7 Cleaning Missteps That Waste Your Time And Effort

Cleaning Mistakes

Keeping your house clean can be rewarding, but the actual cleaning itself isn’t all that fun. The best any of us can do is try to make cleaning as quick and easy as possible.

Unfortunately, many of us are our own worst enemies in this regard — a lot of us do all sorts of silly things that end up making cleaning harder than it has to be!

Those cleaning mistakes are what today’s post is all about. Rather, it’s about identifying the cleaning mistakes that are making your life harder and learning simple strategies for avoiding them in the future.

7 Cleaning Mistakes That Cost You Time And Effort

Cleaning Mistakes

1. Scrubbing Your Carpets

Scrubbing can be useful when cleaning your dishes, but it’s not great for your carpets or rugs! When you scrub at a carpet stain, you risk forcing stains deeper into the fibers, or even damaging the fibers themselves.

Instead, apply a carpet stain cleaner to the stain and blot it with a wet towel. Blotting will help pull the stain out of the carpet without damaging it in the process.

Cleaning Mistakes

2. Cleaning Windows In Circles

For truly clean and streak-free windows, don’t use a circular motion to clean them. Instead, wipe the surface in a horizontal motion first, then wipe it again in a vertical motion.

Cleaning Mistakes

3. Using The Wrong Carpet Cleaner

When removing carpet stains, it’s important to use the right cleaning agents and not your favorite laundry stain remover! Laundry stain removers are meant to be fully rinsed out in the wash, but it’s nearly impossible to rinse anything entirely out of your carpet without using heavy-duty cleaning equipment.

That’s why using a carpet-specific stain remover is important: you’ll get better results and do less damage to your carpeting. (Another option is to use my favorite DIY solution for tough carpet stains!)

Cleaning Mistakes

4. Being Impatient

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from experimenting with homemade cleaning and laundry solutions throughout the past decade, it’s that a little patience can go a long way!

That’s why so many of my favorite cleaning and laundry tips that I’ve shared here on my blog involve some wait time. Allowing cleaning products to “sit” gives them time to penetrate more deeply into messes and grime.

So the next time you’re tackling a stubborn stain or a caked-on mess, remember that patience is a virtue, and try letting it sit for a bit! :-)

Cleaning Mistakes

5. Using Soap On Cast Iron

A good cast iron pan is an invaluable tool in the kitchen, but it’s important to know how to care for them correctly. While most kitchen materials can be cleaned up with soapy water, cast iron is not one of them!

Soapy water will remove the “seasoned” layer on the surface of your cast iron, making it more likely that food will stick to the pan in the future. Learn more about safely cleaning cast iron.

Cleaning Mistakes

6. Overfilling Your Vacuum Canister

If your vacuum canister is constantly packed full of dust and dirt, it’s probably impeding your vacuum’s airflow. This can wear out your vacuum’s motor over time, to the point where it eventually loses suction altogether.

Instead, just make it a habit to empty the canister every time you use your vacuum. It may not be strictly necessary, but once it’s a habit you won’t have to worry about forgetting to do it!

Related: How To Clean And Maintain Your Vacuum

Cleaning Mistakes

7. Cleaning Your Floors First

If your floors are obviously dirty, it can be tempting to focus on them first on cleaning day. But if you do, you’ll only be making more work for yourself later on!

The most efficient way to clean a room is to start at the top and work your way down. That way, you don’t have to worry about pushing dust and dirt onto a clean floor, which could make you backtrack and waste precious time.

By cleaning your floors last, you’re ensuring that every speck of loose dust and dirt will get picked up right as you finish cleaning. It’s an easy way to leave a room as clean as possible!

Share your hard-won cleaning wisdom in a comment below!

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • For cleaning vehicle windows I prefer to use a microfiber cloth,and to remove water spots after washing I use a small and inexpensive silicone blade squeegee, like the kind you would use on shower glass. As for the vacuum tank, if you have one similar to the Shark that Jillee has pictured and I also own, I recommend dissecting the holding tank, removing all filters, and giving them a decent (but careful) washing at least every other use, and after every use if you have pets as the filters will retain pet odors f you don’t. Back when we still had our three large dogs, we used Kirby vacs (had 3 scattered about the house) to clean up, and would those ever get smelly with all the dog fir and dander that they picked up! What made things even worse was the size of the bags in the Kirbys were so large that you weren’t going to be changing them out after every use. The bagless stick solved that problem, despite not having as much capacity.

  • Empty that vacuum canister inbetween rooms!! I have two dogs that shed, so that canister gets filled pretty quick. Emptying more often helps the vacuum work better and also doesn’t let the vacuum give off a “dog smell”. Frequent washing of the canister itself is important too!

  • Be aware that most paper towels will leave some lint especially when wet or moistened. I have read not to use paper towels on cutting boards or cast iron because of this. I usually have a rag bag of cotton throw away rags, old T-shirts make good rags. Depending on how used, they can be washed to be reused or thrown away.

    But I have discovered that my husbands worn-out knit polyester diabetic socks made by Dr. Scholl’s are the best scrub rags. The socks wash well and most of the time can be reused.

