Home & Living

The 7 Most Commonly Overused Cleaning Products

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When faced with a gigantic mess, it's tempting to get heavy-handed with cleaning products. Because there's no such thing as too clean, right?


Overusing certain cleaning products can actually lead to even bigger problems than spills: Some could damage your carpet or windows, and some could damage your health. We asked cleaning experts to name the worst offenders.

1. Glass Cleaner Why it's bad to overuse: Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr blames overuse on a common mistake: "People tend to spray the surface in need of cleaning rather than the rag, cloth or paper towel they're using to wipe the surface." Spray too much and you're basically pushing dirt and lint around, which leads to nasty streaks.

Instead: Spritz the paper towel with your glass cleaner of choice, then wipe down the glass.

2. Dishwasher Detergent Why it's bad to overuse: You don't need to fill the whole dishwasher cup with detergent unless your load is very dirty or you have very hard water, says Carolyn Forté, a director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. (To check for hard water in your home, use this simple soap trick or call your local water utility.) There's nothing "bad" about using too much dishwasher detergent, per se, but it does get expensive if you don't need it.

Instead: Fill the dishwasher cup only partway if your load isn't super-dirty or if you have soft water in your home.

3. Bleach Why it's bad to overuse: It's fine to use the chemical in small doses to whiten laundry, sterilize dishes or for other proper uses. But some people unknowingly mix bleach with ammonia products like Windex glass spray, and this releases toxic gas. The gas can "cause respiratory issues or nausea and irritate eyes and skin," according to Robin Wilson, an interior designer who focuses on eco-friendliness.

Instead: Use bleach safely around the house, or better yet, opt for natural products and don't use it at all!

4. Laundry Detergent Why it's bad to overuse: We were surprised to learn that we're only supposed to be using a tablespoon at a time. Pouring excess amounts into the wash can create a film that prevents clothes from actually getting clean, according to Kerr.

Instead: Use an old tablespoon to measure out just enough product.

5. Carpet Cleaner Why it's bad to overuse: "Many people go crazy and saturate a carpet stain with cleaner," says Forté. "This saturates the carpet, which can damage it, and (the cleaner) becomes very difficult to rinse out and completely remove." Too much leftover cleaner results in soapy residue that becomes a dirt magnet.

Instead: Try less potent products like soap, water or white vinegar before resorting to a carpet cleaning solution. Blot, don't douse, your carpet when applying liquid, and always dry it properly after cleaning.

6. Furniture Polish Why it's bad to overuse: There is such a thing as caring too much for your beloved wood furniture. Kerr says that by spraying (or buffing with wax) frequently, you can end up creating a buildup. This, in turn, ends up attracting more dust and dirt.

Instead: Apply a light mist (or light coat) of furniture polish once a month. Wipe furniture down with microfiber cloths between polishes.

7. Air Freshener Why It's Bad To Overuse: This "cleaning product" (which, let's face it, doesn't actually clean) can contain formaldehyde, which can cause respiratory symptoms similar to allergies.

Instead: Don't just cover up your home's smell with air freshener! As Wilson says, "Clean your space!"

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