40 surprising mistakes you're probably making all the time

...and the simple, affordable solutions to nip them in the bud.

ByChristina X. Wood
Originally Published: 
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When it comes to common daily tasks, you may not notice when routines are inefficient — even if you grumble about them. Maybe you are doing it the way your parents did, or it’s the way you’ve always done it and now that it’s on autopilot, you haven’t considered a different way even when there is an easier method or tool. I examined these everyday chores and found 40 surprising mistakes you’re probably making all the time, along with ways to accomplish the task faster or cheaper — or prevent having to do it at all.

We tend to spend time pondering personal productivity or important work tasks. But when it comes to small, everyday tasks — the way you put laundry into the hamper, drop a sponge in the sink, or clean the stove after dinner — it may seem like it’s not worth the effort to do any navel-gazing. But it turns out that improving their efficiency can create an accumulation of saved time, energy, and money that can really add up.


Mistake: Living with grimy screens

Solution: A screen cleaning brush that gets both sides at once

Why do you have a view from your windows if you can’t see it through your dirty screens? This window screen cleaning brush will let you see it again and is easy to use. The super fine bristles grab the dust and grime that accumulates in the tiny crevices of your screens and the long handle makes it easy to reach the entire window. The brush works well for cleaning curtains and fabrics, too, and even pops off the handle so you can work up close.


Mistake: Letting the rugs curl & slip

Solution: These rug corner grippers that keep things in place

Those curling edges on your rugs can be unsightly and even dangerous — and they are so easy to fix. Peel and stick these rug corner grippers strategically on the bottom of your rug and they will grip both the floor and the rug so that trip hazard is flattened and the rugs don’t slip out from under you. This is four pieces so it will do one rug securely.

“The rug moved so easily it would practically slide out from under you,” said one reviewer. “Now it won't budge. Much safer!”


Mistake: Letting food storage lids rule the cabinets

Solution: A lid storage organizer that houses your collection

Your collection of food-storage containers is great, right? Except when you need a specific lid for one container you already filled with leftovers and have to tear the kitchen apart looking for it. This lid organizer will prevent those moments. Arrange the dividers to accommodate your collection and, forevermore, you will know where the lids are and be able to quickly find the one you need.


Mistake: Using a dirty dishwasher to clean your dishes

Solution: The dishwasher cleaner you can add to a load of dishes

When you open the dishwasher to load it and get the feeling that it’s dirtier inside there than your dishes are, it’s time to wash the machine. It’s so easy to do with this dishwasher cleaner. Just place a tablet in the dishwasher, about once a month, and run a normal wash cycle either with dishes in the machine or not. It will clean the tub, racks, pump, valve, and drain to help your dishes get cleaner and the machine run more efficiently.


Mistake: Not preventing grease messes before they happen

Solution: This splatter screen that helps keep the stove clean

If you abhor cleaning the stove after your stir-fry, fried chicken, or pan-fried fish filets, you need this splatter screen to prevent that mess. It won’t trap steam or alter the crispiness of your fry-up, but it will stop the grease from messing up your stovetop. It’s heavy-duty, dishwasher safe, and comes in four sizes so you can match it to your favorite frying pan.


Mistake: Keeping old batteries in the mix

Solution: This organizer with a battery tester built-in

It’s happened to all of us. You open the junk drawer looking for batteries and find plenty of them. The problem is that it’s impossible to tell which ones have juice until you install them. That’s a waste of time and energy. Put this battery organizer and tester in that drawer and you can see how many batteries you have — it holds 93 of them — and quickly test them before you install them.

“Way easier to keep up with all of my batteries,” reported one reviewer.


Mistake: Cleaning the toilet with a grimy brush

Solution: This set of disposable toilet cleaning pads & reusable wand

First, scrub a dirty toilet with the toilet brush, then set the now-filthy brush down in the bathroom. If this makes you say, “Ewww!” You are not alone. This disposable cleaning system gets rid of the gross brush every time. The caddy holds the handle along with clean brush heads. When you clean the toilet, snap on a clean head — already infused with cleaning solution — and scrub. Then push a button in the handle to release the dirty brush head into the trash.

“It's so much more hygienic and less icky than a real brush,” said one of 39,000 five-star reviewers.


Mistake: Letting doors bang into the wall

Solution: This magnetic doorstop that prevents slamming

If you have a door that slams into the wall when opened enthusiastically, fix that problem while upgrading your entry’s ease of use by mounting this magnetic door stop behind the door. Instead of slamming into the wall, the door will slam into the bumper on the wall, helping protect your paint. This magnetic door stop also holds the door open for you.

“Our front door tends to slam shut due to the wind while we are trying to bring in groceries,” said one reviewer. “This works perfectly and looks stylish.”


