Is there anything worse than spilling your coffee on the couch and trying to clean it up, only to realize the stain is spreading? If you’re already stressed, it’s enough to send you over the edge, and who could blame you? Cleaning mistakes like this can be costly. The same goes for wiping that spaghetti sauce off the wall after your toddler flung their dinner everywhere. If you reach for the melamine sponges, the splatter will come off the wall, but it might take some of your paint with it.

Life happens, but sometimes tidying up after unhappy accidents makes the situation worse. Even just routine cleaning tasks can go awry if you’re not careful about how you clean or what products you use. And as the coffee-stained couch and patchy paint job remind us, some cleaning mistakes can be expensive to fix.

It pays to do a little research before diving into cleaning a stain, spill, or surface you’re unfamiliar with, and to brush up on best practices for cleaning high-cost items in your home, like furniture and appliances. Or putting your cutting boards in the dishwasher. Or not routinely cleaning your washing machine. Or, well, you’ll see — these expensive cleaning mistakes are totally avoidable with a the right knowledge beforehand.

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MISTAKE: Spraying furniture polish directly onto wood.

SOLUTION: Wipe on for even application.

Spraying a furniture polish right onto your table, armoire, or other wooden piece can create blotchy, oil-like spots that take some time to dissipate. Over time, they may not disappear. Spraying a cloth and applying the product — or using a saturated disposable wipe like the Pledge Multi-Surface Furniture Polish Wipes — ensures an even application.

Review: “I have a lot of surfaces in my room that require regular dusting. For the longest time I had been using aerosol spray cans, but they don’t last long and are bad for the environment, so I wanted to find something better. These wipes have been pretty good at clearing dust while also leaving a really nice (but short-lived) scent. I especially like that you can use one or two of them to clean an entire room, then just toss them in the trash. It makes cleaning just a bit quicker and easier.”


MISTAKE: Using abrasive cleaners or pads on stainless steel.

SOLUTION: A polish designed to clean and shine.

Stainless steel appliances may look tough, but their surfaces can scratch pretty easily. That means rough sponges and abrasive cleaners are a huge no-no. Instead, a gentle product like the Sprayway Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish removes drips, fingerprints, and more without ruining that perfect, mirror-like finish.

Review: “Wow! Just like everyone says, this stuff REALLY shines…AND it does it with almost zero effort. Oh, and very little product is required, too. So refreshing when you get something that is exactly what it says it is!”


MISTAKE: Putting wooden utensils in the dishwasher.

SOLUTION: Remove odors with lemon and baking soda.

Wooden spoons and cutting boards dry out and crack in the dishwasher, but if they’re holding onto funky food odors, you might be tempted to try it anyway. Instead, cover them in baking soda and rub with half a lemon, then hand wash to remove smells. The Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda Shaker makes cleaning with baking soda so much easier than the boxed version, and lasts longer without clumping thanks to the tight-sealing lid.

Review: “Let’s face it, baking soda is baking soda. But sometimes I want to sprinkle it on the rug before I vacuum. This container can sprinkle. The lid will easily come on and off to scoop with a measuring spoon. It will also close just fine. I’m on my second container already. It’s my new fave way of storing baking soda in my spice cupboard. I will buy it like this again for sure.”


MISTAKE: Taking the term ‘all-purpose’ to heart.

SOLUTION: Invest in specialized cleaners for expensive items.

The shiny sealant on your granite countertops seems hard as a rock, but over time, cleaners with harsh or acidic ingredients can wear it down. This exposes the granite itself to damage, and no one wants to see the bill for new countertops. Weiman’s Granite Stone Clean, Polish and Protect spray cleans while polishing away dull spots and enhancing the look of the stone underneath.

Review: “Awesome! Worked better than expected! You do have to take a while to buff it…It’s almost like a spray on car wax. Little different than I was expecting but it also way exceeded my expectations! Used it on my black granite in the kitchen and a marble top table we purchased used that had some streaking and dullness. It worked wonders on the marble table and it worked great restoring that luster to our kitchen granite.”


MISTAKE: Buying costly air purifiers to remove allergens.

SOLUTION: Laundering your curtains often.

Allergens like dust and pollen sit on surfaces in our home and cling to fabrics like curtains. Before you splurge on an air purifier to fix your sniffles, try washing your curtains and linens first. This Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Laundry Detergent is a lot easier on the wallet, works to remove dirt, stains, and smells, and leaves laundry smelling super fresh.

