Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning Part 2: Cleaning Supply 101


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Living Well Spending Less® | Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning

This is Part Two of an 8-Part Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning Series. See the overview here.

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Over the years, I’ve had to learn the hard way that more cleaning supplies will not necessarily result in a cleaner house. Even so, there are definitely a few essentials that every home needs in order to get things truly spic and span. Thus, before we get started on the “how” of tackling every surface, we are going to first spend some time gathering our “what”—the must-have cleaning products and cleaning tools to get the job done.

Cleaning Products

The sheer number of cleaning products on the market can be pretty overwhelming, but the truth is that just a few basic cleaners are really all you need to get the job done right. Here is a breakdown of the different types of cleaners you should keep on hand and what they clean:

Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning

1. All Purpose Cleaner.  A good all-purpose cleaner can clean and sanitize everything from your kitchen counters, sink, & appliances to your bathroom shower, tub, and toilet. It can also be used to spot clean tile backsplash, floors, or walls and linoleum.

Try these: Clorox Clean-Up or Mrs. Meyers  All Purpose Cleaner

Getting Started

2. Furniture Cleaner & Polish:  A good oil-based furniture cleaner & polish will make your surfaces shine and can keep your wood furniture in great condition for years to come. Be careful to avoid products that will cause buildup on furniture, especially aerosol dusting sprays! This should be used on all wood furniture, including dressers, tables, chairs, and desks. A concentrated version can also make a great mop solution for cleaning hardwood floors.

Try these: Murphy’s Oil Soap or Method Good for Wood Cleaner

Home Management

3. Glass Cleaner:  A good glass & surface cleaner will not only make your mirrors and windows sparkle, but is also great for polishing bath & kitchen fixtures and for making countertops shine. I also use it for my glass-topped range. Use with a squeegee, lint-free cloth, or old newspaper rather than paper towels for a streak-free shine.

Try these: Glass Plus  or 7th Generation Free & Clear Glass Cleaner

Cleaning Inspiration

4. Liquid Dish Soap: Liquid dish soap is the secret weapon of your cleaning closet and its many uses go far beyond scrubbing your pots and pans. Use it in concentrated form to remove stains in clothing, or use a mild warm soapy water solution for everything from mopping floors to washing dirty lampshades.

Try these: Dawn Ultra or Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap

Better Home Ideas

5. Bleach:  Another powerful and versatile cleaning aid, bleach goes the distance when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting. Use it in every single load of whites to prevent dinginess and graying of clothing, sheets, and towels. Add it to your soapy water solution to provide disinfecting power, pour it directly in your toilet brush holder to disinfect the brush between cleanings, and use it directly on grout and tile to combat mold.

Try this: Clorox Concentrated

Better Home Ideas

6. Toilet Bowl Cleaner:  A thick gel will cling to the rim for extra cleaning power, and added bleach helps keep things nice and white.

Try this: Lysol Max with Bleach

Storage Room Decluttering

7. Dishwasher Detergent:  I haven’t yet discovered any secret secondary uses for dishwasher detergent, but it is one of those products that doesn’t have a great substitute either (unless you make your own). However, if you use a dishwasher, it is worth your time to find a detergent that does the job well. I personally love the easy-to-use tablets.

Try these: Finish Powerball Tablets or Cascade Actionpacs

Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning  8. Laundry Detergent:  A good laundry detergent will not only get your clothes clean, but keep them looking newer longer by not fading colors. I prefer making my own powder detergent, but my husband—now the main laundry person in our house—prefers commercial liquid detergent. Because of my daughter’s skin sensitivities, we normally buy the dye & scent-free version, which is gentle enough for baby clothes as well!

