Essential cleaning supplies?
June 3, 2016 11:03 PM   Subscribe

What cleaning supplies do you feel should be a part of everyone's inventory?

I recently scored myself a great, all inclusive, fully furnished apartment that is very clean and in great shape. And now that I'll be moving into a new place I feel that this would be a good time to test out cleaning supplies I've never used before. But there's a problem: the cleaning supplies market is over-saturated and I just don't know what I should be buying. What do you folks recommend?

Apart from cleaning supplies, you may suggest vacuums, brooms and other such gadgets as I'm in dire need of them. Just know that I don't require a big vacuum as my apartment is quite small.
posted by GlassHeart to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
Gotta get a pack of microfiber cloths. Perfect for dusting and cleaning with or without just water or cleaning spray. They dust better (dry) than anything I've tried before. Be sure to air dry them and don't use fabric softener when you wash or they'll lose their grip. They are good for so.many.things.

I also find either rubber dish gloves or disposable gloves helpful for anything you don't want to touch with your hands - be it bleach or nasty trash.

Other than that, I use basics. Just cleaning wipes for quick cleanup, bleach spray for stains, and a magic eraser for tough to clean stuff. Plus always having some sponges and carpet cleaner on hand - but I use a scrub brush with dishes. I also use a Swiffer Wet Jet on my small lino areas.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:10 PM on June 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Vinegar! Google recipes for various cleaning purposes.
posted by studioaudience at 11:24 PM on June 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

i've had this vacuum for about 6 years? maybe 8? it works great and seems to be nigh indestructible. it is light enough to carry in one hand while vacuuming with the other, and has thus far been the right size for various apartments, including nyc-sized studio, 2br, and 1br. i've never had any rugs or carpeting, though, just hardwood floors.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:31 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Heavy-duty rubber gloves, because cleaning is disgusting.

Also a high quality "real" vacuum, if you do have rugs/carpeting. We went through about three "bum" vacuums (all very minimal/lightweight) before we realized we just needed a real, full-sized vacuum.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:48 PM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Disposable face masks, especially if you're like me and strong smells gives you headaches. Bonus: you inhale less of whatever gunk it is you're using to clean.
posted by Tamanna at 11:59 PM on June 3, 2016

Seconding vinegar; it's great for cleaning things like shower doors and the insides of washing machines. Ammonia (diluted with water) is good for cleaning windows and mirrors.

I like to keep a pack of disposable cleaning wipes under the bathroom sink for quick clean-ups between deep cleanings. Also, I use disposable gloves when cleaning the toilet.

If HG brand cleaning products are available where you live, I highly recommend their mold spray; it's super effective and has saved me hours of scrubbing.
posted by neushoorn at 12:12 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is! Naturally, there's some weirdo probably true conspiracy theory about how bleach came to be more popular than peroxide, similar to how cotton overtook hemp in the market. The later is definitely true, so I'm sure peroxide story is based in reality...

You should google all the cleaning uses, but I keep a brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a spray bottle of straight vinegar on my kitchen counter. Former chef, still a culinary professional. We use straight vinegar on customer tables at work because anything else would be toxic and not lovely.

If you really want to disinfect anything, Hydrogen Peroxide. Bleach is smelly and a carcinogen. It can fuck off. Peroxide, yo.

Baking soda, vinegar, and peroxide are what I use. So cheap, so effective, no weird chemicals. Genius.
posted by jbenben at 12:26 AM on June 4, 2016 [23 favorites]

Magic erasers for just about everything.
posted by taff at 12:36 AM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

My mom (Homemaker and former cleaning businessperson) pretty much only uses water, vinegar, baking soda, and a little dishsoap in varying combinations to clean. Flannel rags, yellow sponges w/ green scrubbies, soft but springy toothbrush for crevices. Filterqueen vacuum that's older than me, broom, toilet brush, spray bottle, pail. Economical, versatile, effective, and environmentally sound.

