Tag Archives: favorite

My Favorite Cleaning Gadgets

I mentioned all of these in the “Baking Soda Bath” blog, but here is an official shout-out to my favorite things to clean with. Of course everyone has their own way to do things, and different things work for different people. I’d love to hear what other products you love to clean with!

Spaghetti Scrub

Spaghetti Scrub’s website domain name says it all—goodbye, detergent! These scrubs are completely natural, made of either corn cobs (harsher; not for nonstick or glassware) or peach pits (safe for the latter). Naturally color-coded as yellow and pink, respectively. 🙂 They claim that you don’t need to use ANY detergent unless something is really greasy, then you might need a dab. I still use dish soap, but it’s very mild and it doesn’t suds up quite as crazy as the big name brands do, so having the spaghetti scrub really helps me cut through the grease if the suds start to run low! I can also wash my wood cutting board and knives with it using only water, which is ideal for these types of items.

Peach pit Spaghetti Scrub

Since I do keep a few nonstick things around, I only purchase the pink ones. I do have to admit that I was extremely skeptical at first! We purchased a box for the store I worked in and used them in our break room. They come in a box of two, and these things LAST! We used it pretty heavily (you’d be surprised by how many pans we’d wash for customers…plus our own dishes from lunch and store demonstrations), and I just started to realize how well it scrubbed and how little detergent you really did need! It doesn’t totally work for wiping down counters, though, so I still crave a sponge for those jobs. I use the scrubby side of a sponge more than the regular side, and those wear out pretty quickly with heavy use like that, so the Spaghetti Scrub is a great way to make my sponges last SO MUCH longer than they used to. Things also don’t seem to stick to it like the scrubby side of a sponge can when the job is really dirty.

Point is, the price may seem a little steep the first time you buy, but they last forever and do a great job, so you won’t remember how you did things without it!

Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap

Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products are probably the least expensive natural items you can find and it’s starting to get easier to find in major stores! With a lot of the national brands, personally, my skin gets irritated and I have a hard time remembering which ones do and which ones don’t. I have been lucky enough to have been able to try a few “fancy” brands and Mrs. Meyers liquid dish soap (absolute favorite is the honeysuckle scent!) is still my top pick.

Granted, if my dishes are extremely greasy, Mrs. Meyers might not suds up as crazily as the big brands still would. That is probably another reason I like having the Spaghetti Scrub on hand, since you technically shouldn’t need soap with it unless something’s super greasy. But even without the Spaghetti Scrub, I was still using Mrs. Meyers and loving it. They make great scents, too!

Insider tip: Caldrea is the same company! Their scents are a little too overwhelming for me but I do love that the sets come in a little caddy.

Casabella Dish Brush

I was never raised to use a dish brush. I’m unsure if they made them safe for nonstick back when I was growing up, but that’s the only thing my mom and I can think of as to why she never tried one before. Long before the Spaghetti Scrub was on the market I decided that I use the scrubby side of my sponge too often and wear it out pretty quickly. Once I bought a dish brush, that ended, and I soon realized that it’s a heck of a lot easier to pre-scrub a dirty pan with just a dish brush and water before dunking it in the dishpan and ruining the soapy water! I like to keep it in my arsenal even though I also keep the Spaghetti Scrub on hand. The Spaghetti Scrub isn’t as good as the dish brush for pre-cleaning because if it gets too greasy it really needs to be rinsed in soapy water, in my opinion, whereas a dish brush is usually OK with just a rinse.

Casabella dish brush

The Casabella dish brush comes in fun colors, is relatively inexpensive, and safe on nonstick surfaces, so that’s why it’s my top choice. I don’t know that I would trust anything cheaper with my nonstick unless I really trusted the brand name like I do with Casabella.

Norpro Pan Scraper

Norpro pan scraper

You can find flimsy little plastic pan scrapers for less than a dollar, but I stepped up my game and grabbed the Norpro pan scraper (for a whole dollar!) as soon as it came into our store. We used pan scrapers for EVERYTHING around that place, so I quickly learned their versatility and adopted it into my home. I also keep one at work for random office administration emergencies—you may not be surprised how handy it has been! The Norpro is a thicker, larger pan scraper with a very thick edge that is a comfortable spot to grip it at.

o-cel-o Sponge

Non-scratch o-cel-o sponge

A sponge is a sponge, but generally o-cel-o is what you find in most stores. Blue means scratch-free, although they sometimes make other fun colors, too, that are scratch-free. The package will actually tell you if it is or not. I have to have a sponge around because you still need to sop up messes, and a dish brush or Spaghetti Scrub just can’t do that for you. Some people prefer a dish cloth because they feel a sponge holds germs more, but I think they both have that potential if you don’t keep them out of the sink where people are dumping things all over it. A good suggestion I came up with to ensure your sponge stays out of the sink is to buy a soap saver as a “sponge rest”. I did this at my office and it’s gone over swimmingly!

