We're all looking for ways to make cleaning faster and easier. Believe it or not, sometimes taking certain "shortcuts" actually makes it harder on you in the long haul. You and your family may even have developed some bad habits that are inhibiting your ability to get the job done more efficiently (you may even be causing harm to your home!)
It's time to start breaking these habits so you can get to a cleaner home, faster. To help, we've enlisted an expert to bust those bad cleaning mistakes. If you start by picking one or two bad cleaning habits to change each week, you'll soon be on your way to a cleaner home—which leaves more free time for things you enjoy.
Meet the Expert
Katie Berry is a cleaning expert with 30 years of household management experience and 12 years of writing about cleaning methods and routines for Housewife How-Tos. She is a member of The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board and lends her expertise to reviewing cleaning stories.
01 of 15
Allowing Paper Clutter to Accumulate
Even with online billing and banking, there is still a mountain of paper that ends up in our homes. Magazines, newspapers, school papers and projects; they have a tendency to pile up. Don't let that happen.
Designate a place near the entryway for all mail, periodicals, and paper forms and keep a shredder or recycling bin close by. At least once a week, sort through and complete the needed action or toss.
File important papers like tax receipts. Take digital photos of children's special artwork or frame them for display. Share magazines with retirement homes, schools, or simply read the articles online.
02 of 15
Leaving Wet Towels and Shower Curtains Bunched Up
Want to spend less time in the laundry room and scrubbing mildew from bathroom surfaces? Don't leave wet shower curtains bunched up and wet towels in a heap on the floor.
"Be sure to leave a few inches of space to either side of the shower curtain so air can circulate and help it dry, too," cleaning expert Katie Berry notes. This will cut back on mildew and dampness. As far as damp towels on the floor, they'll give your bathroom that mildew smell and also tend to attract pests. like ants and silverfish."
This is one of the simplest bad habits to break. By closing the shower curtain after each use, it will dry more quickly and discourage mildew growth. By hanging wet towels to dry, you'll get a second or third use and lighten your laundry loads.
03 of 15
Using Too Much Cleaning Product
If a little bit of cleaner works, then a lot of cleaner will work better and faster? Right? That's not how it works.
"Those cleaning videos on TikTok with all the suds are satisfying to watch, but that much soap can leave a film that attracts grime," Berry explains. "When you use too much product, there's also a risk of the residue remaining active and conflicting with other cleaning products to form dangerous fumes.
Berry recommends always using one product at a time, in the amounts recommended by the manufacturer, and don't skip rinsing if it's recommended on the label. That's why you should read directions and always use the recommended amount or even a little less. You're wasting time and money on the extra product and the water to rinse it away.
04 of 15
Cleaning With Dirty Tools
How can you expect clean results when you are using dirty cleaning tools? If your washer has an odor from built-up bacteria in detergent residue, your clothes are going to stink. If your vacuum bag or filter is filled with dust, it won't do a good job sucking up any more. A dirty mop or sponge simply pushes around more soil and bacteria.
Take the time to thoroughly clean tools after every use by emptying completely or washing in hot water and adding a disinfectant. Periodically, replace with new tools.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15
Using One Disinfectant Wipe to Clean Entire Bathroom
Disposable disinfectant wipes are great for a quick wipe down of a bathroom sink. But that little square hardly contains enough disinfectant to clean an entire bathroom. By the time you reach the toilet seat and handles, the disinfectant qualities are gone and you are simply spreading bacteria from one surface to another.
To be effective, the wipe should contain enough disinfectant moisture so the surface remains wet for at least four minutes. For a thorough cleaning, use multiple wipes or a clean cloth and sufficient disinfectant and water solution.
06 of 15
Leaving Dirty Dishes in the Sink
How much longer would it take to put that dirty glass in the dishwasher instead of the sink? Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and a jackpot for hungry insects.
Train everyone in the household to either put the dishes in the dishwasher or wash them immediately.
07 of 15
Wearing Outside Shoes in the House
Taking just a few seconds to remove your shoes each time you come in from the outside will save you hours of vacuuming. Not to mention the bacteria and germs that will stay out of living areas.
