Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Cleaning Items That Are The Real Heroes Of The Pandemic Edition

I think we can all agree that household chores have taken on new importance during this pandemic. I like to have a clean and tidy home and that has been amplified by being at home all the time.

It’s interesting to me, how different we all are in terms of cleaning preferences: not just products, but also methods. My mom, for example, was a Spring Cleaning kind of person, who would literally clean the house from top to bottom over a 24-hour period, not just in spring but several times a year. She kept a very clean house, and there was always one day a week that was Cleaning Day. I am more of a Short Bursts of Energy kind of person, wherein I like to do one or two things each day, rather than set aside a whole day or weekend.

When I was first married, my mother-in-law told me that HER mother-in-law used to wash the walls monthly. Every single month, she would take everything off the walls, move the furniture, and wash them. My mother-in-law said, in a very well meaning way, “That’s just not necessary! Every month. Once every three to four months is plenty!” I remember smiling and nodding and thinking every three to four months? To this day, I think I’ve washed the walls a) when we’ve repainted, and not always then, and b) when we were first in lockdown and I was bored. I spot-wash the walls when they look grubby but other than that? No.

In general I spend between 10 and 30 minutes a day doing household chores, depending on the day and not including the kitchen. The kitchen, really, is its own entity. I spend so much time cooking and preparing food, and I am a clean-as-you-go kind of person, and so much more time is spent doing dishes and wiping down countertops. If I add that time up, I will become depressed, so I am not going to do that.

One thing I will NOT do as an adult is dry dishes. That was one of my chores as a child and to this day I cannot stand it. If no one is home to dry them, I pile everything into the drying rack and allow them to air dry; the only exception is if I have wine glasses or the coffee pot in the drying rack and I am trying to fit something heavy in there, like pots and pans. I will not risk the life of my coffee pot, and hence the life of my family, and so I will dry it with a feeling of being under extreme duress.

Anyway, 10-30 minutes a day of small things adds up, especially because my house is not very big and I am very fortunate to live with three pretty neat and tidy guys. They do the post-dinner cleanup on weekends, the boys keep their rooms neat and clean, and they are all good at putting dishes away and emptying the dishwasher and not doing gross boy things like peeing on the toilet seat. Don’t get me wrong; I am not sure at what point anyone would actually wash the dishes in the sink without being asked specifically, and no one has EVER cleaned the bathroom without specific instructions, or emptied the bathroom wastepaper basket, and there is constantly an empty juice container squished and left on the kitchen island when the recycling bin is literally fifteen steps away and everyone passes it every time they go downstairs, not that I’m bitter. In general, my cleaning time is mostly spent in the bathroom and also dealing with the floor; at this time of year it is generally covered in paw prints.

This month’s Favourite Things was inspired by Suzanne (HI SUZANNE) and her Chores Chat, where I discovered I am LITERALLY fascinated by other people’s housework methodologies and cleaning products.

Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Cleaning Items That Are The Real Heroes Of The Pandemic Edition


I cannot say enough about my Roomba. I actually have two Roombas; one on the main floor and one downstairs. I am not in the least exaggerating when I say that getting a Roomba was Life Changing. I mean, I can go about my day while a robot cleans my floors, what could possibly be better than that, cleaning-wise? A ROBOT IS CLEANING MY FLOORS.

Go, Roomba, go! I believe in you!

White Vinegar

I am going to confess something here: I am a little bit of a hippie when it comes to cleaning products. While we do have some chemical products – for example, toilet bowl cleaners, I am not a monster – I like to be as natural as possible. I know, it’s weird to say that during a pandemic, but here we are.

I love white vinegar and use it diluted for washing mirrors, windows, glass shower doors, and the hardwood floors. As a result, my house often smells like a pickle factory, but hey, it works. It’s a potpourri, really: vinegar, delicious baking, and elderly dog. Maybe I should market it: Nicole’s Home Fragrance.

I buy the STORE BRAND because, Scottish.

Swedish Dish Cloths

Another confession: I was almost thirty when I realized that people use paper towels for cleaning. I honest to god thought that those commercials showing people using paper towels to clean up spills were just commercials; I didn’t know anyone who used them that way. I know! I know. I was brought up in a house in which spills – and everything else – were cleaned up using rags that were kept under the kitchen sink, and so my house has rags kept under the kitchen sink; rags, by the way, that I have made out of old receiving blankets, pajamas, and towels. Between that and the vinegar I’m practically Ma Ingalls.

However, someone had mentioned Swedish dish cloths to me, which are like a reusable paper towel. I ordered some and yes, I keep them under the sink. They are pretty and cute, and they work great for cleaning the sink and stovetop, and buffing fingerprints off the stainless steel appliances. I still mostly use rags for everything else though.

