Fact: A lot of the housekeeping tips you hear could be totally bogus. Just because they're popular doesn't mean that they aren't misinformed morsels of information, likely to cause more harm than good. 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 that 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.
Try this instead: How To Turn Lemons into Furniture Polish
2. Douse fresh carpet stains with water or cleaner.
Your knee-jerk reaction once you've spilled spaghetti sauce all over your carpet is probably to just cover it with cleaner, right? That's what you've been taught to do, but doing that will probably cause more damage. Over-saturating the stain will not only ruin the fibers, but it also might cause excess moisture to get trapped in the floor pad — a surefire way to spread odor and mildew.
Instead, try blotting and then lightly spritzing the stain, and then thoroughly blotting again with a cloth.
3. Polish silver with toothpaste.
Occasionally scrubbing down your silverware with toothpaste probably won't ruin your silver, but doing it 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.
Try this instead: How To Clean and Polish Silver
4. Use vinegar to clean stone surfaces.
While vinegar works wonderfully on a lot of places at home, your natural stone surfaces (think: tile and marble countertops) should be vinegar-free. Turns out, 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.
A better use for dryer sheets: This Unexpected Way to Clean a Burned Pan Is Ridiculously Simple
6. Use bleach on rust stains.
Bleach may be a potent cleaner, but when comes to rust stains, it 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 lemon juice with salt to make a paste that will lighten up the stain.
More on bleach: In Defense of Bleach in the Kitchen
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: More Harm Than Good: Bad Homekeeping Advice We've All Heard Before