Before the big reveal, go ahead and take a guess.
A sponge? Nice try, but nope.
Paper towels? Not very green. But also, nah.
Or what about surface-cleaning spray? Eh, not really!
See more of the kitchen pictured above: Amanda's "Polished Bohemian" San Francisco Studio at Apartment Therapy
The best cleaning tool for most kitchen surfaces is: a microfiber cloth. "Due to the structure of a microfiber cloth, it has the same effect as most disinfectants in terms of cleaning away most bacteria," says Tekla Wlodarczyk, owner of Mother Earth Cleaners in Madison, WI.
And you don't have to take her word for it (although her word is good) — there's science on her side. A study published by the EPA showed that microfiber mops dampened with just plain water effectively removed up to 98 percent of bacteria and 93 percent of viruses from floors in a hospital, while the traditional cotton-mop-plus-cleaner only got 30 percent and 23 percent, respectively. (Um, ew.)
The secret rests in the tiny weave of the short, fine fibers (hence its micro name): Those little loops scrape up and trap germs, which can then be rinsed down the drain — although once you've used the cloth once or twice, it's best to launder it.
To use for basic kitchen cleaning jobs, simply dampen a clean cloth, wring it out well, and then go to town on your counters, around the faucets, and inside the sink. Rinse the cloth as go, just like you would if you were using a sponge. When you're done, give the cloth another good run under the faucet, wring, hang dry, and then toss into the laundry with your next load of towels.
"A few years ago, I made a New Year's resolution to not use paper towels anymore," Wlordarcxyk says. "I made a place for a stack of microfiber towels in the kitchen, so they were just as convenient as paper towels. Then I put out a tall-but-not-very-wide basket as a hamper for used towels." Done and done.
Buy: AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, $16 for 24