16 Things That Make Your Home Harder to Clean

Your home decor choices impact how easy — or difficult — it is to clean your home. Use this pro-cleaner insight to make cleaning your home easier.

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Too often, the way we arrange furniture and home decor makes cleaning more difficult. Professional house cleaner Schar Ward, author of Teaching Children to Clean, A Guide to Teaching Life Skills to Children Ages 3-16, shared her list of “don’ts” when it comes to selecting and arranging home furnishings and decor.

Ways You May be Sabotaging Your Cleaning Success

Beds Pushed Up Against the Wall

If you’ve arranged beds so that they’re pushed up against a wall, you’re making cleaning that much more difficult. This choice makes changing sheets a nightmare, says Ward, especially on bunk beds. It’s also harder to reach under beds for sweeping or vacuuming, or retrieving that stray sock or stuffed animal that fell between the bed and the wall.

Flat Paint

If you have small children or high-energy pets, flat paint is not your friend. Ward says “kids’ walls need good scrubbable paint” for wiping off grubby little fingerprints or the latest crayon masterpiece. (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Try coating one wall of their room with chalkboard paint to encourage doodling.) As for furry friends, walls located near pets’ beds or food dishes are likely to act as dirt traps, as will the walls and doors where pets wait to be let outside.

Non-Removable Couch Cushions

Another of Ward’s furnishing pet peeves? “Sofa and chair cushions that cannot be removed for cleaning underneath,” she says. Plus, those permanently attached cushions won’t stay looking brand-new forever. Better to choose a couch with removable cushions that can be flipped. Ward likes cushions with cording, which she says prolongs cushion life and helps them keep their shape.

Fancy Light Fixtures

Crystal chandeliers may look lovely, but cleaning them isn’t so pretty. About once a year, all those little pieces of dangling glass have to be cleaned, one at a time. Ward prefers simpler fixtures without a lot of independent parts.

If you already have an intricate light fixture to clean, dust it regularly with a microfiber feather duster that dust particles will cling to. For annual deep cleaning, follow these guidelines from Molly Maid.

Extra-Long Drapes

If your drapes “puddle” on the floor, as some extra-long draperies tend to do, you’re creating a cleaning headache. Those drapes are a dust trap risk that are prone to being sucked into the vacuum cleaner when you pass by. Plus once you’re done cleaning underneath and behind them, they have to be put back “just so” to get the desired puddle effect. Consider whether the look is truly worth the fuss.

Too Many Throw Rugs

You might think it’s good to toss lots of throw rugs around to help catch dirt, but it’s possible they’re making your house dirtier instead. Unless the rugs get washed every time you clean the house, they’re trapping dirt, pet hair and odors — and creating a tripping hazard, too.

Your best bet, according to Ward, is to place a machine-washable throw rug right inside each exterior door and keep at least one spare on hand. That way, you can rotate in a fresh one while the other is being cleaned.

Lots of Throw Pillows

When it comes to throw pillows, know when to say when. On a bed, couch or easy chair, too many throw pillows just adds another cleaning step — they all have to be moved aside while you’re cleaning. And periodically, you’ll need to remove and wash those pillow covers, or the pillows themselves.

Sure, finding the perfect pillow arrangement is a worthy goal. But too many don’t necessarily make a room more comfortable. Just ensure those you do choose are worth it.

Mission-Style Furniture

Mission-style furnishings may match your personal aesthetic, but all those straight, skinny slats of wood are a nightmare to clean, according to Ward. “There are so many little crevices for dirt to hide,” she says. A Mission-style dining chair may have six or more vertical slats. Multiply that by six, eight or even 12 chairs, and well, you’re going to be there a while.

But if Mission style is your jam, then you’re probably OK with the extra clean time. Your best bet: Dust with a soft cloth that’s been sprayed with wood cleaner.

A Pro’s Cleaning Challenge Hit List

As you may have guessed by now, Ward is a fan of unadorned furniture and home accessories less likely to be dust and dirt traps. Other items on her hard-to-clean decor list:

  • China hutches. “They are usually filled with never-used dishes and dust,” she says.
  • Artificial flower arrangements, plants or fake trees.
  • Wooden coffee tables with glass inserts. “The dust collects on the ledge underneath the glass, making it necessary to remove the glass to clean them properly.”
  • Elaborate lampshades with ridges, ruffles or tassels. Lampshades are hard enough to clean without extra spots for dust to hide.
  • Tufted upholstered furniture of any kind. All those little tufted indentations trap dust, dirt and pet hair.
  • Jacuzzi baths: “These are seldom used, take up a lot of space and are challenging to clean.”
  • Square or oddly shaped sinks. “A round or oval sink is so much easier to maintain.”
  • Wicker wastebaskets. “Have you ever tried to remove gum from one of these?!”

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.