Here Are the Only Kitchen Cleaners You Actually Need

updated May 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Sarah Rae Smith)

“Honey can you hand me the bottle of window cleaner? It’s right behind the bottle of stainless steel stuff but in front of the wood polish and next to the doggy carpet spray.” Sound familiar? Having the right tools for the job is a good thing, but what happens when you have too many? Clutter! (Insert dramatic music here.)

How many cleansers do you really need? Which ones are essential? What’s the bottle with the smeared label way in the back?

A Short Personal History of Cleaning Products

When I was little, I remember checking under my mother’s sink and being fascinated by the things I might acquire someday as a grown-up. She used to keep her cleaners and under-sink items in small wash tubs so they pulled out easily. I was fascinated by how many bottles and potions and polishes I found. It just seemed like my chore list waiting to happen. Every so often she’d go through the tubs and toss out what she hadn’t used or what seemed to be mysteriously leaking and start afresh.

When I moved out on my own, I kept waiting for that moment that my own wash tubs under the sink would start to collect, but I had a totally different problem. Aesthetics. I, Sarah Trover, am a complete sucker for packaging. Have a cute little handmade artisan cleaner? Well send it my way because I’ll pick up two bottles, hook, line and sinker. My early 20-something habits were to buy whatever was pretty and on sale and toss the old one because this new version with its cool, calming color scheme is surely better right?

It wasn’t until my early 30s that I realized my mom had missed the mark and so had I. One day during a Kitchn Cure, I sat down and said, if I can make it, I won’t keep it.

And so I tossed them. All of them. All the things, to the trash they went (and admittedly gave some to my neighbors). Want to know what stayed?

(Image credit: Sarah Rae Smith)

The 6 Kitchen Cleaners I Actually Use

  • All-Purpose Cleaner: Depending on how industrious I feel at the moment this might be a bottle of a homemade mixture, or something I loved while at the grocery store. I still love my Bon Ami cleaner so that’s what’s currently taking up residence.
  • Bio-Kleen Bac-Out: If you have pets, this bottle is a must. If you don’t have pets, this bottle is still a must. Its enzymatic cleaning powers are second to none! Essentially live enzymes eat things that make bad smells (including mold and pet urine and funky gym socks) and when they’re done eating they die. It sounds gross, but does amazing things. Seriously. Pick it up at Amazon or your local Whole Foods Market.
  • Glass Cleaner: Now we’ve shared ways to make your own and so this shameful admittance of using a store-bought and less-than-eco-friendly aerosol can is a black mark in the book. Judge away, but gosh darn it, it works! So we won’t talk about that. Just pretend I make my own from vinegar. We all have our shame moments. This is mine.
  • Dish Soap: Without fail I always have a big bottle of dish soap under my sink. It’s not that I fear I will ever run out, but more so that I always forget how much I have when I’m at the store and ready to pick up more.
  • Gallon of White Vinegar & an Oversized Bag of Baking Soda: There isn’t anything that this combination of ingredients can’t clean and although they don’t come in a fancy bottle with a pretty label, they get almost any job done. Plus you can make all the things with them. You might also want to throw a bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol in as well if you have granite countertops! (Note: these items are unpictured as I might have made an erupting volcano for the neighborhood kids early last week.)
  • Linseed or Mineral Oil & Flaxseed Oil: One is for cast iron, the other is for butcher block and cutting boards. These live in the far dark corners where I like to pretend spiders don’t live. You can’t see them in the photo, because no one wants to see my spiders. Plus, I promised Frank and his family I’d give them their privacy.

That’s it. No seriously. That’s all that’s under my kitchen sink! Well that and ten vases I swear I’ll use someday, but that’s a clutter post for a different day. I’m noticeably out of baking soda and vinegar but I assure you they’re there in spirit.

If you have other cleaners for different surfaces, check out this post first, you might be able to eliminate some clutter and make sure to dispose of old cleaners responsibly!