Over the years, I've tried product after product, things my clients have provided, and things I've experimented with on my own. The products I display below are the ones I've come back to again and again, the ones I never want to be without, and the ones I always have on hand in my own home. Heed my warning: I'm going to give advice shamelessly and un-apologetically. Take what you can live with, and leave the rest, but I really do swear by the things I'm going to share.
Next, Formula 409 cleaner. There's a reason this product has been around as long as I've been alive - it works. Use it anywhere where grease or soap-scum is a problem. I get the big jug at our local restaurant supply and just keep refilling the spray bottle. I've tried the industrial strength degreasers, but for household use I find 409 to be as reliable as they come, and I've never found it to harm or discolor grout or other kitchen or bath surfaces. (By the way, if you prefer a bathroom specific product, Lysol 3-in-1 is also good.)
Also for the kitchen and bath, there's another oldie but goodie. Ajax, or Comet cleanser - inexpensive, reliable, and disinfecting. I use these for white porcelain, or other bathtub surfaces where the disinfecting and whitening of bleach is desirable. I shake it into toilet bowls and white porcelain sinks before scrubbing. It is also great for white tiles and grout.
(Remember, never mix any product containing bleach with any product containing ammonia. The mixture creates a fatal vapor cloud. I actually know a person whose aunt died from mixing these two ingredients in hopes of making a super strong cleaner. I also know a woman who was almost overcome in this manner in the middle of the night while urinating in a toilet bowl which her husband had, unbeknownst to her, decided to pour bleach in to soak overnight. Urine can react with bleach in the same manner as ammonia!)
Ah, and one of my secret special favorites - Endust! I poo-pooed this product for years, thinking it a silly waste of money. Then I tried it. It is perfect for dusting any (non-glass) surface, especially high gloss enamel wood furniture. It does not build up or leave streaks. But here's the real reason I love Endust so much: stainless steel. Get rid of all those expensive stainless-steel specific products. Nothing works better on the new, ever-so-popular stainless appliances. No streak, no greasy feeling, cleans and restores to like new in one easy step. And for the price, it's the best product out there.
Now, I know some of you will think Pine-Sol is the name in household general purpose cleaners. I'm not going to argue, but I can't stand the stuff. Though it works pretty well, it tends to leave streaks on floors, and the smell makes me sick, even in the lavender scented variety. Mr. Clean, on the other hand, has a fresh lemony smell, and besides being great for the mop-bucket, can be diluted in a spray bottle and used for all kinds of light cleaning. It is my favorite for the exterior surfaces of toilets. Because it is cheaper in dilution than 409, I use it for light cleaning of counter tops.
Barkeepers Friend is one of the world's best products. I use it for stainless steel sinks, and all metals which can tarnish: copper, brass, silver, etc. It works better, faster, and cheaper than any specialty metal polish I've tried, and with no disgusting smell. (Sorry Tarn-X, but I don't like to use products that cost seven dollars and smell like dead fish.) I even use it on silver jewelry. It's a great rust-remover as well. It can also be used for anything a Comet type cleanser can be used for, but with less abrasiveness, and no bleach properties.
Now, this next product will not likely be available everywhere. I buy it at a local window glass company, but I'm quite sure you can order it on the internet. I do think this one is worth the trouble. Bio-Clean, Water Stain Remover. Don't waste your money, time, or environment using those harsh acids, or CLR, or Lime Away for water stains. They just don't do the trick on anything that can't be literally soaked in them. Bio-Clean is a thick liquid which can be applied with a moist scrubbie or a damp cloth, depending upon the surface and severity of the hard-water build up. It is the only product I've found that really works on water-spotted glass shower doors. I've also used it on my car windows when they've gotten spotted. I should warn you, though this product works, it does not work like magic. Nothing works like magic on water spots. But Bio-Clean, and some steady, patient rubbing will actually get the job done. Oh, like Barkeepers Friend, it can also be used on tarnished metals, though it doesn't work quite as quickly. And it, too, will remove black pot/pan marks from white porcelain sinks.
Okay, here's where I step on some sacred cows. Use Windex, or another brand name window cleaner. The cheap replacements require far more product and far more wiping to remove streaks.
Vinegar, or homemade ammonia mixes will work - but only as well as the cheap replacements, and for only a minimal savings. For me, the extra trouble is not worth the few cents' savings. Also, don't over-wet the surface. It takes more wiping and wastes product if you do. Paper towels are wasteful and leave lint. Newspaper - well - it's a mess. The ink gets all over your hands. I really don't get the appeal. (And besides, the way the newspaper industry is headed...well, you know.) Use rags.
Oh, by the way, never use fabric softener with your cleaning rags. It kills their absorbency and will leave cloudy streaks on your glass and mirrors, which defeats the whole purpose.
Next up, scrubbies. I like these green and yellow ones for bathrooms and the blue variety for kitchen work. They can be freshened up every few days in the laundry.
Now for the wood, the kind that needs oiling. I like Liquid Gold. It also is good for shining up stainless steel sinks after they've been cleaned. Nuff sed.
I'll end with some miscellaneous tips.
- If you happen to have one of those new razzle-dazzle washer/dryer sets that looks like race cars. Here's just the thing for you - Turtle Wax, or whatever your favorite automotive wax is. This will protect that beautiful red, blue, or whatever you've chosen surface from scuffs and scratches. I also know of some folks who use automotive wax to protect their stainless steel sinks. Mind you, these are the true perfectionists, the ones who wipe their kitchen sink dry after every use.
- If you have Pergo or the like, buy a product specific for that type of floor. Other floor cleaners will likely leave streaks, which is really frustrating. Pledge makes a reasonably priced product for that purpose, as do many other manufacturers.
- For carpet spots, I like Folex. The price is right; the bottle is big; and it does what it's supposed to.
- Vinegar, in my humble opinion, is food. Cook with it. It is entirely overrated as a cleaner.
- I've also found that in a pinch a few drops of dish soap in my mob bucket is a perfectly fine cleaner for a kitchen floor.