My Mother-in-Law’s Dish Cloths

My mother-in-law knits these dish cloths and is extremely generous with them. She can whip off one in an hour or less, and she has literal drawers full of them, so I help myself whenever I visit. As a result, this is in my hall cupboard:

These are my EXTRAS, for when my current kitchen stash wear out and become, in the Circle of Life, under-the-sink rags. I have enough to last me until I’m in the Home. Or dead. My great-grandchildren will be divvying them up amongst themselves and wondering why Great Grandma had so many dish cloths. Anyway, these are great for washing dishes – which I spend an alarming amount of time doing – and also wiping down the kitchen countertops – ditto.

Method Cleaning Products

These hippie products smell good and work well. I use the blue one for the bathroom sink and toilet, the granite cleaner mostly for the bathroom granite but sometimes for the kitchen when I’m feeling fancy, and the antibacterial one for the kitchen sink.

Scrubbing Bubbles

I quick-clean the bathroom every other day with vinegar and Method, but once a week I give it a thorough cleaning: scrubbing the shower tiles and floor. We have two bathrooms in the house and the main floor one is heavily utilized. Twenty-eight showers a week – at minimum – means that the main floor shower gets quite a soap scum and hard water buildup that really, no amount of diluted vinegar and hippie cleaning products are going to touch. I love Scrubbing Bubbles for that purpose; this is the only bathroom cleaner whose smell I can stand. It’s fresh and clean smelling, and it really works.

Plus, I like to imagine a the bubbles actually looking like that, in a world we cannot see, scrubbing away happily.

Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner

Anyone that has stainless steel appliances knows the bane of their existence, fingerprints and smudges. My mom told me about this and WOW, does it ever work. I have tried every hippie method known to man – coconut oil, vinegar, praying to the cleaning gods – and nothing has worked like this.

Caveat: be careful when spraying it on the appliances, because if you get it on the floor it is VERY slippery. Be warned! Also, admire my shiny fridge!

Feel free to share your favourite cleaning hacks, products, and methods. Or, don’t! If cleaning is not your jam, don’t worry, next week we will delve into another favourite topic: Costco. Until then, my friends! xo


  1. We use diluted vinegar for mirrors and vinegar plus salt for cast iron pans. I don’t know if these brands are the same in Canada, but we use Bon Ami scrubbing powder for bathroom counters, kitchen and bathroom sinks, and the shower, Simple Green for kitchen counters and the stovetop, and Dr. Bronner’s castille soap for mopping the kitchen floor.

  2. Pat Birnie says

    I love this post as I’m always looking for new ideas. I’m also a little bit hippie & like to minimize harsh chemicals & toxins but don’t want to sacrifice cleaning power. Also like you, I rarely use paper towels. I think a roll of paper towels may have lasted my mother 5 years! If someone is at my house and steps in to help clean up, and they go for the paper towels, its really hard for me not to gasp out loud! I followed in my mom’s footsteps and use rags and sponges. I really hate single use products! I may orders some of those swedish dish cloths though. I tried a lot of ‘natural products’ but when you read the label they often aren’t all that different. Just adding Green to the name doesn’t mean they are good for the environment or for us to breathe. I recently got recipes from an essential oil friend for 3 products: all-purpose cleaner, granite cleaner & sink and tub scrub. The base is Dr Bronners plus alcohol, perhaps vinegar etc,, baking soda in the scrub – plus essential oils. They work & smell great and are inexpensive. I keep a bottle of diluted vinegar in the bathroom and spray around the toilet seat when the grandsons with poor aim come to visit. I also recently got a great recipe for laundry soap – it’s Oxyclean, borax & washing soda and it works really well. I have asthma and cannot deal with fake scents – it’s really hard to find truly unscented laundry detergent. The best part is it costs pennies a load. (my mother was also very thrifty and I think I take after her there as well:)

    • I love essential oils but my husband gets really severe reactions from them. I don’t know why, but he does – immediate headaches. So, I guess we will stick with the pickle factory!

    • I have a paper towel roll that is actually a medical roll (so it is both longer and taller than a normal kitchen paper towel roll) which my wife left behind when she moved out. That was over 18 months ago and it is still in use! I feel like the day the paper roll runs out will be a weird milestone in my divorce. And then I will have to start using rags instead because I am NOT paying actual money for paper towel!

  3. You can add essential oil to your vinegar mixture to help cut the pickle scent. We use vinegar in many ways here. I’m still trying to wean The Husband off his addiction to paper towels…slowly, we are getting there.

    I have several cleaning products that are on my go to list. It includes vinegar, Scrubbing Bubbles, Barkeeper’s Friend, any kind of toilet bowl cleaner that contains bleach and “clings”.

    I have found the Go Clean Co’s method of using powdered Tide and hot water for cleaning the floors to be a game changer for me. When I mop the floors with this mixture the floor REALLY feels and looks clean.

