We all see cleaning “hacks” everywhere these days, but how many of these tips could actually do more harm than good? In fact, a few of the most popular cleaning hacks are actually myths that could damage your home.
We spoke to a pair of cleaning experts to get the inside scoop on the biggest myths they’re seeing these days and what to do instead. Here’s what Tide Principal Scientist Jennifer Ahoni and Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority say you should look out for when it comes to viral hacks—and how you can get the same results without the worry.
One popular “hack” involves using laundry detergent as the cleaning agent to mop your floors. According to Ahoni, however, this option may not be safe or effective, especially when laundry pods are the detergent of choice.
“Laundry pacs contain cleaning ingredients that you often find in liquid detergents, but with much less water and a higher level of active ingredients,” Ahoni said. “The formula is two times more concentrated than our traditional liquid detergent. Because it is so concentrated, it can be harmful if the liquid contents inside the pac are ingested or come contact with skin. This is why we recommend always keeping laundry pacs inside their original packaging and using them as directed. Liquid laundry packets should only ever be used to clean clothes and nothing else.”
Instead, use a product designed for cleaning floors, like Aunt Fannie’s Floor Cleaner, or even a DIY floor cleaner. You’ll avoid the risk of irritation from coming into contact with super-concentrated detergent, and your floors won’t run the risk of damage from chemicals that aren’t designed for wood, stone, or tile.
Aunt Fannie's Floor Cleaner Vinegar Wash Concentrate
The cleaning power of vinegar in a formula designed to leave floors sparkling.
One of the most pervasive cleaning myths is that treating ink stains with hairspray can help lift them away. While it used to be true, due to the alcohol in hairspray, changes in formulas over the years means that it’s almost impossible to find a hairspray with a high enough alcohol content to do much for a stain.
According to Stapf, the hairspray hack should be replaced with something more effective: plain rubbing alcohol.
“Soak the stain in rubbing alcohol for about 15 minutes, then blot up,” she recommends. “If the stain is on a piece of clothing, run it through the washing machine after you’ve let the rubbing alcohol sit.”
Dealmed Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 70%
Break down ink stains, fast.
Using vinegar as a laundry booster is a time-honored hack. While it can be a great hack for certain specific purposes, from deodorizing to stain removal to removal of residue that dulls color, Ahoni noted that vinegar isn’t the “miracle hack” some think it is.
“Vinegar does have some benefits when used in the laundry process. It has a low pH (typically between 3-5), which helps it dissolve away metal and mineral residues that can bind body soils to fabrics,” she said. “Because of this, it can help decrease malodors caused by the breakdown of body soils trapped in fabrics into small, stinky molecules that cause musty, stale, and mildew smells or odors. By removing metal and mineral residues, vinegar can also help provide a softening effect on clothes and towels, especially when used in the rinse cycle. That being said, vinegar may not be as effective in your wash as you think it is, and in certain cases can damage fabrics.”
Ahoni explained that vinegar can actually damage some fabrics, like rayon, and that the acetic acid in store-bought vinegar is diluted enough that adding a small amount to a whole laundry load won’t do much. Depending on the formula of your detergent, it could actually interfere with the enzyme action and result in less cleaning power than before.
Instead, Ahoni recommends using vinegar as a pre-treatment to work on loosening stains and smelly residues, then laundering with regular detergent. Alternately, she says, you can use a detergent like 9 Elements Natural Laundry Detergent, which has a formula that includes vinegar within the detergent itself.
9 Elements Natural Laundry Detergent
The odor-fighting power of vinegar, in a classic liquid laundry detergent.
While the beloved Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can do a lot of things, one thing it can’t do is clean automatically. There’s a popular hack that claims putting a Magic Eraser in the toilet tank will result in a permanently-clean toilet by “cleaning” a little bit with every flush. According to Stapf, however, there’s really no proof to this theory.
“The best way to clean a toilet bowl is to go old school and use a toilet scrubber and toilet cleaner,” Stapf says. The Magic Eraser is largely a scrubbing tool, not a chemical one, so it needs to be physically rubbed against stains to have any effect. Popping it in the tank will be useless at best or can stick up the tank mechanisms in a worst-case scenario.
You can, however, still use a Magic Eraser to clean the outside of your toilet!
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
They're great for a lot of things, just not the inside of a toilet.
MR.SIGA Toilet Bowl Brush and Caddy
Nothing can replace an old-fashioned toilet brush for cleaning the inside of the bowl.
Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner Gel
Get those hard-to-reach spots with this angled bottle and cleansing gel.
“Laundry stripping” gained popularity on TikTok as a way to effectively “deep clean” clothes, even the ones that seem to be clean already. According to Ahoni, overuse of this technique, or using ingredients that are too harsh for the materials involved, can damage fabric more than helping it.
“Typically, laundry stripping uses hot water which can be damaging to fabrics because it can weaken the fabric fibers, leading to pilling or shrinkage,” Ahoni said. “Laundry stripping also typically uses borax, which creates an alkaline condition, which can also further weaken natural fibers like cotton. The water temperature and harsh chemicals used in laundry stripping can also cause dye loss on some fabrics. Repeated washings are also needed to strip effectively, which leads to increased water and energy usage.
Ahoni instead recommends using a deep-cleaning detergent regularly to avoid that kind of build-up in the first place. If a laundry soak is needed, she suggests soaking laundry for about 20 minutes in a mixture of 1 party gentler purifying product, like 9 Elements Purifying Softener to 10 parts tepid water.
9 Elements Laundry Purifying Softener Liquid
Soften clothes and remove build-up without damaging the fibers.
A nice wooden cutting board is a dream come true for kitchen aficionados, but it’s important to take good care of it. While some may suggest that you can just toss it in the dishwasher for a quick cleaning, that’s not actually a great idea.
According to Stapf, the dishwasher actually can damage the board and shorten its lifespan. Instead, she recommends a gentler care regimen.
“When you’re done using the wooden cutting board, wash it off with hot water and soap. Make sure to dry immediately after washing,” she says. “To preserve the lifespan of the cutting board, rub mineral oil over the board. This will help keep the wood hydrated and act as a water-repellent barrier. If your cutting board has an odor, sprinkle 1/3 cup of coarse salt evenly over the board. Then, let it sit for 10 minutes. After, take a half of a lemon and gently scrub the salt into the board. Rinse with hot water and let dry.”
Sonder Los Angeles Acacia Wood Cutting Board
A sturdy wooden board for all your food prep needs.
NSF Certified Food Grade Mineral Oil
A little mineral oil goes a long way towards protecting your favorite wooden cutting board.
We all love a good cleaning hack, but sometimes they can do more harm than good. Before trying out the latest hack you’ve heard about, be sure to check to make sure that it won’t cause damage in the long run—your home will thank you.