Minimalist Cleaning Kit: What 5 Things Do You Actually Need?

A box of cleaning products.

Many homeowners have a variety of cleaning products under kitchen and bathroom sinks and taking up space in their cabinets. There’s one for cleaning glass surfaces, one for toilet bowls, one for soap scum, a de-greaser for kitchen counter residue, an oven cleaner, a floor cleaner, furniture spray, laundry detergent, and an everyday all-purpose agent. Are they all necessary? Eliminate the need for 20 different cleaning products and simplify with these 5 supplies that will clean your entire home instead.

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is a wonderfully diverse cleaning agent and disinfectant. Mix 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water to make a streak-free glass and surface cleaner. Feel free to add whatever essential oils you like to cover the vinegar smell — citrus ones work well but many others like lavender, tea tree, and lemongrass have disinfectant properties to boot. It’s also safe to use this combination on wood floors and furniture. Essential oils like cedarwood and eucalyptus will create a pleasant smell and nourish wood finishes. In the laundry room, ditch fabric softeners. Instead, add ¼ cup of vinegar to the final rinse of your washing cycle. Vinegar can also bust through calcium, lime, and rust deposits with regular use in toilets, coffee makers, and dishwashers.

2. Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda.

For tougher grime and stains try the magic cleaning power of baking soda and water. Mix 1 part baking soda and 3 parts water. It should become the consistency of toothpaste. This non-toxic mixture can be used for hard to clean areas like inside your oven. Simply let it sit for a few hours and then wipe the grease away. This is also an amazing way to clean any dirty grout lines — allow the paste to sit and then scrub it with either a toothbrush or something similar, removing with a sponge or mop. Try it on discolored coffee mugs and teacups, blemished countertops, and cutting boards. For a natural bleach alternative, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1 cup of baking soda, and ½ cup of lemon juice into 8 cups of water.

3. Borax

One of the toughest things to clean (and keep clean) is the bathroom. Soap scum can be one of the homeowners' biggest challenges. Before buying expensive cleaning products try making your own by adding 1 part Borax to 2 parts baking soda and 1 part non-iodized salt. Use it with only a brush or sponge for a natural, environmentally friendly and yet powerful way to clean showers and tubs. It will also prevent mold and mildew and get rid of musty smells. You can add Borax to the water tank when steam cleaning your carpets, use it with a little bit of water to brighten stainless steel or porcelain, and deodorize garbage cans and disposals, refrigerators, and drains.

4. All-purpose Concentrates/ Reusable Bottles

Cleaning supplies and gloves.

Buying all-purpose natural cleaning agents like Castile Soap allows you to reuse plastic or glass bottles by adding different amounts of this concentrate to water. Keep one or two foaming soap bottles around for bathroom and kitchen hand-washing, a few spray bottles for various surface cleaning in different rooms, and one shampoo/ body wash bottle to use in the shower as it is a safe body cleanser. It can be used as laundry detergent as well, eliminating the need for yet another plastic bottle that takes up space and ends up in the landfill. Reduce your average household plastic use by switching to re-usable cleaning bottles and concentrates to streamline your home’s all-purpose cleaning.

5. Microfiber Cloths

You can actually clean your whole home with just a microfiber cloth, and that’s no joke. Its finely woven material will pick up dirt and grime with just water. The cloths can also be used dry for dusting to keep particles from going airborne. Because they absorb rather than dissolve dirt, there is no need for added chemicals or cleaners. They are antibacterial and easy to wash — just let them soak in cool or warm water and rinse well. You can find microfiber hand cloths, towels, and even mops. Microfiber cloths can be used on glass, porcelain, stainless steel, wood, on cars, and in workshops. You can basically use them on any surface, including yourself.

Take some of the hassle out of cleaning and eliminate the majority of products in your home. By trying different mixtures and solutions of vinegar, baking soda, Borax, and Castile soap along with microfiber cloths, you can simplify your cleaning routine and reduce environmental hazards as well. Add some essential oils to the mix and your home will look and feel fresh and rejuvenated.