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5 Cleaning mistakes that make you look like a rookie

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Take your cleaning skills from rookie to expert-level with these tips

Would you be surprised if we told you that your cleaning style could be counterproductive to the health of your home and even your family? Whether you gleaned your cleaning habits from your mom or you just so happened to hear some nifty cleaning tricks while gabbing at the gym, you may be making fairly common mistakes that make you look like a home cleaning rookie.

We turned to Merry Maids, one of the best-known home-cleaning service providers, to find out the biggest cleaning mistakes women make. Robin Allen, owner of Merry Maids in Bozeman, Montana, has been in the home-cleaning business for over 15 years and has seen her share of cleaning blunders. She shares five rookie cleaning mistakes and the easiest solutions.

1. Mopping wood floors with water

How often do you whip out the mop bucket of water and start swabbing your wood floors? According to Allen, you'd be better off not mopping at all if your cleaner of choice is out of the tap. "Many people do not know how to take care of wood floors, and the biggest mistake is using water and a mop," she explains. "Over time, water will strip off the varnish and cause wood to crack, especially in areas where the sun beats down through the window."

Solution: Allen recommends a microfiber mop and spray bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap, which is made specifically for wood flooring and will not cause buildup. "The spray bottle will let you easily and evenly mist the wood; then you can follow up with the mop," she adds.

2. Stripping a vinyl or linoleum floor with harsh cleaners

You may love the smell of Simple Green and Pine-Sol, but Allen warns that these cleaners can strip off the finish of vinyl and linoleum flooring over time. "Even a vinegar solution, especially when not well-diluted, can harm flooring because of its acidity," she adds.

Solution: Though Merry Maids supplies all their franchise locations with company cleaning products, Allen says anyone can buy milder floor cleaners that won't strip the finish. "Ultimately, the best floor cleaning solution is a floor steam machine, which will not only clean but also disinfect floors," says the cleaning pro. She recommends Shark floor care machines.

3. Surface cleaning only

Just because those kitchen and bathroom counters look spiffy doesn't mean your kitchen and bathrooms are clean. "Many of our clients will clean the obvious surfaces, like counters and sinks, but don't take time to deep clean," Allen explains. "The cabinet doors, handles on cabinetry and appliances, drawers, and shelves easily build up dust, grime and germs, which can easily be remedied with a good cleaning."

Solution: Allen recommends a deep cleaning at least twice a year. "Do a deep cleaning in the spring and the fall, taking the time to wipe down every surface beyond the countertops," she explains. "Take every thing out of the drawers, cabinets, pantry and refrigerator so you can thoroughly clean the insides while also discarding items that you don't need."

4. Ignoring the spaces you can't see

When is the last time you pulled out your stove or dishwasher and cleaned its cubby? "You have no idea what's hiding underneath or behind your appliances!" warns Allen, who has come across many a pest and rodent nest when deep cleaning her clients' homes.

Solution: "You'll be surprised at how much debris, other items and even pests end up under and behind your major appliances," says Allen. "If you never pull them out, you'll never know." When you do your biannual (or even more often) deep cleaning, pull out your stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer and dryer and clean the spaces they normally occupy.

5. Letting mold grow

Have you been turning a blind eye to the black spots growing on the ceiling of your shower area? Does your basement smell musty or even offensive? According to Allen, mold is a rookie cleaning issue that can't be ignored. "Mold can grow even before you notice it and can be especially harmful when it has grown so much you can see it," she warns. "Surface cleaning only, humid areas that aren't well-ventilated or moist areas in the home can create a situation in which mold grows."

Solution: Allen stresses that all humid areas in the house, such as showers, laundry rooms and basements, should be well-ventilated. Make sure you also repair any leaky spaces in your home so mold doesn't have a chance to rampantly grow. "If you see even a little evidence of mold, clean the area and fix the problem," she adds.

More cleaning tips

How to get your kids to do chores
10 Things you don't clean as often as you should
Home science: How household cleaners work

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