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10 cleaning mistakes you’re probably making at home

Become a housework hero by correcting these common cleaning errors.

hands in rubber cleaning gloves
Megan Arkinstall
Last updated: 16 July 2021

Need to know

  • If you don't maintain your cleaning appliances, it can reduce their efficiency and increase your workload
  • Kitchen sponges and chopping boards can be a breeding ground for bacteria
  • A good multipurpose cleaner is all you need for most cleaning jobs

From the kitchen to the bathroom and everywhere in between, we all have our tried-and-true methods for cleaning. (Or maybe you don't and you're just winging it – we won't judge!) 

But are your methods up to scratch? We asked our experts to tell us how to be a housework hero, by avoiding these common cleaning mistakes.

1. Pre-rinsing your dishes 

It's like cleaning before the cleaner comes to your house, except your dishwasher doesn't judge you and pre-rinsing your dishes can create more work! 

According to CHOICE whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale, pre-rinsing can trick your dishwasher into thinking your dishes are cleaner than they are, so it won't clean as well. It also negates one of the benefits of owning a dishwasher, which is water efficiency. 

Pre-rinsing plates can trick your dishwasher into thinking your dishes are cleaner than they are

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE dishwasher expert

"You've paid a lot of money for your dishwasher, so by pre-rinsing you're not showing a lot of faith in its ability to do the very thing you bought it for," Ashley says.

He suggests simply scraping leftover food into the bin and loading dishes as they are. He also warns that overloading the machine will prevent the water circulating freely, meaning it won't reach every surface.   

2. Not cleaning your vacuum

There's no point trying to clean your floor with a dirty vacuum, so give it some TLC. 

To keep your vacuum working efficiently, remove any hair, fluff and string off the brush rollers after each use and check the hoses for any blockages such as small toys and hair elastics. 

You should also empty dust canisters and wash the filters at least monthly, and – for bagged models – replace the bag when it's two-thirds full because waiting until it's bursting is too late. 

Here's how to care for your vacuum cleaner

person wiping down an oven

Wiping down your oven after use will save a lot of elbow grease later.

3. Not wiping down your oven

Unless you have a self-cleaning pyrolytic oven, the arduous task of scrubbing your oven requires strong chemicals and a lot of elbow grease. Or does it? 

CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair says there's a much cheaper and easier alternative: wipe down your oven after every use. "This reduces any baked-on residue from building up and causing the oven to smoke and smell." 

You will thank your past self when it comes to oven-cleaning day. 

4. Not washing your washing machine

Seems kind of obvious, but many of us don't do it and maintaining your washing machine will prolong its lifetime and give you better results. 

"Over time detergent residue, or scrud, can build up inside the machine, potentially causing it to break down or leaving flaky deposits on your clothes," says Ashley. 

He suggests you run your machine on a hot empty cycle with a little bit of detergent, avoiding fabric softeners (which make build-up worse), and wiping door seals down with a soft damp cloth. 

"Leave the door ajar between cycles – this keeps seals in good condition and allows air to circulate, helping to keep mould and foul odours at bay," he says.

5. Using hot water to clean stains

Hot water is your foe when it comes to stain removal, especially those that are protein-based such as blood, because it helps to set the stain in rather than lift it. 

Instead, use cold water always and when it comes to the best stain removal products check out the results from our lab tests.  

two dish washing sponges

Sponges are a breeding ground for bacteria – wash them often and replace them regularly.

6. Not replacing sponges regularly

Among everyday household items that need to be replaced, kitchen sponges are the ickiest: they are often wet, warm and contain traces of food, meaning they are breeding grounds for bacteria. So basically, you're spreading bacteria around your kitchen when you use an old sponge to wipe up benches. 

Never leave your sponges sitting in the sink: rinse well after use and hang to dry

Fiona Mair, CHOICE kitchen expert

Replace your sponges regularly, use a paper towel to wipe benches, or as Fiona suggests, "put sponges or cloths in a washing bag and place in the washing machine for a thorough clean".

"Never leave your sponges sitting in the sink: rinse well after use and hang to dry," she adds. 

7. Not cleaning your chopping boards sufficiently

Warm water and dishwashing liquid is not enough to keep your chopping boards clean, especially after being used to chop meat and poultry. 

Plastic chopping boards are a little more user-friendly and can be placed in the dishwasher on a hot cycle, while wooden chopping boards require extra attention such as a hydrogen peroxide solution. 

"If you're chopping raw meats and foods that have strong odours, such as onion and garlic, soak the board in boiling water and rub a cut lemon on the washed surface to help remove any odours," says Fiona. 

wiping light switch with disinfectant

Thanks to COVID, it's more important than ever to clean high-touch areas of your home.

8. Forgetting to clean high-touch fixtures and items

How often do you clean your remote controls, light switches, door handles and phones? Eek. 

Especially during times of COVID-19, we need to pay these areas more attention and disinfectant wipes are super convenient for the job. 

However, be sure to use a disinfectant that kills viruses, and always dispose of wipes in the bin even if they claim to be flushable, as they can wreak havoc on your pipes and the environment. 

9. Buying all the latest products

Do you have a cupboard full of cleaning products that didn't live up to their claims? (We hear a resounding yes.) Thankfully we have rounded up the best and worst cleaning products so you don't waste your money. 

For most cleaning jobs a multipurpose cleaner is all you need

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE cleaning expert

Up the top of the bogus list is floor cleaners, which were proven to do little more than a bucket of hot water and were – as a whole category – given a 2020 Shonky Award

"For most cleaning jobs a good multipurpose cleaner is all you need," Ashley says. 

10. Using bleach to remove mould

A special mention goes to cleaning products that claim to kill mould. Many of these contain bleach, which kills surface mould but not the mould underneath. 

Bleach can simply take the colour out of fungi, which can make it invisible, but it's actually still lurking there. 

The best solution to cleaning mould is to use good old vinegar, which is much more effective for use on porous materials.  

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.