5 Domestic Cleaning Hacks That Don’t Work

The internet is a real treasure trove of handy hints and hacks. However, there’s a fair amount of trash in the treasure, and it can sometimes be difficult to sort one for the other.

Nowhere is this truer than in the world of home cleaning (you also find quite a few hints that aren’t really hints in the world of car maintenance, but that’s another story). Not that the phenomenon of bad cleaning advice is a recent one. Even in some of those old magazines and books, you’ll find some rather bad advice. Heck, even Mrs Isabella Beeton, the great-grand-mamma of all household advice columnists and lifestyle bloggers suggested some rather strange and downright alarming things, like using oxgall and damp tea leaves to clean carpets, or boiling poor innocent carrots for several hours. Mind you, she was writing in the era when someone paid to run an advertisement for cocaine syrup in every copy of her book (true story – my mother owns a copy of the second edition published in the late 1800s and I’ve seen that ad for real).

A lot of faulty cleaning advice contains a modicum of truth in there somewhere; however, that truth is surrounded by a lot of hooey. Actually, this is true of a lot of things on the internet and not just cleaning hacks. It always pays to hunt around and do some research, and I hope that you go and do this after reading my article.

Cleaning Hacks That Don’t Work

I’ve come across quite a few bits of bad advice online and in other places over the years, and here are some of the main offenders.

#1: Half A Lemon Makes A Great Cleaner

There is some truth in this one. Lemon juice is a lovely strong acid that has good bleaching ability when it’s exposed to sunlight. However, lemon juice is sticky. If you try to clean anything by rubbing half a cut lemon over it, you will leave bits of pulp all over whatever you’re trying to clean, so you’re going to have to clean that breadboard or countertop again to remove the sticky residue. What’s more, the lemon juice won’t release its natural bleaching power without sunshine, so if your kitchen counters aren’t somewhere where strong sunlight can get to them, lemon juice won’t do diddley-squat.

The other problem with using lemons is that it’s a bit of a waste of either money or lemons. Lemons are, after all, food, even if we don’t eat them in large quantities. They aren’t all that cheap compared to other cleaners, including other natural home cleaners like white vinegar. Thus, it can get quite expensive to try domestic cleaning with lemons. Besides, even if you have several large and highly productive lemon trees and more lemons than you know what to do with (you’ve got shelves and shelves of marmalade and lemon curd, you can be relied on to whip up a great lemony cocktail and the entire neighbourhood recognize your kids as the ones who run the lemonade stand), there are probably tons of people who would be more than happy to take them off your hands. Food waste is a big environmental issue these days and there are plenty of struggling people who could do with a nice fresh lemon or three. If you’re lucky enough to have a lemon surplus, you’ll do more good in the world by giving them away (try contacting your nearest Salvation Army or other charity) than by using them to clean your house.

#2: Hot Water Kills Bacteria

Again, there’s some truth here. Water that’s over 80°C will knock bacteria hard and water that’s boiling will kill them. However, the stuff coming out of your tap won’t kill bacteria. If it did, it would give you a nasty burn every time that you tried to wash your dishes by hand or take a shower. So, don’t delude yourself into thinking that just because you used nice hot water as hot as you could stand to clean your plates and knives, they’re germ-free. They’ll be clean, yes, but not sterile.

If you actually want to sterilize something without using strong chemicals – and I don’t blame you for wanting this – then BOILING water is the key. Obviously, you can only do this to items that can handle high temperatures and you have to be very careful you don’t get any of the boiling water onto yourself. For example, if you want to sterilize a knife after using it for cutting raw chicken, then put it in the sink, boil the kettle and empty the kettle over it. Once the water has drained down the plug, then you can do what you like with the knife.

I’ll let you into a secret, though: you don’t have to sterilize everything in your home and you don’t have to strive for germ-free perfection. Your home isn’t a surgical ward, so regular washing and cleaning will take care of most things and your immune system can usually handle the rest.

#3: Mix Vinegar And Baking Soda To Make Your Own Cleaning Products.

Vinegar is fantastic for cleaning your home when it’s used by itself. So is baking soda. However, put them together and you’ll get a lovely dramatic fizz but you’ll then lose the potency of both. The only exception to this if you’re trying to unblock a drain, in which case, the fizz is what you want.

By all means, use vinegar (great for killing mould, disinfecting and for cleaning hard surfaces that aren’t marble) and use baking soda (a great grease-buster and gentle scouring paste). But don’t bother combining them.

Cleaning Hacks That Don’t Work

#4: Put A Slice Of Lemon In The Dishwasher To Make Your Dishes Sparkle.

Leaving aside all the objections to using lemons as a cleaning product outline above, let’s think of the maths. How much juice is there in a slice of lemon? Now, how much water does your dishwasher use in one cycle? That little bit of lemon juice won’t make that much of a difference to your load of dishes. What’s more, you also run the risk of the lemon getting caught up in the works and blocking the drain, as well as bits of pith, peel, and pip getting plastered onto your glassware.

Putting a slice of lemon in the dishwasher might make the steam smell a bit lemony when you open the dishwasher, and that’s about it. Put it in a glass of water instead and drink it!

#5: Cleaning Wooden Furniture With Tea

This one has always seemed totally dingbats to me and I’m not alone. The idea is that the tannins in the tea loosen grease… well, I think that’s the idea. It might work if you’re cleaning dark wood because the tea will act as a stain on the wood. However, if you’ve got polish on the table or the dresser or whatever, as most of us do, then the water in the tea could damage the polish like it does when you put a cup down and forget about the coaster. Yes, you can use a rag dampened in tea to wipe crumbs and other smears off the table, but with the teeny amounts of moisture involved, you may as well use just plain water.

To deep clean wooden furniture, then you’re better off using proper wood polish. You can make your own from a good vegetable oil (don’t bother about using olive oil because this doesn’t come cheap), as long as you buff it up well and apply it lightly to avoid leaving stickiness that attracts fresh dirt and gunge.

Tea can be used to put a fake patina of age on linen and cotton if you like this kind of thing. However, I’d just go and make myself a nice cuppa and drink my tea instead.

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.

rachel bustin


*This is a collaborative post


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