The hardest home decor to clean – 9 items expert cleaners avoid

These nine home decor pieces are making your life harder, professional cleaners warn

A brown sofa with a lighter brown shag rug. / Close up of a wooden wall shelf with a gold framed picture and a black vase of dried small flowers. Another shelf above with the bottom of a woven basket visible / A white sofa with throw pillows in front of a decorated console table
(Image credit: Barker & Stonehouse / Yesterhome / McGee & Co.)

When we decorate our homes we rarely think about the upkeep in favor of realizing our perfect Pinterest boards. 

However, there are several home decor pieces we might naturally gravitate towards that are making maintaining and cleaning our homes ten times harder than it could be – and they aren't always worth the effort, professional cleaners warn. 

These are the nine hardest home decor items to clean and why professional cleaners would never have them in their homes. 

The hardest home decor to clean

Not even the best cleaning tips can make these nine pieces easy enough to clean to make them worth keeping in your home, professional cleaners warn. Here’s why. 

1. Vases and decorative bowls

Close up of a wooden wall shelf with a gold framed picture and a black vase of dried small flowers. Another shelf above with the bottom of a woven basket visible

(Image credit: Yester Home)

Decorating with vases and beautiful bowls is a great way to fill space, add fresh blooms to make a home smell nice, and catch odd bits to prevent clutter. However, despite their practicality, they are very time-consuming to keep clean, warns Elizabeth Shields, operations manager of Super Cleaning Service, Louisville:

‘While they aren't exactly dust magnets, they can still accumulate dust, especially if not regularly wiped. Plus, moving them around for a wipe-down on the surface they're placed on takes a bit of time, and that poses a risk of damage.’ 

If you still want vases and bowls. Opt for ones that have smooth surfaces that are easy to wipe down, rather than textured or decorative finishes.

2. Certain decorative pillows

A white sofa with throw pillows in front of a decorated console table

(Image credit: McGee & Co.)

Most of the best throw pillows have machine-washable covers, making them super simple to keep clean and use around your home as decor. Certain covers with jewels or other textures are a nightmare to disinfect and make it difficult to remove odors from upholstery, however, says Tina Priestly, Owner and CEO of Ready, Set, REFRESH:

‘Decorative pillows can add personality to a space, but those with intricate patterns or delicate materials can be a hassle to clean. Dust and dirt tend to hide in the nooks and crannies, so I recommend opting for removable covers that can be easily washed.’ 

3. Houseplants

Houseplants on plant stands

(Image credit: Getty Images/DuKai photographer)

You might not pay any mind to cleaning houseplants, but they are magnets for dust, points out Elizabeth Shields, operations manager. 

‘Not being a green thumb can have advantages because I don’t keep plants in my home. They might be refreshing to have in sight, but their leaves collect dust and that needs to be regularly wiped – which can be incredibly time-consuming with a large plan or finicky for those with tiny leaves.’ 

Dust doesn't harm houseplants, but it can diminish their appearance, so it will be up to you to decide if it bothers you or not, and if you think it is worth cleaning houseplant leaves

Microfiber Cloths | $12.99 at Walmart

Microfiber Cloths | $12.99 at Walmart
It's always a good idea to keep a stack of microfiber cloths as part of your essential cleaning supplies – they're perfect for dusting a variety of household items. 

4. Silk furnishings

Parachute Silk Pillowcases on a bed with gray bedding.

(Image credit: Parachute)

No matter if you are washing a silk pillowcase or cleaning upholstery, silk can be a nightmare to clean and keep clean, warns Tina Priestly, cleaning expert. 

‘They might be luxurious, but they require constant, gentle care. Water stains are a common issue, so dry cleaning is usually the best option. Following the care instructions is crucial to preserve their beauty.’ 

5. Light colored furnishings

family room breakfast nook with cream sofa and wood framed fireplace

(Image credit: Marco Ricca)

If you are a neat freak, then anything light-colored should be a no-go for your home, advises Elizabeth Shields, operations manager. Light-colored carpets, upholstery, and window treatments will always show dirt and require continuous cleaning to maintain their appearance, she warns. This means cream is one of the top sofa and carpet colors to avoid.