Try these: Tide Free & Gentle or All Free & Clear Mighty Pacs

Home Management

9. Stain Remover:  Not all stains are created equal, but a powerful concentrated stain remover will tackle most of them

Try these: Resolve Max or Shout Advanced Gel

Cleaning Tips

10. Fabric Softener:  I grew up thinking fabric softener only came in the form of super smelly dryer sheets. As an adult I discovered liquid fabric softener and have never looked back—it does the job so much better! If you have a front loader you can pour the softener in at the beginning; a top loader requires waiting for the rinse cycle or opting for sheets in the dryer. Again, we prefer the dye & scent-free versions to get the softening power without all the heavy perfumes.

Try these: Downy Free & Clear or Bounce Free Sheets

Homemade Cleaning Products

Home Management

While I’ve listed some of my favorite commercial cleaning products in the list above, please don’t think you need to run out and buy a whole cupboard full of cleaners to get the job done. Making your own homemade cleaners is not only cheaper than buying commercial products, it is also better for the environment. And surprisingly enough, just 10 common household products are pretty much all you really need to make ten different cleaners that can clean every surface in your home.


Downloadable cleaning product guideOur Green & Thrifty Cleaning Products Guide will help your home be chemical free! Simply click the button below to get your Green & Thrifty Cleaning Products Guide delivered straight to your inbox!


Cleaning Tools

In addition to the cleaning products listed above, there are also a few essential house cleaning tools that will make your job a whole lot easier.

Home Management

11. Broom & Dustpan:  A must-have for every home, make sure your broom’s bristles are in good shape. If they are broken, worn, or jagged, consider trading it in for a new one—you will be amazed at how much more dust and debris it will catch. Choose a dustpan with a rubberized edge and comfortable handle.

Try these: Libman Precision Angle Broom and OXO Good Grips Dustpan

Getting Started

12. Dust Mop:  If your home is mostly hardwood or tile, a large commercial dust mop is essential. Use this daily to pick up dust and keep floors looking clean in between mopping sessions.

Try this: O Cedar Commercial Dust Mop

Better Home Ideas

13. Wet Mop:  I personally have not owned a “real” mop in years, preferring instead to use a Swiffer Wet Jet—it is just so much more convenient! Even so, heavily trafficked floors that get extra dirty might benefit more from a traditional wet mop that can be used with a warm soapy water solution.

Try these: Swiffer Wet Jet or O Cedar Mop & Easy Wring Bucket System

Storage Room Decluttering

14. Toilet Brush & Holder:  Find a toilet brush with a holder that can hold bleach so that your brush can be sanitized between cleanings. Be sure to replace the bleach regularly–at least every 2 weeks.

Try this: Home Basics Stainless Steel Toilet Brush and Holder

Cleaning Inspiration

15. Scrub Brush:  A good scrubber is key for cleaning tiles & grout—just be careful when scrubbing bathtubs or shower surfaces, as some scrub brushes will scratch acrylic or porcelain. In that case, opt for a wet rag instead!

Try this: OXO Good Grips Household Scrub Brush

Better Home Cleaning Tips

16. Squeegee:  A good squeegee makes cleaning large glass surfaces a breeze—just spray on your glass cleaner and move the squeegee back and forth across the glass until it shines, wiping the blade with a rag in between strokes.

Try these: OXO Good Grips All Purpose Squeegee

 Storage Room Decluttering

17. Vacuum:  The amount of carpet in your home, as well as other factors such as pets and stairs should determine how much you are willing to invest into a high-quality vacuum. Take the time to read the reviews to find a vacuum that works well, sucks up dirt, and is easy to clean.

Try these:  Shark Navigator or Dyson Animal Complete

Home Management

18. Magic Eraser:  These little magic sponges are the best tool I’ve found for removing fingerprints from dirty doors and cabinets. They also do a great job of removing spots from tile floors and errant crayon or marker marks from tables and walls.

Try this: Magic Eraser Variety Pack

Home Management

19. Duster:  A duster is a great tool for cleaning bookshelves, window blinds, the tops of pictures and mirrors, ceiling fans, and any other areas where knick-knacks prevent a full wipe-down. I personally love the disposable Swiffer Dusters, but a washable duster can work great too.