Mistake: Not separating the laundry

Solution: This double laundry hamper that lets you sort as you toss

Simplify laundry day by setting up a system that allows for sorting the colors as you toss them into the hamper. You will likely thank yourself every time you hit the laundry room. This laundry hamper with a lid, two compartments, and two removable bags lets you grab light or dark colors only and run that load. Or you can haul all the already sorted laundry to the machines to save a step.


Mistake: Cleaning with the wrong tools

Solution: This gentle melamine sponge that works on all kinds of surfaces

If you find yourself working hard to clean a stubborn mess, you might be using the wrong tool. You can scrub endlessly with your usual surface cleaner on some stains — like marker ink and heavy grime — with no results. But take this magic cleaning pad to it and it’s gone with little effort. These pads are also nonabrasive so they won’t hurt delicate surfaces like your shoe leather, paint, or ceramic sinks.


Mistake: Storing the sponge in the wet sink

Solution: A sponge holder that looks nice & lets it dry between uses

If your sponge storage system involves tossing the sponge into the sink, it will inevitably end up marinating in dirty dishwater. Then you will have to throw it out or wash dishes with a dirty sponge. Set this simple sponge holder on the counter and set the sponge in there instead. It looks nice and the sponge stays clean. It also lets the sponge dry out to help prevent mildew setting up shop.


Mistake: Tossing old plastic bags

Solution: A handy bag saver so you can easily store & reuse them

Those plastic bags that come home with your groceries can be handy when you need to carry something, pick up something gross, or line a trash can. The trick to always having one on hand is to mount this plastic bag saver somewhere convenient. Push your bags in the top when you unpack the groceries and it dispenses them from the front when you need one.


Mistake: Letting the dryer become a lint-clogged hazard

Solution: This dryer vent cleaning kit that helps it run more efficiently

When your dryer’s vents are clogged, it can make the dryer work much harder to get clothes dry. This means you may be spending more money on energy than you need to. It can also become a fire hazard. Give those vents a quick and thorough cleaning with this dryer vent cleaning kit that you can use alone or connect to your power drill. The rods extend 40 feet to reach into vents and pull out all the trapped lint.


Mistake: Leaving scratches on walls or trim

Solution: These refillable paint brush pens for easy touchups

When you paint a room, instead of putting the paint cans in some cubby and hoping the paint never dings, load these brush pens with some of that color and keep them handy for touch-ups. When someone chips the paint, painting over that flaw is as easy as drawing with a brush marker and the color will be a perfect match. This set includes five pens that are airtight so the paint stays fresh and ready to use for years.


Mistake: Storing pots & pans in a jumble

Solution: An organizer rack that stores them efficiently

Instead of unpacking the cupboard every time you need the pan on the bottom of the pile, set this cabinet organizer rack in there and give each pan its own place. You can arrange the dividers to match your collection so you can grab whatever pan you need, keep the lids with the pans, and end the hassle.


Mistake: Letting everyone see what's under the bed

Solution: A bed skirt that hides the clutter under there

If you stash your secrets — the shoe collection that won’t fit in the closet, the step ladder, all your winter linens — under the bed, they aren’t very secret if they are visible. They also create a more cluttered look in your bedroom. This soft bed skirt is a quick and easy fix, and it adds a tailored look to your bed. The microfiber fabric hangs nicely, and pleated corners give it that put-together look. Choose from a handful of colors.


Mistake: Not maintaining your kicks

Solution: A shoe cleaner kit that makes the task super simple

If you believe you are helpless against dirty shoes, know this: It takes only a few minutes to bring even very dirty kicks back to clean and shiny again with this shoe cleaner kit. Just give dirty shoes a quick scrub with a few drops of the solution and some water on the included brush. It’s concentrated so one bottle will last for years.

“So easy, fast and results in brand new shoes,” said one reviewer.


Mistake: Sharing your home with tons of fruit flies

Solution: This handy lure & trap that takes care of them for good

You do not have to tolerate the cloud of fruit flies that harasses you every time you walk into the kitchen. These two fruit-fly traps will get rid of them with almost no effort from you. Just set the traps near the fruit bowl, trash can, or the breeding area they have chosen in your house. Flies go into the trap but they won’t come out. That will stop them from breeding so they’re eventually wiped out altogether. The cute traps look like fruit and have a window so you can see how many flies they are catching.


Mistake: Letting the knives get dull

Solution: This knife sharpener that’s so easy to use

Dull knives can actually be more dangerous — and more frustrating — than sharp ones because they lead to slips and mistakes. Keeping your knives sharpened is easy with this knife sharpener that suctions to the counter when you lower the lever. Just drag a blade through the sharpening notch a few times to put a sharp edge back on that knife.

“Finally found a knife sharpener that works, is easy to operate, and doesn't cost a fortune,” said one reviewer.


