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14 Things You Should Never Clean with Water

It might seem like water is the most harmless cleaning agent out there, but there are a few things you should never clean with it.

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Cleaning With Water

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. Also, learn the things you should never clean with vinegar.

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Fold soft waved red velour fabric textured background.Pattadis Walarput/Getty Images


You should never use water to clean velvet or other fuzzy fabrics such as suede or microfiber. “When the fibers 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 in Fort Collins, Col. “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.

Check out these cleaning hacks you’ll want to steal from professional house cleaners.

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Hardwood and Laminate Floors

The water-resistant finish on hardwood and laminate floors wears off over time, and cleaning them with water could cause damage. If water gets into the wood, it can swell and turn black. “The proper way to clean a wood or laminate floor is to use a flat microfiber 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.” You might find these picks of the best laminate floor cleaners useful.

Make sure to read about these other cleaning products you should never mix.

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Acoustic Guitar StringsfelixR/Getty Images

Wooden Instruments

Musical instruments can be tricky to clean because they’re made from lots of different materials. Wooden instruments, like wood floors, can be damaged if cleaned with water. Tyler Harris, who runs a New Jersey-based luxury residential cleaning company, says cleaning your wooden instruments with water can cause areas of discoloration and cracks in the wood. Harris says that you should only use cleaners made for musical instruments. Take a look at these 50 unusual cleaning solutions that actually work.

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Various electronic devices, personal organizer and a pencil on blue groundWestend61/Getty Images


This should be obvious, 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 specifically for electronics. Here are more instructions on how to properly clean your digital screens.

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beautiful sterling cutlery set on white backgroundhanohiki/Getty Images


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, marketing director at Home Clean Heroes.

If you don’t have silver polish around, Turley recommends ketchup. “The mild acidity of ketchup will help get rid of the tarnish,” she says. Let your silver soak in ketchup for five to 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. Here are some other surprising methods you can use to clean silver.

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In an open container are lenses in a liquid for cleaningElena Rui/Getty Images

Contact Lenses

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,” says Jonathan Wolfe, an optometrist at Ardsley (N.Y.) Eye Care. “A contact lens stored in water may have a small amount of bacteria on its surface after a day of use. 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. It could contain bacteria, fungi or parasites that will make their way onto your contact lenses if you let them soak in water. Check out these 10 clever ways to use a Magic Eraser sponge.

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Interior ceiling lightings with white semi-spherical coversEricVega/Getty Images

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.” Here’s how to clean a bathroom faster and better.

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Old Brick Wall123ducu/Getty Images


Surfaces that are porous, such as brick, have a protective sealant. When cleaned with water, Harris says that sealant can be removed or damaged. He recommends a soft brush to wipe away grime, then cleaning with a soft cloth. Check out these things you’ve probably never cleaned (but really should!)

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Texture silk fabricOlga Vasilyeva/Getty Images


“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 neighborhood dry cleaner.” Silk is also one of the items that should never, ever go in your dryer.

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Leather Craft Tools Flat LayAnnaStills/Getty Images


If you try to clean leather furniture, bags or clothing items with water, it will cause streaks and eventually cause the leather to crack. “There are specific leather cleaners designed for leather, which will not have these problems,” says Smith. Psst! Here are 10 things in your home you might not be cleaning often enough.

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Similar to brick, marble is also a porous material that can be damaged by water. Using water to clean marble can remove the protective sealant, potentially damaging any grout or caulking, says Harris. Just like with brick, use a soft brush and cloth. Check out these 10 cleaning tips for your whole house.

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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 on 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 the burners with water can also permanently damage them. “As a result, never spray a cleaning product directly into your gas range burners,” Smith says. “Spray the cleaning cloth then wipe down the surface.” Use this handy checklist the next time you need to clean the kitchen.

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Beautiful kitchen in new luxury home with island, pendant lights, and hardwood floors

Wood Furniture

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 microfiber cloth) and you can use wood polish or lemon oil to protect it,” says Turley. If your wood furniture has already been damaged, try these tricks to remove water stains from wood.

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gold trumpet on table.

Brass Fixtures or Instruments

Cleaning brass fixtures and instruments with water will remove the lacquer, lead to further tarnish and cause permanent damage. Harris says to avoid DIY cleaning solutions and stick to cleaning with a quality brass polish. Harris recommends Weiman Brass Polish. “It leaves a shine on the brass that lasts for a long time,” says Harris. “The only downside is it does leave an easily removable white layer in corners of the brassware.” Next, read about these cleaning mistakes that can leave your house germy.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest