We have many recipes in this book for make-at-home cleaners, but equipment is also important. What is basic cleaning equipment, what is necessary to buy and what can you do without? What are the replacements for common cleaning equipment?
There are many kinds of brooms from the old fashioned broom straw brooms, horse hair, plastic straw, and the new bendable rubber tooth brooms. It is nice if the brooms are hangable so they can be put in a closet or out of the way when they are not being used. This also makes them last longer and you can avoid the bent straws that you get by leaning them against a wall.
If you have a lot of outdoor or garage sweeping to do, the large push brooms make your work a lot faster and easier.
We've tried many different kinds of brooms. The old fashioned broom straw brooms last a long time and do a good job. If you soak them in water at least once a month it helps clean them and keep the straw pliable so they don't break easily.
The brooms with plastic or nylon straws are also good. The straws don't break, but they can get bent if left on the floor. They are easy to wash when they are dirty.
The rubber tooth brooms are really good for sweeping rugs and hair. They capture the hair and lint and keep it from flying around. They also are easy to wash when needed.
It is good to have at least two brooms, one for indoor use and one for outdoor.
Many readers have mentioned that they use electric brooms to clean their uncarpeted floors. They are light, easy to operate and easy to empty.
Dust mops used to be the standard way to clean hardwood or waxed linoleum floors. They needed to be shaken often (to shake out the dust.) Some dust mops also had covers that could be removed and washed. The mop heads are replaceable and washable. Old style dust mops are still available.
On hardwood floors I spray a dust mop with a "Pledge" like product and it helps hold the dust on the mop rather than sending it flying. -Kristy
"Swiffer" Type Mops
In the last few years several companies have come out with "Swiffer" type dust mops that use disposable microfiber cloths. Many of our readers have switched over to the "Swiffer" type dust mops, but use them in their own ways. Many have found that you don't need to buy the replacement cloths, but instead use other material.
Yesterday, when I dusted the floor, I used the Swiffer with a piece of an old towel on it. It worked great. I have a container that I put the dust cloths in. When I have a load, I'll wash them and continue using them. -Eunice
I have been using the Swiffer on our new rec room floor. It is good for quick dusting. I use the vacuum cleaner with the soft brush attachment once a week. Seems to work pretty good. Have been just using very little damp mop to wash the floor. - Margaret F
I found a package of 8 microfiber cleaning cloths at a warehouse store for a good price. They work great for dusting and I use them on my "Swiffer" like tool. They are large enough that you can change them four times to a clean area before washing. They also wash like a dream. The only drawback is the colors--very bright pastels. I have used the Swiffer products since introduction but find this much better and less expensive. - Loretta
Along with your broom a dust pan is also important. Try to find one with a good edge that holds close to the ground so the dirt doesn't get under it. There are many to choose from. A high quality rubberized plastic like the "Rubbermaid" brand are often best because they don't warp easily and stay flat. The large metal pans are good, too, especially for sweeping up large areas or garages.
One thing we find really handy are the dustpans that hook to the broom handle. That way it is always handy when you go to sweep.
The little brush and dustpan sets are also handy for quick clean up or small jobs.
In a pinch when you can't find your dustpan or don't have one, a piece of posterboard works well. Also you can take a sheet of newspaper, dampen it on the edge and it will stick for a minute to the floor so you can sweep the dirt on top of it. Then just wrap it up and throw it away.
Mops also come in many varieties from the old fashioned yarn mops to the new "Swiffer" type mops that spray out cleaner.
Consider your mopping needs before you decide which type mop is best for you. A large janitorial mop and bucket might be best if you have large floor areas to cover. A good set up will come with a bucket on wheels with a mop squeezer attached. These are available at a janitorial supply if you can't find one at your local hardware store.
If your floor areas are smaller, a sponge mop might be best. Some come with scrubbie pads on one end that help you get up stubborn dirt. There are many mops made of new materials from the type with microfiber heads styled like the old fashioned mops to the newest ones with the cleaner attached to the mop handle and dispensed by a control. One nice thing about the new mops is you can replace the "Swiffer" material with old fabric (flannel, towel, or t-shirt) and throw them in the washer after each mopping.
