TikTok's Top 10 Most Popular Cleaning Trends To Avoid, According To Experts

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TikTok is home to many a clever cleaning hack. But along with the (sometimes life-changing) tips, there are also a number of questionable cleaning trends. Some of these viral recommendations simply don't work, while others are downright dicey.

Unlike poor financial advice, bad cleaning tips won't wreck your retirement savings. But they can devastate drain pipes, appliances, and finishes, waste your time, and even — in some cases — be surprisingly dangerous. Whether you want to avoid wrecking your upholstery, melting the paint on your cabinets, or accidentally creating a cocktail of cleaning products that release dangerous gases, we've got you. 

In the interest of making the internet a safer place, House Blog conducted exclusive interviews with multiple experts to clarify which cleaning trends you should not be participating in this Spring, or ever. These range from using laundry pods in the wrong places to perilous appliance cleaning practices. There are also certain products you should never mix. Read on to keep your cleaning routine safe and effective, and discover which viral (yet hazardous) cleaning hacks to avoid. 

Cleaning your couch with a pot lid, microfiber towel, and Tide Pods

On the hunt for a simple way to wash your sofa? Beware of this trending TikTok couch cleaning technique. The method involves wrapping a pot lid in a microfiber towel and dissolving a Tide Pod in hot water. While the pot lid component might sound wacky, this isn't the problematic part. In an exclusive interview, Kash Sobhe (a third-generation, certified rug master, upholstery cleaning expert, and owner of Rug Ideas) told House Blog that the first point of concern is that "Tide doesn't advertise Tide Pods to be designed for upholstery fabric ... This means its concentration, for example, is designed to mix with gallons and gallons of water and then get rinsed out through your laundry machine."

In short, dissolving a Tide Pod in a bucket of water might expose your furniture to a seriously high concentration of chemicals, which you can't properly extract without professional equipment. Sobhe says the risks of using improper agents on upholstery include "fiber burn, fiber degrading and damage, color damage or discoloration, etc." He adds that another point of concern is "rapid re-soiling, which is what happens when residue is left in fabric and it collects dust and soiling at a much faster rate because your fabric literally becomes sticky, so things stick easier, and you can't simply vacuum that off."

If you want to give your upholstered furniture a quick freshen-up, the Swiffer couch-cleaning hack is a safer technique that shouldn't leave residue if used with an appropriate cleaner. Simply attach a microfiber cloth to your Swiffer head and spritz it with an upholstery cleaning spray such as Biokleen Bac-Out from Amazon. Then give your sofa a good "swiffering," concentrating on any stains or soiled areas.

Totally overloading the toilet with cleaning products

One of the most bizarre cleaning techniques to emerge from TikTok has to be the #toiletoverload trend, which involves filling toilet bowls with a soup of cleaning products, including bleach, abrasive powders, Lysol, dish soap, and more. It's unclear whether people are participating in this trend for fun (?) or whether it's meant to be a legitimate method for getting a brilliantly clean bowl. Either way, tipping a tumult of harsh cleaners into your toilet isn't ideal.

During an exclusive interview with House Blog, Joseph Wade, vice president of operations at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, said, "Flushing an excessive amount of cleaning products down your toilet can result in you having to call a professional plumber to fix the damage caused by it. An excessive amount of chemicals can not only clog but also damage the pipes that they pass through." Wade warns that besides potentially harming your plumbing, combining too many cleaners can also have health and environmental implications. "Breathing in a toxic amount of chemicals can result in larger health issues — and flushing an excessive amount of chemicals down the drain can also affect wastewater in your community." Bleach is a staple #toiletoverload cleaner, and if mixed with ammonia (a common ingredient in household cleaning products), can produce chlorine gas, which is toxic. Creating a gigantic cocktail of cleaning products in your toilet can also expose you to other hazardous fumes and VOCs, which may exacerbate or cause respiratory tract issues, and trigger allergies and headaches.

Fortunately, you can get a sparkling clean toilet with common kitchen ingredients, such as baking soda or salt. There are also many (far less dangerous) toilet-cleaning hacks you can try. One example is using vinegar poultices to lift rust stains.

Putting a bottle of Fabuloso in the toilet tank

If you ever wished you could put toilet bowl hygiene on autopilot, you might be tempted to try the TikTok trend where users place a punctured bottle of Fabuloso in their toilet tank. This releases a small stream of detergent into the water, making every flush smell clean and fresh. Unfortunately, there are a couple of concerns surrounding this hack.

"We don't recommend placing Fabuloso or any other all-purpose cleaner in the back of the toilet tank." Joseph Wade tells House Blog. "All-purpose cleaners can be corrosive and may degrade the rubber gasket and seal in your tank. This can lead to leaks and cause your toilet to 'run', which can spike your water bill." Wade also warns that having Fabuloso continuously running through your tank can pose a danger for pets who drink from the bowl. From a human health perspective, Fabuloso stipulates that their products shouldn't ever be mixed with bleach. This is because Fabuloso contains acid, which, when added to bleach, can create chloramine gas. If you use a product containing bleach to clean your toilet, it will dilute with the Fabuloso-laced water from the tank and potentially expose you to chloramine vapor.