I (Professional cleaning guy) still like Mr. Clean and we have a Swiffer sweeper w/dry & wet pads, but otherwise follow her lead. You can get nail brush sets with various sizes at the dollar store, I find they're also good for scrubbing weird corners without damaging surfaces. Cleaning gadgets can sort of be like Alton Brown's despised kitchen unitaskers on Good Eats, generally "There's got to be a better way!" is to keep it simple and, barring physical limitations, just put some elbow grease into it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:44 AM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Be careful with those magic erasers. They can ruin some surfaces. They're like fine sandpaper.
posted by yesster at 2:43 AM on June 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

Vinegar + baking soda is great for cleaning drains. Dump some baking soda down the plughole, pour in vinegar until it starts fizzing and then wash it through with hot water.

If you ever find yourself with a gross toilet, citric acid works much better than any commercial heavy-duty toilet cleaner/descaler. You can get it online or at places that sell wine-making supplies. We put three or four heaped spoons down, left it for a few hours then scrubbed it gently with a regular toilet brush, and it got so clean that my sister said "what happened to your toilet?!" the next time she saw it.
posted by terretu at 3:53 AM on June 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lysol Lemon kitchen cleaner pump spray for kitchen countertops and cupboards and a can of Scrubbing Bubbles for the bathtub and bathroom sink.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:19 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

A squeegee. Do shower glass after shower, no water spots. Clean tilt in windows by wiping with a rag dipped in dish soap and water. Squeegee dry. Sparkling windows. CLR or something similar will clean shower heads, faucet aerators, hard water stains - a little bit goes a long way, wear gloves.
posted by fixedgear at 4:51 AM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I find myself reaching for the following cleaning supplies time and again:

Baby soft dusting cloths are fabulous for dusting knick-knacks, furniture, and so on. They really trap the dust, remove the grime that accumulates through daily living, and are washable.

Stoner Invisible Glass is the best glass cleaner, and all-around solvent, I've ever used. It's pretty widely available in brick-and-mortar stores, but usually in the automotive department.

Swiffer Multi-Surface Spray does a great job feeding wood furniture and I love that I can use it to clean leather furniture as well.

In fact, I also use the Swiffer Sweeper to both dry and wet mop the hard surface floors, although you'll really need a traditional broom to get into the corners.

To clean most everything else, I use Formulary 55's Ginger Blossom Cleaning Concentrate. It lasts a long time (I'm still working on the bottle I purchased about three years ago), smells fabulous, and does a great job cutting grime in cases where a glass cleaner isn't strong enough.
posted by DrGail at 5:10 AM on June 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nthing Scrubbing Bubbles, I buy the generic. Plus a bleach-containing toilet bowl cleaner (or Lysol, also works well). I use sponges for almost everything, the blue kind with a scrubby pad on one side, but, for the toilet itself, I use shop towels, and toss them, and any other bathroom nasties in a used shopping bag.

Speaking of hair clogs, I have one of those sink plugs that takes an act of Congress to remove, so I have this little tool, which really works:

Zip-it (just remember to pull the hairs toward you, so you don't get bit by the teeth, and yes, do use rubber gloves in the bathroom). We do have a metal bathroom snake, but rarely have to use it, if ever.

For in-between deep bathroom cleaning, I have a canister of generic bathroom wipes.

For kitchen, I tend to use a lot of Windex, and buy a big generic bottle and just keep re-filling the same spray bottle. I think you have to experiment with what type of counter cleaner you like the best, as far as cleaning ability and scent goes. I have tried the natural stuff, and this is what works for me on my linoleum countertops and enameled stove top. I also have some Kaboom for really difficult jobs. FYI: do not ever mix ammonia and bleach products together, it creates nasty fumes.

Oven cleaning: I do not have a self cleaning oven. If you do, make sure you remove the racks before turning on the cleaning cycle. If not, I have tried all the vinegar and baking soda stuff, you name it, but when grease builds up, I will use regular oven cleaner, the generic kind, and open the windows and give it a good cleaning and rinsing with wet rags afterward. Because I will compromise on this stuff when it means the possibility of a grease fire is reduced.

Baking soda does work okay on a range hood, however, if you make a paste of it and treat it like Comet powder. But it requires a LOT of rinsing with wet rags, so ymmv.