Barkeeper’s Friend

Barkeeper’s Friend is an inexpensive product that’s very similar to baking soda and Comet that you should always have on hand, because you can clean anything with it! It’s safe for nonstick and glass, and actually sucks grease out of porous nonstick surfaces. They now make a liquid formula, but the original powder and a little water go a long way. I use this to get sticky things off and stains out, amongst other uses! See “Baking Soda Bath” blog.

Barkeeper’s Friend

Cascade Complete Pacs Dishwasher Pods

Cascade Complete

While I am not a huge proponent of using the dishwasher (ranty blog on its way!), the Cascade Complete Pacs are the only dishwashing product I have found to actually clean the dishes and not leave a residue. I once lived with a roommate who demanded we use the dishwasher and I was always running the thing 2-3 times trying to get the dang dishes clean! Another friend heard my dilemma and immediately bought me a giant pack of the Cascade with gel pods from Costco, and the rest is history!

Casabella Sponge/Brush Holder

After I decided that I couldn’t live without a dish brush, then came the dilemma of keeping it out of the sink and relatively dry and clean. I first tried one of the aforementioned Caldrea soap/lotion set caddies, but it wasn’t tall enough. I searched high and low, and finally stumbled across the Casabella Sink Sider Faucet Sponge Holder – at Ace Hardware of all places! (Our kitchen store didn’t carry it, and I lived near one of the Ace Hardware stores that also sell housewares—these stores are heaven if you can find one!! My father actually worked for Ace for many years so I always joked that it was like his store and my kitchen store had a baby together.) The only thing I wish I had thought of sooner was the fact that it comes apart for cleaning, which you should do to keep water buildup out of it. (Yes, you need to keep your cleaning products clean! This goes for your dish drying rack, too.)

Casabella faucet sponge holder

Veg-Hog Veggie Brush

Veg-hog vegetable brush

The Veg-Hog Veggie Brush by Boston Warehouse (Animal House) is not only just plain adorable, but very functional, just like all of their products. The Veg Hog has actually been rated, which is just hilarious to think about rating cleaning supplies, but this baby makes headlines!

Another veggie brush that just feels perfectly ergonomic, at least in my hand, is this Vegetable Ring bamboo brush by Full Circle. The circle shape seems weird, but it feels ergonomic!

The only other product I am hoping to add to my arsenal again is the Chef’n Sudster. They’ve changed the design a teeny bit, but it looks the same and I thought it dispensed just the right amount of soap for washing just one dish or two at a time without having to fill up a dishpan. I did knock or drop it into the sink a LOT, which is what broke it eventually, so there’s that to consider. Looking at the new design, it actually looks less prone to breakage. Now I really want to buy another one!

Favorite Gadgets I Actually Own

Gadgets – some people absolutely love them (me) and others can’t stand the idea of owning an item that usually only serves a single purpose. Generally most things a gadget does, you can do with some other kitchen basic, it just might not be as easy to get the task accomplished if you’re not a pro.

One of my favorite stories from selling gadgets is about a customer who came in shopping for a gift for his friend. He was hoping to purchase her a gadget of some sort — maybe for avocados since she really liked those. Perfect! We had just received several new avocado-related gadgets that I was very excited about. After showing him the options, he looked dismayed and told me that these were single-use items and he was hoping for something that did more than one thing. I tried holding back my laughter and told him that maybe a gadget wasn’t what he was after, then.

Your favorite gadgets are going to differ from other peoples’ because of what you love to cook the most. And of course, what works for one cook might not for another! Here’s some of my favorites.

Makes the job quick and easy!

jo!e Strawberry Huller

jo!e strawberry huller

There are TONS of strawberry hullers on the market. The purpose of a strawberry huller is to hull the strawberries, which is to remove the stems from the berries. The more basic ones that most people are accustomed to will look like a pair of wide tweezers and pulls the stem leaves out. They are starting to make some fancier ones these days, though! OXO makes a really interesting one that I kind of like, but I feel like it creates more work than necessary in trying to get the stem back out of the huller. This one by jo!e is my favorite because it has a serration around the metal part, which helps you really dig out the whole stem of the berry. I’ve also sometimes been successful at using this on tomatoes, so it has the potential to work on more than one item.