These also come in many shapes and sizes. The vacuum cleaner technology has improved a lot over the years so that they no longer pump out dust. There are many good vacuums out there that are bagless and have HEPA filters. There are also the Rainbow vacuums that use water so the dust and dirt is trapped in the water and you just empty it. We highly recommend the bagless vacuums. They will save you lots of money over the years because you don't have to buy the disposable bags. Also if you accidentally vacuum up something you want, it is easy to look through the dirt until you find it.
In times past, every house had a rag bag. Old clothing, sheets, and towels were cut or ripped up for rags and they were kept for cleaning purposes. Many of our readers still use these over using paper towels or microfiber cloths.
The advantages to rags are: You are recycling. You don't have to buy them. They are washable.
Towels, t-shirts, old cotton socks, old sheets, and diapers make the best rags. Simply cut them into usable sections and start your own rag bag.
Paper towels are very useful and most people these days use lots and lots of them. They are expensive and although you can use them sparingly, there are few purposes that they can't be replaced by something free (i.e. newspaper or rags). Their advantages are: They are convenient They are always clean. They can be thrown away.
Sponges come in every shape and size from tiny make-up sponges to jumbo sized. There are also many kinds with all kinds of abrasive pads on one side. Sponges can be a breeding ground for bacteria so it is important that you wash them regularly. They can be run through the dishwasher and sterilized with the dishes or put through the wash with a load of towels. Their advantages are: They are highly absorbent. They squeeze out easily. They can be used many different ways from wiping to scrubbing.
Microfiber cloths are useful and available in many types and sizes. The advantages are: They are totally lint free They will not tear easily. They can be rinsed out and reused. Some can be washed in the washing machine.
These range from the Scotch Brite type green pads to the nylon puffy ones. Everyone needs a scrubbie or two for scouring pots and pans and tough corners. Some are much more abrasive than others and so make sure the kind you are using is safe for the surface you are using it on.
This ranges from the old style SOS pads to different grades of steel wool available at the hardware store. We've found that 000 steel wool (very, very fine) is safe on most surfaces and will shine up many surfaces without scratching. The typical SOS pad is good for shining your stainless steel or aluminum pots and pans, but may be too coarse for Corning Ware or ceramic surfaces.
It is always good to have a scrub brush around. It is much easier to clean outdoor furniture, car wheels, really dirty floors, and any durable surface with a scrub brush. Make sure you have a bowl or bucket that it can fit into and keep them together for tough jobs. With a scrub brush you can apply pressure without scratching.
Dusting Wands and Feather Dusters
Dusting wands help to get the cobwebs out of the corners and clean hard to reach places. Feather dusters are good for dusting delicate items like lamp shades or lighting fixtures.
With regards to steel wool, I always buy the scouring pads that are made from plastic threading rather than the metal ones. The plastic ones last much longer and when not in use, do not rust. They are much easier on all types of surfaces.
One thing missing from the cleaning tools list is a push sweeper (not electric). I couldn't begin to count the number of times a day I whisk over the carpets with a push sweeper to pick up little bits of paper, crumbs, etc. --so much easier than getting out the electric sweeper. It is also great for dog hair--I can't believe the dirt I collect in it. They are available at stores like K-Mart for under $30. Bissell makes a good one. This does not replace regular vacuuming, but sure comes in handy for quick clean-ups.
I use the Swifter but I use old socks cut up as my cleaning cloth. I take my husband's worn out socks, and cut them to size. I put it on the pad with the fuzzy side out. He wears tube socks and they work fine.
I use a dust mop to sweep most days and the swifter once in a while to pick up the fine grit. We live in the country, so we have a lot of dirt throught the house.
There are so many tips in Thrifty Fun about Swiffer-type mops and what can be used instead of the Swiffer pads. People have suggested old pantyhose, towels, rags, diapers, dryer sheets, you name it! My question is, are Swiffers really that great if any old thing will work in place of the pads that are meant for the mops? What is the point then of a Swiffer? How about an inexpensive, old fashioned, reusable dust mop? No extra equipment required! Dust mops last for years and nowadays feature that great, dust-grabbing microfiber material that works like a charm. Don't waste your cash and energy on a Swiffer!