The Cleaning Mistake Nearly Everyone Makes

updated May 7, 2021
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Wiping a wooden table with a slightly damp microfiber cloth
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Most of my daily cleaning jobs involve a microfiber cloth and spray bottle. Wiping down grimy surfaces in my kitchen or bathroom seems straightforward enough — just spray a few spritzes and wipe away the grime — but I recently realized I’ve never actually thought twice about how I use these things. Is there a better way? A more correct way? Specifically, am I actually supposed to be spraying these cleaners on the surface, or should I spray on the cloth, then wipe? I polled some friends, and it turns out none of them really knew either.

According to pro housecleaner Irina Nikiforova, owner of Rocketmaids LA, it all depends on the type of cleaner you’re using and what you clean it with. “Some cleaning solutions are designed to be applied directly to the surface,” she says. Some disinfectants, for example, should be sprayed directly on the surface and allowed to sit for the proper dwelling time before being wiped away, Nikiforova says. Some types of glass cleaner, like foaming spray, should also be applied to the glass or mirrored surface first, then wiped down. Oven cleaner should also be sprayed directly inside the oven

But unless the product’s instructions specifically say to spray the surface you’re aiming to clean, you should actually apply them to your cleaning cloth first, for a few reasons.

“I’ve noticed that, when you spray a cleaning solution on the surface directly, some drops can land on adjacent surfaces, which can lead to unpleasant results,” Nikiforova says. For example, if you’re using an acidic cleaner, accidental drops on a natural stone surface can lead to damage. Or, if you just polished your stainless steel cooktop and then sprayed an all-purpose cleaner on the countertop, you could compromise the shine you worked so hard to achieve. Another downside of spraying directly on the surface: You could potentially waste more product than you would if you simply sprayed it on a rag first.

“So unless the cleaning solution is meant to be sprayed directly on the surface, I would suggest spraying it on the rag,” Nikiforova says. Not sure about the product you’re using? Check the instructions on the product label. It’ll take a few extra seconds to do your due diligence, but you could be saving yourself unwanted cleaning hassle!