Review: “We’ve got four dogs and find ourselves always washing blankets and doggy beds. We needed to budget our laundry expense and came across this detergent and decided to give it a try. We got an enormous 122 oz. bottle for less than eight dollars and the scent and cleaning are fantastic! We bought a second bottle because it’s such a great deal and now we’ve got clean blankets and bedding for pennies on the dollar!”


MISTAKE: Assuming your appliances clean themselves.

SOLUTION: Lend them an extra hand.

Running the dishwasher again and again trying to get that weird, white film off your dishes isn’t cost effective. Get to the source of the problem — a dirty dishwasher filter and inner workings — with products like the Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner tablets. They dissolve buildup inside the parts of your machine you can’t reach to remove odors and residue, meaning your dishwasher can do its best work every wash.

Review: “Works extremely well. We haven’t done any cleaning on our dishwasher in five years, and the sliding dish trays were tough to pull out or push in, there was detergent buildup all over the inside, and there was a milky film on all our cups. I bought Affresh, ran the dishwasher with two tablets while it was empty, and the difference was astounding. I popped another two tablets in, ran the machine a second time, and now it looks and sounds brand new. No more film on the glasses, no more dirty dishes from clogged sprayers, no more odors, or build up around the door seals.”


MISTAKE: Using any old cleaner on hardwood floors.

SOLUTION: Choose a product made for the job.

Hardwood floors are beautiful, but they can be high maintenance, especially when it comes to cleaning. Using anything too abrasive can dull or deteriorate the seal on top, letting in the elements to scratch and warp the wood itself. Use gentler sprays, like Bona’s Hardwood Floor Cleaner, which doesn’t leave behind any film and uses products certified to be safe for people, pets, and the environment.

Review: “Bona is my go-to brand for cleaning my hardwood floors. I once tried another name brand and I ended up with a horrible film that turned my floors gray. It took a lot of effort to get them back to their original color and state. I will never use anything but Bona again.”


MISTAKE: Wiping walls with aggressive scrubbers.

SOLUTION: Reach for cleaning vinegar and a soft rag.

Magic Erasers and other melamine sponges are amazing for so many things, but they can be a bit abrasive on shiny surfaces and things with pigment. So, if you’ve ever reached for one to wipe something off a wall, you probably had some paint come off too. All-purpose cleaning vinegar, like this lemon-scented spray from Aunt Fannie’s, gently loosen up grime so you can wipe it away with a cloth and leave your paint where it belongs.

Review: “It cleans like a champ! Cleans gross kitchen greasy spots, makes stainless steel shine and streak free, and cleaned my walls without damage.”


MISTAKE: Repurchasing disposable dryer sheets.

SOLUTION: Try dryer balls.

A box of dryer sheets usually costs between $4 and $5, which can add up when you think about how many you use each year. They’re also made with synthetic polyester, so they’re pretty tough on the environment after you throw them out. Dryer balls, like this set from Whitmor, help soften clothes and reduce fabric while also softening the impact of your laundry on the environment and reducing your spending.

Review: “We are a family of nine and do a LOT of laundry! I’ve bought three different brands of dryer balls over time and like these the best. These dryer balls have held up well — haven’t had one break yet — and again, we do a LOT of laundry! I do suggest buying two or three sets, as they do ‘get lost’ in sheets and towels, and it’s always good to have at least four left in the dryer for the next load until the ‘escapees’ are rounded up and returned to the dryer, ha!”


MISTAKE: Letting oils from cooking fly everywhere.

SOLUTION: Popping on a splash screen.

Frying bacon isn’t that hard, but it sure requires a lot of cleanup. Save yourself a lot of time wiping the stove and countertop (and a lot of paper towels and all-purpose spray, too) by using a splatter screen while you cook. The Gorilla Grip Splatter Screen comes in four sizes to fit any pan. The soft-touch handle won’t burn your hands, and the V-shaped frame helps prevent the mesh from warping so the screen lasts longer.

Review: “We were spending a lot of time cleaning grease off our stove after frying bacon, etc., so I decided to look for a splatter screen because I remembered that my mom used one years ago. I was so happy to see that Gorilla made one as I know they make great products and I wasn’t disappointed! The screen is really strong and works great! I got black, but it comes in other colors which I think is cool!”


MISTAKE: Not cleaning your washing machine regularly.

