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Our editors put hundreds of new sprays, wipes, detergents, and tools to the test. Our must-haves: products that are as easy to use as they are powerful. Bonus points for being safe and friendly to the planet.
Katy Kiick Condon
March 12, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
“Not all research is going to the moon…many chemists and engineers are developing better products and equipment to take the drudgery out of housework,” reads a 1964 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Today’s scientists continue to innovate cleaning sprays, wipes, machines, and tools that are easier to use, more powerful, and most importantly, safer for your family and the planet.
We’re dedicated to keeping up with and testing these new advancements in order to bring you the best of what’s on shelves. This year, we studied nearly 200 new products then tested the 100 we hoped would revolutionize home cleaning. Multiple editors used each product, comparing the contenders to each other as well as to their previous cleaning routines. We also focused on common pain points, like homes with multiple flooring surfaces, shedding pets, and dirty dishes that inevitably reappear every day.
Here, we present our lineup of favorite 2021 cleaning products. May they make your chores and daily life a little better.
Best Laundry Products
The past year made us reevaluate our laundry routines, especially upon seeing the aftermath of laundry stripping. We tested dozens of new products to find the laundry essentials that go beyond fresh and clean to decrease waste, de-stink workout gear, and remove stains from nearly anything.
Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
These laundry detergent sheets are super easy to use (just drop one in the washer with your dirty clothes) and are made with natural ingredients that get effective results, even in cold water. Bonus: The zero-waste packaging is plastic-free and 100% recyclable.
Buy It: Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets ($22 for 60 sheets, Kind Laundry)
Best Scented Laundry Detergent
A little goes a long way with this highly concentrated laundry detergent, and the scent lasts and lasts. One tester raved that the fresh fragrance even lasted through a long workout!
Buy It: Gain with Essential Oils ($17 for 58 ounces, Target)
Best Laundry Detergent Concentrate
Over time, using too much detergent can damage clothing and cause issues with your washing machine. Swash Laundry’s ingenious cap pre-portions the small amount needed for each load, meaning you always pour the correct amount: one squeeze per normal load or two for extra-large ones.
Buy It: Swash Laundry Detergent ($16 for 30 ounces, Amazon)
Best Laundry Odor Fighter
This laundry sanitizer wipes out the bacteria that cause persistent smells. Pour it into the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine and use it alongside your regular detergent to clean problem items like smelly gym clothes or pet towels.
Buy It: Clorox Laundry Sanitizer ($5 for 42 ounces, Walmart)
These dryer sheets are premoistened with a formula meant to protect and condition your activewear during the dry cycle. They also help reduce odor so smells don’t get trapped by the wax of traditional dryer sheets.
Buy It: HEX Performance Wet Dryer Sheets ($10 for 120, HEX Performance)
Best Laundry Stain Fighter
Fragrance-free and made with natural ingredients, this stain stick removes stubborn residue without any harsh chemicals. “Just rub onto wet fabric and watch the ketchup stains start to disappear,” raved art director (and mom of four) Christy Brokens. Plus, no rinsing required; after a wash cycle, stains are completely gone.
Buy It: Ingredients Matter Laundry Soap Stain Stick ($7, Ingredients Matter)
Best Travel Laundry Stain Solution
These wipes tackle whatever befalls you on the go. Each sheet is individually wrapped and perfect for stashing in your backpack, wallet, purse, or car—wherever it’s needed most. The convenience factor makes these the perfect portable solution for stain emergencies.
Buy It: Tide To Go Wipes ($6 for 10, Target)
Best Cleaning Products for Floors
Down and dirty no more, the task of cleaning your floors is now personalized for your surface and needs. These tough products tackle multiple surfaces, and, at least in the case of a few new robots, do the hard work for you.
A robust upgrade for this cleaning classic launches in May with a bigger head and a scrub brush attached for tough spots. Like its predecessor, the fabric mop head is made with an antibacterial material and is removable and machine washable for easy cleanup.
Buy It: Libman Heavy Duty Wonder Mop ($13, Libman)
This vacuum-mop hybrid sucks small bits into a chamber in the disposable mop pad. There are two options for the spray function: one for multiple surfaces and one for wood floors. Once the chamber is full, throw the disposable pad away. “I am a messy baker and I have a two-year-old with avant-garde eating techniques, so this is a lifesaver,” says home editor Katy Kiick Condon. “I am thankful for it multiple times a day.”
