Be water wise
Even though water is much more plentiful (and cheaper) than any cleaning product you can buy at the store, it shouldn’t always be your go-to when you need to scrub down every surface in your home. Sometimes it does more damage than good and you need to use cleaning products meant for specific finishes or surfaces. Read on to find out what you should never clean with water.
You should never use water to clean velvet or other fuzzy fabrics such as suede or microfibre. “When the fibres on these fabrics get wet and then dry, they can get stuck in their new position,” says Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services. “This could mean you will have a swipe pattern permanently on our furniture as a result.” Smith recommends hiring a professional cleaner for fuzzy fabrics. They will clean it but also use a special brush to make sure the material looks good as new.
Hardwood and laminate floors
Even though there is a water-resistant finish on hardwood and laminate floors, it wears off over time, and cleaning them with water could cause damage. If water gets into the wood it can cause it to swell and turn black. “The proper way to clean a wood or laminate floor is to use a flat microfibre mop and spray-on cleaning solution with a spray bottle a little bit at a time,” says Smith. “Most flooring manufacturers make specific recommendations on which product they recommend on their flooring.”
Musical instruments can be tricky to clean because they are made from lots of different materials. But similar to how wood floors can get damaged if cleaned with water, wooden instruments can as well. Tyler Harris, who runs a luxury residential cleaning company, says that cleaning your wooden instruments with water can cause areas of discoloration and splits and cracks in the wood. Harris says that you should only be using cleaners made for musical instruments.
This should already be known, but electricity and water do not mix. “For the most part, you should only dry dust electronics,” says Smith. “If you do have to clean something that will not come off with a dry cloth, get your cleaning cloth just slightly damp with a light-duty cleaning product then clean the electronics. Never spray any liquid directly onto electronics.” If cleaning them with a damp cloth makes you nervous, there are wipes and cleaning sprays designed specifically for electronics.
If you try to clean your tarnished silver with water, it will just create more tarnish. The best thing you can do is use silver polish, says Kathy Turley, Director of Marketing at Home Clean Heroes. If you don’t have silver polish around, Turley recommends using tomato sauce. “The mild acidity of ketchup will help get rid of the tarnish,” she says. Let your silver soak in tomato sauce for 5-10 minutes, rinse off the ketchup with water, and buff with a cloth. “Why is it safe to use the water later in the step? Because you are rinsing the ketchup off and already gotten rid of the tarnish,” explains Turley.
This might seem like an obvious item that you shouldn’t clean with water, but a surprising number of people think it’s OK to store their contact lenses in water overnight. “The proper contact lens cleaning solutions all have antimicrobial ingredients that discourage bacterial growth. A contact lens stored in water may have a small amount of bacteria on its surface after a day of use,” says Jonathan Wolfe, an optometrist. “The water only encourages this bacteria to multiply, and when the patient inserts the lens again the following day, that colony of bacteria is given the opportunity to move onto the cornea and cause ulceration.” Also, tap water is not sterile like contact solution and it could contain bacteria, fungi, or parasites that will make their way onto your contact lens if you let them soak in water.
Light fixtures and outlets
“This might be a no brainer, but using a wet cloth to clean an outlet cover or light fixtures can lead to risk of electrocution or fire,” says Nasutsa Mabwa, president of ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons. “Instead, use a dry duster or dry cloth to clean outlet covers and light fixtures, or unplug the light fixture before attempting to clean it.”
Surfaces that are porous, such as brick, have a protective sealant, and when cleaned with water it can be removed or damaged, says Harris. He recommends using a soft brush to wipe away grime and then cleaning with a soft cloth.
“Using water on silk, whether it’s your curtains or a shirt, can cause water spots and permanent discoloration,” says Turley. “Better leave it to the professionals, like your neighbourhood dry cleaner.”
If you try to clean leather furniture, bags or clothing items with water, it will cause streaks and will eventually cause the leather to crack over time. “There are specific leather cleaners designed for leather, which will not have these problems,” says Smith.
Similar to brick, marble is also a porous material that can be damaged by water. If you used water to clean marble it can remove the protective sealant on it, potentially damaging any grout of caulking, says Harris. Just like with brick, use a soft brush and cloth to get it clean.
Gas range burners
“Don’t clean the burners on your gas range with water. The igniters on your gas range are very sensitive to water,” says Smith. “If they get wet they will not turn off when the range is activated and your range will click over and over again as the igniter keeps going off.” Sometimes, this issue will correct itself once the igniter dries out, but cleaning your gas range burners with water can also permanently damage them. “As a result, never spray a cleaning product directly into your gas range burners. Spray the cleaning cloth then wipe down the surface.”
Similar to wood floors, water can also ruin your wood furniture. Just think about what happens when you leave a glass on your wooden table without a coaster. “The best course of action is to regularly dust your wood tables and furniture (we recommend a microfibre cloth) and you can use wood polish or lemon oil to protect it,” says Turley.
Brass fixtures or instruments
Using water to clean brass fixtures and instruments will remove the lacquer and lead to further tarnish and cause permanent damage. Harris says to avoid DIY cleaning solutions and to stick to cleaning with a quality brass polish. For cleaning, Harris recommends a brass polish. “It leaves a shine on the brass that lasts for a long time. The only downside is it does leave an easily removable white layer in corners of the brassware,” says Harris.
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