My Cleaning Arsenal
I hate cleaning.
Yet, I do it every day.
So, I may as well have the products and tools to do it efficiently. Right?
I’ve been a mama for almost 7 years. We now have three kids, three dogs, a cat, and two rats living in the house. That’s a LOT of cleaning to do. We have a typical suburban home with a large yard and the atypical chicken coop + garden.
Even though my mama did her due diligence teaching me the ins and outs of homekeeping and caring for things I have still had a learning curve. It’s one thing to keep your room clean as a kid (and I was horrible about it). It’s another beast to manage a full household. I’m no superstar. NOBODY is going to make my blog into a cleaning and organization show EVER. But, I’ve tried lots of things over the years and I’m pretty picky. So even when I HATE cleaning I don’t hate the tools I use to get the jobs done.
Let’s start with LAUNDRY because I like it the least
Must haves: dryer balls, tennis balls (yes), drying rack, tall and short hampers
Most important: a solid, reliable washer and dryer. I have a set I love but it took me a week of digging through reviews, taking measurements (we have a weird laundry room setup), and dancing through pricing to choose ours. Some people are stuck with a rental set and some are going the laundromat route. But IF you are buying your own keep these things in mind: go big. If you can skip the pretty color and get a slightly bigger drum DO IT. Ours don’t have some of the nifty extras a lot of sets have but the “forgot to put this in” doors and small load attachments are dreamy.
I use ALL Clean & Clear, Downy Ultra Free & Gentle, and plain plastic dryer balls for regular loads. It’s the ONLY stuff that doesn’t bug my kid’s skin. The tennis balls I use ONLY for laundry and nothing else. I usually lose them to the kids or the dogs. I throw them in with our bulkiest blankets and pillows so they come out the right shape.
My hampers? Just the typical plastic ones at Target. We have a bunch of typical short, plastic, stacking baskets and three tall, plastic hampers (with wheels!). If I don’t need that many they all stack easily out of my way. Cutesy wicker or woven baskets are tempting but I need function more than pretty. That’s what laundry rooms are for anyway – hiding things.
Now – the BIG stuff – Cleaning MACHINES
Mops and vacuums galore! OK. So first of all we have lived in several different apartments/homes. We’ve had tile, linoleum, and wood laminate. We’ve had very horrible cheap carpet and decent carpet (although I firmly believe all carpet is wrong).
After years of wasting money on cheaper buys and replacements and getting frustrated we’ve continually made investments. Now, we are in a big house (over 1400 sq ft) as opposed to a little apartment (around 900 sq ft). We have more to clean and also more storage. When we were in an apartment I had smaller things to match.
The majority of that 1400 sq ft is very (yet not so very) white carpet. We lease so it’s not optional. Did I mention the kids and dogs above? YEAH. I’ve spent a lot of money and time on cheaper products that didn’t clean as well as I needed. We’ve made investments in these items and I have not had a single regret yet.
Here’s the heavy lifters:
- A Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal
- Shop Vac Wet/Dry (with the blower!)
- Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop
- Bissell Big Green carpet cleaner
I have owned numerous vacuums over the last seven years. We even had a stick Dyson animal. It was a great vacuum but it just didn’t hold up to us. When we’ve had an issue with our Dyson (the container wouldn’t close) they were great about getting us a new part. I first used a Dyson when I worked in a daycare years ago so I had my eye on them for quite a while. The biggest affirmation was when we brought it home and used it RIGHT after vacuuming with a borrowed vacuum. The amount of stuff it pulled up was disgusting. But it works! We have lots of hair (I shed, the dogs shed, we all shed) and dust/dirt from going in and out. With seasonal allergies to boot I wanted a high-rated vacuum. It does its job very well even with a few misgivings along the way.
The Other Vacuum
I really didn’t think we needed one. I remember someone using one when their basement flooded. My husband insisted it was a need.
Ya’ll. If you have kids just say yes to a shop vac.
I can use it inside when my 3 year old dumps an entire sleeve of crackers on the floor and forget about it. (I’ve used a broom on carpet before . . . no thanks!) Then my husband can use it in the garage after he gets wood shavings all over creation. Then I can use it after furminating my two large black dogs. Then I can use it in the truck to get the pound of crumbs out of the seats. Then I can pull the blower off the top and blow leaves away from our entry way. Then I can suck up some more junk from somewhere else! I LOVE IT!!
Tip: check the tube size. Ours has a 2.5 inch tubing and a “12 gallon” tank. Some are just 1.5 inch or 6 gallons or whatever combo. Even a small one will get a ton done though. They are very straight forward. Ours can handle orange peel, shopkins, and cup fulls of cat food. I’ve tested it for you!
I wouldn’t use this alone even with the brush attachments because I’m not confident it can really get the tiny bits of dust and dirt the dyson seems to find in our very white carpet.
The Steam Mop
I had one once upon a time for our laminate floors. I rarely used it in one big swoop because the tank was tiny and I preferred the swiffer. That was two kids ago. I hated reading the reviews for these. Most are overpriced or wonky. Ours is relatively new so I’ll update again. However, it’s a 2-in-1. The main part can pull off and it comes with a slew of tools for different jobs. I steamed our tile floors, our countertops, and the entirety of our bathrooms. The pads and attachements are easily washable so no more buying boxes of swiffer pads all the time. We still have our large mop bucket and string mop. I’ve just seen this steam mop do in minutes what took me 2 hours of knees-and-elbows with a scrub brush.