  • Thank you for discouraging the carpet scrubbing! My husband manages a professional carpet cleaning company. We don’t realize the damage we often do to carpet fibers by scrubbing at them. The damaged fibers, like split ends in your hair, don’t reflect light the same and can leave the permanently appearance of a stain to an otherwise clean carpet. You can use the dull back of a butter knife to gently scrape/agitate the product in a spot treatment without further grinding dirt into your carpets. A couple of other carpet/upholstery tips:
    – for very wet spills, especially fresh pet urine spots, use a clean shop vac attachment to pull as much of the moisture out as you can ASAP so it doesn’t spread as far into your pad
    – beware consumer urine treatments. Very few of them can oxidize the urine crystals actually removing the odor source. Most just try to cover the odor and remove the surface stain, frequently damaging your carpet fibers and making it more difficult for the pro you call later to locate the sources and treat them.
    -Research your local professional carpet and upholstery cleaners. They are not all created equal. (I obviously have a recommendation, but I don’t want to advertise. I just want to help!). Find a good one, and use them at least once or twice a year. Good technicians are able and happy to give you custom tips and suggestions for your common issues. (i.e. spit up, pet issues, food spills)
    Happy cleaning!

  • Re: home made cleaners. One of the persistent cleaning problems are my white fabric shower liners. Washing them in the machine gets them clean but doesn’t remove the discoloration. I tried bleach, oxygen
    powder, scrubbing with stain remover etc … nothing worked. As a last resort I tried hydrogen peroxide and plain soap. As I scrubbed the stains resolved! A regular wash removed the last staining and the curtains look like new!
    Without the info on this website I’d never considered hydrogen peroxide. I’d used it for first aid, but now it’s a cleaner!

  • In cleaning windows I’ve found it prudent to dust them first with a wool duster or tack cloth, especially if they haven’t been cleaned in a while. Sometimes even wiping them correctly still leaves streaks because they’re still dirty. For more regular “cleanings” a simple dusting may be all they need, to remove any grit that further grime can attach to.

  • One of my favorite quick hacks I’ve used is for carpet stains – like pet accidents. Used paper towel to. get most of it up . Then use Spot Shot carpet spray, then scrub with baby wipes or an old cloth. This usually took most of the stain out, unless it was a stubborn one. Haven’t used it for awhile since I don’t have my Cat anymore.

    • Yes I use baby wipes (home made version!) For my carpets. Then use a 50/50 spray of hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar and leave it. Doesn’t bleach it if you use 3%.

  • Don’t use the dishwater to wipe down your counter top. Dish soap needs to be rinsed. Wiping your counters with it creates a build up over time and causes grime to stick to it. Instead, use a cleaner that does not need rinsing.

  • Lots of good stuff. One mentioned that oil might turn rancid and they used shortening, it will turn rancid, or stale. I have two iron skillets that I cook cornbread in depending on how much I am making. I NEVER wash them, when they cool, I wipe them out really good with a paper towel and store till next use. I heat my skillet and spray it with a little cooking spray, pour my batter in and it turns out perfect, never sticks.

  • I clean my cast iron skillets with dish detergents, but I never put them in the dishwasher and once I’ve rinsed them well I put them either on the eye of the range and dry them with the heat from that or if my oven is warm I put them in there upside down and let them dry with that heat. I oil them once in a while, but I’ve found letting them dry in the hot oven keeps them seasoned as well as anything I’ve tried.

    • Wouldn’t the oil turn rancid after a while? I keep a small container with some shortening in it and rub it on my cast iron skillets with a paper towel.

  • Thank you for another great post! I clicked on the link about caring for cast iron pots as I have a few – they’re about a year and a half old. I wanted to comment on that post but it looks like the comments are closed. I have done a lot wrong in caring for my pots. I did put oil on when I first got them but didn’t bake them for long at all. I also use soap and a sponge to clean my pots and soak them – but never overnight. I do sometimes leave them to drip dry overnight. And I do oil them occasionally. I see they’ve started to rust a bit and the largest one has holes. So, I realise I may have messed them up. Can I start from scratch – season them as though they’re new and then clean them with salt and oil as you suggested? Or is it too late?

    • You have to get rid of the rust by scrubbing but once you do that just re-season they are extremely durable. I fill mine after cooking with water past the ick line and heat it so I can scrape it off with a plastic scraper. I have had one from Pampered Chef for over 20 years. A good plastic scrub brush works well too I use the OXO one with the soap wand because it is very strong I just don’t put soap in it.

      • I have used cast iron skillets etc. for years so they have been seasoned. I use soap whenever I cook gunky stuff in it, which is often. After washing, and sometimes I use a metal spatula to scrape, I rinse well, dry VERY well, then wipe with a bit of veg oil & paper towel. Always works fine. I believe people are too hyper about NO SOAP. lol. But do whatever works for you :+)

    • I suspect that the older lye based soaps were the reason we have the NO SOAP “rule” on cast iron. Lye is actually one way that people who restore or reclaim cast iron pieces clean them! They use a STRONG solution and soak them and then oil them. Modern detergents are not the same and a few drops is not going to hurt the iron as long as you do oil it after wards. If it has rust (mild) use very fine Steel Wool and some oil and gently scour and then re-season; some times you can get the rust off with just a good dose of Kosher salt and a scrubbie or even Bon Ami. For really heavy rust you might have to make a lye bucket (KEEO AWAY FROM KIDS AND PETS!) I am still using my Great Grandmothers cast iron pieces–she was born in 1890! I even have her enameled cast iron juice squeezer that looks kinda like R2D2 and actually gets ALL the juice out of the fruit unlike some that just shred the stuff up.

    • You could set them inside a barbeque grill over coals and let the old gunk burn off. Then, rinse and dry over the stove. Wipe thoroughly on both sides with vegetable oil and then leave in the oven at 300 degrees F for about 3 hours.

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