Barkeepers Friend scrubbing powder works, but it leaves a white residue that has to be rinsed. Comet is okay too, but it's smelly, and also needs heavy rinsing, and I have a stainless steel sink, it rinses off better on porcelain sinks. If I need to cleanse my sink, I go over it with Dawn dish soap and a old green scrubbie, then fill the sink with cool water and add a splash of bleach, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. I only buy the small bottles of bleach, as I don't use it in my laundry very much (I use OxyClean, but beware of it on darks, as it can fade them if you use too much), but do use bleach for disinfecting my sink on occasion, and also for soaking my kitchen rags and dish towels before rinsing and putting through the laundry (with other towels, not clothes). Bleach degrades over time, so if you aren't using it for a specific purpose, don't bother until you need it.

Tub/Shower drain: I remove the drain cover at least once a month, and pull away any strands of hair and if there is a hairball clog attached, of course, that too. This prevents any nasty build-up and longterm problems. Wear rubber gloves and hold your nose. Then I boil some water, and let it cool slightly, and pour that down the drain. You can add a bit of baking soda if you like. Don't boil vinegar, it will give you a headache and creates nasty fumes if you happen to inhale them. I use an old tooth brush and dish soap to clean the drain cover, as ours is one of those giant plastic things with square holes, and soap scum tends to build up very quickly (ugh). I'm probably going to get a tiny bottle brush for this job, because a toothbrush head just can't get in the crevices and reach it all.

Shower curtain liner: I wash in cold water, in the washing machine, with a tiny amount of laundry soap, and an old towel to help scrub off any yucky stuff. I add white vinegar to the softener compartment. Watch it when you go to rehang it, it drips! Which I always forget about. And then I have big wet spots to wipe up, but it's worth it. I just buy the $5 plastic curtain liners from a big box store, the kind with suction cups on the sides and magnets at the bottom. When I've had big full-sized shower/tub combos, the fabric shower curtains from Bed, Bath & Beyond seem to hold up really well, and they can be washed in cool water as well.

I do use white vinegar for things like softening the laundry (put in the softener dispenser) and for cleaning the bathroom mirror. Old newsprint, the black and white kind, works really well for using as a rag for cleaning glass, both on mirrors and for window washing. If you can somehow lay your hands on an unprinted newspaper end roll, that will last for a long time, kept in a cool and dry place, and you can recycle it if you're only using vinegar (and not cleaning stuff, not sure about that).

Mopping water: I use a mix of hot water, 1 cup of vinegar per gallon, 20-30 drops of mandarin and sweet orange essential oil (each), and a tiny, tiny, tiny squirt of Dawn dish soap. Not enough to make any lasting bubbles. Then I mop, using an old-fashioned sponge mop, as quickly as possible, because using HOT water makes a huge difference (check that your floors can withstand it, but I have stick down tiles and they can take it, about 110-120 degrees F). No need for rinsing, and the mandarin oil smells kind of medicinal, so it reminds me of Mr. Clean, in a way.

I also do the same for the wood floors, taking care not to let any water stand on the wood, and wiping it dry with a rag afterward (our wood floors are old, ymmv on the types of flooring you have).

Vacuuming: I have 3 vacuums, this is because of the varied interior landscapes that I have. One is an upright Oreck, which is very old, and my husband had when we got married. I use that for wall-to-wall carpeting. I also have a Panasonic canister vacuum, with all the attachments, but don't use the floor-head, because it sounds like an airplane taking off. So I only haul that out when I am doing furniture and crevice vacuuming. For the rest, I use an old version of this Bissell 3-in-1 Stick Vacuum, have had it almost 10 years. It comes apart to become a dustbuster, and it can do some nook and cranny stuff, and I use it to scoop up dust bunnies and clumps of cat hair. It has a cord, and I do have to unplug it to get to all parts of my living room, but it's great for quick clean-ups if company is coming, and you can wash and dry the filter.

Furniture: I use generic Pledge and a microfiber cloth. Those nylon dusters for the tops of windowsills and doors, and cobwebs. I vacuum the living room furniture whenever I see cat hair building up (keep a throw or old jersey sheet on the cushions, just makes my life easier, as I can throw those in the wash).

