6 Old-School Cleaning Rules You Should Definitely Break

published Aug 1, 2021
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Cleaning habits passed down through generations almost feel like they’re part of our genetic makeup. The ways our parents and grandparents taught us to clean often seem like the “right way” to do things. And most of the time, they are. Many of my cleaning and home-keeping habits are inherited from my mom. For example, I scrub the sink nightly and always air out my bed before I make it.

But there are also a few cleaning habits out there that are outdated. Whether they’re ineffective, unnecessary, or downright unsafe, recent research or expert advice has shown us that some old habits are best left in the past.

Here are six old-school cleaning rules you need to break now.

Old-school rule 1: Bleach everything.

It makes sense to disinfect your sink, which is actually one of the dirtiest places in our homes, but there’s no reason to regularly disinfect countertops or fridge shelves. (Unless someone in your house has been sick or a package of meat has leaked.) Instead, you can get rid of most germs with simple soap and water. Why skip the bleach? Bleach fumes are harsh. And bleach can actually etch and dull stone countertops or cause pitting in stainless steel. In most cleaning situations, you can opt for gentle methods and be just fine!

Old-school rule 2: Your floors aren’t clean until you’ve wet mopped them.

While I do still wet mop my tile floors from time to time, this isn’t the end-all, be-all method. And it’s important to be aware of how it can affect various types of flooring. For instance, be extremely wary of wet mopping wood or engineered wood floors. The moisture that inevitably seeps between the seams can warp the wood irreparably. Try cleaning your floors with a moistened microfiber cloth or upgrade your old-school mop with a new innovative one that wrings out incredibly well.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Old-school rule 3: Pre-rinse your dishes.

Older dishwashers might be an exception, but newer dishwashers actually depend on dishes being mostly unclean in order to work properly. Yes, you read that right! See, enzymes in dishwasher detergents are designed to cling to food particles in order to work. With pre-washed dishes, detergent can actually get washed away before it even has a chance to do its job. In addition, many modern dishwashers have sensors that determine how dirty your load is. If the dishwasher thinks your dishes are already pretty clean, it could cut the wash cycle short. So continue to scrape large chunks of food off plates into the garbage, but resist the urge pre-rinse dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.

Old-school rule 4: “Disinfect” your sponge.

Whether it’s done in the microwave or dishwasher, disinfecting your sponge causes more harm than good. While you may be able to kill off weaker strains of bacteria, the strongest strains will remain. With no competing bacteria, these stronger strains can multiply unchecked and your “clean” sponge can be more dangerous than ever. Plus, a sponge in a microwave is a fire hazard! Instead of trying to disinfect your sponge, just get in the habit of replacing it every week.

Old-school rule 5: Soak really dirty pots overnight.

It’s not exactly wrong to do this, but there’s a better way — especially if you want to wake up to a clean kitchen. Put water and dish soap in your dirtiest cookware, and allow it to soak while you’re washing the rest of your dishes. For even more cleaning power, simmer the soapy water in pots and pans on the stove to loosen baked-on food. Or try Dawn Powerwash — it lives up to its hype.

Old-school rule 6: The more soap, the better.

One dish-washing habit I’ve seen among the older generation is using excessive pumps of dishwashing soap to get those dishes extra clean. That’s a waste of good soap! You don’t need that much. For washing dishes by hand, just get a super-sudsy brand of soap (like Mrs. Meyer’s or Dawn) to get that sweet bubble action. And when it comes to your dishwasher, use half the amount of detergent you think you need.

Did we miss any old-school cleaning habits that should be broken? Tell us in the comments below.