Chances are, you already have a cleaning routine in place—with an arsenal of your favorite cleaning products.
But some of your go-tos might be doing more harm than good. Sometimes using a product for a purpose that it was not intended for has an immediate and visible impact. In other cases, it takes longer to notice the damage—and because it happens so slowly, you might not even connect the product to the problem.
We reached out to cleaning experts to identify the culprits destroying your home, so you can avoid costly mistakes.
1. Glass cleaner
Many people use glass to clean more than glass, and if you’re one of them, drop that blue bottle!
“Never use glass cleaner on anything except glass,” says Omer Reiner, a licensed real estate agent and president of Florida Cash Home Buyers in Fort Lauderdale. “I have heard so many people claim that glass cleaner is a universal cleaner and deodorizer. But the ammonia in glass cleaner can peel many surfaces, including paint. And electronic screens can be damaged from glass cleaner. Warm soap and water are far better for cleaning surfaces.”
2. Soap and water
“Soap and water is usually pretty safe to use on all products, but actually using it on a natural stone tile will wipe away the seal on the tiles that make it look glossy,” says Johnny Pallares, owner of De La Rosa House Cleaning in Phoenix. “Instead, you must use a natural stone cleaner that is recommended by the manufacturer or contractor that installed the tile.”
Soap and water can also harm hardwood floors.
“The water damages the floor and may cause it to warp,” warns Kevin Huang, a home improvement expert and founder and CEO of Ambient Home, headquartered in Columbus, OH. “The soap dulls its shine because it leaves a filmy residue. This residue also creates scuff marks when walked on and can make the floor slippery.”
3. Magic Eraser
Magic Eraser, when deployed correctly, can transform scuffed walls and make them look new. But when used incorrectly? Destruction.
“There are a number of surfaces that you want to avoid using Magic Eraser on,” says Jessica Samson, a cleaning expert at Maids.com. “Magic Erasers have the abrasiveness of up to 3,000-grit sandpaper. If used on your car’s paint, it will erode the paint off your car. Another surface to avoid is natural stone surfaces. You can also scratch delicate surfaces like marble and granite, nonstick cookware, stainless steel, and anything with a wood surface.”
4. Baking soda
Baking soda is a wallet-friendly all-star when it comes to cleaning. But it is by no means friendly to all fabrics.
“Baking soda is a must-have in my cleaning toolkit,” says Lorraine Daisy Resuello, chief marketing officer of Connection CoPilot in Delaware. “It’s natural and effective in removing stains, and it’s so cheap. But using it incorrectly causes more harm than good. Baking soda has a higher pH level than a lemon—about 8.3 compared to lemon’s 3. It powerfully removes stains but can destroy silk, wool, and cashmere, frequently found in throws, bedding, and garments.”
Resuello recommends testing fabrics to avoid the tears she experienced after destroying her red silk cushions.
“To be safe, dilute baking soda with a lot of water,” she says.
5. Liquid drain cleaner
Drain cleaner will blast through grease, hair, sludge, and more. But it can also annihilate unintended targets.
“Liquid drain cleaners contain strong chemicals that can dissolve food, solidified fat, and other organic materials,” says Sharon Dylan, co-founder and career coach of Management Help in Austin, TX. “When my kitchen sink got clogged due to food and oil being dumped in it, I bought drain cleaner. I wanted to get rid of the clog fast, so I poured the entire bottle in the sink.”
A few hours later, she heard a crashing sound. When she went into the kitchen, she saw that the pipes under the sink had cracked and shattered.
“Looking at the instructions, it said pour half of the contents down the sink initially,” she says. “I learned the hard way that drain cleaner can actually dissolve pipes if you use too much.”
6. The wrong vacuum head
Vacuum cleaners are useful for getting your home clean thanks to the array of tools they come with. But using your crevice tool when you should be using your extension wand could spell doom for your floors.
“When cleaning hardwood flooring, if you’re not using a vacuum head with a brush, you’re leaving your hardwood floors susceptible to deep scratches,” says operations manager Adriana Aziz at MaidForYou. “It’s a common mistake we see in clients’ homes. They’re not sure which vacuum attachments to use, and some have damaged their hardwood floors beyond repair.”
7. Oven cleaner
Oven cleaners can transform filthy, gunked-up ovens into shining temples of gastronomy. But the chemicals that zap baked-on food and grease can also wreak havoc around the home.
“Oven cleaner is extremely corrosive, and I’ve seen it destroy everything from kitchen floors to countertops,” says Aziz. “One of my pro cleaners cleaned oven racks with protective coverage, then rinsed the cleaner and placed the racks on the countertop, only to return to a destroyed countertop.”
Ultimately, the countertop had to be replaced. Aziz says she has even seen particularly strong cleaner damage the finish inside the oven.
It’s amazing how some of your favorite cleaning tools—even good old soap and water—can make certain gross and dirty spaces sparkling-clean while destroying others. Keep the above cheat sheet in mind to avoid your own housecleaning crises, and always read the label directions of cleaning tools and chemicals before using them.
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