    I also have a Roomba that I love. But since I’ve been in the house for over a year I have discovered; that while I love it; my threshold for listening to it as it hums around the house is low. Our relationship works better if I am out of the house while it cleans!

    • Oh, I get that, sometimes it is really annoying. Especially when it bumps into me. I can’t use essential oils because my husband gets immediate headaches from them! Weird, hey?

  4. I love the idea of using vinegar for cleaning and I did it for a while, but I can’t stand the pickle scent (even though I love pickles, whatever, I’m complicated), so I stopped, although I am intrigued by Gigi’s suggestion. I love Method products and I have them all over the house. I do have a fondness for bleach, it just smells clean to me, but it’s bad for the environment so I try not to use it too much.
    Do you…. not have a dishwasher? I am even less worthy than the unworthy I was before if not.
    During the first lockdown I started ironing all of my napkins and teatowels, with starch. It calmed me immeasurably. If we had a place for the ironing board on the main level I would probably still be doing it. Pillowcases too – I hate when the edges are too wrinkly to cover the end of the pillow properly.
    Matt wanted to get a stainless steel refrigerator when we replaced ours and Eve and I vetoed. I assumed the smudges would drive me batty, and I like sticking things to the fridge. Where else would my Virginia Woolf finger puppet go?

    • Oooh, that sounds calming. Although I am kind of a terrible ironer so maybe not. I do have a dishwasher but I wash all pots, pans, plastic, blender, etc., by hand, which means that I’m washing dishes like three times a day.

  5. Nicole’e home fragrance – hahaha!! I tried vinegary for cleaning but could’t deal with the burning in my nostrils. Also, I have *never* washed my walls, save for a spot clean and sucking up cobwebs so now I have a cleaning inferiority complex 😉 I do reuse microfibre cloths for cleaning and love them. Very absorbent +

  6. I think posts like this are my love language? Your happy microscopic scrubbing bubbles and the bit about practically being Ma Ingalls made me laugh.

    Also: WASHING THE WALLS EVERY MONTH? I think I washed the walls of our house when we moved in ten years ago… and I spot clean, obviously, and swiffer them regularly for cobwebs and dust, but WASHING THEM MONTHLY? No thank you.

    You probably already know this, but I am a Paper Towel User. I use them for toilets, because there is something about the idea of putting the toilet-cleaning rags in the laundry with the other rags that squicks me right out. I also tend to use paper towels in the kitchen, for spills and quick clean ups. For everything else I use old baby blankets, microfiber cloths, and old (unused) cloth diaper inserts. The cloth diaper inserts are my Rag Of Choice for wiping down the stainless. Which is SO satisfying when it’s all nice and shiny and lasts for all of five minutes.

  7. What a fun post. I too hardly use paper towels and I never use them for actual cleaning. I have a stack of rags under the sink and thanks to Ancestry.Com this past year I found out I have some Scottish in me; makes sense, right?
    I LOVE method granite cleaner and I use it on all of our stone.
    Vinegar is awesome and the smell of pickles in your house is, um, endearing?
    I’m a fan of baking powder to clean grout/showers.
    I love Mrs. Myers dish soap and I keep it on the counter and swap out flavors/scents throughout the seasons; kind of makes washing dishes/pots a little bit more ‘festive’.

  8. This is so fun despite me feeling like a bit of a housework flunkie in comparison to the rest of you.

    I stockpile rags. We use paper towels more than I would like but not for cleaning. The kids make fun of me for using newspaper to wash windows and mirrors. I also like those Swedish towels and I am envious that you have a MIL that offers such a great contribution to your home cleaning efforts. The wall washing story is awesome. So funny.

    I use vinegar to clean my hardwood floors. I cannot stand the smell. I use Windex for most everything else. This is the first I’ve heard of Method cleaning company. I must look into it.

    I did like Barmaid but we put cabinet panels over all of our appliances when we redid the kitchen. I do not miss the smudges.

    I like Comet for sinks and toilets. I have found Scrubbing Bubbles to be the best for soap scum. I’m with Pat. Many fragrances irritate my asthma.

    I hate dusting and I have only ever cleaned walls that had food thrown at them. Happens more than one would think.

    Around Christmas we got a robot that WASHES the kitchen floor. That is my least fav job and it has been wonderful. I must post about it.

    Love the Ma Ingalls reference.

  9. This is a great post. I understand how you clean in spurts, I do the same thing. I’ve thought about getting a Roomba, but the price! I’m a little bit hippy Ma Ingalls too so I didn’t know about Swedish dish cloths and will look for them. As for the Wieman’s spray stainless steel cleaner, this is a revelation. We can get the stuff in canisters with messy towelettes drenched in the stuff, but not as a spray. I have to look into that. A spray would be better.

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