All-Star Household Cleaners
Four industry pros name the housework helpers they can’t live without and share tips to make your cleaning routine faster and easier.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap
Why it’s a winner: “Dry dusting just pushes particles around. I use this soap for wet dusting. It works on everything from countertops to baseboards,” says Sass. “I love that it’s made with organic ingredients and doesn’t leave streaks. I even use it to clean wood and tile floors.”
Usage tip: Mix about a tablespoon in a half-gallon bucket of warm water. Dip in a chamois cloth, then wipe surfaces. For floors, dampen a mop in the solution. No rinsing required.
To buy: $17 (32 ounce), amazon.com.
Windex Glass Cleaner
Why it’s a winner: “It’s an old standby for glass and mirrors, of course, but people don’t know that Windex also makes porcelain sinks and enamel stovetops shine,” says McNulty.
Usage tip: For fingerprints on chrome appliances (like the toaster), there’s nothing like it.
To buy: $8, amazon.com.
Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap
Why it’s a winner: “Dishes feel cleanest to me if there are lots of bubbles when I wash. This sudsy formula is on the pricey side, but you need only a squirt or two, so the bottle lasts a long time,” says Sass. “It comes in almost a dozen scents. I like rotating through them. Right now I’m into Geranium.”
Usage tip: You can even wash your car with Mrs. Meyer’s soap. Just add a few drops to a bucket of warm water.
To buy: $4, target.com.
Why it’s a winner: “Instead of using commercial all-purpose cleaner, I mix up a homemade formula of ¼ cup rubbing alcohol, a teaspoon of dish soap, and about 3 cups of water in a spray bottle,” says Maker. “It works really well—the alcohol functions as a disinfectant—and it’s inexpensive.”
Usage tip: Add a few drops of an essential oil if you prefer a scented solution.
To buy: $2, walgreens.com.
Brillo Soap Pads
Why it’s a winner: “Like most people, I keep a box of Brillo in my kitchen for cleaning pots and pans. But I also love it in the bathroom for soap scum on the shower door. The fibers cut right through that residue without scratching the glass,” says Smallin Kuper.
Usage tip: Snip a pad in half (that’s all you need, so your supply will last longer), wet to activate the lather, then scrub and rinse.
To buy: From $9, amazon.com.
Rain-X Original Glass Treatment
Why it’s a winner: “It’s meant for car windows, but I use this spray to prevent buildup on glass shower doors. Apply it every three months and it repels water spots, so you never need a major scrubbing session,” says Smallin Kuper.
Usage tip: Use only on smooth glass, not shower doors that are etched or frosted or those made of Plexiglas or fiberglass.
To buy: $5, walmart.com.
Why it’s a winner: “Glass cooktops can be such a pain to clean, but this spatula-like scraper makes it a breeze. It lifts the grime right up without marring the glass,” says Maker.
Usage tip: Moisten the stovetop with water (no cleanser needed), then press the Skrapr into trouble spots.
To buy: $14, amazon.com.
Virtex XL Grout Sponge
Why it’s a winner: “During a tile-renovation project, I discovered that grout sponges are extra absorbent. So I started using them on large surfaces, like countertops and bathtubs,” says McNulty. “They’re big—six by eight inches, and two inches thick—so cleaning is quicker. Since they have small pores, they leave fewer streaks.”
Usage tip: These are dense. Be sure to wring out well after each use and air-dry thoroughly, to minimize bacteria growth.
To buy: $4, acehardware.com.
E-cloth Microfiber-cloth Set
Why it’s a winner: “Just like people use different cutting boards to avoid cross contamination, I like microfiber cloths color-coded for use,” says Smallin Kuper. “The eight in this set have varied textures, like a flat weave for mirrors (these won’t cause streaks) and a more absorbent terry style for stainless (this distributes cleanser better).”
Usage tip: You can clean microfiber cloths in the washing machine. But skip the softener in the dryer, which makes the fabric lose some of its pull.
To buy: $32, amazon.com.
The Absorber Synthetic Drying Chamois
Why it’s a winner: “These chamois cloths can hold more moisture than cotton cloths. They’re like a hybrid—part sponge, part microfiber—so you don’t need to wring them out nearly as often. I keep a few in my caddy to clean shelves and countertops,” says Sass.
Usage tip: After each use, rinse with clean water and air-dry. Every other week, throw in the wash. Dry in the sun when you can. UV rays are an excellent disinfectant.
To buy: $10, amazon.com.
Why it’s a winner: “I never throw out a toothbrush. They’re ideal for cleaning tight spaces that people often give up on, like around faucets and stove knobs. Just dip in white vinegar and scrub. The bristles dislodge ground-in debris,” says McNulty.
Usage tip: Run old toothbrushes through the dishwasher in the utensil basket to sanitize them for cleaning.
To buy: $5 for two, amazon.com.
Pledge Furniture Spray
Why it’s a winner: “Pledge was always my go-to for wood furniture and surfaces,” says McNulty. “Then I discovered that you can also use it to refresh leather. I apply it once a month or so.”
Usage tip: Spray onto a cotton cloth (not directly on leather); wipe the piece. In a pinch, Pledge works for a speedy shoeshine.
To buy: $4, walmart.com.
Scotch-Brite Scrub Sponge
Why it’s a winner: “These kitchen sponges, with a scouring pad on one side, are heavy-duty and won’t scratch surfaces. I use them on the tile and tub in my bathroom,” says Maker. “They’re as effective as a scrub brush.” Because they’re inexpensive enough to replace frequently, they’re also more hygienic.
Usage tip: To disinfect a sponge used to clean the bathroom, soak it in rubbing alcohol afterward for 10 minutes.
To buy: $5, amazon.com.
OXO Good Grips Dustpan-and-Brush Set
Why it’s a winner: “I hate having to lug out a handheld vacuum for crumbs on dining chairs and dirt on wood stairs. Instead, I have a few of these small whisk-broom sets stashed throughout the house. I even use them on upholstered furniture,” says McNulty.
Usage tip: Keep one in the dining-room console, one in the pantry, and one by the litter box.
To buy: $10, bedbathandbeyond.com.
- Melissa Maker, the founder of the Toronto-based cleaning company Clean My Space and a how-to YouTube channel and blog by the same name.
- Tom McNulty, a Minneapolis-based housekeeping expert and the author of Clean Like a Man.
- Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in Washington, D.C.
- Donna Smallin Kuper, an organizing pro based in Mesa, Arizona, and the author of The One-Minute Cleaner ($11, amazon.com).