We’ve all fallen for it; the gracious five-second rule where germs won’t attack dropped food or the smell of lilacs from a spray-can portraying a cleanroom. These cleaning and germ myths have folklore qualities that your mother-in-law may swear by but professionals and scientists have busted these myths and provided better alternatives and insights that will keep yourself and your home clean.

Myth: Hot water is better for handwashing

Scorching hot water running over your hands may feel as if no germ can be left behind, but as it turns out, according to a report by Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department in a 2005 report for 

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that a group washing their hands in temperatures ranging from 40-120 degrees Fahrenheit saw “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.”

This means we can use lukewarm temperatures and know we aren’t sacrificing cleanliness for comfort. Soap is the main fight against bacteria during handwashing, so allowing at least 20 seconds of suds before washing under your choice of temperature is important!

Myth: Bleach cleans everything

We would all love for a single product to be the almighty go-to for cleaning any surface or area. Unfortunately, bleach has gotten that false, although flattering reputation for being that single product. Many use bleach to clean bathtubs and grimy sinks. But while bleach can disinfect surfaces and remove stains, it won’t pick up the dirt residues you’re hoping it will on those surfaces. Using a cleaning product with a bit of grain, like baking soda, can help remove those particles and leave a little more bleach for other practical uses.

Myth: Dusters are great for dusting

There isn’t one maid cartoon character or Halloween costume I can think of that doesn’t have a duster in hand. These iconic props have been associated with the cleaning world but as any working professional knows, dusters are not great for dusting. Apparently, used with an appropriate and careful technique a 100% ostrich feather duster will, in fact, pick up dust. However, most wholesalers aren’t working with ostrich farms as the demand is not high. Most dust in the home comes from skin particles or small fabric particles floating through the air. To ensure that the duster you are using isn’t just moving these tiny particles around, using a wet microfiber cloth or paper towel is a more efficient method than the outdated, stereotypical gadget.

Myth: Newspapers clean windows well

This myth may be lost through generations or perhaps there is still a collective memory of grandparents or older-folks using newspapers to clean windows. At a time, this was efficient but as ink and paper ingredients have changed through time, it is no longer a good family trick for window cleaning. The best method is using a glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth or even a diluted solution of rubbing alcohol and water. A helpful tip is to also clean your windows during a cloudy day while the sun’s hot rays are hidden allowing a slower drying time.

Myth: Public toilet seats are the dirtiest place in the restroom

Sometimes the greatest nightmare is using a public restroom. Strangers can leave behind an array of unidentified objects, odors, or stains. So it’s no wonder that the most feared place is the intimately shared toilet seat. Luckily, these fears can be subsided as Dr. Charles Gerba, co-author of “The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu” states that floors and other surfaces like the toilet handle are more prone to spreading bacteria and that the seat is often the cleanest place. Be mindful not to set purses or items on the floor and habitually bring paper towels into the stall to flush. People who hover can now sit comfortably knowing it’s safer than imagined and won’t leave a mess for the next people. Again, washing hands will be the most preventive measure in fighting off bacteria in public places.


Myth: Peanut butter removes gum

Perhaps this was done in summer camp when someone’s gum inevitably landed deep in strands of tangled hair. The counselor rushed to the pantry and grabbed a jar of peanut butter expecting this mythical fix to impress the audience like a magic show. Unfortunately, it just makes a bigger, stickier mess. A better solution is to find coconut or olive oil and let the conditioning effect work its magic.   

Busting some of these myths can feel like breaking family tradition. Though many insights can bring peace of mind or update our tactics to benefit our wellbeing. Evolving through knowledge is key to a healthier lifestyle and sending down better advice for later generations.  What are some cleaning myths you’ve found yourself following?