There are so many cleaning tools for cleaning your home these days, it’s crazy!
There are gadgets and gizmos, cleaning cloths made from special material, disposable cleaning tools, some that come in a host of different colors, cleaning tools that are supposed to be more natural than others, and the list goes on and on.
And some of these tools are so expensive it takes my breath away. Are they really worth that much money?
I was a house cleaner for about 10 years, and a window cleaner for several years too.
(Some of those years I worked for companies that did both homes and small offices; but most of the time I was self-employed and worked directly with individual homeowners. )
When you clean for a living, you quickly learn that some tools are worth investing in – they really help you do a good job quickly – but others are just a waste of money and somehow manage to make the job more difficult – even if they are really cute and colorful!
And oh my gosh, there are so many different doctrines when it comes to what you absolutely must do and what you absolutely must never, ever do. 🙂 It makes me smile when I think back to all the different ways I would clean (because I would do it in whatever way the homeowner wanted me to). The end result was usually the same – a nice clean house!
So, because there are so many firmly-held opinions about cleaning out there, I realize my list of essential cleaning tools might not be everyone’s preference. But I do know that these simple – and mostly inexpensive – tools get the job done really well and in a short amount of time. You can’t go wrong with any of these, and they won’t bust your budget, either.
I already know this list is going to start off short and get longer and longer as I think of things, lol. But here’s what you need to start:
Basic Cleaning Supplies
My preference, honestly, are simple white terrycloth washcloths you can buy in bulk because they’re cheap, simple, and they’re the right size for my hand. I do love smooth, tightly-woven white cotton cloths – similar to high-end dish towels – but they are expensive. Am I really going to want to wipe the floor or a greasy stovetop with those? Also, yes, microfiber can be very handy, but then you need to wash them separately or else lint from your other laundry will stick to them and it’s mostly impossible to completely remove unless you’re really, really bored and want to sit there picking lint out of your cleaning cloths all day.
If you ever find the perfect cleaning cloth that also isn’t one hundred dollars please tell me about it! Until then I’ll be avoiding the expensive cleaning supply parties and sticking with my white terrycloth.
A good vacuum cleaner is indispensable. A vacuum with onboard tools is really handy. And a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t weigh 500 lbs. is even better. Sure, it has to work well, but if the idea of pulling it out of the closet for a quick sweep makes you groan, will you bother? The last vacuum cleaner I got was the Eureka Airspeed, which I received for free when I was writing a review comparing it to Dyson. The Eureka won in my book, and it’s still working eight years later. Plus, it’s inexpensive. These days everyone swears by Shark. I can’t speak to that because I haven’t used one. Is it just a fad, or are they really good?
Feather dusters are controversial. Some folks say that all they do is stir up dust and send it flying throughout the room, but that’s only true if you fling it around willy-nilly all over the place. (Also true if you get a cheapo fake-feather feather duster.) The one I use is literally 17 years old. I may have paid $20 for it, so it was stupid expensive, but obviously I made a wise purchase since it’s only now starting to lose its feathers whenever I dust with it. I can dust an entire room in minutes.
A balanced cleaning bucket for carrying supplies with you from room to room. Any bucket with a handle will do, but I like the ones that have sections to help keep things separate. The one I have now is okay, but when I put a couple of bottles of cleaning solution in them they fall over. The sections are a little too wide.
A long-handled duster to reach ceilings, ceiling fans, and the tops of doors and windows. If you’re really efficient, you might just attach your broom handle to your feather duster. But the extension dusters often come with a long soft, flexible dusting head that can be bent into whatever shape you need.
A professional squeegee to clean large panes of glass and mirrors. These are not the kind of squeegees meant for your wiping water off your shower walls. Three main companies make pro window-cleaning equipment: Ettore, Unger, and Sorbo. (If you don’t have any large panes of glass, you don’t really need this. If you do, then it will save you SO much time and effort.)
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This Ettore squeegee at Amazon looks like a good consumer-grade choice. It’s better than a shower squeegee by a mile. If you don’t want to do a lot of squeegee research, you can just pick this one up at Amazon for a song:
Here’s what you need to look for in a squeegee:
- Removable rubber blade . This is important because eventually the blade will get nicks or worn spots and then it won’t clean effectively. If you purchase a squeegee handle that isn’t permanently attached to the rubber, then you can order replacement squeegee blades for it.
- Get the right size. 12″ is going to be good for most homes. If you have small mirrors or tiny French pane windows, you’ll want to measure them and buy a smaller squeegee. Conversely, if all you have are giant plate-glass windows, get a 14″ or even an 18″ squeegee.
- The handle of your squeegee should fit securely on the end of an extension pole. This makes it a much more versatile tool than those bathtub squeegees. With a real squeegee that attaches to a window cleaning pole, you can clean high windows.