Want a fresh-smelling lavatory around the clock, minus any risks? You can effectively (and safely) prevent odors with toilet drops and routine cleaning. For stubborn buildup, Wade advises adding vinegar to the toilet bowl and leaving it overnight to loosen deposits and debris. He also recommends using environmentally-friendly drain cleaners for toilet clogs, such as BioBen. The Green Gobbler drain opener from Amazon is another example of an eco-friendly product that can bust blockages. 

Washing your toaster under the faucet

Another TikTok trend to steer clear of is the #toasterbath. If you're under the impression that running water into your toaster is a bad idea, you couldn't be more correct. Cleaning out a toaster properly can be tricky, but this doesn't mean you should soak your unit in the sink.

In an exclusive interview with House Blog, Katie Dills, brand president of The Cleaning Authority, explained how to clean a toaster safely, saying, "Before cleaning, always make sure the toaster is completely unplugged and cooled. However, it's not recommended to submerge the toaster in water, once safe, as that can damage some of the appliance's electrical components." If your lower catch tray is stained or has spots of stubborn residue, Dills says to "soak it in warm soapy water. You can even let it sit overnight to combat tough stains. Then, scrub with a sponge or rag. If the coating is nonstick, avoid any abrasive sponges."

Instead of running water into your toaster, turn it upside down and shake out any crumbs. For stuck particles, Katie Dills says to "take a pastry brush and sweep out any debris until your toaster is free and clear." You can also use this hair dryer hack to help you clean out crumbs you can't reach. Finally, Dills advises wiping down the exterior with a soft microfiber cloth dipped in soapy water and routinely emptying the crumb tray to help keep your toaster clean.

Boiling soapy water in your air fryer to clean it

Another hazardous hack making the rounds on TikTok is the hands-off air fryer cleaning method. This involves filling the cooking compartment with water and dish soap, and then turning the appliance on for a few minutes to heat up the soapy water. Although alluring, this hack could pose a serious risk to your unit. "Running your air fryer with soapy water is absolutely dangerous," exclaimed Carly Castro, owner of FreshLee Cleaning Co. and third-generation professional house cleaner, in an exclusive interview with House Blog. Castro went on to explain that "adding water to a running air fryer will produce steam, which can create smoke and even start a fire. Also, hot water may splatter, which can cause bodily burns. It's also important to mention that air fryer fans are quite powerful, which means that the water and soap can be sprayed all over the element." Castro says she has received multiple messages from followers on her TikTok page, @cleanwcarly, reporting that their air fryers stopped working entirely after trying the hack, or, failing that, continued functioning but gave everything they subsequently cooked a soapy flavor.

The good news is that you can replicate the effectiveness of this hack, minus the risks, by simply cleaning the cooking compartment with hot water and soap in the sink. Boil up a kettle of water, pour it into the pan with a few drops of dish soap, and let it soak to loosen stuck residue. Some air fryers also have dishwasher-safe components, so you might be able to pop these in with your other dirty dishware. For stubborn grease and rock-hard food residue, you can also try something like the Zep Home Pro air fryer and microwave cleaner.

Using a self-cleaning oven setting

Lots of leading appliance brands incorporate self-cleaning modes into their ovens, and TikTok is awash with different viewpoints on whether or not to use this feature. Some people seem to have success with the setting, while others comment dire warnings. Case in point, @jballs428 said, "Lost our entire home to a self-cleaning oven." Some content creators say you need to remove any grease buildup beforehand because this can catch fire, while other users simply spray oven cleaner before using the setting. 

According to Carly Castro, "Most professional cleaners and appliance experts warn their clients not to use commercial oven cleaners in self-cleaning ovens. Self-cleaning ovens reach temperatures at 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and using oven cleaning can produce toxic fumes that may harm you, your family, and pets." She cautions that "the high temperature can also cause items near the oven to melt, kitchen cabinet paint to peel, and can even start a fire. I always advise my clients not to use the self-cleaning function at all ... If you do decide to use the self-cleaning function, please make sure to follow the manual to a T, keep children away from the kitchen (oven and surrounding areas may become hot to the touch and can cause burns), and make sure to move pets (especially birds) to another well-ventilated room."

If you (sensibly) feel that using your self-cleaning oven feature isn't worth the risk, Castro has some tips to make manual oven cleaning a breeze. She recommends using the Easy-Off Fume-Free Oven Cleaner along with a scouring stick. After making sure the oven is off, she sprays the cleaner and lets it sit for an hour and 15 minutes, wiping it away with a wet paper towel and rinsing the interior well with warm water.

Pouring bleach and dish soap down the drain together

Another trending type of TikTok cleaning content is mixing multiple cleaning products in the sink, such as bleach and dish soap, to create a frothy mixture. Whether this is simply to provide some satisfying ASMR to viewers, or if the aim is some serious sink cleaning, isn't totally clear. But what's not ambiguous are the potential risks of these concoctions.

