The 9 Things You Should Never Clean With Water

thing you shouldn't clean with water

It’s hard to understate the cleaning abilities of plain water, which dissolves so many other substances that it’s often called the “universal solvent.” But as effective as it is, water isn’t always the best way to clean something!

In today’s post, we’ll be exploring which household items you shouldn’t clean with water. Because the way I see it, it’s better to find out now by reading this blog post, than to find out the hard way later on! :-)

Each item in this list includes suggestions for safer cleaning methods to use instead. With the help of these tips, you can clean these items safely and keep them nice for years to come!

9 Things You Should Never Clean With Water

thing you shouldn't clean with water

1. Jewelry

While some jewelry looks great after being cleaned with soap and water, other pieces can wind up looking more tarnished than before. If you’re unsure what your jewelry is made of, especially with older pieces, you’re better off avoiding water when cleaning it.

Learn more about safely cleaning your jewelry.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

2. Hardwood Floors

While most hardwood floors are initially sealed with a water-resistant sealant, that seal can wear off over time. And if it does, water can seep into the wood, causing it to swell, discolor, or even warp over time!

To keep your hardwood floors in tip-top shape, clean them with a microfiber mop and a cleaner formulated for hardwood. If you want to continue using a water-based mop solution, at least make sure your mop is damp, and not sopping wet, when you use it.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

3. Leather

Leather upholstery, shoes, and accessories need special care to keep them looking nice. While water makes a great cleaner for most things, it can leave behind streaks on leather and lead to cracking over time.

Your best bet is to treat your leather items regularly with a special leather cleanser. Read more about caring for leather.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

4. Wood Furniture

Anyone who has left a water ring on their coffee table can tell you that water and wood furniture don’t mix! In addition to discoloration, water can cause wood to swell and even split.

Keep your wood furniture dust-free with a microfiber cloth, then use a furniture polish or conditioner to shine and protect the wood.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

5. Brass & Silver

Water can remove tarnish from brass and silver in the short term, but it may lead to more tarnish in the future! To be safe, use a quality brass or silver polish to clean and protect your items.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

6. Musical Instruments

Whether you have a wood instrument like a guitar or piano, or a metal instrument like a trumpet or saxophone, it likely wasn’t cheap! Proper cleaning and care is crucial to protect your financial investment and keep it sounding sweet.

Avoid water when cleaning your musical instrument; instead, use a cleanser specifically formulated for instruments. If you’re not sure what to use, check your instrument manufacturer’s website to find out what they recommend using.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

7. Silk

Silk can be a tricky material to clean at home. If you have a silk item that you’re not sure you can successfully clean at home, you’re probably better off trusting it with a dry cleaner!

Some silks are labeled as washable, but even these should be handled with care. Remove surface dirt with a soft brush, then wash the item with a delicate detergent on a gentle cycle.

thing you shouldn't clean with water

8. Electronics

Our homes are filled with electronic gadgets that need a good cleaning once in a while (or more often, depending on how frequently you use them!) Avoid using water to clean them, as water can permanently damage the sensitive internal components of your gear.

Instead, remove dust with a microfiber cloth, then wet a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol to remove any stubborn grime. (As a bonus, the alcohol will disinfect your gadgets too!)

thing you shouldn't clean with water

9. Velvet, Velour, & Suede

Soft, fuzzy fabrics like velvet, velour, and suede should be cleaned carefully to keep them looking and feeling nice. Water can leave behind spots, streaks, and stains on the fabric, and even cause it to shrink or pill.

To keep these fuzzy fabrics clean, use a vacuum or soft brush to remove surface dirt. For deeper cleaning, use a foaming upholstery cleaner or try my method for cleaning suede.

Do you have any additional tips for cleaning the items listed above?

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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

  • I agree with CyndiM – don’t use detergent on silk, use shampoo. I’m a seamstress and have works with lots of silk garments. Silk is a natural fibre, like your hair. Use a good shampoo that you would use on your hair – nothing with conditioners, just shampoo. If you have a new garment and there is a spot on it, it is probably a water spot. Put the whole garment in a sink filled with water, squeeze it gently and wrap the garment in a towel to get out excess water, then air dry until it is slightly damp. Use an iron set on the silk setting (lower heat) and press while it is still a little damp and you’ll get rid of the wrinkles. You’ll also get rid of the water spot as you now have a garment that has one giant water spot – the whole garment! If the original spot is still there, then yes, take it to the dry cleaners and let them take care of it.

  • I agree that even silk tops that don’t require dry cleaning should be washed by hand and air-dried. I have one with a “brushed” texture, and if I forget and wash it in the delicate cycle the nap doesn’t dry correctly and takes on a piled appearance. This can be corrected in part with a lint brush but for the most part I have to wait until it’s washed again to restore the nap.

    If electronic devices get wet accidentally, it’s better to turn them off and give the water a day or two to evaporate so it doesn’t short out the circuitry. I made the mistake once of “checking” a phone that was dropped in a river and ended up having to replace it.

    • I read somewhere,that if your phone gets wet,you can cover it with uncooked rice,and that helps to dry it out quicker. I know that putting a few grains of rice in your salt cellar keeps it dry.

    • Agreed. The screen is extremely delicate -please just wipe the outside of your phones. Also, alcohol takes the paint off the letters on any keyboard. Never use it there. Just a damp cloth works fine but you have to clean often, or else you will need a solvent like alcohol…

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