Why You Should Stop Soaking Dishes Overnight (Plus 6 More Cleaning Myths Debunked)

published Jul 8, 2023
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Sink full of colorful dishes, mid-wash with suds
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Many years ago, I was one of the people who saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding and immediately stocked up on Windex after leaving the theater upon learning from the Portokalos patriarch that every ailment can be cured with the infamous glass cleaner. When it comes to cleaning, I’m all about following old wives’ tales, taking shortcuts, and buying products that make big, multipurpose promises. 

And yet, my floors still appear dusty, my windows streaky, and, alas, my dishes sticky — which finally made me realize that I needed to investigate which hacks needed to be nixed from my routine once and for all. Below are seven common cleaning myths you may believe — and why experts say you should think twice about them when it comes to cleaning your house.

7 Cleaning Myths to Think Twice About

1. Soaking pots and pans overnight will get rid of stains.

I’m guilty of squirting my pots and pans with half a bottle of dish soap, leaving them overnight, and assuming any caked-on grease or grime will be gone in the morning. But according to Delah Gomasi, CEO of MaidForYou, all you need is five minutes to soak pots and pans with dish soap and boiling hot water. “You really only need to wait until the water temperature has lowered to be able to easily clean your pot or pan.”  

2. Bleach will clean all surfaces.   

Yes, bleach is a powerful cleaner, but it’s not always the best choice for everyday cleaning. It can damage or discolor certain surfaces, such as countertops, fabrics, and carpets. Armeka Townsend, a cleaning expert with Zep Inc., suggests for routine cleaning to use “specialized cleaners suitable for the surfaces you’re working with.” Here are all the things you should never clean or do with bleach.

3. The more cleaning products you use, the better the results.

Using excessive amounts of product doesn’t necessarily lead to a better clean. In fact, overusing products can leave behind residue that attracts more dirt and will then require additional rinsing. To avoid this trap, Townsend says to follow the recommended usage instructions on the product labels and use the appropriate amount for the task at hand. “Often, a little goes a long way — ensuring you’re cleaning smarter, not harder.”

4. “Green” cleaning products are better for you.

A product can carry a “green” label because it was made using sustainable processes, but that doesn’t mean the product itself doesn’t contain potentially hazardous substances. Toby Schulz, CEO and co-founder of Maid2Match, says it’s best to check the ingredients list on any “natural” cleaning product and be wary of anything that seems fishy. “Look up anything you’re uncertain of — some brands try to hide ingredients under different names.”

5. Dry cloths are best for dusting.

Actually, dusting with a dry cloth can often cause dust particles to become airborne and settle elsewhere, which will sadly create more cleaning for you in the long run. What should you do instead? “Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth or a specialized dusting spray to capture and hold the dust particles effectively,” explains Townsend. “This method helps prevent the dust from spreading and ensures better cleaning results.”  

6. Baby wipes double as a universal cleaner.

Yes, baby wipes work wonders for erasing baby-related messes in a pinch (every parent can attest to the power they hold in cleaning up spilled milk, spit-up, and more). So why can’t you use them for “real” cleaning jobs? Well, spoiler alert, these wipes don’t actually contain any cleaning solution. “They’re too gentle to effectively remove tougher stains, grease, or grime from surfaces,” says Townsend. “For general cleaning, use appropriate cleaning wipes or solutions recommended for the specific surfaces or tasks you’re dealing with.”

7. Cleaning products should smell strong to be effective. 

Just because a cleaning product has a strong scent, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective. Fragrances in cleaning products are often added to create the perception of cleanliness — but has nothing to do with how well they actually clean or disinfect. “It’s important to focus on the active ingredients and cleaning properties of the product rather than relying solely on the scent,” says Townsend.