5 popular kitchen cleaning hacks that just don't work, according to professionals

The cleaning tricks that cleaning experts argue aren't worth the time or effort on your countertops, backsplash and oven

black kitchen with white marble backsplash and island
(Image credit: Future PLC / Darren Chung)

Whether you saw it on TikTok or heard about it from a friend, kitchen cleaning hacks are everywhere. Some don't work as well as they claim and create a load of mess, or even end up damaging surfaces.

The kitchen is the engine of the home and tends to double up as a living space. It's no surprise, then, that cleaning the kitchen can feel like a mammoth task.

Below are the cleaning hacks the experts are saying don't work, and alternative cleaning tips and methods to try instead.

Kitchen cleaning hacks that don't work

ceramic kitchen sink with gold tap

(Image credit: Future PLC)

1. Using your oven's self-cleaning feature 

'We don’t recommend using the self-cleaning feature to clean an oven,' Marilee Nelson, founder of non-toxic cleaning company Branch Basics. 'The high temperature of self-cleaning ovens creates the release of very toxic chemicals which then pollute indoor air.'

If you do need to use the self-cleaning feature, turn the exhaust fan on above the oven, turn the cleaning feature on and leave it for a few hours, she suggests. Then when you return, air out the house until the smell from the oven is gone. 

'Open the windows on two sides of the house and use fans near the windows to help suck the air out of the kitchen and blow air out of the house,' she says. Given how much effort this all sounds, we'd rather clean an oven with more manual methods.

branch basics founder marilee nelson
Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is a Texas-based Environmental Consultant and co-founder of Branch Basics. She started Branch Basics after learning how much harmful chemicals in our products and food influence our health. She found that cleaners and laundry detergents have a major impact on a home's air quality. Marilee is on a mission to inspire, motivate and empower people to take proactive charge of their health and experience the transforming power of creating a truly healthy home and diet.

modern kitchen with wooden cabinetry and tiled floor

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Vinegar and baking soda on grout

Mario Musa, the founder of Tile Sealing, has extensive experience in maintaining and cleaning kitchen tiles. In his view, the commonly touted hack of using vinegar and baking powder on grout can cause more harm than good, damaging the grout and making it harder to clean. 'Another hack that doesn't work is using abrasive scrubbers or steel wool on tile surfaces, as they can scratch and damage the tile,' he adds.

The solution? 'Instead of relying on ineffective cleaning hacks, try using a pH-neutral cleaner specifically designed for tile and grout is a great way to remove dirt and grime without damaging the surfaces.'

3. Bleach on kitchen counters

Using bleach to clean surfaces after using raw meat, poultry, or fish is another cleaning method that isn't worth the trouble, says Marilee. 'Bleach is extremely toxic to humans, pets, wildlife, aquatic life, and the environment. Bleach fumes also create volatile organic compounds, which can trigger and contribute to asthma, COPD, chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches,' she says. 

Instead, use 3% Hydrogen Peroxide as a disinfectant after cleaning a surface to handle germs.

Rubbermaid Reveal Power Scrubber and Grout Head for Household Cleaning | $19.99 at Amazon

Rubbermaid Reveal Power Scrubber and Grout Head for Household Cleaning | $19.99 at Amazon
This lightweight, battery-powered scrubber for grout, tiles and tight spaces is well-reviewed on Amazon. If you have a large area to clean, this may save a lot of time.

kitchen with island, large black oven and beige cabinetry

(Image credit: Future PLC)

4. Using lemon juice – on some surfaces

Beatrice Flores, a cleaning expert at Living Pristine says many kitchen 'hacks' cause more problems than they solve. 'Using lemon juice as a cleaner may seem like an economical way to keep things shining, but acidic cleaners can damage many surfaces such as marble and granite counters,' Beatrice warns. 

'Instead of trying out these hacks with potentially damaging results, try natural ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar for de-greasing and scrubbing purposes in both the kitchen and bathroom areas.'

5. Mixing vinegar and baking soda on countertops

A lot of homemade cleaning supplies include a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, and Sara San Angelo from Confessions of a Cleaning Lady says that they are much more effective when used on their own. We found baking soda and vinegar worked well when cleaning the oven, but Sara isn't a fan.

'Mixing them, after a fizzy show that promises sparkling countertops, gives you nothing but water and salt,' she says. 'It's chemistry 101. Vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base. Together they cancel each other out.'

Instead, just use equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle for the kitchen and bath. Vinegar is a great disinfectant. Be sure to not use it on natural stone as the acid can damage this type of surface. Cleaning with baking soda is great if you have stains – Sara recommends sprinkling it in the toilet to get rid of stains.

modern kitchen with wooden cabinetry, and island and lighting

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How can I make my kitchen easier to clean?

'The first step to making your kitchen easier to clean is decluttering,' says cleaning expert Beatrice Flores. Once you've cleared out items you no longer use and have reorganized cabinets for easier access, she says you need to find a way to incorporate cleaning into your routine. Beatrice says it's all about discipline, so wiping down surfaces daily, washing dishes as soon as they are used and putting them away immediately. 

'Get rid of the idea that you need a different cleaning product for everything in your kitchen,' adds Allison Evans, co-founder of Branch Basics. 'All you need is one good quality surfactant or soap to address every cleaning need in the kitchen. It simplifies your cleaning routine.'

Organizing a kitchen in an efficient way will also help. For example, Allison is savvy with her kitchen storage, putting her cups, bowls and plates in cabinets within arm's reach of the dishwasher, so everything is right there and easy to unload.

Mario Musa says when it comes to specific kitchen cleaning tasks like mopping, wiping down surfaces or scrubbing tile grout lines: break up the work into smaller chunks and spread it out over multiple days if needed. Working in short bursts will help keep up enthusiasm and motivation levels, as we found when we tried a 5-minute cleaning challenge at home.

What is the fastest way to clean a dirty kitchen?

'Have your cleaning supplies at the ready,' says Sara. 'Get everything together before you start to clean. I tell people to keep their kitchen cleaning supplies together under their sink or have a cleaning caddy you can carry them around in. This way you don't waste time running all over the house trying to find cleaning products.'

Other top tips are to clean as you go and to get your kids or family members to help. 'Teach kids how to clean their own messes or wash their dishes early on so it becomes second nature as they grow older,' says Allison Evans from Branch Basics.

'We put all of our dirty dishes in the sink and spray them with Branch Basics. While those sit, I spray the countertop,' she adds. 'Then I come back to clean and load the dishwasher and finally wipe the countertops. Letting the cleaning product sit on the surfaces and dishes for a few minutes allows residues to break down and come off much quicker.'

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.