Bonus: no weird cleaners. I don’t use the scent disc things. It’s just hot, hot water and a microfiber cloth doing all the work.
Ugh. I really hate carpet. It NEVER feels clean except the 20 seconds after it finishes drying and no one has stepped on that one spot. It’s super prone to mildew and staining. White carpet is the worst possible thing with little kids and animals. We had a different Bissell carpet cleaner for 2 years but it just couldn’t be kept clean. It has a very weird design that makes it impossible to clean out well. Then a piece broke off. Then it seemed to just stop working. It was a really great machine initially. I don’t know if it’s actually crappy or we just wore it out. Sometimes I was using it more than monthly. Cleaning the couch or the car, doing one room or another, and it just gave out.
We have rented carpet cleaners twice. Once before moving out of our apartment and once before doing a homestudy visit. Ha! Both times it was a Bissell. We could tell there was a big difference in our lower-end consumer cheap machine and the other ones. After reading reviews, testing one out, then waiting and waiting on a good price drop we plunked down the dollars for a the Big Green. This is the highest rated carpet cleaner anywhere. For almost the same price as a company coming in to do our whole house – I thought it was worthwhile. (I also don’t have to clean the house before the cleaners come!) The Big Green is normally $399 on Amazon with an impressive 4.7 star rating. We paid well under $300 with free 2 day shipping via Prime.
In the long run, because we are renters, this is also in interest of us getting our deposit back. Carpet replacement eats rental deposits like it’s birthday cake. We don’t plan to move anytime soon so we’ll have time to get use out of it.
** I’m skipping major appliance like the dishwasher because we rent and ours is sad. **
The Little Things
There are quite a few things I keep on hand at ALL times
- cloth diapers
- cleaning cloths (microfiber, terry wash cloths, polishing cloth, etc)
- baking soda
- distilled white vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- salt (the cheap stuff)
- tea tree oil
- lavender oil
- clorox wipes
- various scrubbing/cleaning brushes
- swiffer duster
- Method Wood for Good
- Method all purpose spray
- A squeegee
The tools first: cloths and brushes are important. Different things do different jobs. You can get a 12 count pack of cleaning cloths for a few dollars. You can recycle old (white) shirts and cloth diapers for nothing. Different textures (cotton cloth diaper vs microfiber) do different jobs. You can get CHEAP gerber cloth diapers in any baby section. I have slightly higher quality flats and trifolds I used to actually diaper my kids. Don’t worry they’ve been soaked, sanitized, and even sun-bleached. They have way more absorbency than cheap ones. These are my go-to for any spills and accidents in the car. Take account what materials you have in your home to decide on these. We don’t have much stainless steel or granite. We do have a good bit of wood, linoleum, a variety of fabrics, and cheap “pressboard” furniture. One big scrub brush can do a lot of different jobs. Cheap toothbrushes get into small spaces. Don’t forget a squeegee. It makes life easier when you want to clean your car windows or very large windows/mirrors inside (or out!).
The cleaners: most of mine you find in the kitchen. A lot of things bother my allergies. Some things my husband can’t stand the smell. Some things simply aren’t safe around kids or pets on a regular basis. We stick with the basics. If I clean with baking soda or vinegar and somebody licks it I won’t think twice. Salt works well on gunk that needs extra convincing (dry smushed banana behind the trash can anyone?).
I didn’t always keep bleach around. It’s mostly for washing white clothing and getting after any mold, mildew, or really nasty things. I scrubbed down our kitchen with bleach after our dog went through parvo, for example. Also, when the cat leaves us a special surprise on the porch – sometimes it’s needed. (Yeah, he’s a charmer.)
Clorox wipes are great for a quick clean up (little boys potty training) or swipe and toss before someone visits. The Method sprays are for quick cleans too or good deep cleaning. The vinegar smell does get old after a while.
The oils are for my own enjoyment. I like the benefits and scents of both tea tree and lavender.
The swiffer duster I like because, again, allergies. I don’t need dust hanging out on a duster I’d probably never clean or fail to replace often enough. Disposable it is!
Tip: my other secret ingredient I forgot to list is hydrogen peroxide! Yes the weird clear stuff we used to put on cuts (not me anymore)! It gets ALL sorts of bad stains out!! You just need a tiny bit watered down or mixed in with dawn and vinegar to get a set stain out easily.
That’s About It!
I occasionally buy something here or there to add to my arsenal. Sometimes I need a little kick in my routine. Sometimes I like the look of a bottle and want to try a product. This is the tried and true list. You may be reading this like . . . well, duh! Maybe you read this thinking WOW that’s a lot of $$. Well, I don’t have a maid. I might as well have cleaning tools I like to use. Elbow grease isn’t always optional but when it is I’m happy to save time and let a machine do the work.
I use a shower caddy for my daily/weekly rounds. It fits all the must-have cleaners and wipes. (I mix my oil, water, vinegar, and soda in a bottle.) I try to keep it all organized in the laundry room, up high and out of reach. I’m always a work in progress though.
What tools and products do YOU love? I know so many that love the Shark vacuums and steam mops. Some prefer the Fly Lady or Norwex products or something similar. Do tell!