In the Living Room
Bad Habit: Taking the Same Route With the Vacuum Every Time
You need to shift the rug’s pile back and forth or you’ll miss ground-in dirt.
Good practice: Be sure to come at a carpet from different angles, says Mike Reed, the owner of Austonian Fine Rug and Carpet Care, in Austin, Texas. If you always start vacuuming in a particular spot, begin on the opposite side of the room on alternate weeks. Vacuum top to bottom with long, slow, overlapping strokes. Then, working crosswise, go back over it. In high-traffic areas, such as near a door or in front of the sofa, repeat these crosshatch steps, using short strokes.
Bad Habit: Ignoring Remotes or Video-Game Controls
Because they’re constantly handled, they can harbor the same bacteria and viruses as a kitchen sponge, says Kelly Reynolds, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Good practice: Clean these devices, as well as computer keyboards, once a week with a well-wrung-out disinfecting wipe. While they’re still damp, suggests Julie Edelman, author of The Ultimate Accidental Housewife ($6, amazon.com), use a fresh eye-shadow applicator to swab around the buttons with rubbing alcohol. (Tackle it while you watch TV, or pay your industrious progeny to do the job for you.) Store these cootie-catchers in a lidded box or a drawer to minimize dust.
Bad Habit: Wiping Down Flat-Screen TVs With All-Purpose Cleaner
Cleaners that contain alcohol or ammonia can microscopically abrade screens, making them cloudy over time.
Good practice: Use microfiber cloths, which work without cleaning products and are less abrasive than cotton or paper towels. Once a week, clean the screen top to bottom, using long strokes (short strokes can cause smudging). For smears, barely moisten the cloth, wipe, then immediately follow with a dry cloth. If smudges remain, try an electronics cleaner (Monster Flatscreen ScreenClean, $12, monstercable.com), keeping in mind that no general cleaner is safe to use on TV screens, says Cobb. Never spray any liquid directly onto a screen or use a moist cloth on a warm screen (one that is on or that has recently been turned off); this can leave permanent streaks.