I’m stuck somewhere between a fairly typical spring cleaning marathon (which happens about this time every year), and a mysterious serenity towards my housekeeping skills (which have mysteriously improved lately). I also haven’t posted in about a week, so I need to get off my duff and do something about that. So here are my five favorite cleaning supplies.
OXO Heavy Duty Scrub Brush and OXO Deep Clean Brush Set
I really love these brushes. I’ve used a lot of heavy duty scrub brushes, but have always hated them because they tend to tip over when I’m scrubbing vigorously and I would stub my thumb. Which hurt. A lot. This brush didn’t, and that’s enough for me to love it and recommend it about all others. I love this brush. It fits nicely in the hand and cleans up afterwards nicely.
The deep clean brushes are similarly comfortable to use, and very good at getting into all the small awkward spaces where I used to use old, expired tooth brushes. But these are better. I don’t have quite as much to rave about for these. The little scraper on the end of the small one is nice.
Mrs. Meyer’s Rosemary All Purpose Cleaner
I held out against the whole "green clean" phenomena for as long as I could, but finally was sucked in by just liking their lemon verbena scent. And I discovered their concentrated cleaner was extremely economical. I’ve been working on the one bottle of lemon verbena for almost two years.
But I’ve discovered the rosemary scent, and I will never go back to lemon verbena. Lemon verbena is too sweet, and I feel like it only fits in the kitchen, so I never used it in the bathrooms. (Yes, I’m weird about these things.) But the rosemary is a wonderful, fresh scent I can and will happily use anywhere. It just fits everywhere in my house.
…this sort of thing is oddly important to me.
Anyway, the diluted all purpose cleaner (1/4 cup to a full 16oz. spray bottle) works well enough for light duty, regular cleaning. For heavy duty cleaning of things that haven’t been cleaned as often as they should, I just don’t know if the diluted cleaner can handle the job. I have a filthy bathtub to clean though, so I’ll try it and report back.
Bleach, ammonia, and vinegar.
All of these items have their place and proper use in cleaning. They’re effective, inexpensive, and widely available. Lots of people give these chemicals the hairy eyeball and think they’re dangerous because "CHEMICALS!" Nonsense. They are quite safe if you bother to understand them and treat them with appropriate respect. Bleach is a base, sodium hypochlorite. Ammonia and vinegar will both act as acids when mixed with bleach, and will release mustard gas. This is bad.
When in doubt, the safe rule of thumb is "don’t mix bleach/ammonia/vinegar with any other cleaning product, only dilute it with water." And follow safe dilution methodology! Always add the bleach/ammonia/vinegar to the water, never water to the bleach. This gives you more control.
Bleach is an excellent surface disinfectant in a 3% solution. Preclean the surface with soap and water, rinse, and then apply the bleach solution for 5 minutes to disinfect. Rinse and dry.
For Clorox Concentrated Bleach (8.25% sodium hypochlorite), a 3% solution is 1 1/2 tsp per cup of water or 1/2 cup per gallon. For other brands you’ll need to check the concentration of sodium hypochlorite on the label and use the concentration formula (bottle%)*(V)=(3%)*(Total Volume). Solve for V, which is the volume of straight bleach you need to add to the water.
10% ammonia makes a good all purpose surface cleaner and mild disinfectant. Dilute one part ammonia with two parts water and use it in a spray bottle.
Vinegar can be used on hard water stains, although extreme hard water build up may need multiple applications to remove. I tend to use the extra strength pickling vinegar with 9% acidity, straight for heavy build up, and diluted 1:1 with water for other applications. But it’s not a great disinfectant.
This cleaner is oxalic acid. It is great for gentle scouring applications, and for rust or lime removal. The liquid soft cleaner applied with a brush will clean soap scum and hard water stain off of glass shower stalls in an amazing and miraculous fashion. I just cleaned my shower with it, the glass was so fogged with soap scum and hard water stain that it looked like it was supposed to be frosted glass, but it’s almost entirely clear now.
These don’t have to be fancy. I just bought a bunch of packs at our local Fry’s. I use them as reusable Swifter cloths, dusters, to clean baseboards and grills and fridge condenser coils, to polish windows and mirrors after cleaning… They’re fantastic and versatile and reusable.