By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 26, 2015
Real Simple May 2012
Credit: Sang An

A few years ago, my colleague Kris was sitting by the pool at a hotel in Las Vegas when she overheard two women talking about black cashmere turtlenecks. Specifically, one of the women was saying that she had seen a Real Simple story that identified the best black cashmere turtlenecks and she had asked her husband to get her one of them for Christmas. Reader, she even ripped out the page and handed it to the guy.

Well, you know what happened next. The husband decided (as husbands are wont to do) that he had better ideas. And although he bought her a black cashmere turtleneck for Christmas, it wasn’t the turtleneck. The woman’s friend clucked sympathetically. Haven’t we all been there?

“And so,” she said, “I returned the turtleneck from my husband and bought myself the one from Real Simple. And it was perfect.”

There are a few lessons about power in that story: the power of love, the power of forgiveness, the power of a woman who knows what she wants. And, of course, the power of the Real Simple recommendation.

This magazine has been conducting road tests since 2001. Each year, we test literally thousands of products, all in their native environments, so to speak. We’ve had Radio City Rockettes test hosiery and waiters test corkscrews. A swim team has tested flip-flops, and a gardener has tested hoses. And countless dogged Real Simple staffers have spent countless long hours road-testing everything from eyeliner to veggie burgers to tape—all so you don’t have to.

For this, our annual cleaning issue, we conducted the ultimate cleaning-product road test. From a sea of 345 solutions and scrubbers, vacuums and wipes, emerged 34 winners, which you’ll find starting on page 156. Some are familiar favorites (Bar Keepers Friend, for example, has been around since 1882); others may be new to you. (Never heard of E-cloth? I hadn’t, either, until the little company won three categories this month.)

Now, this is not to suggest that you read this story, then ask your husband for a broom as a gift. I’m not sure you want to send that sort of signal. Better to get the broom yourself (the winner was the Casabella Ergo Broom 2 and Dustpan set) and then, in your most persuasive voice, ask him if he would like to put it to good use.