricky to clean because they are made from lots of different materials. But similar to how wood floors can get damaged if cleaned with water, wooden instruments can as well. Tyler Harris, who runs a New Jersey-based luxury residential cleaning company, says that cleaning your wooden instruments with water can cause areas of discoloration and splits and cracks in the wood. Harris says that you should only be using cleaners made for musical instruments. Now, here’s the best way to clean your wooden floors.

overhead view of laptop, tablets, phone, flash drive, and video game controller on wood background
Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images


This should already be known, but electricity and water do not mix. “For the most part, you should only dry dust electronics,” says Smith. “If you do have to clean something that will not come off with a dry cloth, get your cleaning cloth just slightly damp with a light-duty cleaning product then clean the electronics. Never spray any liquid directly onto electronics.” If cleaning them with a damp cloth makes you nervous, there are wipes and cleaning sprays designed specifically for electronics.

beautiful sterling cutlery set on white background
hanohiki/Getty Images


If you try to clean your tarnished silver with water, it will just create more tarnish. The best thing you can do is use silver polish, says Kathy Turley, Director of Marketing at Home Clean Heroes. If you don’t have silver polish around, Turley recommends using ketchup. “The mild acidity of ketchup will help get rid of the tarnish,” she says. Let your silver soak in ketchup for 5-10 minutes, rinse off the ketchup with water, and buff with a cloth. “Why is it safe to use the water later in the step? Because you are rinsing the ketchup off and already gotten rid of the tarnish,” explains Turley. Here are some other surprising methods you can use to clean silver.

open contact lens container
Elena Rui/Getty Images

Contact lenses

This might seem like an obvious item that you shouldn’t clean with water, but a surprising number of people think it’s OK to store their contact lenses in water overnight. “The proper contact lens cleaning solutions all have antimicrobial ingredients that discourage bacterial growth. A contact lens stored in water may have a small number of bacteria on its surface after a day of use,” says Jonathan Wolfe, an optometrist at Ardsley Eye Care. “The water only encourages this bacteria to multiply, and when the patient inserts the lens again the following day, that colony of bacteria is given the opportunity to move onto the cornea and cause ulceration.” Also, tap water is not sterile like contact solution and it could contain bacteria, fungi, or parasites that will make their way onto your contact lens if you let them soak in water. Besides contacts, learn what else you should be cleaning every day.

Interior ceiling lighting fixtures with white semi-spherical covers
EricVega/Getty Images

Light fixtures and outlets

“This might be a no-brainer, but using a wet cloth to clean an outlet cover or light fixtures can lead to a risk of electrocution or fire,” says Nasutsa Mabwa, president of ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons. “Instead, use a dry duster or dry cloth to clean outlet covers and light fixtures, or unplug the light fixture before attempting to clean it.” See which items are a fire hazard if you don’t clean them enough.

Brick Wall
123ducu/Getty Images


Surfaces that are porous, such as brick, have a protective sealant, and when cleaned with water it can be removed or damaged, says Harris. He recommends using a soft brush to wipe away grime and then cleaning with a soft cloth. Here are 14 things you should never clean with Windex.

Texture silk fabric
Olga Vasilyeva/Getty Images


“Using water on silk, whether it’s your curtains or a shirt, can cause water spots and permanent discoloration,” says Turley. “Better leave it to the professionals, like your neighborhood dry cleaner.” Silk is also one of the items that should never, ever go in your dryer.

Close-up texture of genuine leather with black rhombic stitching
Dmitry Bakulov/Getty Images


If you try to clean leather furniture, bags, or clothing items with water, it will cause streaks and will eventually cause the leather to crack over time. “There are specific leather cleaners designed for leather, which will not have these problems,” says Smith. Check out this trick for cleaning leather shoes.

White marble patterned texture.
noppadon_sangpeam/Getty Images


Similar to brick, marble is also a porous material that can be damaged by water. If you used water to clean marble it can remove the protective sealant on it, potentially damaging any grout of caulking, says Harris. Just like with brick, use a soft brush and cloth to get it clean. Make sure you also know about these things you should never clean with a Magic Eraser.

Close-Up Of Coffee maker On gas Stove
Monica Monti/EyeEm/Getty Images

Gas range burners

“Don’t clean the burners on your gas range with water. The igniters on your gas range are very sensitive to water,” says Smith. “If they get wet they will not turn off when the range is activated and your range will click over and over again as the igniter keeps going off.” Sometimes, this issue will correct itself once the igniter dries out, but cleaning your gas range burners with water can also permanently damage them. “As a result, never spray a cleaning product directly into your gas range burners. Spray the cleaning cloth then wipe down the surface.” Don’t miss the best way to clean your stovetop and get rid of grease.

Laptop and coffee on wooden table with wooden chairs surrounding
Johner Images/Getty Images

Wood furniture

Similar to wood floors, water can also ruin your wood furniture. Just think about what happens when you leave a glass on your wooden table without a coaster. “The best course of action is to regularly dust your wood tables and furniture (we recommend a microfiber cloth) and you can use wood polish or lemon oil to protect it,” says Turley. If your piece needs a little more TLC, here’s how to clean wood furniture to restore its luster. In case the damage is already done, try these tricks to remove water stains from wood.

brass trumpet on table.
ben-bryant/Getty Images

Brass fixtures or instruments

Using water to clean brass fixtures and instruments will remove the lacquer and lead to further tarnish and cause permanent damage. Harris says to avoid DIY cleaning solutions and to stick to cleaning with a quality brass polish. For cleaning, Harris recommends Weiman Brass Polish. “It leaves a shine on the brass that lasts for a long time. The only downside is it does leave an easily removable white layer in corners of the brassware,” says Harris. Now that you know what you shouldn’t clean with water, make sure you never mix these cleaning products.


Morgan Cutolo
Morgan Cutolo is a former senior production editor at Trusted Media Brands. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine, where she lives, and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.