To Buy: Shark VacMop Pro ($80, Amazon)
The price tag is high, but this heavy-duty cordless vacuum handles everything: carpet, hard floors, pet hair, and hand-vac pickups. The suction power and huge, easy-to-release dustbin are just a few of this vacuum’s top features. It also comes with accessory attachments and an extra battery, so you can vacuum the entire house and then some.
Buy It: Dyson V11 Outsize ($700, Amazon)
This hand vacuum is lightweight and easily fits into tiny spaces, including under kitchen appliances and cabinets and along baseboards in tight corners. “I thought the snout would be too small, but now I realize that’s its genius,” says home editor Amy Panos. The rechargeable and interchangeable battery also powers a fleet of other tools, including an upright vacuum, a wet/dry utility vac, and a blower to clear off your patio.
Buy It: Hoover ONEPWR Dust Chaser ($110 with battery, Walmart)
Best Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum
This vacuum eliminates the effort of vacuuming. It easily navigates through your home and reaches tight areas like corners and under furniture. When the robot vacuum docks to charge, its dustbin automatically empties. You only have to step in every few months to replace the vacuum bag inside the docking station.
Buy It: iRobot Roomba i3+ ($549, Amazon)
This hybrid vacuum-mop robot makes short work of hard surfaces or carpet and area rugs. To transform the vacuum into a mop, attach the water basin and microfiber pad to give hard floors a once-over. The mop pads are easy to remove, launder, and reuse.
Buy It: Ecovacs DEEBOT OZMO U2 Pro ($350, EcoVacs)
Best Smart-View Robot Vacuum
Camera sensors help this robot vacuum navigate around any unexpected obstacle, including power strips, toys, and even pet messes. Its mapping system supports up to four stories, and you can adjust the power settings for each individual room. This robot vacuum also doubles as a mop, and the intelligent mopping feature allows you to customize the water flow for each room.
Buy It: Roborock S6 MaxV ($591, Amazon)
Best Bathroom Cleaning Products
With so many different kinds of surfaces, the bathroom demands high-powered utility players. Whether you’re cleaning the toilet, sink, tub, or shower, there’s something for every surface in our list of best bathroom cleaners.
This vinegar-based cleaner dissolves soap scum and hard water buildup on contact. The entire 9 Elements product line is formulated for homes with hard water. This bathroom cleaner was a favorite, but the entire line is effective.
Buy It: 9 Elements Bathroom Cleaner ($5 for 18 ounces, 9 Elements)
Climate-conscious consumers will love this plastic-free line: Each product is packaged in a reusable aluminum tin (the most recycled material). The toilet bowl powder fizzes and foams upon contact with water. “I’ve never had this much fun cleaning a toilet before; you can hear it working,” one tester claimed. “Let it fizz while you clean the rest of the room. A quick scrub and you’re done.”
Buy It: Seventh Generation Zero Plastic Toilet Bowl Foaming Powder ($10, Grove Collaborative)
Best Bathroom Cleaning Wipes
“If there’s one room to embrace the convenience factor of disposable, let it be the bathroom,” says home editor Katy Kiick Condon. These antibacterial wipes cut through grime and kill 99.9% of bacteria. Plus, they come in a portable, resealable sleeve that’s convenient for taking on the go. Each wipe is designed to disperse in water when agitated, so it’s safe to flush and won’t harm septic systems.
Buy It: Scrubbing Bubbles Antibacterial Bathroom Flushable Wipes ($5 for 36, Target)
Best Cleaning Products for Pet Messes
According to Mintel America’s October 2020 Pet Owners Report, there are 2.3 million new pet owners since last year. And because foolproof cleanup can make puppy love a little easier, you’ll want to expand your repertoire of tools to include these best pet cleaning picks.
Our testers raved that these dryer sheets not only removed pet hair but prevented more from sticking to clothes and linens. Coarse or fluffy, hair was no match! In addition to repelling pet hair, they also leave your clothes feeling soft and smelling amazing. For sensitive skin, try the unscented version.
