This would be better titled, “Things I can’t live without,” except, well, in God’s sovereignty we can pretty much live without anything!
I love those little Dobie scrubbies. Seriously, I just ordered a case of “˜em off Amazon. The secret? Stop thinking of them as dishrags. They work amazingly, fantastically, and cleaning-fluid-free-ly on countertops. And walls. And refrigerators. And cabinets. And just about every other surface you can think of. At less than a dollar a pop, they’re easy to throw in the trash when they get grody, too although I rather think they’d more-than-survive a trip through the washer. Like sandpaper, except scratch-proof.
Steel wool soap pads are another thing I use “off-label”–they’re literally the best thing I’ve ever found for washing our steel sink. They take a fairly heavy-duty chore and make it practically effortless. That’s about the only thing I use them for, since our pots are all anodized, but they’re one of my favorite household cleaners just because of how well they clean our sink.
No-Scratch Scotch Brite pads are excellent for cleaning dishes–and everything else in the kitchen! They’re a little more heavy-duty than the Dobie pads, kind of a nice half-way point between the Dobie and the steel wool, but they don’t really seem reusable to me–they kind of collect nastiness and then I throw them away. So I don’t use them as much, but when I need the extra heft, I’m always glad to have them in the cupboard.
Vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaning fluid when there are toddlers around. It’s edible. I keep some in a little spray bottle and use it 90% of the time instead of more caustic chemicals, which I only dig out when the vinegar isn’t cutting it.
Bleach has occasionally amazed me at its abilities to clean dishes! Dishes aren’t terribly prone to staining, but if they are stained, bleach seems to beat most of the stains right out, often without any scrubbing. Bonus points for that lovely bleachy aroma, and germ-killing abilities.
I hung my first indoor laundry line this past week, and I can’t believe I never did it before. I probably wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have a somewhat reclusive space that the laundry calls home–laundry lines going through the kitchen might not be the most attractive thing–but since I do, it was a no-brainer. I just bought some cheap clothesline and some of those sticky-but-easily-removed wall hooks (brought to you by the same geniuses who invented Dobie pads and Scotch Brite) and strung it all up. I ended up running it through two of the wire shelf units I have in my laundry room, plus one hook, to make a giant triangle. My diapers dry within a couple of hours, even indoors with no breeze or sunlight, and they’re so easy to string (no wind. no clothespins). I hadn’t realized how much easier a line would be than a drying rack, which I’ve used a-plenty over the years, but with a rack there’s quite a bit of “arranging” involved to get everything to fit without overhanging, and things take longer to dry. (Also, laundry racks are within reach of kiddos, unless you have the wall-mounted kind.)
I cannot say enough about the value of a good cordless stick-vacuum. (The problem is finding a good vacuum that is also both cordless and stick, but more on that in a minute.) I love my canister vacuum, but cords and babies in the same room is a disaster. And frankly, digging out a full-size vacuum three times a day (about how often I have to vacuum in our house) is a disaster too. The Swiffer SweeperVac is what first put me onto the idea, and I used it happily for many months before trying to upgrade to a “real” vacuum. (The Swiffer won’t work on carpet, obviously, and occasionally created muddiness when colliding with spilt milk/juice/water that I didn’t see.) After reading many reviews and trying one model that didn’t work out very well, I ended up with a Hoover LINX, which has a very depressing price tag, but I bought mine at Costco (they no longer carry it, as far as I know) with Costco’s forever guarantee, so I figured it was a win-win scenario. I’ve had it for perhaps six months or so, and I’m really pleased with it. I don’t think a stick vac can ever work as well as a canister vac–mainly because it can’t get into the nooks and crannies quite as well–and I’m not sure a battery-powered device can work as well as a corded one, but the LINX is really quite an amazing achiever on both counts. It picks up cereal with ease, unlike a lot of stick vacs, and the battery lasts well and stays strong until it dies abruptly (it does have an indicator, so it’s not an unexpected death, just a sudden one). It has a carpet-beater, which does work well on carpets, but I also use it on the hard floor because it seems to help push debris up and into the vacuum more quickly. I do think the SweeperVac was a good deal for the money, but it didn’t really do the job once we had toddlers making sticky messes everywhere. The LINX does.
Dish soap is a marvelous floor cleaner. And since I use it to wash things we later eat off of (dishes), I feel pretty good about using it around the kiddos, too. I put it in my mop vac instead of the manufacturer-provided cleaning fluid, which costs megabucks.
Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner w/Bleach tablets are really neat. You have to have a clean toilet to begin with, and they’re definitely not cheap (I buy them at BJs, can’t find them on Amazon), but they really put an end to toilet cleaning. Drop in the tab, and presto, squeaky clean for months until the tablet disappears. This is the only kind I’ve tried, and I think I might do more research and see if there’s a more cost-effective solution, but I’ve been very happy with these specifically. I like that they’re clear, not blue.
I’m still mystified by how to clean acrylic showers. I can’t find something that’s safe to use on them that also works. Any thoughts? Soft Scrub works great, but apparently causes microscopic little scratches.