Knowing the difference between essential basic cleaning tools, and gadgets that you don’t really need, can save you both time and money. So, whether you’re just starting out on your own, or whether you’re just starting to get serious about cleaning, be sure you have the items on this list. Then, if you have the space and the funds, you can supplement with fancy gizmos… though you really don’t need to.
Basic Cleaning Tools
1. White towels/rags
White towels or rags are essential to stain-removal, which basically involves transferring the stain from carpet or clothing to your cleaning cloth. Why white? Because colored rags or towels can actually transfer their colors to what you’re cleaning. Plus, you can always tell when a white rag is dirty so you aren’t just spreading the stain or grime. There’s no need to rush out and buy brand new white towels, though. Just cut up up an old sheet or pillowcase. (But if you really want to buy new ones, these are the best I’ve ever used!)
2. Microfiber cloths
Microfiber cloths are amazing things. When lightly dampened, they’ll pick up dust and hold onto it even better than those Swiffer dusters. A quick swipe with a damp microfiber cloth will also remove pet hair from soft furnishings and clothes. Use them dry to shine glass and clean electronics. Keep one with your spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner for quick kitchen counter touch-ups. Stash one in your car and dust the dash and console when you’re at a stoplight. Just be sure you care for microfiber cloths properly, and replace them as needed.
Hand-washing dishes calls for VERY hot water, which can be painful and drying to skin. Wearing dish-washing gloves means you can get the water hot enough to actually get your dishes clean without burning yourself. They’re also great to protect your skin from contact with cleansers and the nasty stuff you’ll find when cleaning bathrooms. Rub your hands with lotion before putting them on and you’ll soften your skin as you work.
4. White vinegar
I can’t praise the virtues of white vinegar highly enough. Seriously, I use this stuff everywhere, particularly in my homemade cleaning sprays. Skip harsh solvents and cleaners that just pollute your home’s air and drain your wallet. Use white vinegar instead.
5. Baking soda
Cheap, inexpensive, safe: baking soda makes a great abrasive when you’re cleaning showers, sinks and tubs. It’s also brilliant at absorbing trash can or litter box odors — just sprinkle it on. Dropped an egg? Sprinkle baking soda on to absorb it and you can wipe it up in one swipe. Add baking soda to the water when you’re cleaning your fridge and you’ll deodorize it at the same time, too. And don’t forget to sprinkle a little in stinky loads of laundry to power those odors away.
6. Essential oils
I used to think essential oils were frivolous little luxuries, kind of like perfume. What I didn’t realize, and now thoroughly appreciate, is that essential oils don’t just smell nice, they’re workhorses, too!
Tea tree oil, for instance, has antibacterial properties, as does lemon and lavender. Add them to your homemade cleaners and you’re upping their disinfecting properties AND leaving a nice fragrance behind, too. A few drops of clary sage essential oil in your shampoo can relieve dandruff. Add some lemon essential oil to your homemade laundry detergent to boost its grease-cutting properties. And, okay, some lavender and jasmine in your bath at the end of the day is always a nice treat. (Here’s a great starter set if you’re interested.)
7. A good scrub brush
Scrub brushes are useful all over the house. Use them dry to loosen mud on carpeting before you vacuum. Brush your winter coat with a clean scrub brush to dislodge dirt and pet hair. Speaking of pet hair, run a scrub brush over your carpeted stairs before vacuuming to collect even more of that stuff. Scrub nasty tub and shower stains with them, power through grease on top of your cupboards, and use them to tackle mildew and stains on your grout. Just be sure to take care of your scrub brush properly.
8. A vacuum cleaner with attachments
I managed to live for years with just a stick vacuum. Then I moved out of my shoebox-sized apartment, got pets, had kids, and wondered how I ever managed to keep my place clean before. (Answer: not well.) A vacuum with a good set of attachments doesn’t just keep carpeting and hard flooring clean.
Use the brush or curtain attachment to remove dust and pet hair from drapes. Use the upholstery attachment on sofa cushions, throw pillows, bedspreads and mattresses. Make bathroom cleaning a breeze by first vacuuming hair from the vanity and floors… just wash the attachment afterward, please. Suck up cold ashes from your fireplace, lint from your refrigerator coils, dirt and crumbs on your car’s floor mats and seats, even spiders that scare the jeebers out of you. (There’s no reason to spend a fortune on a vacuum, either. Here’s a great one for less than $100.)
9. A broom
Now, vacuums are great but they aren’t always the most convenient things. You need a broom for small spills, not to mention daily kitchen sweeping. When the weather is nice, hang your dry-clean only bedspread or your throw rugs on a clothes line and whack them with a broom to get the dust out. Of course, brooms are also helpful for cleaning things like your front step, patio and deck, where you’d look silly using a vacuum.
10. An extendable cleaning tool
I’m short. I mean, really short. For the longest time that meant I ignored any dust or dirt that was higher than five feet off the floor. Then I married a tall man and, well, I had to step up my game. That’s when I fell in love with my extension cleaning kit that has multiple attachments. I use it to clean the blades and housing on my ceiling fans, to dust chandeliers and walls, knock down cobwebs, dust recessed lighting, clean high windows… well, I use it just about every day. Yes, I could climb on a ladder to do all of those things, but why risk a fall when I can put this thing to work for me instead?
So there you have it: the 10 basic cleaning tools everyone should own. Can you get away with fewer than ten? Perhaps, but I promise you’ll just be making more work for yourself. With these basic cleaning tools you’ll not only be able to clean your home, you’ll be able to do it in less time so you’ll be able to enjoy your clean home, too.
Equipment I Use:
(Heads up: these items are Amazon affiliate links. You won’t have to pay more, but I get a few pennies from each sale. Those pennies go toward the cost of running this site, so buying this stuff helps us both out!)