Right up there with simplifying to under 10 cleaning products is simplifying the cleaning tools. It’s another area where you can go crazy on cost and on bulky gear, and, yet, not get all that much for your money. If you live in a small space, choosing the right cleaning tools can make all the difference in keeping clean with minimal effort and leaving space in the closet for your clothes.
THE CLEANING TOOLS (NON-ELECTRIC)
Picture: the essential cleaning tools are also compact and simple.
CLOTHS, BRUSHES, SPONGES, AND TOWELS:
Terry wash cloths: Terry cloth washcloths are one of the all-time best cleaning inventions. Nothing works better or is more versatile, and you can pop them in the wash with the regular laundry. You can buy a pack of 4 to 10 for $5 to $10, depending on quality, brand, etc. Keep a stack in the bathroom. In the kitchen, a stack of terry cloths serves as the dust cloth, counter–wiper, dishrag, dish dryer, floor mopper, re-useable paper towel, etc. etc. Since they are small, you can use several a day, so you always have a clean, dry cloth at hand. Wiping the cat and dog down weekly with a damp washcloth controls pet allergens.
For the garage, rip your old towels into squares. To distinguish the “good” terry washcloths for the bath and drying dishes from the serious dirt rags, buy slightly different washcloths each time you get some new ones, so they are instantly “color–coded”. Periodically, pre-soak with oxygen cleaner to de-stain.
Cotton and linen dish towels: Pretty cotton and linen dish towels are decorative and add color to the kitchen but for save them for lining the bread basket and keeping the veggies fresh. Let the washcloths do the heavy work. For long-lasting fresh veggies: wash, then swing the wet veggies in a towel (preferable outside) to get out excess water; store in the refrigerator in plastic shoe boxes form the Dollar Store lined with clean, dry cotton dish towels.
Paper towels: If you have plenty of re-useable terry cloths, and cotton dish towels, you seldom need paper towels, so don’t buy the 6-roll pack – it takes up too much space. Paper towels are good for lining the microwave and for cleaning up stinky or oily spills where you will need to toss the clean-up rag immediately. (Oily rags area fire hazard – they can spontaneously combust). Brown (unbleached) paper towels are better for the environment.
Brushes: A sink-vegetable brush is very handy, and one with a long handle keeps your hands out of the water. Stick the brush in the dishwasher at least weekly. It is also good to have a few small, stiff scrubbing bushes with long handles, including a bottle brush or two. For big jobs, buy a flat floor scrub brush that screws into a pole. A separate brush for toilets is a must. Complete your brush set with some old toothbrushes. A cat/dog grooming brush is also good.
Sponges: You don’t really “need” sponges if you have washcloths and a sink brush, but if you like them, you can get a pack of small square ones with scrubber backs in the Dollar Store for about $1. You can keep sponges clean longer by running them through the dishwasher.
BOWLS AND BUCKETS
Stainless steel bowls: A set of nesting stainless steel utility bowls, from mini to the largest size your cabinet can hold, serves as extra sinks and buckets that are good for everything from floor mopping to plant transplanting and baby washing. You can often get good deals on stainless steel bowls in the thrift store.
Plastic utility buckets: Buy 2 matching plastic utility buckets at the same time so they fit together. Use the top one to store your under-sink cleaning equipment. Slip the bottom bucket off for mopping floors, roof leaks, and the like.
MOPS, BROOMS, AND THE LIKE
One broom-stick length pole with screw-on attachments: Tools with broom-length handles take up closet space. If you have several, they are always tangled up in a small space. You can save a lot of space and money by buying one removable, wood pole or aluminum telescoping pole, from the hardware store. To go with the pole, get a flat-head scrub brush , a squeegee for windows, and a large soft broom head for hard floors. The screw-on heads can also be used separately as hand tools. For dusting, mopping and drying floors, you can wrap a terry cloth around the scrub brush or, what works great with a washcloth for dusting and mopping the floors, is one of those handles sold for use with disposable chemically-treated dust cloths (see picture below).
Carpet sweeper: A carpet sweeper, if you haven’t used one, is a long handled, mechanical dust pan. They run $20 to $50. The $20 ones work fine. Carpet sweepers clean floors and carpets almost as well as a non-HEPA vacuum and have the blessing of being quiet and non-electric. Most fold flat for storage. In a small home or a home without much carpet, you can use a carpet sweeper instead of a vacuum. If you have both, use the sweeper outdoors, for quick indoor clean ups, and for sweeping up objects that might damage the vacuum.