Experts Explain Why You Shouldn't Clean With a Drill

A power drill with a cleaning brush attachment as seen on Tik Tok

The Spruce / Photo Illustration by Amy Sheehan / Photo by Candace Madonna

If you have spent much time on TikTok recently, you likely have seen people sticking a cleaning brush on the end of a power drill and tackling the grime in their homes. But does it really work? It might get some dirt off your tubs or floors quickly, but the trade-offs should give you second thoughts. We spoke to two experts to explain the cons of this "hack," and what you should be doing instead to get your home sparkling clean.

Meet the Expert

  • Deane Biermeier is a contractor specializing in home repair, maintenance, remodeling, and carpentry.
  • Melissa Maker is founder of the housekeeping company Clean My Space and a cleaning sensation.

The Hidden Danger

First off, the language is problematic. “'Cleaning' implies that you're using water as a solvent," says Deane Biermeier, a renovation and repair expert with 30 years experience. "Water and electricity just don't work well together. This is extremely dangerous if you're using a corded drill, but still a hazard when using a battery-operated drill. At the very least, you run a big risk of damaging the tool beyond repair.” Even if you aren’t using plain water, a cleaning product that is a foam or gel still contains liquid and poses a safety issue.

Faster Isn't Always Better

People who are promoting this cleaning hack emphasize speed as a main reason to give the tool a try. Who doesn’t want to shave some time off household chores? Using a power drill to scrub a tub might finish the job a little faster, but the potential payoff might costs you more than minutes. 

“Drills are generally designed to produce rpms between 500 and 2000 under heavy torque. That's a lot of power. If, for some reason, the brush being used gets snagged and stops suddenly, the drill will want to keep spinning,” says Biermeier. “Aside from possibly harming the item you're cleaning, it's likely to cause a very sore wrist and possible injuries. Again, this is especially true with corded drills that tend to run on higher amperage.”

Closeup of a brush attachment on a drill

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Wear and Tear

Chances are, if you have a power drill around the house that you would be retrofitting as a cleaning tool, you probably use it for its intended purposes, too. Making a drill do double duty could mean you will soon be without one at all. 

“Drills are built to function as a tool that goes straight in and straight back out. This keeps the power load on the motor even, or at least predictable,” says Biermeier. “Applying sideways, or other, pressure to the drill motor, as would happen while cleaning, simply isn't good for the lifespan of the tool.”

Looks Can Be Deceiving

It’s also good to remember that what you see in a video doesn’t always reflect reality. Who knows how many times a user had to give the drill method a try before they were successful?

“The videos make it look awfully easy to control,” says Biermeier. “It's difficult even for seasoned DIYer to operate a wire brush on a drill when stripping paint. Anyone with a lesser amount of experience is bound to have trouble controlling the brush effectively. It looks to me like a waste of time and energy.”

So, if powering your way through your cleaning to-do list isn’t in the cards, will housekeeping keep you away from things you would rather be doing? Not if you know a few tricks from a professional. Melissa Maker, founder of the housekeeping company Clean My Space and YouTube cleaning sensation, shares her tips for the most efficient and effective ways to make your kitchen and bath sparkle.

Tile Tips

If you have tile flooring, then you know that while cleaning up spills is easy, it can seem impossible to get all the gunk out of the grout. For spots where the grout looks darker or stained, try applying a mix of two parts baking soda to one part hydrogen peroxide and leave on the stains for five or 10 minutes, Maker says. Then it’s as simple as scrub and rinse. 

This method isn’t the most efficient way to handle a huge area. If your entire floor needs a refresh, Maker has a secret weapon: a steam cleaner. “Not a steam mop,” she emphasizes. “A steam cleaner.” This tool can do more, faster, and some even come with a grout attachment. 

First, no matter what type of flooring you have in your bath or kitchen, use an appropriate solution for mopping. Pay attention to the look of your mop head or mop pad as well, cautions Maker. “Using a dirty mop head or pad will darken the grout over time, as will spills and stains, oils and dirt. Also, be mindful that grout needs sealing from time to time, which is why it can discolor.”

To prevent streaking after mopping, run over the floor afterward with a dry microfiber pad or a cloth affixed to the mop.

Person cleaning tile grout with a steam cleaner

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Rub-a-Dub Tub

“For a soap-scummy shower and tub, start by applying a powerful tub and tile cleaner,” she says. “The famed combo of equal parts dish soap and vinegar works like a charm. For very scummy areas, try full-strength/cleaning vinegar. Spray the surfaces liberally and allow the product to sit, wet, for at least 5 minutes.” 

Next grab a scrubbing tool made for the job. Maker says you can even use a sponge on a telescoping wand for high corners, but you might lost some leverage if you do so. Whatever you choose to use, work your way from the top to the bottom of the shower using an "S" pattern. If you find that some spots just won’t come clean, sprinkle a good amount of baking soda on the sponge you are using, scrub and rinse well.

No baking soda? “A product like Barkeeper's Friend or Bon Ami are both excellent for cleaning the shower and tub, too,” she says. “Make sure to follow package instructions, and do not mix with the aforementioned recipe of dish soap and vinegar. Apply with a damp sponge to a wet surface, scrub and rinse well.”

Using a steam cleaner can fill that need for power without the potential for injury. “A steam cleaner will get you all of the power you need without chemicals or heavy scrubbing,” Maker says. Follow the same common-sense rules as you would with a garment steamer—don't blast steam on yourself, and power down before you refill your tank or change tools.

This method gets real results. “Steam will blast gunk off dirty kitchen surfaces and appliances with ease,” Maker says. “The many attachments these machines come with give you tons of flexibility and frankly, it makes you feel like a superhero to 'blast' dirt away with such power. A steam cleaner can be used in multitudinous ways around your home, and people who are 'converts' cannot go back to their old ways!”