"The golden rule of cleaning is to never, ever mix cleaning products," explains Carly Castro to House Blog. "Mixing bleach and dish soap is incredibly dangerous because most dish soaps contain ammonia. When bleach and ammonia are mixed, chloramine gas is created, which is toxic and even odorless. Exposure to chloramine gases can cause nausea, respiratory problems, watery eyes, and irritation to the throat and mouth."

If you want to keep your kitchen sink sparkling without any adverse health effects, Castro says that Dawn Dish soap is an effective and far safer alternative. For stains on porcelain sinks, Castro recommends the Soft Scrub cleanser with bleach, saying, "It works very quickly and does not have a strong scent. Another great option is Scrub Daddy's Natural PowerPaste." She also warns that sinks should always be cleaned with non-scratch sponges.

Mixing bleach and vinegar to clean

If you loved scrolling #cleaningtok, you may have seen posts where TikTokers combine vinegar and bleach, like in this bathtub stain removal video. Both bleach and vinegar can help lift dirt and tackle stains, but they are another set of cleaning items that shouldn't be combined. Carly Castro tells House Blog, "Mixing bleach and vinegar creates a poisonous chlorine gas which provokes severe irritation to the eyes, throat and even be fatal if inhaled." Research published by Stat Pearls in 2023 shows that fatal toxicity levels are reached at 430 ppm and exposure durations of 30 minutes.

If you don't want your tub scrubbing efforts to result in a phone call to the Poison Control hotline, avoid mixing vinegar and bleach while cleaning, and instead opt for a dedicated shower and bathroom product. Carly Castro recommends Cassell Cleaner's 5-in-1 Concentrated Cleaner, saying, "The 5-in-1 is a citric acid based cleaner that is anti-bacterial, non-toxic, septic-safe, and fume-free. Because it's a concentrated cleaner, you decide how strong you'd like it to be." Castro uses two capfuls in an 18-ounce spray bottle and a non-scratch sponge for regular cleaning. For deeper cleans and more stubborn marks, she doubles the strength to four capfuls.

If bleach and vinegar are your go-to cleaners, you can still use them on your tub; just make sure to use them separately. For example, you can clean your bathtub with hot water and vinegar. On a subsequent day, you can rid the caulking of mold marks with bleach.

Dissolving a laundry pod in your mop bucket to clean the floor

Feeling tempted to try out the TikTok floor cleaning trend, where you add a laundry pod (or detergent powder) to your mop bucket? The logic behind this seemingly harmless hack is that laundry detergent contains surfactants and enzymes, which can help lift dirt and will leave your home smelling like a fresh load of laundry, rather than a hospital. While this sounds delightful, there are multiple drawbacks to the method.

In an exclusive interview, Peter Hansen, co-owner and managing member for Sparrow Estate Management, told House Blog, "Hardwood floors, luxury vinyl plank, or tile floors prefer a neutral pH cleaner. The alkalis in laundry detergents are too strong for floors. In addition, the chemicals can be harmful and irritating to pets and children who spend time on them. We always recommend referring to the manufacturer of your floor type for the preferred cleaning method." Besides being potentially too harsh for floors, pets, and small children, laundry detergents can also leave a layer of residue. Multiple comments across different videos demonstrating the "hack" reveal that not everyone is a fan. "My floors have a film on them, and I can't get it off now. It's a nightmare," shared user tiff tiff. Besides leaving streaks and stickiness, surfactant buildup and residue can also cause surfaces to attract and hold onto dust and grime, meaning your floor might get dirty faster. If you've already run into this problem, glass cleaner is one of the best ways to remove sticky residue from wood floors. And if you want to prevent buildup from happening altogether, you can opt to clean your floors with common household ingredients, such as vinegar.

Participating in the 'manic' cleaning hashtag

If you've ever gone on a cleaning spree, the format of videos on TikTok under #maniccleaning might feel pretty relatable. They usually consist of content creators making humorous skits of cleaning frenzies and how tiring or satisfying they can be. While this content may be entertaining — and there isn't anything wrong with energetically cleaning your house — there is an issue with casually using the term mania.

Mania is a medical condition characterized by a heightened sense of energy, an inability to relax, trouble sleeping, fast speech, and other related symptoms. Mania is often a symptom or component of other mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, postpartum psychosis, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mark A. Frye, MD, tells Medscape, "Patients with bipolar disorder often enter mental healthcare through hospitalization because of acute mania." Casually throwing around the term "manic" in the context of cleaning can undermine the seriousness of the disorders it characterizes and the real-life impact they have. Sarah Victor, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University, tells USA Today that there is an inherent issue in offhandedly using medical terms as everyday slang, saying, "They oversimplify, and in many cases are inaccurate reflections of, the experience of these types of problems." Victor points out that "many people already feel ashamed about living with mental illness or other problems, and these terms can exacerbate that."

If you want to promote more accurate, considerate language, look for a better label for any unplanned, energized cleaning sessions. Even if it's not yet trending on TikTok. Also, if you are prone to sudden bursts of frenetic dusting, mopping, and scrubbing, remember to take breaks, hydrate, eat a balanced meal or snack to sustain your blood sugar levels, and be cognizant of physical strain.