It’s nearing the middle of March and soft, fluffy pillows of snow are falling outside our windows right now. We’ve got no where to be but cozy at home, a perfect opportunity as any to talk with you all about something I love. I’ll start by saying, I am overly excited about this cleaning post, so bear with my enthusiasm. I love cleaning tools just as much as I loved school supplies growing up, and I became a teacher. So there’s that. Okay, so I also love helping people learn things, and I love books, and I love kids, so there’s that too. Growing up, I was the girl who made little checks on the supply list mailed out mid-summer as my mom and I mazed our way through crowds of crayon boxes and crazed kids at the store. Once home, I’d lay out my new supplies spending an admittedly bizarre amount of time arranging them just so on my bed, admiring my just-sharpened No. 2 pencils and array of Lisa Frank folders, almost always sorting by theme or color. Do you remember Lisa Frank? Those were the cool, fancy folders, if I remember correctly. I am still that girl, only I’ve moved on from beautiful school supplies to beautiful cleaning ones.
Why, might you ask, do I prefer beautiful, more naturally crafted cleaning tools over synthetic, less attractive ones if they are going to be used for the purpose of scraping and scrubbing dirt, muck, dust, and grime? My answer to such a query is a simple one: because everyday items, yes even ones we use when we clean, can and should be beautiful, sustainable, and well-made.
Cleaning and keeping our living spaces in order is something I do every single day after we craft, cook, play, and make lots of little messes together at home. It’s important and meaningful to me that I try to fold positive and loving energy into the most mundane tasks, because they are part and parcel of staying home and taking care of these babies of ours. I can honestly say that views such tasks in this regard truly makes my day more enjoyable, and if anything, more beautiful. Yes, I know that cleaning toilets is not beautiful. Scrubbing bacon grease off fry pans is not beautiful. Getting dust in your eye as you wipe down the fans is gross. But good music while I pick up and clean is lovely, and so are my cleaning tools. I take care of what I can to bring more joy into the work I do at home, so drudgery doesn’t have to live up to its name nor the connotation it implies.
We have many of our cleaning tools within an arm’s reach and therefore on display out of convenience due to our consistence use of them throughout the day. For this reason, I tend to invest in ones that are delightful to look at while maintaining high quality so they keep and we are not wasting money. Fortunately these days, you can easily track down pretty cleaning tools that are going to outlast your factory-made plastic ones thanks to mindful companies and makers that celebrate small-batch processes using natural materials like fibers from plants, animal hair, and different types of wood.
Wood, specially beech, is a durable material that stands the test of time and so there is a reason you see it making a rightful comeback after decades of historical use by keepers of the home. In addition to the beauty and practicality of wood, bristles made of palm and sisal contain natural lipids that help prevent mold and bacteria because of their chemical makeup, something that sponges, dishrags, and porous plastic scrubbers paradoxically attract. Not something we want to clean with. Ew. The number of studies that have been done on the bacteria-ridden kitchen sponge is extensive (and pretty disgusting!) and a large reason why I prefer my cleaning tools to be crafted with materials that repel these kinds of harmful microbes if I can help it.
So purposeful, sustainable, and beautiful? Yes to all three. Below is an inventory of the brushes and various cleaning tools we use in our home and where I purchased them, or similar styles that I think would do the job. I hope you find this list to be useful as we inch closer to spring cleaning!
- Dustpan Set | The kids and I use this daily to sweep up little messes made around the house, usually in the kitchen. It’s small, handy, and darling with the smiley face.
- Long Handled Dustpan | My mom got this dustpan on a trip to Amish country many, many years ago and I’ve had it since my years away at college. This tool is nice because you don’t have to bend down so it makes sweeping an easier chore if you’ve got a bigger mess to clean.
- Common Dish Brush | This is the brush I use most often at the kitchen sink and it works so well. Many of our kitchen items are not dishwasher safe – including enamel, wood, copper, etc. – so I prefer to hand wash them with a scrubber like this and dry them after with a cloth towel so they hold up and last through the years. And coming in at under $5 you cannot beat the price. There are also versions similar to the one I buy at Prydes (a local kitchen store here in KC that you MUST visit if in town) that you can buy here.
- Crumb Brush | If you are familiar with Montessori practices, this little brush is probably familiar to you. The kids use it to clean table messes and wipe up food scraps from the butcher block island when they help me make meals. It was a stocking stuffer a few years ago and is a big hit here.
- Horse Hair Broom | This picks up even the tiniest crumbs and bits of dust hiding under the table. It is the one cleaning tool I use most frequently at home.
- Heavy-Duty Corn Broom | This style of broom is ideal for deep sweeping, such as a dirty patio or dusty garage. The corn husk fibers are strong and resilient, making it the perfect tool for big jobs.
- Round Vegetable Brush | This little guy is small and sturdy. We use this to clean and remove the dirt and wax on our fruits and veggies before eating. If you garden, you’ll like this one.
- Best Baby Bottle Brush | If you have a young one who drinks a bottle, you’ll love this brush. Not many are able to really get in there and clean out the (dried) milk but this one does the job and it does it well.
- Japanese Twist Brush | Ideal for cast iron pots and pans as you just use it with hot water.
- Heavy-Duty Scrub Brush | This brush works well for deep cleaning floors and surfaces that are really dirty. It’s made of bamboo and tampico so it’s natural and eco friendly.
- Standard Bottle Brush | I use this brush on occasion for cleaning glasses that I am not going to put in the dishwasher. I like that it’s well-made and has a long handle, making it perfect to clean hard to reach nooks.
- Flour Sack Towels | You can’t go wrong with a flour sack dish towel for drying or wiping down counters. They are my favorite rags to use around the house and are dirt cheap.
- Lambswool Duster | For high to reach places, this wood-handled duster is great. I generally use my homemade wood polish and cotton cloth for dusting our wood tables and cabinets, but this tool is handy for things like ceiling fans and lights that are high up.
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloth for Windows | If you’ve never heard of Norwex cloths then your life is about to be changed. My mom is a lover of these babies and I have several. These clothes are made with sustainable materials that magically grab onto dirt and dust without having to use glass cleaner or paper towels that add to waste and contribute to deforestation. They are brilliant and last forever if you take care of them, so well worth the investment in my opinion.
- My Favorite Cleaner | I could write a book on this cleaner and why I love it so very much, but the top two reasons are 1). Dr. Bronner’s is biodegradable and does a fantastic job on dishes 2). it creates the best pine-scented suds!
How should you care for your brushes? I soak my small brushes in a 1 part water + 1 part distilled white vinegar solution in the sink every few weeks or so to keep them clean. Hand-washing is best. You should not see mold on the wood or in the bristles, and if you do a replacement might be in order. If you need to do a deep clean of your brush, go ahead and sanitize it in the dishwasher. I do not recommend this as your first line of defense because this kind of cleaning pressure is not good for the wood or natural fibers, but that being said it should not hurt if you do it every now and again.
Here are a few other places you can find beautiful, well-made cleaning tools:
- Kaufmann Mercantile
- Brookfarm General Store
- Grove Collaborative
- The Laundress
- Montessori Services
For more cleaning posts, head here.
What cleaning tools do you use consistently and love? Are you ready for spring cleaning? I am! Our walls and windows are FILTHY. Also, I am nearly done with my cleaning rhythm PDF so that’s quite exciting! It should be set to share next week.