The Kitchn’s Guide to Essential Cleaning Tools and Products

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What are the essential tools and equipment every cook needs in the kitchen? Whether you’re setting up a kitchen for the first time or else looking to pare back down to the basics, our Essentials Guides are here to help. We’ve already shared our guides to essential prep tools and utensils, cooking tools, cookware, baking pans, and small electric appliances. Today we look at the cleaning tools and solutions needed to keep all those things in good shape!

As in our last guide, we’ve offered a few product recommendations in each category based on personal preferences, experience, and editor and reader reviews. Most of these tools can be bought on Amazon, but a terrific and cost-effective resource for basic kitchen tools is a restaurant supply store. Just buy the best quality you can afford!

1. Scrub Brush
The most basic cleaning tool you should have in your kitchen.
Lean and Mean Scrub Brush ($5.95)
Be Good Dish Brush ($5.95)

2. Dish Cloth
For wiping down counters and tables!
Full Circle Tidy Dish Cloth, 3-Pack ($8.76)
Excello Scrubber Dish Cloths, Set of 6 ($9)

3. Non-or Lightly Abrasive Scrubbing Pads
Totally essential for hard-to-clean pots and pans. We particularly love these scrub pads because they work on non-stick pans, cast-iron skillets (without soap!), enamel-coated dishes, and regular stainless steel pots, all without leaving any scratches.
Scrub Pads ($1.50) – See our review here.
Spaghetti Scrubbers, Set of 2 ($10.95)

4. Steel Wool
For heavy duty scrubbing (think stovetop grates, inside the oven), steel wool is the answer. But be careful! It’s very abrasive and will scratch certain surfaces, so always do a test first.
Super Fine Steel Wool ($3.98)

5. Cloth Towels or Paper Towels
We all need a few go-to towels (paper or cloth) to clean up quick messes and spills, or to buff things to a shine.
Skoy Cloth ($6.99) – See our review here.
Bakers & Chefs Bar Mops – 24pk ($19.58)

6. Plastic Scraper
We’ve talked before about our love for the cheap, plastic scraper. It’s great for sweeping around a sauté pan and digging into corners. Plus, it won’t damage enamel or nonstick cookware.
Pampered Chef Pan Scrapers ($3.25)
Nylon Pan Scraper, Set of 2 ($3.95)

7. Rubber Gloves
Protect your hands from cleaners, abrasive scrubbies, and gross food.
True Blues Ultimate Household Gloves ($10.95)
Casabella Water Stop All-Purpose Gloves, Set of 2 ($12.99)

8. A Grease-Cutting Dish Soap
Dawn is admittedly the most effective dish soap for cutting grease, but if you’re looking for a non-petroleum based dish soap, Ecover and Method are some of the top choices for grease-fighting.

9. A Multi-Purpose Cleaner
You need a good cleaner for floors, countertops, tile, sinks, and appliances.
Bar Keeper’s Friend ($4.80) – Here’s how to use it.
Bon Ami ($1.69) – See our review here.

10. Dish Drainer
Even if you have a dishwasher, there are always a few dishes you’ll probably hand wash, so a dish drainer is a good thing to have.
Wire Frame Dish Rack from Simple Human ($60)
Geo Dish Drainer from Royal VKB ($48.30) – See our review here.

Readers, what are your essentials cleaning tools and products?

Related: Our Readers’ Favorite Kitchen Cleaning Tools