14 DIY Projects to Avoid

Are DIY solutions always the best solutions? Unfortunately, no. Sometimes, recipes for cleaning your home or pampering your body just don’t work — or worse, they do more harm than good. And often, there are simply better DIY methods for tackling common problems.

Now, that’s not to say that a thrifty, DIY attitude isn’t valuable — it’s just that, well, it’s far more important to get stuff done as safely and efficiently as possible. Read on for the some of the do-it-yourself projects to avoid.

Have you had any DIY blunders of your own? Let us know in the comments.


Cleaning Don’ts.

1. Washing Marble and Granite with Vinegar or Lemons. Acids can etch or dull marble. Granite is more resilient, though prolonged use of acidic cleaning agents can damage the finish. Moreover, sometimes products labeled as granite are actually marble. Bottom line? Play it safe, and don’t use acidic products on your granite and marble surfaces.

2. DIYing Dishwasher Detergent. There are plenty of homemade dishwasher detergent recipes floating around on the web, and they all have one thing in common: they just don’t work like they should. There’s really no substitute for store-bought dishwasher detergent, and using a homemade variety can cause serious damage to your dishwasher and may even void the warranty.

3. Cleaning Windows with Newspaper. Can yesterday’s news be recycled into today’s clean windows. Well, it sure can, but it’s not exactly the most efficient way of getting the job done. Newspaper just won’t get rid of all of that soap used to clean the window, and will actually leave some ink on the glass, too. If you’d like to wash your windows more frequently, newspapers are the way to go; for everyone else, though, try using a squeegee.

4. Cleaning Silver with Baking Soda and Tin Foil or Toothpaste. Baking soda and toothpaste are both too abrasive for silver. They’ll strip off the tarnish, sure, but they’ll also strip off too much of the good silver and scratch this soft metal. Abrasive cleaners can also cause scratches. If your silver is antique or high-quality, then forget it. Removing the tarnish of old silver will significantly decrease its value.

5. Using Baking Soda or Diluted Vinegar to Kill Germs. Vinegar and baking soda are both fantastic, versatile products that have rightfully earned their spot in the arsenal of homemakers everywhere. But there’s one thing baking soda can’t do, and that’s disinfect effectively enough. If you use vinegar, make sure it’s undiluted, which is effective at killing salmonella and E.coli, according to the CDC (you can read more about this here). But if you’re trying to sanitize a surface, skip the baking soda.

6. Cleaning Hardwoods With Vinegar or Lemons. Acids like vinegar and lemon will damage the finish and dull the wood. Of course, if it’s that well-worn look that you’re after, then go for it.



Home Improvement & Crafting Don’ts.

7. Cleaning Garbage Disposals with Coffee Grounds. In truth, cleaning out your garbage disposal is perfectly okay — in the short term. Over time, though, all those grounds can clog your drain. Other DIY methods — like vinegar, baking soda, and orange and lemon peels, are much better for keeping your disposal odor- and clog-free.

8. Making Your Own Mod Podge. Paper crafters swear by this retro glue, but aren’t exactly thrilled by the hefty price tag. So who wouldn’t want to make a cheap, DIY version of the stuff? Usually calling for shaking up a container of equal parts Elmer’s Glue and water, DIY Mod Podge is not exactly up to snuff. After all, there’s a reason for that hefty price tag, and that’s because Mod Podge is a better quality glue than the kid’s stuff. And unlike Mod Podge, after a while, your projects made with DIY glue will start to yellow and peel after a few years.

9. Using a Brick in a Toilet Tank to Cut Down on Water. Placing a brick in your toilet tank can save you about 1/2 gallon of water per flush. Over time, though, that brick will disintegrate and can actually harm your toilet tank. It’s better to use something — like a glass or plastic bottle filled with rocks — that can withstand being in water for extended periods of time.

10. DIY-ing Tree Removal. Removing trees or branches without proper training can be very, very dangerous. If you’re not an expert, hire one.



Beauty & Fashion Don’ts.

11. Cleaning Jewelry with Toothpaste or Baking Soda. Delicate metals and many stones should never, ever be cleaned with abrasives. Baking soda and toothpaste will scratch and dull the metals and leave marks on most gemstones.

12. DIY-ing Sunscreen. Sunscreen requires a a lot of heavy-duty machinery and knowledge of chemistry, and all that work just can’t be replicated in your kitchen. Sure, a homemade sunscreen might offer a little protection, but it’s not nearly as safe as the real thing. Still not convinced? Check out this great post from a cosmetics chemist.

13. Using Citrus Fruit on Your Skin and Hair. Plenty of sites tout lemon juice as a great way to lighten sun spots, freckles, and, as you may remember from 7th grade, hair. It’s also found in many a homemade skincare recipe. And while it certainly may work at times, it is also a harsh acid that can damage the delicate pH scale of your skin, dry it out, and cause burns. Citrus, limes in particular, on the skin that is exposed to sunlight can cause major, blistering chemical burns.

What’s more, because you can’t control the acid — the amount varies considerably from fruit to fruit — as easily as you can with store-bought products, hair or skin lightening can come out unevenly. Skip it. Seriously.

14. Treating Acne with Toothpaste. Toothpaste is designed to clean the hardest substance in your body. The rest of your body, well, it’s not so resilient. Just like acidic citrus fruits can disrupt the pH balance of your skin, alkaline toothpastes can do so as well. In the end, what you’re left with is irritated skin that can’t kill acne bacteria, and, in the long run, even more breakouts.


Christine Jones
Christine J2 years ago

A different style of article; much appreciated.

Rose Becke2 years ago


Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Nancy Hatcher
Nancy Hatcher3 years ago

Some of these I knew to never use, some I've tried and found didn't work and some I'd heard of but not tried yet. Now I know not to try the ones I'd heard of either. Thanks for the great information.

Erin H.
Erin H3 years ago

Interesting article, thank you!

jessica r.
jessica r3 years ago

Definitely something to keep in mind.

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

Yup, I've made a few of these mistakes over the years, and as a result I now tend to use very little of anything on myself unless it's deluted with things like water, food grade oil, or aloe juice. I also delute regular commercial cleaning products and find that they work just fine.

Lady Kaira
None None3 years ago


Graziella Veri
Graziella Veri3 years ago

liked and shared thanks

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim3 years ago

Very useful info. Thanks.