8 Things I Always Stock Up On As a Cleaning Expert

These cleaning basics will keep you covered.

<p>Twomeows/Getty Images</p>

Twomeows/Getty Images

I've been a cleaning expert for more decades than I care to mention, meaning I've tried endless different cleaning equipment and supplies. Over the years I've also seen a shift toward less toxic and more environmentally sound products. The new materials used in mops and cleaning cloths are also often more effective than old cotton rags in removing dust and grime.

I've put together a list of my go-to cleaning products, supplies, and tools I use over and over to keep a clean home. The list is surprisingly short because, despite what you may have been told, most cleaning tasks don't require a specialty cleaner. Give these items a try and stock up when you find them on sale.

Microfiber Cloths

Microfiber cloths, dusters, and mop heads have become my go-to cleaning tools. Many times, a surface can be cleaned by simply dampening the cloth and wiping away the mess without any additional cleaner. This fabric is durable, lint-free, absorbent, and easy to clean. Since the cloths and mopheads are available with different levels of texture, they can be used to clean windows and mirrors, wash dishes, act as a dust mop, or scrub dirty floors. Use a color-coded system for different uses to keep the cloths separated. Wash them after each use and you'll seldom need to use a paper towel or disposable duster again.

Keep It Simple

After each use, I hang the damp microfiber cleaning cloth to dry and then toss it in a small laundry basket until I have enough for a load of laundry. Microfiber cloths should be washed separately from cotton items because they attract lint that's left behind by cotton.

Dishwashing Liquid

You won't find me without a bottle of good dishwashing liquid at hand. Dawn Platinum is my favorite because it contains a degreaser that tackles more than dishes, pots, and pans. Just a few drops in hot water will clean sticky floors, greasy stovetops and ovens, kitchen hoods, and even remove oily stains on clothes.

Distilled White Vinegar

I combine a splash of distilled white vinegar with dishwashing liquid and hot water in a spray bottle to make an effective all-purpose cleaner. Distilled white vinegar is my go-to for washing windows, controlling small areas of mold growth in the bathroom, removing soap scum from shower doors, unclogging showerheads, descaling my coffee maker—and I even use it as a laundry fabric softener. I probably have three gallons in the pantry right now.

Baking Soda

Just like white vinegar, I always have plenty of baking soda on hand. As a natural, gentle abrasive, I use it to clean away stuck-on food in pans and ovens, freshen my carpets, clean toilets, and boost the cleaning power of laundry detergents. This little box can do much more than absorb odors in your refrigerator.

Melamine Erasers

When the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers hit the market, an entirely new way of cleaning entered my routine. While they're strong enough to scrub the paint off the walls, when used correctly a wet melamine eraser is a perfect tool for cleaning tennis shoe soles, scuff marks, and removing stains from coffee cups.


Since a melamine sponge wears down quickly as it scrubs away the mess, I cut each dry sponge into smaller pieces for individual jobs. Then I can toss away the piece without having to store a dirty, wet sponge.

Oxygen-Based Bleach

Just like Magic Erasers changed my cleaning game, Oxi-Clean changed the way I handle laundry. Oxygen-based bleach gives me brighter white clothes and restores yellowed vintage linens I thought I'd never use again. That's all before I discovered its cleaning power on stained carpets, discolored plastic furniture and food containers, and the grout in tile floors. I always buy the powdered formula and mix it fresh for each use. Liquid versions lose their cleaning power quickly and revert to plain water.

Nylon-Bristled Scrub Brushes

Having the right tool to go along with your supplies makes cleaning easier and gives better results. I'm a fan of nylon-bristled scrub brushes and I have an assortment to fit every task. Most have soft bristles for scrubbing fabrics, glassware, and unsealed grout, while others have stiffer bristles for tough jobs like cleaning the grill or scrubbing stains on the concrete patio. There's also my collection of old toothbrushes that I have given a new life as cleaning tools. A great thing about these brushes is they can be tossed in the dishwasher to be cleaned and used another day. Just remember to replace the brushes when the bristles become flattened and worn.


Cleaning with water and an all-purpose cleaner dilutes and removes most bacteria, but when someone in the household has been ill or is immunocompromised, adding a disinfectant is the best choice. I keep disinfectant wipes on hand for hard surfaces, a phenolic disinfectant spray like Lysol for soft surfaces, and chlorine bleach or pine oil for laundry.

Tips for Storing and Using Cleaning Supplies

  • If live in a multi-story home, consider keeping a set of supplies on every floor to save yourself steps.

  • Store the right cleaning supplies and tools for each room close at hand to encourage their use more often. For example, your bathroom cleaning supplies should be stored in the bathroom, not the kitchen.

  • Use a cleaning caddy or plastic bucket to hold often-used supplies so you can move them around more easily.

  • As you stock up on new cleaning supplies, rotate the stock so older products get used up first.

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