Try these:  Swiffer Dusters or OXO Good Grips Microfiber Duster

Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning

20. Lint-Free Cloth:  A lint-free cloth is an invaluable tool for cleaning windows and mirrors without leaving little specks of lint behind. Old newspapers can make a great substitute for this, just make sure you use newspapers that are at least three weeks old to allow the ink time to set. Otherwise you may end up with very black hands!

Try this: Genuine Joe Microfiber Cleaning Cloth 4-Pack

21. Rags:  Every cleaning closet needs a good supply of rags that can be used for everything from cleaning the bathroom to wiping down the floor to polishing furniture. Old towels in a variety of sizes are perfect for this, just make sure they don’t have holes or strings that can get in the way.

What You Don’t Need:

You don’t need separate cleaners for each room (kitchen vs. bathroom cleaners, etc.) A good all-purpose cleaner can tackle all those areas. Also avoid aerosol dusting sprays, as they can cause build-up on furnitures, and skip extras and frills such as scented laundry boosters or countertop spray.

Part Two Assignment

Just to review, here is your second assignment:

  • Gather all your cleaning products and tools for a major purging session. Throw out any cleaners that haven’t worked or that you don’t like. There is no point in keeping something you know you won’t use. Inspect your broom, mop, and other supplies to make sure they are all in good shape, and get rid of anything that doesn’t make the grade.
  • Clear a space in your laundry or utility room to store your cleaning supplies so that they are all in one convenient place, then arrange them so they are neat and organized.
  • Once you’ve sorted the supplies you have on hand, make note of any supplies you still need. Make or purchase any necessary items.

Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning | Getting Started | Home Management | Cleaning Inspiration | Better Home Ideas | Cleaning Tips | Storage Room Decluttering

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Did I miss anything? What are your favorite cleaning products & tools?


  1. Kelly
    March 11 at 09:45AM

    Wow what a great list. Today’s project is definitely going to be sorting and organizing my cleaning supplies. It would be great if there were some sort of printable checklist to go with this list!

  2. Beth
    March 11 at 09:51AM

    LOVE Mrs. Meyer’s Basil scent!! Very fresh & happy.

  3. March 11 at 12:35PM

    I started using homemade cleaning products such as baking soda,vinegar,borax and more. They’re cheaper than what we used to buy.

  4. March 11 at 03:50PM

    For every day cleaning, I’m a huge fan of vinegar and water. It’s a fantastically efficient and cheap product.

    I’ve tried making my own laundry detergent, but wasn’t thrilled with the results. Perhaps I’ll try again some day.

  5. March 11 at 08:46PM

    I use vinegar, liquid dish soap and Murphy’s Oil Soap for almost the whole house. They all work and they all keep my perfume allergies in check!

  6. Cindy Felber
    March 11 at 11:18PM

    I use dishwasher detergents on countertops where there are stains. Just dab some on ,wait 10 min. And wash off. Especially good for koolaid stains.

  7. Alicia Stone
    March 12 at 09:57AM

    I really liked the idea of a toilet brush holder that can hold bleach. I’m gonna be on the look out for one. Are there any easy to clean mops that you can recommend (maybe something with an easy to remove and wash mop head)? I put mine outside to dry but it still seems to smell.

    • Kim
      March 13 at 11:56PM

      I LOVE to use a Libman No Knees Floor Scrubber instead of a mop on my tile floors. I just squirt a little bit of Dawn dish soap mixed with a lot of water on the floor, scrub it, then dry with an old towel. It is fast, easy, and doesn’t leave streaks or sticky residue. The scrubber has plastic bristles, so it doesn’t get stinky and it doesn’t need to be wrung out.

  8. March 12 at 02:48PM

    Hi Ruth!! I am likely as obsessed with cleaning as you are, but you seem to know a whole lot more about it!!! I don’t know if you have addressed it somewhere else, but we have two stains on our carpet that Resolve will NOT get out. Someone told me about using an iron and removing the stain (red dye from my dog’s food which he threw up- gross!) via heat transfer, but I’m scared!!! Have you tried this?? THANKS! Loveeeee your blog! and your e-book. 🙂

    • Anonymous
      March 18 at 10:35AM

      I used this method on koolaid stains and it worked!