Buy It: Bounce Pet Hair and Lint Guard Mega Dryer Sheets ($6 for 80 sheets, Lowe’s)
Best Portable Pet Stain Cleaner
This grab-and-go cordless carpet cleaner is simple to use for stains and messes, especially the occasional accidents that come with pet potty training. Powered by a rechargeable battery, it’s ready to get to work whenever and wherever you need. Plus, the machine is easy to clean after use.
Buy It: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush Cordless Portable Carpet Cleaner ($120, Amazon)
This natural and effective pet-stain remover breaks down the molecules in urine that cause stains. It also targets and permanently removes odors (including the pheromones pets are attracted to) so you don’t have to worry about your pets revisiting problem areas. Bonus points for the easy-spray handle.
Buy It: Oakwood Urine Stain & Odor Remover ($13 for 8.5 ounces, Oakwood)
We like the minty scent and simple ingredient list in this all-natural odor eliminator. Formulated with baking soda and essential oils, this refresher neutralizes odors and leaves a room smelling fresh. Sprinkle freely over carpet or upholstery, wait for 15 minutes, then vacuum away.
Buy It: Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher ($10 for 16 ounces, Aunt Fannie’s)
Marie Flanigan Interiors LLC
Best Surface Cleaners
It will likely come as no surprise that cleaning sprays and wipes were especially hot this year. These standouts were both effective and able to address common pain points like waste-cutting packaging, portability, and extreme grease cutting. Countertops, light switches, doorknobs, steering wheels: If you touch it, these will clean it.
Before cleaning the surfaces in your home, make sure to read the item’s label. Labels give helpful hints that make messes easier to clean as well as time frames for how long a product should sit on a surface to sanitize, or whether you need to rinse disinfected surfaces before prepping food. Pay attention to the following terms when selecting a surface cleaner:
Clean: Removes dirt and grimeSanitize: Reduces germs to a safe levelDisinfect: Kills bacteria and viruses
Best All-Purpose Concentrate
Pour the small glass vile into a spray bottle, add water, and clean away. “I’m sold. I love the zero-plastic refills, the light, natural scent, and it really works,” says executive editor Oma Blaise Ford.
Buy It: Grove All-Purpose Cleaning Concentrate ($7 for two-pack, 1 ounce each, Grove Collaborative)
This spray is the best of both worlds: Hospital-grade strength but gentle enough to use anywhere, even on counters and toys. The hypochlorous acid formula is made of electrified water and salt, and has been rated by the EPA to kill SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) as well as MRSA, HIV, and Norovirus.
Buy It: Clean Republic Disinfectant & Sanitizer ($10 for 32 ounces, Clean Republic)
“This was the most effective surface cleaner I tested, by far. I followed instructions to let it sit for about 30 seconds and then everything on my counters came off. In one swipe,” says digital editor Caitlin Sole. CLR Active Clear uses good bacteria to protect your home’s microbiome, and once you spray it on, it keeps killing bad bacteria for three days. Two more reasons to feel good about this one: It has USDA Biobased certification, meaning the ingredients come from renewable biological sources, and CLR is a woman-owned company.
Buy It: CLR Active Clear ($5 for 22 ounces, Lowe’s)
The organic ingredients in this spray cleaner are safe to use around kids and pets, and the spray reaches into crevices of high chairs, toys, or car seats. If you’ve got kids who like to be clean, try the wipes from this brand: Same safe, hardworking formula, but easy to take anywhere and pass out to helpers.
Buy It: Babyganics Toy & Highchair Cleaner ($4 for 17 ounces, Bed Bath & Beyond)
The aerosol can is so easy to use and the light smell is nice (“Fresh” was our favorite, but “Citrus” was also very good.) Keep this on hand for high-touch spots like doorknobs, where it sanitizes and keeps bacteria at bay for 24 hours. It also sanitizes soft surfaces (like patio cushions), though without the 24-hour protection after spraying.
Buy It: Microban 24 Sanitizing Spray ($7 for 15 ounces, The Home Depot)
Best Stone Surface Cleaner
“This has a light spray that’s easy to control,” says kitchen and bath editor Kit Selzer. “It gave my granite a really nice shine, and it has a very pleasant scent.” Others reported reduced cloudiness and overall richer color on dark stone.