‘They feel nice on your feet, and any area decorated with them instantly feels cozy, but they also trap dirt and dust, making vacuuming a chore,’ she explains. ‘White carpets sure look pristine and aesthetic, but every spill, every smidge, and even a speck of dirt can be easily noticed. The upkeep, involving spot cleaning and stain removal, makes them high maintenance.’

Dr. Beckmann Stain Remover | $7.89 at Amazon

Dr. Beckmann Stain Remover | $7.89 at Amazon
You can keep your light-colored furnishings looking their best with an effective stain remover like this highly-rated pre-wash by Dr. Beckmann. 

6. Chandeliers

rustic dining room with vintage doors and linen chairs and a dramatic overhead chandelier

(Image credit: Kara Childress)

‘Chandeliers are undeniably stunning, but they can be incredibly challenging to keep clean,’ says Vanessa Terra Bossart, professional home cleaner and owner of Green Terra Cleaning. ‘Their intricate designs made from crystals or glass mean every crevice requires careful attention to remove dust while mitigating the risk of damage.’ 

If you are not prepared to climb up there and wipe it down carefully with a cloth or bring it down from the ceiling from time to time, you might be better off with alternative lighting ideas instead. 

7. Shag rugs

A brown sofa with a lighter brown shag rug.

(Image credit: Barker & Stonehouse)

Of all the area rug mistakes to avoid, picking a shag rug for a high-traffic spot is amongst the most important. Shaggy rugs help to warm up a space and feel incredibly underfoot, but they are incredibly difficult to truly clean – even when vacuuming, warns Tina Priestly, cleaning expert.

If you have a shag rug, Tina recommends taking it outside regularly to beat it and force the dirt out, followed by cleaning with the best vacuum cleaner. This is a lot more work than simply vacuuming, however, so you will have to decide if the effort is worth it for yourself. 

8. Small knick-knacks

kitchen with open shelving

(Image credit: Future)

If you are a collector or maximalist, you will understand the charm and appeal of clustering small knick-knacks and odd decor pieces to fill shelves and cubbies. However, these make cleaning surfaces and removing dust in your home almost impossible. For this reason, Axel Avery, cleaning expert at Oakville Maids, recommends limiting them where possible: 

‘Small knick-knacks are the most annoying items to clean. Anything animal-shaped especially because it’s all curves and that collects dust like crazy. Besides, they look outdated and create so much visual noise.

‘Fortunately, most of them can be soaked in hot, soapy water, and that makes the process easier.’

9. Anything woven

A scalloped edge jute rug on the floor beside of a white bed in a bright bedroom

(Image credit: French Bedroom)

We are suckers for anything woven – storage baskets and rugs included. However, these natural materials offer unique cleaning challenges – including the fact you can’t afford to get them wet, Alessandro Gazzo, cleaning expert at Emily’s Maids of Dallas, shares. As such, if you want a home that is easy to clean, these are best left at the store, they recommend. 

‘One of the most frustrating décor items to clean is woven baskets / woven rugs. They look beautiful and cozy, but grime and lint stick to them, and it can take hours to remove them. Flat surfaces are always going to be easier to clean, or at least surfaces that don’t have deep, complex textures. You easily save 70% of your time by picking smoother surfaces instead.’ 


What is the secret to a clean house? 

The secret to a clean house is picking out features and designing the property so that it is easy to maintain. Picking low-maintenance features, avoiding light-colored flooring and upholstery, and cleaning regularly will maintain the property and prevent too much dirt from settling and making your home overwhelming. 

These nine home decor pieces are all cleanable with a little time and effort, but if you are looking to clean a house fast without compromising on cleanliness picking any of them will be fighting against yourself. Consider which items you are willing to spend time on, declutter the rest to make your life a little easier, and enjoy chore-free weekends more often.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.