Here's the dirt on common mistakes even the most fastidious among us make when cleaning the house.
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1. Washing Your Sponge in the Dishwasher
Wash sponges in the washing machine, not the dishwasher, or sterilize them by soaking for a minute in three cups of water mixed with 2 tablespoons chlorine bleach. Rinse well.
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2. Hand Washing Dishes Willy-Nilly
Wash dishes in this order: crystal, glassware, clear glass plates, other plates, flatware, serving ware, then the greasiest serving dishes and finally pots and pans. Start with the least-soiled dishes and end with the greasiest.
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3. Using Too Little Dishwashing Detergent
If you're observing a buildup of scum in the sink after washing dishes, it doesn't mean you're using too much detergent. In fact, you're probably not using enough detergent to prevent fats from adhering to the sink. Detergent suds actually gather and suspend tiny particles of soil, keeping them away from the newly cleaned surface. Try using a little more next time.
Photography: Bryan Gardner4 of 14
4. Soaking Stainless Steel
It's best not to soak stainless steel, since it will pit. Instead, rub it with white vinegar or lemon juice and a soft cloth to remove stains,
Photography: Johnny Miller5 of 14
5. Scraping Burned-On Food from a Cooktop
To clean burned-on food from spills from grates, place the grates on a large plastic bag or on newspaper in a well-ventilated area or outside. Carefully spray with commercial oven cleaner (follow the manufacturer's instructions). Let stand for several hours or overnight. Wash grates in hot, soapy water (wearing rubber gloves). Rinse thoroughly and dry before replacing.
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Photography: Johnny Miller6 of 14
6. Using Commercial Cleaners on a Self-Cleaning or Continuously Clean Oven
Never use commercial oven cleaners on a self-cleaning or continuously cleaning oven, as they can damage the oven walls.
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7. Being Afraid to Wash Silver in a Dishwasher
Most experts agree that hand washing sterling silver and silver plate is preferable because it's gentler, but silver can go in the dishwasher; it would take a long time and many washings for damage to occur.
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8. Neglecting to Clean Your Hanging Pot Rack
A hanging pot rack will need a thorough cleaning a couple of times a year. Remove everything that is hanging from it and wipe down the rack with a cloth dampened with hot water and a solvent-free degreaser. Wash and dry any pots to remove grease and dust.
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9. Putting Your Knives in the Dishwasher
It is best to wash and dry knives by hand, as washing them in the dishwasher can dull the blades or damage the handles. Rub off any stains with a clean wine cork dipped in mild dishwashing liquid; a mixture of coarse salt and lemon juice or vinegar also works well. Don't let knives soak, as their handles can shrink. Dry immediately.
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10. Polishing Wood Furniture
Regular polishing of wood furniture -- using one of the many liquids, creams, or aerosols designed to dispel dust or generate a shine -- is unnecessary and can even be damaging. Many of these products contain silicone, an oily substance that attracts more dust than it gets rid of. For all wood furniture, dusting is the only necessary maintenance.
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Photography: ERIC PIASECKI11 of 14
11. Using a Regular Vacuum Cleaner to Clean Dust from Electronics
A conventional vacuum cleaner can create more static and harm to your componenets. Hardware and electronics stores sell antistatic vacuums that are safe to use.
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12. Washing Your Comforter
You should not need to launder a comforter if you keep it covered, unless it has been saturated by a spill or an accident. Keep in mind that repeatedly washing or dry-cleaning down can remove some of its natural oils and reduce loft.
Photography: Lucas Allen13 of 14
13. Using Chlorine Bleach to Remove Tough Bathtub Stains
Chlorine bleach will set the stain.
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14. Not Wiping Down Your Shower -- Every Time
As with bathtubs, wipe down the walls and floor of the shower with a squeegee or dry towel. Wipe from top to bottom, including the shower door.