If you’re cooking and not making at least a little mess, then you’re probably not doing it right. I tend to make big messes, so I’m clearly doing it very right.

Sure, there is plenty of specialized, expensive equipment out there that can help you get your kitchen sparkling again. But whether you know it or not, you also may have a few other multipurpose tools on hand. Here are some picks for cheap cleaning tools worth having on hand.

Magic Eraser (less than $5)

I’ve come to reappreciate the merits of this scrubber while chasing a crayon-toting toddler around the house. It’s more than a wall scrubber, though. Try using it for polishing a tile backsplash or sinks and faucets. Clean up your stove top, refrigerator or microwave (there’s a version that includes Dawn for extra oomph). What shouldn’t you use it on? The manufacturer, Mr. Clean, includes such items as wood, copper, stainless steel appliances and nonstick coating on the no-no list.

Wood skewers (less than $5)

In the WaPo Food Lab, there’s a gap between the cook top and counter where crumbs go to die (or live forever?). The tip of a skewer is perfect for scraping them out of that spot, or any other annoying crevice you might have in your kitchen. You can also use skewers (or their shorter cousins, toothpicks) to poke garlic residue out of a garlic press. Wrap a paper towel around one to clean very narrow glasses or bottles. Skewers are helpful when giving your dishwasher a deep clean, too, such as around the soap dispenser and other parts you can’t take out.


Toothbrush (less than $5)

I’m not saying you have to go top of the line here, although if you’re like me and shop at Costco, you probably have tons of extra brushes hanging around — either that or a stockpile of the freebies from the dentist’s office. A toothbrush is ideal for scrubbing tile grout, around the bottom of the faucet and in the seam where the wall meets the counter behind the sink. Use it in some of the same places as the skewer, including other crevices and in the dishwasher. The Kitchn endorses toothbrushes for cheese graters, small jars and sink drains. They’re also good for cleaning delicate or intricate platters and serving pieces.

Pastry brush ($1 to $10)

No, it’s not redundant with the toothbrush. While the toothbrush is ideal for scrubbing, the pastry brush is great, for, well, brushing, giving you not only softer, more flexible bristles but also a finer degree of control. My Food section colleague Tim Carman uses his to keep coffee grounds out of his equipment. If you grind your own coffee or spices, you can employ the brush to clean the grinder. It can also be useful for sweeping crumbs out of a toaster oven.

Baster ($5 to $10)

Yes, break out the baster for more occasions than Thanksgiving! Channel its intended use by sucking up spills. Or like the pastry brush, it can be used to dislodge crumbs with a puff or a bit of suction. You might find it useful for depositing soapy and then clean water into narrow glasses, too.

Bonus: Hand vacuum (starting around $20)

All right, so the price is a little higher than cheap cheap, but for what it can do and how long it will last, a hand vac can be invaluable in the kitchen. Go basic or go fancy — regardless, when you send that couscous flying, you’ll be glad you have it.

Have tricks for these cheap kitchen tools or others? Share in the comments below.

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