10 Housekeeping Habits Your Parents Taught You That Are Actually Wrong


I’d just moved in with my boyfriend, and was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner when he looked at me with a quizzical, grossed-out expression and said, “You use the same sponge to wash the dishes wipe the countertops? Doesn’t that just spread germs?” Of course it does, I realized. It suddenly seemed so obvious. So why did I do it? “Huh! I’ve never thought about it,” I replied. “I guess it’s just what my mom did.”

We all have that we may never have second-guessed. And most of those habits are probably healthy ones, but when our parents were growing up, standards were different. A generation later, we just know better on certain things—plus, we have so many more products and tools at our fingertips.


Getty Images

When it comes to housekeeping, like me, you may still have inherited some lessons from your parents that aren’t actually the best practices. Read on for the bad habits you may have learned from dear old mom and dad that are actually wrong, and how to break them to create a healthier home.

I didn’t learn this lesson until I was an adult, but using the same sponge to wipe down your countertops and scrub the dishes only transfers the germs from one dirty surface to your supposedly-clean dishes. (In fact, your is likely the dirtiest thing in your home.


) No matter if your countertops have just the usual everyday grime, or they’re also harboring harmful bacteria, you want to make sure you’re using a clean sponge for each task.

To avoid cross-contamination, designate one sponge for each purpose. Disinfecting them in the dishwasher, or putting them in the microwave for two minutes, will kill a lot of the germs, but not all, so you also want to replace them often.

Just like a dirty sponge may actually make your “clean” dishes dirtier, the same goes for all household cleaning tools. Everything from mops, brooms, scrub brushes, dusters, and rags will be ineffective (and can actually do more harm than good) if they’re not


before you use them to clean.

After each use, clean and disinfect your household tools. That means shaking dusters outside to release particles, and washing rags in the washing machine along with a disinfecting solution of bleach or vinegar. For mop and broom heads and scrub brushes, remove any debris before soaking them in a bucket of hot water, soap, and a disinfecting solution. 

We all know the dad who insisted he was the only one who could "properly load the dishwasher," using every possible inch of space to get it to maximum capacity before finally hitting the start button.


But overloading the dishwasher can result in dirty dishes that need to be put through a second cycle to get clean, and dishes that are crammed in may become damaged.

Don’t overlap dishes, and be sure to leave enough room between items that the machine can do its work.

Our parents may have assumed that the more laundry detergent they used, the cleaner the clothes. But using too much can actually have negative effects for you your clothes. Not only does it cost you money by wasting detergent, but it also causes the washing machine to use more water than it needs to.


An excess of detergent can also stain or discolor clothing, and detergent buildup in fabric can cause it to become stiff, scratchy, or sticky. Clothes may smell stinky, even when they’re fresh out of the dryer. These changes to the fabric’s texture can also irritate delicate skin.

Take the time to actually read the packaging on your to see how much the manufacturer recommends using per load. Chances are, it’s much less than you’d think. Whatever type of laundry detergent you use, most come with measurements marked inside the cap or scoop. Use them! If yours doesn’t, measure out the recommended amount and use a permanent marker to note it for future reference.


When we think about cleaning a room, we think of the largest or most obvious areas. When your parents asked you to clean your room as a kid, that probably meant picking clothes up off the floor and putting toys away. The checklist for cleaning the kitchen was probably just washing dirty dishes, wiping down countertops, and mopping the floors. 

It’s common to overlook some of the smallest and most unassuming surfaces in the house like the door knobs and handles. Since they’re touched by everyone in the house all day and night long, these small surfaces accumulate a massive amount of germs and rarely get cleaned.


Make cleaning these often overlooked surfaces part of your regular cleaning routine. Use a disinfecting cleaner on all the doorknobs in every room, as well as handles for toilets and the kitchen faucet.

Maybe we saw our parents doing it, or perhaps we learned it from watching commercials. But most of us assume that disinfecting cleaners work immediately, so we wipe them up seconds after we spray them on countertops and other surfaces. Most disinfectants, however, have a “dwell time” of several minutes in which they must sit wet before all the germs are fully killed.



Read the labels of the disinfectants in your cupboard before you spray, and give them the recommended time to work their germ-killing magic before wiping them away.

Growing up, the concept of cleaning a toothbrush was foreign. We just used them twice a day until the bristles were completely splayed out before finally replacing them. But mouths are germy places, and the brushes we use to clean them can breed bacteria. 

Rinse your toothbrush well after each use, and make sure you’re storing it in a place that will let it air-dry. Every week, sanitize the brush by letting it soak in antibacterial mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide diluted with water.


And finally, follow the of when to replace toothbrushes, which is every three to four months for adults (or, if the bristles become frayed), and more often for children.

Just as brooms and dusters are often forgotten when it comes to cleaning, so are the appliances we use to store and cook our food and clean dishes. But refrigerators with spilled sticky foods and old produce rotting in drawers (as well as crusty, cooked-on food in ovens and microwaves) can diminish the quality and safety of fresh food.  

Keep your kitchen appliances working efficiently with a little regular maintenance.


To , place a bowl filled with half vinegar and half water until it creates steam. Let it sit with the door closed for a few minutes to loosen up cook-on food, and then wipe the grime away. 

Keep your refrigerator spick-and-span by washing produce drawers with hot water and soap, and spraying all surfaces down with a disinfecting (but non-toxic and food-friendly) vinegar solution. Clean your oven with a cleaner made specifically for ovens, or scrub everything with a paste made of baking soda and a little water. Let the paste sit for several minutes before wiping it away with a clean sponge.

All dishwashers are different.


But generally speaking, all you need to do to clean them is to empty out any filters, make sure there’s no mildew or debris clogging the holes in the arms of the machine (scrub them with a cleaner if there is), and run a cycle with only a mug filled with vinegar to disinfect and break down grease, mildew, and food residue. 

The world is a lot more environmentally conscious than it was a couple decades ago, and one old-school habit we know should be broken is using disposable paper towels to clean, well, everything. 

With few exceptions, anything you can clean with a paper towel, you can clean with something reusable.


So the next time you go to mop up a spill in the fridge or clean the windows, reach for a sponge, shammy, rag, or one of the cute reusable paper towel replacement.

You may have seen your parents dusting off furniture, , ledges, moldings, and the contents of the curio cabinet as the final step of cleaning a room—after the tidying and vacuuming was done. But cleaning a room in that order only releases dust particles into the air, letting them settle onto the floors and other surfaces instead of removing them.

Clean from the top down! When you start by dusting and end with the floors, you’re able to vacuum or sweep away all of the dust particles that have floated down to the ground, meaning you’ll no longer be breathing them in.