Cleaning Tips From Experts Better Than I

by Kevin Burton

   Those of you who have turned to Page 7 for cleaning tips have been disappointed for the first (almost) three years. Sorry.

   It’s not that I lack expertise in this area.  I know cleaning. Just ask my wife. It’s safe to say she is amazed at my eagerness to clean, my cleaning abilities and aptitude.

   It is perhaps not safe to explore what I might mean by amazed.

   I haven’t shared my tips heretofore because there are just so many unexplored Beatles angles and I need to stay on that.

   Anyway, I’ve decided to bring you, some cleaning knowledge from a good source, Consumer Reports. Reporter Mary H.J. Farrell will debunk ten cleaning myths, with help from experts. Since I’ve been so reticent to talk tidying, this comes better from her:

Cleaning Myths Around the House

Myth: Newspaper works the best for cleaning glass.
 Wet newspaper tears easily, and the ink can transfer to window trim, leaving more to clean. “We use microfiber cloths to clean glass,” says Debra Johnson, director of operations for Merry Maids, a national home-cleaning service. “They’re the best at cleaning without streaking.”

Myth: Vinegar cleans everything.
 “Vinegar is an acid, so it can cut through dirt and can kill bacteria, but only if you use it at full or nearly full strength,” says Derek Christian, owner of Handyman Connection, a home-cleaning, repair, and remodeling service in Ohio. “Most people put a capful in a bucket of water, and that doesn’t do much.” The acids in vinegar can damage natural stone and wood surfaces.

Myth: Feather dusters are more effective than microfiber cloths at dusting.
Fact: Genuine ostrich-feather dusters do attract dust, but they’re expensive and generally not as effective as lambswool or microfiber options. “Most feather dusters just spread the dust around,” says Debrah Vanchura, cleaning pro and owner of Helping Hands in Portland, Ore. They tend to drop feathers, too, leaving you more to pick up.

Myth: Cleaning solutions act instantly.
 Nope. “At Merry Maids, we recommend allowing any cleaning solution to sit on the surface for two to three minutes,” Johnson says. “Always follow the directions on the product’s label. Some solutions, like disinfectants, need a full 10 minutes to truly kill bacteria,” Christian says.

Myth: String mops are best for removing dirt and bacteria.
Industrial-style string mops may look impressive, but studies have shown that microfiber mops are about 25 percent more effective at removing dirt and bacteria. “String mops are very absorbent, so they’re great at cleaning up big spills,” Christian says. “But if you want to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind on the floor, use a microfiber mop.”

Cleaning Myths in the Bathroom

Myth: Coca-Cola can tidy up toilets.
Fact: “Coke is acidic, so it could be effective at removing hard-water stains,” Johnson says. “But even the Coca-Cola website recommends using other options.” Christian prefers traditional cleansers when it comes to cleaning a toilet bowl. “The soda could actually darken stains, and the sugar could encourage bacteria,” he says.

Myth: Bleach cleans everything.
Fact: “Bleach actually doesn’t ‘clean’ anything—because it doesn’t remove soil,” Christian says. “It can lighten stains, making things look cleaner, and it kills bacteria,” so it’s better to use bleach as a sanitizer than as a cleaner.

Cleaning Myths in the Kitchen

Myth: Hand-washing dishes is better than using a dishwasher.
If your dishwasher is a decade old, this may be true, but today’s models are incredibly efficient—and beat hand-washing by a mile. Our CR-designated Green Choice dishwashers use only four or five gallons of water per load, making them very water-efficient. And while a couple of dishwashers use about 1 kilowatt-hour of energy per load (or 13 cents’ worth of electricity), most only use three-quarters of that amount.

Myth: Coffee freshens garbage disposers.
“Coffee grounds may act as a mild abrasive, removing gunk from disposer blades,” Christian says. “But baking soda is a better choice. It’s also mildly abrasive, and because it’s a base, it will counteract all the smelly acids that we put down the drain.”

Cleaning Myths Around Your Laundry

Myth: Hair spray removes ballpoint-pen ink.

Fact: This may have been true years ago, when hair sprays were formulated with more alcohol (which does remove ink) than they are today, but it’s not true anymore. “Today’s hair sprays are full of stiffeners and hardeners that will just make the stain worse,” Christian says. “Just use rubbing alcohol. It’s far less expensive than hairspray and doesn’t include any extra ingredients.”

   Even I, a certified (certifiable?) cleaning pro, learned something from these tips. I hope you did too.

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