Household cleaning hacks tend to get passed down the same way family history does — by word of mouth and with the tacit understanding that they are self-evident truths. But what if modern technology has actually rendered those rules moot?
“Oftentimes, we do things just because our parents or grandparents did things that way. We never stop to question it,” says Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space. “But many times, when we stop to really see what we’re doing, it becomes apparent that these solutions are antiquated.”
At the risk of causing grandma to roll over in her grave, we’ve looked at five commonly accepted household cleaning rules and examined just how relevant they are today.
#1 Do you need to separate your laundry?
In a nutshell, yes, the experts say.
“If you have white clothes and you mix them in with darks, over time your whites will get dingy,” says Shoana Jensen, a home and style expert. “Even if there isn’t an extreme colour transfer, like when you throw a red sweater in with a white t-shirt (which will really turn your t-shirt pink), the whites will suffer.”
She advises separating laundry into whites, brights and darks, and points to darks as the culprits in every case.
“If you wash a vibrant pink shirt with jeans or black leggings, those darks will take the newness and vibrancy out of that garment. Sometimes it can happen in just the first wash,” she says.
Separating laundry is also important for helping your fabrics last longer. We often don’t consider how differing weights in fabric can wear on the more delicate items in the load.
“Your towels and linens should be washed separately from clothing because the varying fabric weights can affect the more delicate items,” Maker says. “That’s why clothing will start to pill and fade quickly.”
It also comes down to friction. Jensen points out that a delicate, silky item will wear down and look less lustrous if it’s constantly rubbing up against a sturdier fabric like denim or cotton.
#2 Do you need to use fabric softener?
This is a hard no. While Jensen says it’s a personal preference, it is most definitely not a necessity.
“If you’re washing your clothes properly, you don’t need to use fabric softener,” she says. “A lot of people say they don’t want the crunchy feeling on their towels, but if your towels are coming out of the wash that way, there’s something wrong with your washer.”
Furthermore, there are some fabrics that are actually damaged by fabric softener, namely athletic clothing that uses dry wick fabric and towels.
“Fabric softener will leave a film on those fabrics to give a perception of softness, but it will create a barrier, and interfere with their ability to absorb sweat and water.”
She says to opt for a laundry ball that you can throw into the dryer. It will roll around and hit the fabrics of your items, loosening the fibres and softening them up.
#3 Do you have to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?
This depends on when you plan on running the dishwasher, Jensen says. If you start it as soon as you’ve finished loading it, it’s not necessary to rinse off excess food. But bear in mind that all that food debris will build up and could clog your filter.
“Some newer and top-of-the-line dishwashers have a built-in blade in the filter that will chop up any large chunks of food so they won’t clog it, but mainstream dishwashers don’t have this feature. Once the filter clogs, it’ll compromise how well the machine works.”
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There are some foods, however, that you should always rinse off of dishes and cutlery before putting them in the dishwasher: melted cheese, eggs and avocado. Once these dry and harden, it’s very difficult to get them off.
#4 Is newspaper the most effective material for cleaning glass?
Chalk this up as another one of grandma’s hacks that don’t stand the test of time.
“In the old days, the ink used on newsprint was different and acted as a great solution, but the ink used today is problematic and can transfer to the glass,” Maker says.
Newspaper was also favoured over rags or paper towels because it didn’t leave any lint on the surface of glass. Obviously, paper towels today are much better, although they can still leave some lint behind.
Maker says the best way to clean glass is to use a microfibre cloth. It’s streak-free, washable, reusable and sustainable.
#5 Will vacuuming your rug too much cause it to wear down?
Score another win for technology, here, because the experts say modern vacuum cleaners are designed to prevent this from happening.
“You can’t over-vacuum a rug, but you have to make sure you’re using the correct setting for your rug or you won’t get an effective clean,” Maker says.
Vacuums have come a long way over the years, and give you the option to reduce suction or turn off the beater bar.
“The brush underneath is designed to flick the carpet fibres to loosen up the dust and debris, but if you have a high-pile rug, you’ll want to turn off the brush,” Jensen says. “But a low-pile rug won’t be a problem.”
With the right tools and settings, a vacuum will help preserve and extend the longevity of your rug.