Laundry soap: Arm and Hammer, the stuff for sensitive skin, unscented. I do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets, as that stuff builds up on clothing, and especially dish towels, it creates a film that makes dish towels less absorbent. I do have a box of unscented dryer sheets, as those can be rubbed on dress clothes to reduce static cling, and supposedly used to clean baseboards, but I just use the crevice tool on my canister vac and occasionally wipe them down with a damp rag.

Cutting board: I have a bamboo cutting board, double-sided, and I use Howard Butcher Block Conditioner, which I purchased based on reviews, and it seems to do the trick. It does contain (food grade) mineral oil, fyi and also beeswax and carnuba wax, so plan on using it for other things that need waxing. I use an old flannel shirt, cut up, for jobs like this.

For tough hand washing, after doing work that involves grease, etc., I use borax hand powder. It's what we used to use when I was growing up: every roadside gas station had a borax hand powder dispenser. I probably have one each of every scrubbing powder known to humankind, copper cleaner and silver cleaner, etc. But Dawn dish soap (Ultra) is what I use for dishes. I have tried and tried other soaps, but keep going back to the Dawn and using my sink sprayer, on hot, which gets a lot of food off and saves on using too much soap and elbow grease. I want my dishes clean, and I cook a lot, so I need to get my pots and pans clean. I do have some plastic pot scrapers, which work nicely on my stainless pans and cookie sheets, etc., but avoid using them on my non-stick omelet pan. Like these, but I get mine for less than a buck at a general store.

WD-40 gets sticky stuff off of hard surfaces (but it stinks, of course, and needs washing off with soap and water afterward). Compressed air for cleaning lampshades and keyboards.

I also vacuum and beat entryway rugs, as that keeps (some of) the dirt from being tracked in. No outside shoes allowed beyond my kitchen, which is where our entry point is located. Speaking of entryways, I also wipe down doorknobs and cupboard doors and hardware at least once a month, more if I remember (or see that someone dipped their hand into the chocolate ice cream in the middle of the night, and managed to smear it all over every surface of the kitchen). And don't forget the switch plates, those can get nasty too, and for some reason, people forget about cleaning them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:05 AM on June 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

A pack of washcloths (I like the Ikea ones) and hot water are my go-to for general wipe-downs. Occasional Clorox wipes on counters. I used to just use vinegar on toilets (you need a toilet brush), but really if you want the job done quick and well, a little bleach works much better. Replace your kitchen sponges when they start looking dirty; use the old one as your floor sponge for quick wipe ups of spills (cut off one corner to distinguish it from your dish sponge ).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:08 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you try microfiber and like me, hate them (I find they just leave stuff behind and don't absorb well. Maybe it's just me), pick up a pack of baby diapers (Gerber prefolds like this) and use them as rags. Or really, any cotton or terry or flannel fabric.
posted by kellygrape at 6:59 AM on June 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding using the cloth baby diapers instead of microfiber cloths for most purposes (my museum does this!). I'm a fan of Bon Ami, when the baking soda or vinegar does not do the trick. Citrasolv products are also good for multiple purposes. I've found this guide mostly helpful for DIY "green" cleaners (except don't use salt or toothpaste on silver!, use the baking soda aluminum foil method).
posted by gudrun at 7:47 AM on June 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Magic erasers for just about everything.

YES I have even used them on painted wall surfaces that were fire/smoke damaged with great success. You can buy the sponges on ebay in massive bulk quantities for the same price as a 4-pack of name brand ones, so do that instead. But yes, as mentioned above, they can scratch some surfaces badly, like some plastics and woods.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Microfibre duster, a duster on a stick that gets into nooks & cranies. So much better than swiffer dusters.
Good mop.
Microfibre clothes for in the kitchen.
Lysol lemon spray for counter tops.
A bleach based cleaner for toilets I also use a different one at different times to remove hard water rings (never combine cleaners).
Scrubbing bubbles for showers
Windex for mirrors, windows & stainless steal, get the cheapo knock offs from the dollar store they are the same thing, used crumpled up newspaper to dry to a streak & lint free finish.
Ajax powder (like bonami or barkeeps friend) but a buck at the dollar store, gets my stove nice & clean.

I hate magic erasers, I find they scratch the weirdest things & fall apart before they clean anything, they do clean up sneakers well & get the odd scuff mark off the wall but that's it for me.