SOLUTION: Dissolve buildup with a monthly cleanse.

Have you ever noticed your clothes coming out of the laundry with grease spots or gray streaks? It could be scrud, which is basically just a buildup of old, undissolved detergent and fabric softener in your washing machine. To prevent it from ruining your clothes, you’ll need to routinely clean your washing machine with a product like the True Fresh Washing Machine Cleaner Tablets. These tabs break down any residue hiding in the machine, and should be used every month.

Review: “After I started using cloth diapers, my older son started cross country, and washing work clothes from working at our restaurant I felt like our washing machine needed to be cleaned better. This product was easy to use and refreshing for my machine. A great thing to have around to keep the washing machine fresh and clean.”


MISTAKE: Dusting with paper towels or disposable products.

SOLUTION: Opt for reusable dusting rags.

Paper towels aren’t great for grabbing and holding onto dust, and disposable dusters, well, they just end up in the trash. The Rag Company’s All-Purpose Microfiber Terry Cleaning Towels are a sustainable, affordable replacement that dust better and last longer than any other product that claims to do the same job. Plus, you can use them for all kinds of cleaning needs, like blotting stains without worrying about color transfer.

Review: “I love these microfiber towels. I use them in my kitchen. They are unbelievably absorbent, wash and dry well. I just will not buy anything that is not microfiber anymore! These are the best out there! Trust me, I’ve been through my share of them. Do yourself a favor and buy these.”


MISTAKE: Buying (and rebuying) disposable mop products.

SOLUTION: Choose a machine-washable mop head.

Sure, you can buy a mop that uses disposable mop pads and replace them countless times, or you could save your money. The MR. SIGA Professional Microfiber Mop uses microfiber pads to clean and polish floors with the products of your choice. Just launder the pads when you’re done and reuse time and again. The mop itself is built to steer easily and last for years.

Review: “Best floor care mop I have ever owned. With many mops, the micro-fiber pads get loose and come off while cleaning your floor. The mop handles themselves also feel cheaply made. The price you pay for this product gives you a micro-fiber mop that has a substantial feel to it and the cloth pads lock into position. Not once did the pads ever slip off the mop. You are able to give your floor a good scrubbing and you get an even distribution of any floor care products you might want to apply to your floors. I enthusiastically recommend this product to anybody seeking a good quality, long lasting mop.”


MISTAKE: Not separating your laundry, causing wear on delicate pieces.

SOLUTION: Sort dirty clothes by fabric type.

Everyone knows you’re supposed to sort your laundry by color, washing whites together and any red or dark items by themselves for their first cycle. While that’s still good practice, most clothing dye doesn’t leech out anymore. Instead, sort your clothes by fabric type and texture, keeping heavy, rough items separate from thinner, more delicate pieces. This Simple Houseware Heavy Duty 3-Bag Laundry Sorter Rolling Cart allows you to sort as you wear, then carry one load to the washroom at a time when it’s ready (or wheel them all).

Review: “Love this laundry sorter! It has made doing laundry so much easier! I used to have all of my laundry in one large laundry basket that I would have to drag downstairs and sort on the floor. I usually waited until the weekends to do laundry since it was such an ordeal. Now the laundry is sorted into the individual bags and I can just grab a bag when it’s full and take it downstairs to wash. The whole cart is very good quality. Took my husband around 30 minutes to put together. The bags hold quite a bit of laundry — definitely a full load per bag. Super happy with this purchase and would highly recommend!”


MISTAKE: Hiring professional power washers.

SOLUTION: Grab a drink and do it yourself.

Pressure washing can be kind of zen, right? It’s satisfying to watch all the built up dirt get jetted off of your driveway, and if you hold a cocktail in the other hand, it’s almost relaxing. Even if outdoor cleaning isn’t your thing, buying a pressure washer you can use time and again is much cheaper than hiring a professional service to do the work. This Sun Joe SPX1000 pressure washer is powerful enough for household tasks and small enough to store easily.

Review: “I bought this to clean off five years of weathering and algae from my two decks. It is doing the job beautifully (with my help). With care and time, this power washer delivers. After more than 16 hours of use, I can say that the handle is comfortable, and the stream is consistent.”

It’s frustrating to clean something only to realize your method isn’t working, or you’ve accidentally made the situation worse. With a little research and the right products, you can tidy with peace of mind (and hopefully without spending any more than you have to).