Whether entry is through a mudroom or the front door, make this habit simple for everyone by providing a bench or chair for easier shoe removal. Keep a shoe tray close by for wet or muddy shoes and a bin to collect each family member's footwear.
08 of 15
Storing Cleaning Products Incorrectly
Do you spend half your designated cleaning time trying to find the proper cleaners and tools? This is a bad habit that's easy to change.
"Clear glass bottles might look nice on a shelf, but they're not appropriate for all products," Berry explains. "Some, like hydrogen peroxide or chlorine bleach, lose their effectiveness when exposed to sunlight. Others, including solvents like rubbing alcohol or acetone, are flammable, so they must be kept in tightly sealed containers away from heat and light."
Gather together the cleaning supplies you need for each area of the home and store them close to that area. Bathroom cleaners can be placed in a small plastic carryall and stashed on a shelf or under the sink. Create two baskets of supplies if you have upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.
Keep dusting and furniture cleaning products and tools together for quick touch-ups. And, of course, all laundry products should be stored safely in the laundry room.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15
Hoarding Food in the Refrigerator
If you know that your family hates leftovers, then why bother to stash them in the refrigerator? If you are not going to use food promptly, just go ahead and toss it. Improperly stored food promotes mold and bacteria growth and makes cleaning out the refrigerator a much bigger task than it needs to be.
10 of 15
Leaving Bed Unmade
Even if the rest of the bedroom is neat and clean, an unmade bed makes it look messy. Just making the bed each morning is a habit that will promote keeping the rest of the room (and maybe the entire house) organized.
Make the task simple by selecting bedding that is easy to spread up neatly. A bed with a simple comforter and pillow shams is much easier to make than one with lots of fussy pillows.
11 of 15
Not Reading Directions
Have you ever had to redo a task like cleaning soap scum from tile because the cleaner didn't work? Maybe you didn't read the directions.
Most cleaners don't work instantly and need a bit of time so that the ingredients can break down the soil and lift it so it can be easily wiped or rinsed away. Spend 30 seconds reading the directions to avoid 30 minutes of extra scrubbing.
12 of 15
Using Harsh Cleaners
Just like using too much cleaner can be a bad habit, using a cleaner that is too harsh for the job is also wrong. You can do more harm than good if the cleaner strips away finishes or creates hazards for your pets and family.
A good example is chlorine bleach. While it is a good disinfectant, it is not a good dirt and grime remover and the fumes can be toxic. Always use the gentlest cleaning products needed to produce results.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15
Dusting Last When Cleaning
Save yourself some effort by dusting before you vacuum. A room should be cleaned from the top down so the dust lands on the floor to be swept or vacuumed away.
"This was the way to go when vacuums didn't have HEPA filters to keep their exhaust from spewing dust into the air," Berry shares. "It's still a good approach if you use a broom to clean your floors, and for the same reason—you'll stir up dust that settles back onto your furniture. For those using a modern vacuum, though, it's best to dust first to move dirt off of surfaces and onto the floor then vacuum it away."
And remember how that one disinfectant wipe can't effectively clean an entire bathroom? The same goes for a disposable duster. If it has been a while since you dusted, grab a clean duster when the one you're using turns a solid grey. You're no longer trapping dust, you're just pushing it around with a dirty duster.
14 of 15
Not Completing Tasks
We all get interrupted, but try to complete a task once you've started it. If you bring out the ironing board, don't stop for a social media break until all of the ironing is done.
If you only have 15 minutes to clean, start by removing clutter and putting items in their proper place. Then if you get sidetracked, you can come back later to do the deeper cleaning.
15 of 15
Waiting Until the Cleaning Job Is Overwhelming
Putting off cleaning and waiting until the task has become overwhelming is one of the hardest bad habits to break. Most of us can't face a disaster and simply avoid it for as long as possible.
But if you and your family do a bit of cleaning each day, like load and empty the dishwasher, complete a load of laundry, and vacuum one or two rooms, then cleaning the entire house will not be so overwhelming.
Storing Food in the Refrigerator, Freezer or Pantry. College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, University of Connecticut.
Bleach Toxicity. National Center for Biotechnology Information, NIH.