A good canister vacuum, because then you can use it for everything. I will dust with it clean fans with it, get into all sorts of nooks & crannies, under the fridge, clean skirting the works. Just buy a few basic attachments. I don't even own a broom I just vacuum hard wood floors etc too.
posted by wwax at 8:28 AM on June 4, 2016

OxiClean (or any generic oxygenated bleach) is a great addition to your arsenal. Throw a scoop of it in your laundry for an added cleaning boost. Dilute in warm water and use to scrub stains off your couch. Dilute in warm water with a squirt of dish soap and soak your filthy baseball cap.

My idol Jolie Kerr has a couple articles on cleaning staples. There's "Ask a Clean Person: The Basics" and "Every Single Cleaning Product You Actually Need (and None of the Ones You Don't)".

Agree that baking soda and vinegar can go a long way. I also like having an all-purpose spray (Method), plus something stronger like 409 for heavy-duty cleaning.
posted by radioamy at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

For serious cleaning of countertops -- I mean when they've gotten stained and grungy -- I use Gel-Gloss. It's a gloves-on, adequate-ventilation kind of glop, but it works like car wax and does a great job. Takes stains out of Formica and leaves a gloss finish. Works on fiberglass, too.

If you're unfortunate enough to have Manganese in your water that leaves brown stains on the sink, etc., a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar applied to the stains will remove them. If your stains are from Iron or something, it probably won't.

H2O2 is the thing to use to take bloodstains out of cloth. Soak the stain for while, then launder it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:06 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I see from your profile that you're in Canada -- excellent! Get yourself a bottle of Vim Cream.

It is very all-purpose, and amazing. I've removed all sorts of stains on hard surfaces by pouring undilulted Vim on them and leaving it to sit; somehow it removes the stain without bleaching the surrounding area. (You need to glop it on though; a thin layer doesn't work the same sort of magic.) It's been around for ages which I think is a good testament to any product. (The cream linked is not the original scouring powder -- it's sort of like using a liquid scouring powder.) I've been fairly pleased with their other products, too.

I sent a care package to a friend in the States, miscellaneous Canadian goodies (Coffee Crisp!) once and asked what she wanted more of. Answer, totally serious: 'That magical Vim stuff.' I now put it in all US-bound care packages and people rave about it.

The oddly named La's Totally Awesome All Purpose Concentrated Cleaner is sold at Dollar Tree stores here and it is worth every penny; some dollar store cleaners are pretty watery, but this stuff lives up to its name. Excellent for grimy stovetops and microwave interiors. And so cheap! Don't overspend where you don't need to -- the dirt cheap bulk packs of generic 'Magic Erasers' from aliexpress/eBay work great, and, for cloths to clean up with, use rags -- when your towels, sheets, cotton curtains, etc, have outlived their first useful life, tear 'em up and put them to work.

I am of the view that stuff like "all natural" and "made from a├žai berry extract and goat's milk!" and "non-toxic" are shorthand for "This stuff works about as well as water; you will be cleaning with elbow grease alone." I have elbow problems, I need stuff to work, and I have never met a hippie "natural" cleaner that did anything more useful than smell nice. Vinegar has its uses but as a cleaner, meh, it doesn't shift much.

But if you are a fan of gentle methods, a medium-sized steam cleaner -- I have this one -- will make you realise you live in filth even though you just scrubbed your home yesterday; they blast off amazing amounts of ancient crud. You'll want one of the aforementioned rags to wipe up the water-and-crud but it is silly-easy and really effective.

Laundry-wise: Kirkland brand detergent if you have a Costco membership. I also pick up dirt cheap detergent when it's on sale and even cheaper, and use that for stuff I don't care about, like blankets I use outdoors on cool evenings. I do a lot of thrift shopping and will buy stained stuff because there's very, very little that either Oxi-Clean spray-on stain remover or the powdered Oxi-Clean won't remove.
posted by kmennie at 3:17 PM on June 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

if you encounter something you can't get off with other stuff, denatured alcohol may do the trick. I have to use it to get grease off my frosted glass backsplash (frosted glass turns out to be monstrously hard to clean.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:34 PM on June 5, 2016

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