6 Common Cleaning Tips That are Actually Dead Wrong

updated Nov 10, 2020
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

You’ve heard them all before: “Toads give you warts. Cheese gives you nightmares. Chocolate gives you acne.” They’re urban myths and for the most part, they’re fictitious. But lo and behold, many of these old superstitions are still confused as pearls of wisdom, and can wind up being repackaged as “helpful advice”—even for your home.

Believe it or not, a lot of the housekeeping tips you hear could be totally bogus. And even though they’re popular, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re potentially bad morsels of information, likely to cause more harm than good to your home. So to spare you the headache of a stained sofa or scratched surface, we’ve rounded up a few of the worst cleaning tips that are unfortunately widely accepted as indisputable truths.

1. Clean wooden furniture with tea

You might have heard that freshly brewed tea bags are great for polishing up your wooden furnishings, but the truth is water and wood are hardly ever a good mix. In addition to causing unsightly water stains on your favorite pieces, tea works like a dye and can seriously alter your natural wood surfaces.

2. Douse fresh carpet and rug stains with water or cleaner

Of course your knee jerk response to spilling spaghetti sauce all over your new carpeting is to quickly cover it with cleaner, but doing so will probably cause more damage. Over-saturating the stain won’t just ruin the fibers, it might cause excess moisture to get trapped in the rug or carpet pad—a surefire way to spread odor and mildew. If you need to clean a rug or carpet, try blotting and then lightly spritzing the stain, and then thoroughly blotting again with a cloth.

3. Polishing silver with toothpaste

True, occasionally scrubbing down your silverware with toothpaste probably won’t completely ruin your silver, but too much over time definitely will. Toothpaste is way more abrasive than standard silver polishes, so your best bet is to avoid using it on special pieces—and save it for a sporadic cleaning.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

4. Using vinegar to clean stone surfaces

While vinegar works wonderfully on a lot of places at home, granite is not one of them. When it comes to your natural stone surfaces (think: granite, tile, and marble countertops), all that acidity is likely to cause etch marks and other stubborn stains—so you’re better off using a little diluted dish soap and warm water instead.

5. Dust off furniture with a dryer sheet

Technically this one isn’t totally false, because used dryer sheets—as in ones that have already endured a complete drying cycle—are okay for dusting off wooden furnishings. However, fresh ones (right out of the box) are saturated with greasy softeners and have the potential to stain soft surfaces and upholsteries.

6. Using bleach on rust stains

Bleach may be a potent cleaner, but when it comes to cleaning rust stains, bleach actually makes things worse. Packed with powerful chemicals, its oxidizing agents accelerate the spread of rust, meaning you’ll be creating more work for yourself by using bleach. Instead, try mixing vinegar or lemon juice with salt to make a paste that will lighten up the stain.