Cleaning Products 101
When it comes to your cleaning routine, less is more. What you choose to help you get the job done is important, though; there will certainly be instances where specialized cleaners are necessary, but the following list of products and tools will suffice for most tasks. Keep them organized under your sink and in your pantry so that you can grab them as you work.
According to Martha's Homekeeping Handbook
, most spaces require at least one of the following to keep upkeep to a minimum: an all-purpose cleaner mixed with water in a spray bottle; a mildly abrasive cleaner for all surfaces; a glass cleaning solution; and the essential tools, including gloves, cloths and towels, as well as scrubbing brushes. And not all of these items need to be bought, either: Martha has quite a few natural, DIY solutions that can be used to clean glass, floors, and everyday surfaces. We're sharing our product picks as well as recipes for cleaning solutions that you can make with common kitchen staples, like vinegar.
In the kitchen, cleanliness isn't merely a virtue—it's essential to the health and safety of your family. While bleach is the most potent disinfectant you can clean with, it's not the everyday solution for all messy kitchen. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda may be better suited to remove caked-on stovetop crud, whereas a dash of castile soap can cut through sticky spills on your countertops. The same is true for your bathroom, where cleaning well doesn't mean using harsh chemicals. Start with the gentlest cleaning solutions first before moving on to anything stronger. Adequate ventilation via a ceiling fan or open window will help prevent moisture buildup and go a long way toward keeping the bathroom fresh.
Mild dishwashing liquid is excellent for removing spills that water won't budge. Make a simple all-purpose cleaner by mixing two cups of water with two tablespoons of your choice of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Use it on countertops and other hard surfaces.
Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap, $4 for 16 ounces,
Baking soda has scrubbing power but won't scratch surfaces. Mix a paste of three parts warm water to one part baking soda to scrub kitchen stains or clean the oven. You can also make a bathroom cleanser by mixing dishwashing liquid with baking soda until you have a thick paste.
Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda, $14 for 64 ounces, amazon.com
Distilled white vinegar and lemon juice are both excellent for cleaning, deodorizing, and mild bleaching. They are acidic and can eliminate soap scum. Make a window- and mirror-cleaner by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water, which also works well on most polyurethane-finished wood floors.
Heinz Cleaning Vinegar, $14 for one gallon, amazon.com
This all-in-one cleaner comes in diluted, vegetable-base forms that are far from scented and harshly overprocessed. While Castile soaps are available in both liquid and bar forms, most are made with a base of olive oil and sodium hydroxide. You can use it to clean nearly any surface, from cabinets to floors and everything in between—plus, the bars are great for sensitive skin.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile "Peppermint" Liquid Soap, $9, target.com
Many commercial toilet brush models are made of plastic, losing bristles and become too flimsy over time. Industrial options might be better for long term use—this wooden model features a tight ring of polypropylene that can be used to clean the inside of your toilet bowl. Some may prefer to purchase more than one toilet brush, as they make for effective floor scrubbers in the bathroom and kitchen as well.
Grainger Polypropylene Short Handle Toilet Brush, $5, grainger.com
If you think about it, you're introducing dirt and bacteria into cleaning solution when you repeatedly dunk a rag or sponge into a bucket. Having spray bottles full of your choice of DIY cleaners or eco-friendly, organic options is a smarter solution, since you'll also be able to prevent waste by only using what you need. Choose glass options; you can clean and reuse these much longer than plastic models.
Sally's Organics Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels, $11 for 2, amazon.com
All-Purpose Household Cleaner
A good all-purpose household cleaner can lift stains and restore shine to many worn surfaces in your home. Bar Keepers Friend is that product: It can clean stained pots and pans, restore dull, scratched metal and ceramic sinks, bust through crud on stovetops, and can even be used to clean stainless steel. Unlike other products, this powdered cleanser is free from scents and is non-abrasive, which means you can also use it on glass and inside your appliances.
Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser, $7, amazon.com
You'll need to have a separate set of sponges for deep-cleaning your kitchen surfaces than the ones you use to wash dishes in the sink. We're partial to Sqwishful, which is a 100 percent renewable plant-based option that can do wonders around your kitchen. Plus, it's biodegradable and compressed to reduce their carbon footprint when it comes time to switch in new sponges. These are perfect for creating a luxurious lather on softer surfaces.
Sqwishful Pop Up Sponges, $6 for three, squishful.com
You can make your own natural window cleaner should you choose to do so. If you're looking to spot clean a piece of glass inside your home, choose a natural product that is highly concentrated so you don't power through bottles of conventional glass cleaner. This product is unscented and is free of any toxic chemicals.
The Laundress Glass & Mirror Cleaner, $12 for 16 ounces, t
Sometimes, no matter how hard you scrub, a traditional sponge isn't going to cut it. Martha's extra-durable dishwashing tool features a brush head that also doubles as a soap dispenser, so you can pump extra cleaning power directly onto the dish when necessary.
Martha Stewart Collection Soap Dispensing Brush, $20, macys.com
Cleaning your glassware and reusable water bottles can be more challenging than you think—and that's mostly due to their unique shapes. A bottlebrush is designed to spread soap to every nook and cranny, whether you're cleaning a wine decanter or your trusty hiking water bottle.
S'Well Bottle Cleaning Brush, $20, macys.com
There are two different kinds of scouring pads you can buy: white nylon, which is the least abrasive, and green nylon, which should be used for the toughest jobs as it's very abrasive and can ruin delicate items. For delicate surfaces, try using white nylon scouring pads on shower details in the bathroom, as it can remove years of hard water stains in just a few minutes. You may be more familiar with green nylon, as it's used scrubbing dirt, grease, and rust out of kitchen surfaces and cookware.
DecorRack Large Cleaning Scouring Pads, $10 for 28, amazon.com
Having linens and other cloth rags is preferable to paper towels since you'll be able to wash and reuse them more than once in the kitchen, living room, dens, and the dining area. But another alternative is to buy reusable paper towels: Martha Stewart Living's Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Graves, swears by If You Care products. Each roll is made of cellulose, unbleached cotton, and salt, and does the work of 18 traditional paper towels when you use a single sheet each week.
If You Care Natural Reusable Towels, $9 for 12 sheets, b
Latex options are most popular and readily available, but finding the right size to fit your hands may be tough—and some homeowners may be looking for non-latex options due to allergies. These cleaning gloves come in four different sizes and are equipped with textured fingers and palms to help stabilize your grip in sudsy water. Plus, the interiors of the gloves are softer compared to traditional latex options that can be unforgiving and immovable.
Mr. Clean "Bliss" Latex-Free Gloves, $5, amazon.com
Keeping the inside of your shower and bathtub sparkling clean can be a hard task if you're not proactive about it. But you probably don't have time to towel down your shower's door or the tiled tub wall daily. Excess water can lead to mildew, stains, and other build up—on any surface, including outside of the bathroom, and even if the surface is relatively clean. Using a squeegee is a great way to ensure that you dry these surfaces properly, and keep it sparkling weeks after you scrub it down with the appropriate cleaner. Bonus: This model hangs directly in your shower.
OXO "Good Grips" Stainless Steel Squeegee, $15, bedbathbeyond.com
Microfiber cloths can remove dust and debris from nearly any surface, from floors to showers and windows as well as mirrors. They're a simple solution for finishing a detailed clean. Each cloth is made with millions of tiny fibers that lift and hold dirt, grease, grime, and condensation. These fibers often are charged with both positive ions and negative ions, according to cleaning experts at Merry Maids, meaning they quite literally pull up the crud on surfaces.
AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, $12 for 24, amazon.com
If you can't reach hard-to-get surfaces, this flexible gadget can help you close the gap—and it's equipped with a machine-washable microfiber duster that can lock in clumps of dust and dirt with just one pass. OXO reports the duster head will last up to 75 washes, and after that, you can simply purchase a replacement.
OXO Good Grips Microfiber Extendable Duster, $15, bedbathandbeyond.com