Spring Cleaning? 4 Things You Need to Leave Dirty

Photo (cc) by National Spring Clean

I hate spring cleaning, but not for the reason most people do. They hate cleaning in general, regardless of the season. I love cleaning – when everything is in its place, I experience a wave of inner peace.

Problem is, once I start cleaning, I don’t know when to stop. And that’s gotten me in big trouble during previous springs. I end up cleaning stuff that would be better off left alone. Here’s a list of valuables I’ve ruined over the years…

1. Antiques

How much of a spring cleaning geek am I? In college, I couldn’t enjoy spring break until I had done a spring cleaning first. (To this day, I hate returning from a trip and walking into a messy home.)

One spring, I had a roommate who had brought an old silver coffee urn from back home. It was big and ornate, but also slightly dented and very tarnished. We kept it on our dining room table and used it for the occasional study group that came over. Mostly, it was decorative. So one spring, I asked my roomie if I could polish it up. She said sure – if I was willing to expend the calories, why not?

I really did a great job. That urn sparkled. It wasn’t until years later I learned from my ex-roommate that I had destroyed its value. When the Antiques Roadshow craze took off, she apparently took it for an appraisal and was told it was from the 19th century. But my cleaning had knocked literally hundreds of dollars off its value – something fans of Pawn Stars know from each week’s episode, when someone brings in an antique gun, painting, or jewelry. People who buy antiques don’t want their history washed away. And silver polish is the worst offender.

“Contrary to popular belief, silver does not need constant cleaning and in fact should not be cleaned more than absolutely necessary,” says the Association of Art and Antique Dealers. “Tarnishing does not actually harm silver.”

National Geographic goes so far as to say that store-bought silver cleaners “contain abrasives that not only remove tarnish but also strip off a thin layer of silver in the process.” The magazine suggests an eco-friendly soaking instead of a vigorous cleaning.

2. Old coins

When I was a teenager, my grandmother gave me some very old coins, many in near-mint condition. One was a Morgan Liberty Head silver dollar from 1898. It was large and intricately wrought, but it wasn’t shiny. So one spring, I buffed it with silver polish. Hey, it’s a silver dollar, right? And it worked real well on that coffee urn in college. (It would still be a few more years before I learned about my urn error.)

I wanted to display my silver dollar on my desk, which I had just reorganized in my latest spring frenzy. But my cleaning actually made the coin even less shiny.

What happened? The harsh cleanser I used stripped the coin of its toning, which is the light tarnish that gives old coins an appearance of depth. Once that toning was gone, the coin looked flat, and instead of being shiny, it looked uniformly gray and nicked up.

“Never clean coins with commercial jewelry and metal polishes or silver tarnish remover, which will remove the toning that normally collects over time on copper and silver coins,” explains MyCoinCollecting.com. “Removing tarnish often harms coins, leaving small spots, scratches, or pockmarks that can significantly diminish their numismatic value by up to 90 percent!”

Numismatic value is the fancy term for “how much money coin dealers will pay you.” If my frugal grandmother were alive to know what I had done to her coin’s numismatic value, I would (in her words) be cruising for a bruising.

3. Smartphone screens

I have an iPhone 1 that my brother gave me. It doesn’t even work as a phone anymore, so I use it as a glorified iPod Touch. Apple’s website tells you how not to clean the screen…

  • Keep liquids away from the product.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings, and don’t use aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives.
  • Do not spray cleaners directly onto the item.

…and I did all those things more than once. My excuse? I thought a glass screen would benefit from glass cleaner. Instead, I nicked up the screen, and when it’s hot and humid outside, the corners of the screen get foggy with moisture. The screen has dead gray pixels across the top, but I don’t know if that’s because the thing is old or because I cleaned it. Either way, here’s what Apple says I should’ve done: “Use only a soft, lint-free cloth.” Where’s the fun in that?

4. Plants

Obviously, you don’t clean plants. But you can trim them, removing dead leaves. And that can actually hurt your plants. I live in Florida and have palm trees in front of my house. One day, I was trimming dead fronds when a neighbor warned me against it. Sure enough, I looked it up and discovered No. 9 on the list of Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes is over-pruning: “Palm trees need dying leaves for nutrients, and when you cut them off, your palm tree doesn’t like it. Palms move nutrients from the older fronds to the new growth.”

So before you prune dead leaves from any of your plants, look it up first. Sometimes it’s better for your plants to feel good than look good.

Finally, if you’re going to clean your windows this spring, don’t do it like this. And for more money-saving and time-saving cleaning advice, check out…

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
3 Reasons You Can’t Rely on Medicare Alone
3 Reasons You Can’t Rely on Medicare Alone

Counting on Medicare to cover health care costs can jeopardize your retirement plans.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money
The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money

These home improvement projects basically never pay off.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.