Frankly, You Only Need 4 Cleaning Supplies

There’s no better time of year to declutter under your kitchen sink — and then scrub it clean.

6 min read

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I have a cylindrical container of off-brand antibacterial wipes in my basement from the early days of 2020. Why do I still have these wipes? Because I don’t need them. Neither do you. I have a 752-page hardcover copy of Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook that is both my bible and a trusty doorstop, and through it learned that cleaning supplies are like skincare — you only need a few to have a complete routine. All bases covered, from the soap-scummed bathtub to the oil-stained laundry. That said, sometimes you have to call in reinforcements for niche items that require their own specialty product (leather conditioner, silver polish, a priest). But for day-to-day, week-to-week, omg-our-friends-are-going-to-be-here-in-15-minutes, these essentials will keep you sanitized, tidy, and minimally cluttered

SoftScrub or a Gentle Abrasive

You need an abrasive cleaner because not all dirt and scum is going to rinse off with suds. But I learned from Martha that some powdered cleaners are too abrasive, and their grit can wear down the finish in your tub (I have a porcelain-enameled tub). Since then, I’ve used SoftScrub, which is just as potent but a gentler abrasive, plus it’s nice and white. And baking soda is a less toxic alternative, which you can buy in bulk at hardware stores, FYI. I use SoftScrub to clean:

  • The bathtub

  • Toilet bowl

  • Sink and fixtures 

  • Turmeric stains on kitchen counters

A friend also told me it’s the go-to cleaner for sailboat decks?? But who has a boat??

An Antibacterial All-Surface Disinfectant


You need one product to kill germs, which are crawling on every surface as we speak, cackling in victory. If you normally buy one “all-purpose” spray cleaner, and then use another cleaner like Windex for mirrors and glass, you’re wasting your dollars. Classic Windex is mostly ammonia, a great degreaser, but not a strong germ fighter. However the brand’s MultiSurface Disinfectant does streak-free glass and can clean any other surface while it’s at it. If you have another brand you prefer, cool, just make sure it actually has antibacterial ingredients. Your clue? It’ll say “antibacterial” on the bottle. (As the daughter of a nurse who inspected the bathrooms after we cleaned them, I’m looking for products that are proven to kill germs, not nudge them around.) I use Windex’s disinfectant spray for:

  • Mirrors, glass, duh

  • The toilet seat 

  • Wiping down mysterious marks on my walls 

  • Stainless steel appliances (wipe with the grain!), and the trash can

  • Doorknobs and light switches, especially after having a cold

  • Countertops

Dawn Dish Soap


The strongest dish soap out there, an icon for a reason. I buy Dawn in the biggest container it comes in, dilute it with a splash of water for my dishes, and use it for any cleaning job that has to do with oil, grease, stain removal, or turning something white. I’ve used Dawn to:

  • Get oil or food stains out of clothes (use it like a spot cleaner)

  • Clean the inside of my fridge

  • Wash random splatters on my kitchen walls

  • Spray clean by adding a splash to a mix of equal parts water and white vinegar

  • Bright white sheets — just add a squirt to a load

White Vinegar 


The natural cleaner that some people use on everything, white vinegar isn’t going to kill germs as effectively an antibacterial product, but its high acidic properties can break down soap scum and stains like a champ. Its high acidity also means you need to dilute it with water so you don’t damage the finish on the thing you’re cleaning. I swear by it for:

  • Spraying (diluted with 50:50 water) on shower tile grout to stave off mold (weekly!) 

  • The only laundry softener you need

  • Diluting with water for mopping floors 

  • Cleaning tea kettles and coffee pots

  • Deodorizing anything stinky, especially vintage and workout clothes, and mouthpieces for thermoses, water bottles, and the plastic container you stored leftover fish in 

Bonus Products for Maximalists

  • Old English — To hydrate, clean, and preserve wood window sills, trim, and furniture

  • Baking Soda — To clean a stainless steel sink, pans, or combine with white vinegar for unclogging 

  • Bleach — I recently had a stained shirt that wouldn’t relent until I soaked it in a tub with hot water and a splash of bleach, also good for (most) crime scene cleanup (I hear)

  • OxiClean — Soak stained kitchen towels in a mix of OxiClean and hot water overnight, watch them wash out tomorrow 

  • Alcohol Prep Pads — To clean my iPhone, AirPods, random goo on used book covers, earrings

  • Goo Gone — To remove sticky remnants of estate sale price tags, jar labels, and other sticky mysteries

  • Rust Remover like Sno-Bowl or Iron-Out — Depending on where you live, you might get rust in your toilet bowl and this extremely toxic stuff is the only way to get it out 

  • Scrub Mommy — The only sponge that matters, extra scrubby on one side, soft but still powerful on the other

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Staples and Walgreens