This is one of those categories where they’ve come up with so many different types that are supposed to be better. There are brushes, scrubby-sponges, angled, straight, decorative, etc. I’ve never used one that was truly superior to another. The kind with the mop-top heads (soft, not scrubby) are probably best because you can use them to backflush the water out of the bowl. (You would do this so your cleaner isn’t diluted by the water.) These kind are also called Johnny mops or toilet swabs (LOL), and can usually be found at cleaning supply places. The only kind of toilet brush I really dislike are the disposable kind. I LOVE the concept; I just don’t think they work very well.
Broom and Dustpan
Basic, soft-bristled inexpensive brooms are my favorite, and they just seem to live forever. The last time I bought a broom, it was just because I was bored with my old one. I do think it’s important to get an angled broom, but most of them are angled. I also like compact broom heads as opposed to the larger, bulkier kind. They’re just easier to get into tight spaces, like that sliver of space between the stove and the fridge.
Here’s another cleaning tool with all kinds of fancy varieties. What you choose will depend of course on how much area you have to mop. If your house is almost entirely wall-to-wall carpet with a few squares of tile in the bathroom or kitchen, you might not need a mop at all – you could simply clean those floors with your cleaning cloths and be done.
If you have a lot of hardwood floors, you’ll probably want a dustmop and a flat mop. The dustmop would be for day-to-day use, and the flat mop would be to clean the floors. When you mop hardwood, you don’t want to use a lot of water or chemicals. Most of my customers with gorgeous hardwood floors had me clean them with a nearly-dry mop and vinegar water. Flat mops can be great for this because they don’t hold a ton of water. The flat mop pads are removable and you can wash them.
If your floor surfaces are tile or linoleum, you’ll probably want a more traditional “sloppy” mop. But choose one that has a wringer attached or comes with a bucket to help you wring out your mop. If you can find one with a removable mop-head, washing it will be easier. Who likes a stinky mop?
Scrubbing Tools (for those big cleaning jobs)
So you might have noticed that my list of basic cleaning tools was pretty… well, basic. That’s because I’m a firm believer in not wasting money on things that aren’t really better! Occasionally, however, you will need some tools to do heavier cleaning. Pick these up when you need them and stash them somewhere out of the way.
You’d maybe think this is a basic tool, but how often do most of us really need a brush for cleaning indoors anymore? (Outdoors is another matter.) I have one, but almost never need to use it. However, if you have any really tough surface that needs a good cleaning – like fireplace brick, for example – a scrub brush comes in handy. The best ones have flexible bristles that don’t scratch. And although the bristles should be flexible, they shouldn’t be soft. There’s a happy medium in there.
A soft-bristled brush is great for scrubbing carpet, gently cleaning a spot on upholstery, or loosening dirt on any surface that’s too delicate for your regular scrub brush.
If you don’t have hard water, you might not need this. Sometimes the only way to get hard water stains off of porcelain is a real pumice stone. These are not the kind you buy in the beauty department to smooth rough skin; a real pumice stone crumbles away as you use it, giving the surface you are cleaning a good scouring without actually gouging the surface. I have found real pumice stones at Ace Hardware and online.
Fine-gauge Steel Wool
As with pumice, steel wool can be used to remove hard water and other really tough gunk without damaging surfaces. A double-aught steel wool (two zeroes – 00) is fine enough to gently clean wet glass without scratching, but you do have to be careful! Make sure the glass is wet, and use a lot of motion instead of a lot of pressure to clean. Check a small area first to make sure you aren’t scratching the glass.
Thicker steel wool, like Brillo pads, can be great if you have something really horrible to clean – like a non-self-cleaning oven. Ugh! My oven isn’t self-cleaning and I really dislike cleaning it, so it doesn’t happen very often. As you can imagine, the result is that it’s a big job when I finally cave in and decide to do it. (Which is usually before having company over for a home-cooked dinner. And yes, I just admitted that to the entire internet.) This is where the very tough steel wool can help. But just a note: If you’re going to be using oven cleaner or ammonia to clean your oven, do not buy the pre-soaped Brillo pads. The two kinds of cleaner (ammonia and whatever’s in Brillo) could have a dangerous reaction when they’re mixed together. Just buy plain, heavy-duty steel wool and be on the safe side.
No-Scratch Scrubbing Pads
Generally, the no-scratch scrubbing pads or sponges are blue in color. Just double-check the packaging. These are most handy for getting cooked-on food off of pots and pans, so you’ll usually find it in the dish supplies section at the store.
Scratchy Scrubbing Pads
For really big jobs on surfaces that aren’t at risk for scratching, go ahead and buy the green scrubbing pads. There’s a little more “oomph” to the surface that can help with things like grill grates.
Okay, so that’s a list of basic cleaning supplies and a few tools that help with heavier cleaning. The next time you see a new wonder tool out on the market, you’ll be able to resist because you’ve got this cleaning thing down pat!
If, however, you do try something and find it to be as awesome and life-changing as the infomercials say they are, please let me know about it. If something really does a better job or makes cleaning easier, I’m all for it!