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Here are the essential cleaning supplies that every home needs

Forget the marketing. You don’t need a different cleaner for every job.

(Andria Lo for The Washington Post)

If you’re setting up your home for the first time, you may be at a loss as to where to start with cleaning supplies. In an industry inundated with specialty products made for cleaning specific surfaces and spaces and combating different types of dirt and grime, how do you navigate the vast cleaning aisle when you just want the basics?

Don’t get caught up in the marketing; you don’t need a cleaner for everything. We tapped a handful of pros to get their thoughts on what should be included in a well-stocked cleaning arsenal. Here are their recommendations.

Experts pick their favorite basic cleaning tools


Dish detergent for washing by hand

“You want a dish soap that is a grease-cutter and also safe,” said Joy Mangano, Miracle Mop inventor and CleanBoss product creator. “The more effective ones have the true ability to cut grease and do the job that it’s supposed to do in a natural way.” The two below fill the bill.

Dawn original dishwashing liquid

Apartment Therapy lifestyle director Taryn Williford recommends classic Dawn dish soap, along with its newer sister product, Dawn Powerwash dish spray, because of its versatility. It’s gentle enough to be used as hand soap but has the muscle to remove grime on your dishes. “It’s also just such a good cleaner for everywhere in the house,” said Williford, who uses soapy water to clean her outdoor furniture, floors and surfaces.

Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap

“I’m extremely sensitive to residual odors, and this one doesn’t usually leave any,” said Leslie Corona, Real Simple senior home editor, of Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap, adding that other products can leave a soapy aftertaste on dishes. “It does a good job of cleaning plates compared to other eco options.” Corona always has a backup bottle of Dawn on hand, though, which she uses for stains and other cleaning emergencies.

Dishwasher detergent

Blueland dishwasher tablets

“I have tried many different dish detergents, and they all work,” Williford said. “My biggest concern is just that it’s low waste.” In this case, she recommends Blueland’s dishwasher tablets. The eco-friendly company mails you pressed-powder tablet refills packaged in compostable paper packets.

Cascade Platinum ActionPacs

For dishwashing, Corona uses Cascade, because it gets the job done and doesn’t leave any residual odors on dishes. But for cleaning items such as her hair brushes in the dishwasher, she uses Seventh Generation pods because of the company’s simple and gentle formula.

Glass and mirrors

Although the classic blue ammonia formula is a go-to for window and glass cleaning, you can always take a more natural route. Williford recommends the brands Grove Collaborative and Supernatural for more eco-friendly alternatives. Aragon likes to clean her windows with a bucket of soapy water (½ teaspoon Dawn to two cups of water) and a squeegee. Other options:

DIY Alvin Corn

By creating a mixture of rubbing alcohol, vinegar and cornstarch (known as Alvin Corn), you can make your own DIY glass cleaner at home. The vinegar cuts through minerals, the alcohol allows quick evaporation for streak-free windows, and the cornstarch acts as an abrasive, Williford said.

Windex vinegar glass cleaner

This ammonia-free glass cleaner from Windex is gentle and doesn’t leave streaks, which is why it’s a go-to for Corona. “I like the smell of it,” she said. “It’s not overpowering.”

Multipurpose cleaners

Bar Keepers Friend

This multipurpose cleaner can be used to help you remove rust from mirrors, get water stains out of wood and scrub the bathroom from top to bottom. Corona uses it to clean the top of her stove and her kitchen sink. “It does a really good job of making my sink really, really shiny,” she said.

Pantry items

White vinegar

You can buy white vinegar in bulk and keep it on hand for cleaning a variety of surfaces. Use the acidic vinegar to clean mineral deposits, shower mildew and hard-water stains. Mangano said vinegar is a big help with mopping floors. “It really helps a lot with cleaning glass, as well.”

Looking for a DIY cleaning spray for showers and soap scum? Corona uses a one-to-one ratio of Dawn dish soap and white vinegar, an idea she got from cleaning expert Jill Nystul’s blog. “That actually works well, and the bathroom feels clean, but it feels like I need to put in a little more elbow grease,” she said.

Baking soda

Baking soda, another household staple, has long been trusted as a safe cleaning agent. Williford recommends using it as a paste by combining it with a little water. At home, she scrubs her glass coffee carafe with the baking soda paste to get rid of discoloration. It’s also great for absorbing odors, which is why Mangano says she always keeps some in her refrigerator: to keep food smells at bay.

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