Mistake: Loading dirty dishes into a clean machine

Solution: This dishwasher magnet sign that tells you the dish status

That moment when you realize you just added dirty dishes to what was a clean load is so frustrating. You can prevent it by sticking this decorative clean/dirty dishwasher magnet on the front of the machine. When you run the dishes, flip it to clean. When you unload them, flip it back to dirty. Once you get in the habit, it will never happen again. The sign comes with a metal piece you can stick to your dishwasher if it’s not magnetic.


Mistake: Letting cables slip off the desk

Solution: These cable clips that hold them in place

Instead of that slippery and irritating collection of wires that never seems to be where you want it, stick this cord organizer to your desk or bedside table and snap all the right cables into it. You will be able to find the cord you want. You’ll never have to crawl under the bed to retrieve any of them. And, it looks tidy.


Mistake: Spending tons of money on toilet paper every month

Solution: This bidet attachment that’s like an upside-down shower

Want to change your idea of personal cleanliness for the better? Install this bidet under your toilet seat. It takes only a few minutes to tap it into your clean water line. Forever after you will expect just-showered cleanliness to be the norm after every visit to the bathroom.

“I had a coworker ask why I have been in such a good mood lately and I think it’s this bidet,” said one reviewer. “I just feel so fresh and so clean now.”


Mistake: Letting phone, keys, & other items get germy

Solution: A UV sanitizer that quickly cleans & disinfects small items

Every time you go into the world and touch something and then touch your phone, you are depositing an unknown quantity of germs on it. When you get home, you wash your hands. But what about your phone? Drop it — and your keys, wallet, and jewelry — into the UV light phone sanitizer, hit the button, and help eliminate those germs, in 30 seconds, using a super effective beam of UV-C light.


Mistake: Using disposable paper towels that fall apart

Solution: These reusable dishcloths that are tough & effective

When cleaning up a spill, wiping down counters, or cleaning a glass, paper towels might be your go-to tool. But those disintegrate during use, clog up the landfill, and cost a lot to keep on hand. These reusable dishcloths, though, are super absorbent, durable, and washable. They are made from a mix of cellulose (sponge) and cotton (dish towel) and are an ideal tool for many kitchen tasks.


Mistake: Storing toothbrushes on the sink

Solution: A bathroom organizer that tidily holds toothbrushes & toothpaste

Create quick and simple order on your bathroom vanity with this stainless steel toothbrush organizer. It keeps your toothbrushes from cluttering up the place and helps them to dry out between uses, staying out of whatever spills might happen on the counter. It holds four toothbrushes and the toothpaste in a small footprint.


Mistake: Letting clothes storage take over the place

Solution: These vacuum storage bags that store items in much less space

When your out-of-season and out-of-favor clothes are making it hard for you to find an outfit you want to wear, bag everything that’s in the way into these vacuum storage bags, suck the air out of them with the included pump or your own vacuum cleaner, and stack them somewhere until they are back in favor. This system reduces their volume significantly and turns your items into stackable packages. This is a pack of five bags.


Mistake: Trying (& failing) to clean between tiles

Solution: This paint marker that easily refreshes old or discolored grout

Cleaning grout is very tedious. You can get down on your hands and knees and scrub for ages with little progress. But coloring over the grey and dirty grout with this grout pen is fun and effective. It’s like coloring in a big tile coloring book that happens to be your bathroom floor. The results are quick, noticeable, and rewarding.

“Fantastically fun to use and very effective,” said one reviewer.


Mistake: Letting cutting boards age before their time

Solution: This cutting board oil that nourishes & protects them

If your wood cutting board is starting to look faded and is even developing some cracks, it’s not because it’s too old — it’s hungry. Cutting boards need oil to stay supple and maintain their rich color through all the chopping, wiping, and washing. And this cutting board oil is what they eat. Just pour it on and wipe it in with a soft cloth and your board will thank you by looking beautiful and lasting for years.


Mistake: Leaving holes & dings in the wall

Solution: A hole repair kit that makes the job easy

If you are moving, shifting your art around, or someone was clumsy and hit the wall, don’t leave the holes there to make your home look beat up. Fix it with this spackling repair kit that comes with everything you need. The primer-enhanced compound fills the hole. The spreader makes it easy to apply and smooths it out. And the sander creates a perfect finish. There is even a screen to help fill big holes.

“The material itself is almost space age,” says one reviewer. “So lightweight but really fills well. I thought the bottle was empty when I got it, but it is full and will patch many holes.”


Mistake: Storing toilet paper on the tank

Solution: This holder that looks nice & keeps the TP dust-free

If you are stacking toilet paper on top of the toilet, in all your storage space, or on the floor of the bathroom, you need a better system. And this toilet paper organizer is it. The slim canister sits on the floor, holds three extra rolls, and comes in seven colors that will blend into your decor so the TP itself doesn’t become an art statement. It keeps the rolls at hand but dust free and invisible.