Zyliss Peeler

Peelers are a big deal to me. I remember having these awful metal ones growing up and having to peel a ton of potatoes because our family was so big and whining that my hand hurt by the end of it. I recall seeing indentations in my hands from the peeler! I vowed to never peel potatoes again; now it’s just to never own a cheap meal peeler again. 😉

Zyliss peeler

I am a huge fan of the OXO peeler (it’s an extremely close 2nd place; I bought two for my mom!), but once after I moved, lost my OXO peeler and the store was out of this brand when I finally got around to replacing it. I remember this being the day before Thanksgiving and many types of mashed pototoes were going to be made amongst my roommates, as they were arguing over who made better ones. I am a fan of Zyliss, so I grabbed one of theirs, and it immediately became my favorite. I didn’t think it would because of the hard plastic versus OXO’s soft grip, but the shape is just perfect, in my hand at least. It’s slightly less bulky than the OXO one, so it’s my winner. They also make a soft-fruit peeler that looks identical in red; don’t buy the wrong peeler! (The regular one is available in other colors, too.)

Zyliss Avocado Tool

A few years ago everyone finally realized that people wanted something to help out with their avocados, and every new thing caught my eye as better than the last. Compared to a few other brands, the Zyliss is my top choice. It’s shape is like a knife, and for me that makes cutting the avocado easier since I am used to cutting it with a knife anyway. It’s size allows for scooping, and it’s interior is supposed to help with mashing but it doesn’t work in the bowls I utilize for guacamole so I’ve never used it for that purpose. The serrated edges aren’t very sharp to the touch but slice the avocado nicely. I like to chop it in half and then cut my slices right inside of the rind when I want it sliced for sandwiches.

Zyliss avocado tool


Chef’n SleekStor VeggiSteam

 Chef’n Silicone Steamer

The small in my 3qt. pot

I have sold many brands of metal vegetable steamer, and let me tell you, they all eventually break down. A lot of moving parts, the potential for rusting…plus they take up a lot of room in the drawer or cupboard. You might argue a silicone one takes up just as much room, but they are flexible and easier to work with in that regard. I love the Chef’n SleekStor VeggiSteam because it just works. OXO just came out with one that rolls up for better storage, but I don’t really see it saving that much space, and I don’t think the shape of it will mold to the pan quite like my Chef’n does. The silicone stays cool and/or cools right down, depending on if you get it hot or not. And unlike a metal steamer, you can throw this guy in the dishwasher. Comes in two sizes and multiple colors!

Bottom of Chef’n silicone steamer; “feet”

Vacuvin Wine Sealer

Vacuvin with stopper

I know, how dare I leave wine in the bottle? 😉 This thing is pretty darn inexpensive, especially compared to all the fancy doo-dads you can obtain in the wine world. And it’s literally the only thing that will actually SEAL the bottle, meaning I have actually traveled with a bottle of wine in my backpack around town feeling safe that it won’t spill! And of course the best part is, especially if you buy more expensive wine than I do, is that it keeps the wine fresh and tasting good. The Vacuvin literally sucks all the air out of the bottle, which is what breaks the wine down. It’s pretty nifty; you put the special cork on the bottle, place the Vacuvin on top, pump until you hear three “clicks” and it’s sealed! To open, you push the little knob in the center of the special cork, the pressure is released and the cork comes loose. I myself don’t use it for taste reasons, purely storage. I have some beautiful decorative glass wine corks but none of them actually cork the bottle if I want to put it back on my wine rack, which would require the bottle to lie on its side.

**A study done at Portland State University revealed that the Vacuvin loses its vacuum pressure over several hours, so real wine enthusiasts are starting to spurn this gadget, but like I said, it’s amazing for actual storage if you’re buying a cork/stopper and it’s pretty darn inexpensive.

zak! Garlic Peeler

zak! garlic peeler

I cannot tell you how many years I grumbled at my garlic before I finally brought one of these home, and man has it changed my life! I know you’re supposed to be able to do this easily with the back of a knife, but I can’t. The zak! garlic peeler is probably the easiest to find, comes in fun colors and is a nice, easy-to-clean silicone. I’ve seen others that looked just like the “rubber husband” Tupperware gadget that helps you open jars, so if you already have one of those, try rolling your garlic around in it and see if it will peel! It was literally just a square piece of rubbery material, so I don’t think it actually has to be made of silicone, but silicone will last longer if you’re in the market for something new. The zak! one can actually even go in the dishwasher.

Pull Ties

I had seen the OXO brand clips when they first came out and told my mom about them, and a month or so later QVC was selling these awesome ones called Pull Ties. She bought a few sets for Christmas presents and I think I ended up with most of them because I love them so much! I absolutely hate trying to use chip clips on freezer bags as they never seem to hold. I also prefer to purchase bakery rolls at the grocery store but can never eat them all before they go bad, so I like to freeze them but feel ridiculous using the expensive Ziploc freezer bags for cheap buns! This way I can use the bag they came in.