Building a habit of cleaning starts with having the right tools for each job – it stands to reason that trying to clean all of your floors with nothing but a toothbrush won’t get you where you want to be. But contrary to what many of the big brands claim, you will rarely need specialty chemicals or top-of-the-line tools to get the job done well. Cheap cleaning supplies aren’t necessarily less effective!
It takes very little to tackle even some of the most challenging cleaning tasks. To clarify what is truly necessary to clean well and to narrow down your choices to effective options that are also affordable, I eagerly present this list of ten essential cleaning supplies for any budget!
Any Broom Will Do
While vacuums are great, a traditional vacuum tends to be bulky, which can make storage inconvenient in smaller homes. More to the point of this article, vacuums can also get pretty expensive.
A broom on non-carpeted flooring isn’t much less effective when used thoroughly. But don’t get lazy with your broom! Once you’ve swept, make sure to pull off any dust and hair that’s stuck in the bristles – neglecting this upkeep will make your broom less effective over time.
Any broom will do. I like brooms with a wooden handle. I think they look nicer, I prefer not to use plastic, and I’ve noticed that aluminum handles ding and scuff easier than I would like. But if you are on a budget, there’s no wrong answer.
A Good Mop
At its most basic, a mop is just a wet rag on a stick, period. Companies like Swiffer understand this and sell you a plastic version of a Cuban mop with the caveat that you also need to buy their disposable pads, which are wasteful and get expensive.
For most homes, rope mops are overkill. Fancy spray mops like the Swiffer WetJet may seem convenient, but replacing their cleaning solution and disposable pads adds up over time. For most homes, a Cuban mop and a few soapy, pre-soaked rags will get the job done just as well, if not better. They are reliable, renewable, and very, very effective!
Speaking of rags, keep lots of them handy! They are sturdier and more sustainable than paper towels, so I recommend keeping a collection of dedicated rags with your cleaning supplies.
You don’t need to buy fancy, expensive rags to avoid using your nice dish towels. Instead, go through your old clothes – the ones you would throw out anyway – and cut them up! Old t-shirts work just as well as anything from the store.
If you want to buy cleaning rags, buy microfiber, and save them for specialty tasks like cleaning your electronics or dry-dusting. You don’t need anything special for floors, countertops, bathtubs, or most anything else.
A microfiber rag is as good of a duster as any on surfaces that are easy to reach, but sometimes you need to get high corners and tops of cabinets. Get away with a rag and a step-stool if you wish, but I think a good duster with a reuseable head is worth having.
The good news is that even high-quality dusters are relatively cheap. I like this one from OXO – it extends, the head rotates, and it is reusable!
Baking soda is so good at cleaning that it sometimes feels like magic. Is your oven glass stained and greasy? Apply a paste of baking soda and water. Do your pots and pans get soot on the bottom after cooking? Scrub it off in the sink with some baking soda!
You can solve many difficult cleaning jobs using baking soda. Buy it in bulk and turn to it first before purchasing heavy-duty cleaners. Plus, baking soda is a very eco-friendly cleaning product.
Dish Soap is a Degreaser.
There are all kinds of degreasers sold in the cleaning aisle, and very few of them are more effective than dish soap and water.
Soap helps oil and grease mix into water, and dish soap is designed to be robust enough for food oil and sufficiently gentle for dishes, so a “degreaser” will probably be redundant for most of your needs. Dish soap is a versatile cleaning solution that is effective on everything from greasy pans to toilets to automotive parts. If you can, buy it in bulk!
Use Peroxide Instead of an All-Purpose Cleaner.
There are dozens of all-purpose cleaners in the cleaning supplies section of every big-box store. They are all basically the same, and they are all more expensive than they need to be. Instead, consider buying concentrated peroxide solution in bulk – one gallon can last years for the average person.
Peroxide is incredibly versatile. When diluted in water, it is an excellent all-purpose cleaner. It effectively takes stains out of fabric and even brightens your white clothes. You can add a splash of lemon juice or essential oils to add a pleasant scent, and best of all, you will save tons of time and money.
That Old Toothbrush You’ve Been Meaning to Replace
Little things need little tools, and a toothbrush is a great little tool. So before you throw out your old toothbrush, consider sticking it into your cleaning supplies instead. It is great for brushing little pieces of hardware and in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. There are more of those kinds of things around your home than you think, and they can be frustrating to address with just a rag.
If you like, a sturdy nylon utility brush will pack a little more oomph, but for the average person, a toothbrush does just fine.
Spatula (the other kind)
No, not the one you use to flip burgers. A good putty spatula can be very useful for scraping stubborn bits of filth that are stuck to the bottom of your oven, for example. A metal spatula is best for bigger challenges, but they do scratch, so consider using a wooden or plastic one if you feel worried about scuffing something up.
Lastly, a Toilet Brush
When was the last time you cleaned your toilet? If it’s been a while, then you probably don’t want to go in there with your bare hands. Even if you clean it frequently, you still probably want to avoid being up to your forearm in toilet water. A sturdy toilet brush is an essential cleaning supply for any bathroom!
As with the broom, any toilet brush will do, as long as it has a replaceable head. I prefer ones made from sustainable materials, but pick whatever best fits your budget. Don’t forget to wash it after each use! If you don’t have a utility sink, use the bath faucet instead!