Buy It: Pledge Granite & Marble Cleaner ($5 for 9.7 ounces, Pledge)
Best Surface Cleaner Starter Kit
If you’re stocking your cleaning kit from scratch or looking to go green with your setup, start here. Color-coded pods pour into spray bottles—just add water and get cleaning. The entire range earned high marks, but the glass cleaner was a standout. “It cleaned shower-door water spots, dog nose prints, even BBQ splatters on the door to the deck,” says copy chief Maria Duryee.
Buy It: Good Green Cleaner Starter Kit ($43 for four reusable bottles with spray caps and four refill pods, Good Green Cleaner)
Best All-Purpose Cleaning Wipes
These cleaning wipes break down in compost, a win for anyone looking for convenience but wary of creating more waste. Perhaps most importantly, though, they’re effective—these wipes can tackle all sorts of messes around the house.
Buy It: Clorox Compostable Cleaning Wipes ($5 for 75 wipes, Clorox)
These wipes are certified by the EPA as an effective disinfectant, and we like that the power comes from natural citrus ingredients. The wipes are big and sturdy enough to go the distance on your cleaning circuit, and the package design keeps wipes from drying out between uses. Also, the rectangular shape is easy to stack in the cleaning closet.
Buy It: Arm & Hammer Essentials Disinfecting Wipes ($5 for 80 wipes, Lowe’s)
Best Travel Cleaning Wipes
Stash these trusty travel cleaning wipes anywhere there’s a pocket so you’ve always got one handy when you’re grabbing a grocery cart, getting into the car after errands, or settling for lunch at a park picnic table.
Buy It: Lysol To Go Wipes ($1 for 15 wipes, Lysol)
Best Cleaning Wipes for Electronics
Perfectly timed for our collective rise in screen time, these electronics wipes are an easy fix for fingerprints and dust. Everything looks better when it’s smudge-free, and we liked not having to guess if the formula was safe for touchscreens and TVs.
Buy It: Windex Electronics Wipes ($6 for 25 wipes, Office Depot)
Best Cleaning Products for Dishes
With everyone eating at home, dirty dishes seem to multiply. So we set out to find products that were effective, but also made the dishwashing experience less of a chore (and maybe even a little fun).
A rare dual-purpose product that’s no gimmick, this sponge holder received a perfect score in our tests. “I had no idea I needed this!” says west coast editor Miranda Crowell. “The vented top gives the sponge proper air circulation, and the one-handed pump to soap the sponge works really well. Transcendent!”
Buy It: OXO Soap Dispensing Sponge Holder ($18, OXO)
Our pick for tackling one greasy pan at a time, this spray is as effective as its classic liquid Dawn counterpart but even easier to use. The spray-activated suds cut through cooked-on grime and grease, so you don’t need to soak anything before washing. Plus, the Free and Clear formula is ideal for the dye-averse.
Buy It: Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray ($5 for 16 ounces, Walmart)
Rich lather, fruity scent: If there’s a way to luxuriate over dishes, this is it. Who doesn’t want their kitchen to smell like the crisp scent of apples? Plus, the concentrated formula doesn’t take a lot of lathering to get suds, the bottle is pretty enough to leave out on the counter, and the lid flips open one-handed.
Buy It: method Honeycrisp Apple Dish Soap ($4 for 18 ounces, Target)
These dish detergent pods leave nothing behind, cutting through stuck-on food and leftover grease with ease (no pre-rinsing required). Our testers noted a distinct sparkle on glasses and silverware.
Buy It: Cascade Platinum + Oxi ($10 for 32, Walmart)
These eco-friendly yet durable towels are a total gamechanger. “They’re the perfect size and weight to do everything a paper towel or a sponge does, and they air-dry quickly,” one tester said. They are effective for scrubbing dishes, counters, the sink, whatever surface you can think of—and they’re washable. Plus, we love the designs and zero-waste packaging.
Buy It: Dropps Swedish Dish Cloths ($16 for 3, Dropps)
Best Utility Cleaning Tool
The size of a pencil, this plastic stick is dual-sided to scrape messes or residue from almost anything. “I was skeptical. Do I need a plastic stick to scrape off stickers? No. But it does so much more: candle wax, soap scum, paint on glass, grime in crevices. Yes, it’s a fingernail saver—and a winner for scratch-off lotto tickets,” says features editor Diana Dickinson.
Buy It: Scrigit Scraper Wide Blade ($12 for 3, Amazon)
Katy Kiick Condon
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