5 household chores you shouldn't do anymore (© SuperStock)

How many times have you caught yourself muttering, “Dad always did it this way,” as you plunged without thinking into yet another time-consuming household chore?

But the fact is that when it comes to some tasks around the house, father doesn’t always know best (neither does mom, for that matter). Experts say there are several household jobs you just shouldn’t do anymore — or that you should do a lot differently — because we know more now than in dear old dad’s day.

Join our experts on a tour around the house and yard. You’ll learn a few things — and maybe recoup a few lost hours of your weekend.

Professional Services

Find local plumbers, electricians, contractors and more.

1. The chore no more: Sealing your driveway
The problem with it:
For a long time, many Americans have sealed their driveways with coal-tar-based sealant, both for appearance and weatherproofing. Here’s the rub: It’s bad for you, and it’s bad for the environment.

Coal-tar-based sealants, mostly found east of the Mississippi, usually contain high amounts of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which the U.S. Geological Survey says “are probable human carcinogens and ... are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.” Those sealants flake off over time. In a recent study, the geological survey found that the dust in apartments next to parking lots that had been coated with coal-tar sealant had concentrations of PAHs that were 25 times higher than in apartments next to parking lots coated with other sealants. And if you’ve coated your driveway with the same sealant, you’re tracking the same dust into your own house.

Some governments are taking the findings seriously: Washington, D.C., has banned that kind of sealant. So have Austin, Texas; Dane County, Wis.; and White Bear Lake, Minn.

Slide show:  5 ways your home hurts the environment

What to do instead: If you really want to seal your driveway, look for asphalt emulsion-based sealant, which has “far, far fewer” PAHs in it, says Nancy McClintock, assistant director of Austin’s watershed protection department. Other products free of PAHs exist, but they’re rare, McClintock says, and much more expensive.

Or go another route: Don’t put anything on at all. The manufacturers say that applying sealant protects the driveway and makes it last longer, but “we’ve never seen hard data that necessarily proves that,” McClintock says.

2. The chore no more: Putting fertilizer and pesticides on your lawn
The problem with it:
“My grandmother and grandfather never put a drop of fertilizer on their lawns — and you know what? They still had a lawn,” says Paul Tukey, founder of the Safe Lawns Foundation and author of “The Organic Lawn Care Manual.” It’s our parents’ generation that went hog-wild with the fertilizers and the pesticides, Tukey says. And we’ve picked up their habit.

Article continues below

What’s wrong with that? Plenty. Fertilizers run off into bodies of water, creating algal blooms that can kill fish and other aquatic life. Pesticides affect our health: A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that home and garden pesticide use could increase the risk of childhood leukemia by almost seven times, according to the group Beyond Pesticides. Pesticides also been linked to leukemia in dogs and cats, which is up more than 40% over the past 40 years, Tukey says.

What to do instead: “I’m not saying that everybody has to go around with a weed-ridden lawn,” Tukey says. “Going organic doesn’t mean having to have an ugly lawn.”

Tukey has a few suggestions for going green without much compromise. First, when you mow, “Don’t gather up the clippings. Let the clippings lay on the lawn.” Or, use a mulching mower. “You get some fertilizer back” when you let the clippings remain on the lawn, Tukey says.

Read:  Lawn's getting your goat? Get a real goat

Next, mow your lawn at a higher setting, so that grass can crowd out weeds, he says.

Third, if you do have weeds, do your homework. “Know that those weeds are messengers sent by Mother Nature,” Tukey says.

Read:  September gardening checklist

For instance, if your lawn is growing a lot of dandelions, that’s because your lawn is responding to certain conditions. Dandelions have long taproots that dig deep to get calcium and other nutrients. If you spread high-calcium limestone on your lawn, making it available throughout the soil, “the dandelions aren’t going to die overnight, but they will subside,” Tukey says.