  9. lindsey
    March 12 at 11:54PM

    I would love to make homemade cleaners. What is washing powder?

    • lindsey
      March 13 at 12:07AM

      Lol…I just realized washing powder is laundry detergent. Can’t wait to try these recipes! Love Mrs. Meyers products. 🙂

      • Elizabeth C.
        March 31 at 01:40AM

        Washing powder isn’t laundry detergent. Laundry detergent is a mix of washing soda (even Tide is!), Borax, a soap, fragrance, enzymes, optical brighteners, and other stuff. Washing soda/powder is similar to baking soda. (Mix it with vinegar and you get a better volcano 😀 ) If you’ve had problems with or don’t see the savings in homemade cleaners, this simple mix up could be why.

  10. Suzanne
    March 14 at 08:12PM

    If you like using a Swiffer Wet Jet, you might like to try a Rubbermaid Reveal. The pad is reusable- just take it off and throw it in the washer. You can buy extra pads, if you need them. (Our house is small, so one is enough, but if you have a larger house, I recommend two.) It saves money and the environment.

  11. Melissa
    March 14 at 09:04PM

    What is the “essential oil” you are referring to on your homemade cleaner list

  12. March 17 at 09:11AM

    Well, I think I have everything on the list! I LOVE your cleaner recipe chart – so cool! Very handy to have them all in one place. I love making my own cleaners, and there are a few on there that I have not tried. 🙂

  13. Anonymous
    March 23 at 08:40AM

    Hydrogen peroxide is an extremely useful cleaner. I’ve been using it to clean my bathroom for years. Talk about a bargain a gallon is under $3.

  14. Allison
    March 28 at 09:57PM

    Love your blog and your ideas. You are really getting me motivated to spring clean! I have used a swiffer but really love my Libman Freedom Spray mop-soo much better for my budget. The microfiber pad is washable and reusable and you mix your own cleaner or use purchased. I love using vinegar and water for most floors and I add a bit of essential oil-lavender is my current favorite, though during cold season this winter I used eucalyptus oil. You can even use it on wood with your favorite wood cleaner. Can’t wait to try making some of your cleaners!

  15. April 3 at 06:50AM

    Quite useful post, Ruth. I’m glad to see you have put so much effort and the result is great. Cheers, Leo!

  16. Jodi
    April 19 at 05:08AM

    I love this list, thank you for the very helpful information! I noticed that you said you haven’t found an alternative use for dishwashing tabs, and I wanted to share that they work great for soaking in garbage cans to clean them, fill the can with water and throw several tabs in and when you empty it, the gunk just rinses right off. They also work great on the metal electric stove trays, just soak them and depending on how bad they are, they might require a little scrubbing, but they really help to loosen things up. I use them quite often to soak things that are really dirty, it saves time and you don’t have to scrub as much. I hope you find this helpful :).

  17. May 9 at 07:25PM

    Have you heard of Norwex chemical free reusable cleaning supplies? So much safer, healthier and more effective than many of these products. And since they ladt forever they save tons of money.

  18. May 22 at 02:21PM

    Really great list of such useful cleaning products!! I’ve used most of these products for cleaning and they’re actually effective. Specially Lysol have great effectiveness of cleaning anything easily. Thanks. 🙂

  19. Div
    July 28 at 12:12PM

    Hi is pledge spray ok for furniture?

  20. July 31 at 10:29AM

    Hi there friends, good post and good arguments commented here, I am in fact enjoying by these.

  21. Joy
    August 5 at 02:40PM

    Hi! First I have to say that I LOVE your blog! It is so inspiring and I have gotten so many great tips:) I just have a question… Is the recipe for homemade laundry detergent ok to use in HE top loading washers?? Thanks!

  22. Anonymous
    September 26 at 11:36AM

    I was going to suggest Norwex too. It’s full of amazing products!

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