Our guide to the best home cleaning essentials
Everything, from laundry detergent to sponges to robot vacuums
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How can you really tell which soaps, cleaners, and detergents are better than others, unless you've tried them all? Fortunately, we can help out on that front: We've been testing cleaning solutions of all kinds—from dish soap to detergent and even DIY options—in a laboratory environment with standardized testing for years now. We know what works and what doesn't, so if you follow our lead you can be sure the next time you stock up on cleaning supplies you're getting the best performance or best value there is.
Here's our fully vetted list of the best home cleaning solutions on the market.
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, the soap almost as famous for cleaning up wildlife after oil spills as it is for cleaning your dinner plates, is the best dish soap we've tested to date. It makes quick work of basic meat, spinach, oatmeal, milk, and egg stains as well as tougher ones, like burnt sugar, burnt cheese, and lasagna. It also dissolved bacon grease better than any other detergent we tested.
Hardwood floor cleaner
The Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner is effective, smells great, and comes in a user-friendly squirt bottle. It wins as the best floor cleaner in just about every aspect, easily removing most stains from floor surfaces, though it does sometimes struggle removing tough stains from textured floor surfaces (like vinyl flooring) as does the rest of its competition. Its citrus-mint scent is subtle and pleasant, rather than overwhelming and chemical-y, so you won’t mind how it makes your home smell. Even better, Better Life is rated as “pet safe.”
Carpet stain remover
Based on just about every criteria we tested, the best carpet stain remover is Woolite Instaclean Permanent Pet Stain Remover. Woolite Instaclean had the best stain removal performance overall, erasing almost all of the chocolate stain, eliminating tomato sauce, and easily cleaning up all the rest the rest of the less-hardy stains. It also expunged nearly all of the stains' odors as well. As a bonus, Woolite Instaclean is also safe for kids and pets, assuming you give it time to dry (and observe proper use).
The best sponges can make short work of a dirty kitchen, from the spills on your countertop to burnt-on stains your dishwasher can't seem to dent. If you want the best sponge we've come across in our testing, you're looking for the Scotch-Brite Dobie All Purpose Pad. Regardless of what job you have in store for this sponge, it'll get the task done as painlessly as possible. We loved how it's textured enough to scour away stubborn stains, but is soft enough that it won't scratch your cookware. Its thin build makes it easy to get into cracks and crevices, but it also means this sponge isn't the best at soaking up spills.
Got to clean your toilet? Make sure you do so using some disposable gloves. We love the Venom Steel Rip Resistant Industrial Nitrile Gloves, the best of the batch we tested. They're durable: Their 6mm-thick, dual-layered design lets them withstand more than 10 pounds of pressure without tearing. They even stood up to a slash from a knife without breaking, making them the only gloves in the testing group able to do so. They protect hands effectively against chemicals and water, and generally exceeded our expectations.
Our first place winning Swiffer WetJet isn’t a traditional mop, but it can do everything a traditional mop can do only better. Unlike other mops, you won't have to pull out a bucket to fill with water and cleanser—it comes built-in. This sort of ease of use is the main selling point of the WetJet, which is both an all-in-one mopping suite and takes up less room in the broom closet. It's very easy to just pull it out, quickly mop, and then put it back. As a bonus, it's cleaning solution is also safe for pets. In all, the only area where the WetJet underperforms is when you need to soak up a large spill. Its disposable paper head is mostly built for scrubbing, not for absorbency.
Bounty is a name synonymous with the paper towels and, as we saw in our lab, it's for a good reason. Bounty’s plain old “quicker picker upper” completely outperformed the competition by a large margin in both our objective and subjective tests. In our single-wipe test, Bounty came the closest to leaving no smudge behind, and it performed similarly well with removing and trapping dust. When dry, Bounty felt the strongest and thickest, despite only being the fifth heaviest among the paper towels we tested. When wet, it maintained its strength, withstanding rigorous underwater scrubbing without ripping. On the subjective side, this towel will tear off the roll perfectly every time—a boast few paper towel rolls can make. While we still recommend looking into reusable paper towels for the more eco-friendly readers out there, if you just need plain old paper towels, Bounty is the best there is.
There are a ton of different types of vacuum cleaners out there, but if you're looking for the best bagless upright, you need the Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away. This popular upright picks up 38% of dirt on average (anything that picks up over 33% of the dirt is in great shape). The Lift-Away has a swivel joint in the brush head, and its brush also has a small profile. This combination lets you nimbly pivot around and under furniture, reaching areas in tight spaces that most other vacuums can't.
If you're more in the market for a robot vac to keep up with the cleaning day to day, we recommend the iRobot Roomba i7+. This is the first robot vacuum that can empty itself. That means you don't have to see, touch, or smell whatever your robot vacuum has been collecting from your home's nooks and crannies. The i7+ also has a whole host of smart features, is compatible with the major smart assistants, and even makes virtual maps of your home as it cleans to better track and improve its cleaning cycles. Fancy tech aside, the i7+ is also an excellent vacuum, and its consistent use can completely take maintenance sweeping and vacuuming off your to-do list. While its price is high compared to other robot vacuums we've tested, it's worth the investment.
Though Persil ProClean has only been on sale in the U.S. since mid-2015, it has long been a best-selling laundry detergent in Europe. So, it should come as no surprise that it is also the best laundry detergent we've tested. It removes an average of 2% more stains than Tide, regardless of the stain. Persil is also less expensive than Tide—$0.19 per wash versus Tide's $0.94 per wash. Over a year's worth of washing with Persil ProClean power liquid, this difference really adds up.
Likewise, Persil earns top honors as the best detergent for sensitive skin with its Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin mildly-scented formula. In fact, we actually like this version of Persil over the regular ProClean. It is formulated to work in cold water and performs best against red wine and protein stains. Overall, it removed about 76.8% of all testing stains, 1.5% more stains than Tide Free and Gentle.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly option, Tide Purclean is, by far, the best we've tested, featuring a familiar name and a reduced environmental impact. It cleans as well as conventional Tide, but it’s also one of the more expensive detergents we’ve tested. Full disclosure: Purclean is a hybrid detergent—only 75% of its ingredients are plant-based, and some of the rest are petroleum-derived. Compared to Mrs. Meyers and Seventh Generation—each 97% plant-derived—it's less green.
- Get Persil ProClean on Amazon for $11.97
- Get Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin on Amazon for $11.97
- Get Tide Purclean on Amazon for $17.99
DIY dishwasher detergent
We're rounding out our list with a DIY dishwasher detergent recipe we have seen posted on a number of different websites. When we tested DIY detergents, this one got clothes the cleanest by a wide margin—more so, even, than our control, Seventh Generation. While this recipe slightly underperformed Tide laundry detergent, it still makes a good, affordable, and eco-friendly alternative.
Mix all the dry ingredients together and add 2-3 Tbsp. to the washing machine before you throw in your laundry. If you want to pre-mix the ingredients together in bulk, we recommend using a ground-up bar of Castile soap instead of the liquid version. You can use your food processor to do the grinding.
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