Must-Have Cleaning and Organizing Products for Under $20
Maybe you’re reading this because you’re setting up house for the first time. Or maybe your ex left and took everything that wasn’t nailed down. Either way, if you want to keep your place clean and tidy, you’re going to need a few basic tools and products. The big-ticket item is a vacuum cleaner—pricey, but bite if you can buy the best one you can afford, your life will be easier. Other than that, here’s a list of must-have cleaning and organizing products for less than twenty bucks that will make your life, well, cleaner and more organized.
Real Simple has a printable, basic, house-cleaning checklist that includes these essential tools.
- Broom. Get one with angled bristles to make cleaning in corners easier. Look for a model that comes with a dustpan that attaches to the broom handle, and you’ll have two tools in one that work really well together. This shouldn’t set you back more than $10.
- Toilet brush. Unless you really like sticking your hands in the toilet, you’re going to want to fork out a few bucks for this. Opt for a model that comes with its own holder (which you should occasionally rinse out with a little bleach solution).
- Squeegee. This allows for the best way to achieve streak-free windows, mirrors and shower stalls. The higher-end models have replaceable blades.
- Rubber gloves. Super cheap, really useful gear for protecting your hands and nails from harsh chemicals and the yucky stuff you’re mucking out of the vegetable crisper drawer (who knew celery could melt?).
- Dust cloths. The washable, microfiber kind are really effective, and they won’t scratch surfaces.
- Extendable duster. This is useful for getting at dust and cobwebs in high places without hauling out a step ladder.
- Sponge mop. Yes, you can do this on your hands and knees (or wrap a wet rag around your feet and skate across the kitchen floor), but a sponge mop is simpler. You can pick one up in most grocery stores.
- An old tooth brush. This is the perfect tool for scrubbing the crud out of tight spaces. Just be sure to keep it far away from the bathroom sink so you don’t accidentally grab it when you’re sleep deprived or hung over.
To Real Simple’s list, we’d add a bucket. It can double as a caddy for your cleaning supplies. If you’re really short on storage space, consider a collapsible model.
By the way, skip the sponges. They’re Petri dishes waiting to incubate every icky bacteria out there, and at 50 to 75 cents apiece, they’re pricey. Opt for disposable wipes or, even cheaper, use ratty old t-shirts and towels that you can wash and reuse.
Walk down the cleaning supply aisle of any supermarket and you’ll be amazed by the variety of products for cleaning every kind of surface under the sun. Donna Smallin, author of Cleaning Plain and Simple, says you can probably make do with the following few products:
- Tub and tile cleanser, aka scouring powder. This stuff is dirt cheap and you can use it on everything from the kitchen sink to the tub, toilet and grout. If you’re worried about scratching surfaces, look for brands like Bar Keepers Friend and Bon Ami.
- All-purpose cleaner. Smallin recommends eco-friendly Simple Green. “You dilute it in a spray bottle and use it on everything from countertops to tile floors,” she says.
- Murphy’s Oil Soap. It is ideal for cleaning wood floors, furniture and cabinets as well as painted woodwork and trim; plus it has a nice, just-cleaned smell.
- Magic Erasers. Smallin calls this relative newcomer to the marketplace a must for easily removing scuff marks and fingerprints from walls.
Want to go the total Zen minimalist route? Jeri Dansky, author of Unclutterer, is a big proponent of saving money, protecting the environment and creating a lot of storage space by making your own cleaning products. She cites a source that claims you really can get by with “five ingredients: baking soda, borax, lemon, salt and white vinegar,” plus water and a bit of elbow grease.
Organizing It All
Your primary purpose, of course, is to keep your home from turning into chaos without raiding your IRA. Trisha, one of the panel of contributors to the SC Johnson Family Economics blog, says “You can easily use many of the tools you have at home or purchase a few inexpensive ones.” Two of her super-cheap favorites include
- Ziploc® bags – available in lots of sizes and great for storing anything and everything neatly (and visibly), and
- Over-the-door shoe organizers – not just for pumps and loafers, these space savers can hold and organize everything from cleaning supplies to garden tools and spices.