Mistake: Not "feeding" your hardwood floors

Solution: This wood polish & conditioner that feeds & protects

Hardwood floors — the real kind — are almost a living part of your home. If they don’t have an indelible finish on them, they need to be fed. The same is true of wood cabinetry and furniture. This wood polish and conditioner — loaded with the oils wood loves to drink and carnauba and beeswax to provide a protective coating — will soak into the wood and help give it back its luster and water-repelling strength. All you do is wipe it on with a soft cloth.


Mistake: Not maximizing space in the fridge

Solution: These convenient bins that create a place for everything

When you randomly put items into the fridge, you aren’t maximizing your cold storage. You also may end up repeatedly unpacking it to get to the thing you want. These six refrigerator organizer bins bring new levels of order to the fridge interior. Fill each one with a food category — condiments, fruit, sodas — and when you need something, pull out the right bin and choose. They stack, are clear, have integrated handles, and work just as well in the pantry and cupboards.


Mistake: Using an old & outdated carbon monoxide detector

Solution: This modern detector with a clear display & voice alarm

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can do serious damage to your health without giving off any smell or indication it’s there. This carbon monoxide alarm will detect it and tell you what’s happening so you know to open a window and clear the air. Set one in your home, car, and garage. It has an LCD display so you know your current levels, a voice alarm, and a loud siren.


Mistake: Letting the fan become a dust magnet

Solution: An extendable duster that lets you easily reach high places

When you notice your ceiling fans are dusty, cleaning them can present a logistical challenge. They are often so high as to be out of reach. But this ceiling fan duster will tackle that job without a ladder or dangerous antics on your part. The handle telescopes from 27 to 47 inches and the duster slides right over the blades to dust top and bottom at once. It makes fast, safe, and easy work of an otherwise challenging task.


Mistake: Keeping a chaotic undie drawer

Solution: This underwear organizer that makes for tidy & efficient storage

If you start every day with an archeological dig into a chaotic underwear or sock drawer in search of the color or style your outfit needs, bring some calm to your routine with these underwear organizer dividers. Every sock, undie, and bra gets its own cubby so you can see everything at once. The four styles, each with different-sized cells, create quick order for everything from dress socks to tank tops.


Mistake: Letting the cat track litter around the house

Solution: This litter-trapping mat that catches it before it spreads

Put an end to walking through gross and crunchy litter because your cat tracked it from the litter box to your kitchen or bathroom floor. Set this cat litter mat under the box so the cat walks across its textured surface and gets its paws clean in the process. All you do is give the mat an occasional quick vacuum and your floors will stay litter-free.


Mistake: Storing brooms & cleaning supplies in a jumble

Solution: The wall-mounted holder that organizes your tools

You don’t have to sacrifice an entire closet to store brooms, mops, and other necessary tools. Mount this broom holder to the inside of that closet door or a wall in the mudroom. It will organize those hard-to-store tools so you can easily access them. The five grippy slots grab broom and rake handles and the hooks give you an adjacent place to hang gloves, dusters, and rags.

“It makes it so easy to find [the] tool you are looking for and [frees up] so much extra space in your closet,” said one reviewer.


Mistake: Not watering the plants appropriately

Solution: These watering globes that keep plants happy & lively

Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the watering needs of a family of plants. Make sure they survive, even when you are busy, distracted, or traveling by filling these two pretty glass self-watering plant bulbs with water and sticking them into the soil. As the plant gets dry, the water in the bulb slowly replenishes it, keeping your plants happy for up to two weeks. They look nice in your plant pots, too.


Mistake: Living in dusty, smelly, or smoky air

Solution: This air purifier that fits on your bedside table

If pet dander, bad smells, or other airborne irritants are making it difficult to sleep or work, set this small, tabletop air purifier on your bedside table or desk and turn it on. It pulls the surrounding air in and pushes it through a multi-stage filtration system — HEPA and activated charcoal — to remove particulates that cause odor or eye and sinus irritation so the air smells clean and you can breathe more easily.

“I have all kinds of indoor allergies,” said one reviewer. “This machine has helped me breathe so freely during the night while I sleep.”


Mistake: Letting the fridge & appliances stay fingerprint-y

Solution: This stainless steel cleaner that creates a protective barrier against prints

If you have started to look away from the stainless steel in your kitchen because it is always covered in fingerprints, change your cleaning spray to this stainless steel cleaner kit. It uses coconut oil to clean and polish that surface. It leaves behind an invisible protective barrier that prevents every touch from turning into a print. The kit even comes with a big, soft microfiber cloth for a streak-free application.

“The fridge is so clean and shiny, and resists fingerprints.” said one reviewer. “It feels like it’s sealed or protected, but there’s no residue.”