Cleaning Tools You’ll Need for Your Apartment

Whether you’re in your first apartment or someone else used to buy the stuff to keep your place clean, there’s a number of cleaning tools you’ll need for cleaning your apartment.

Here’s a shopping list of must-haves and tips on how to clean an apartment.

Basic cleaning tools everyone should have

First, let’s tackle the items you’ll need in your closet or under the sink, the “tools” required to clean an apartment. Most of these items are reusable so it may be worthwhile to spend a little more for higher quality products.

  • Scrubby sponges (choose one color for surfaces and another for dishes, don’t mix them up)
  • Dish Scrubber with built-in soap holder (an alternative to the scrubby sponge for dishes)
  • Mop (the self-wringing kind or a Swiffer-type is easy to use, the choice will depend on your flooring)
  • Bucket or small plastic tub (for mopping)
  • Rubber gloves (trust us, you’ll want to wear them for certain tasks)
  • Broom (choose the angled kind)
  • Dustpan (some dustpans come with a small attached hand broom, which is a nice bonus)
  • Dust rag (you could cut up an old T-shirt for this)
  • Large scrub brush (you’ll need this for tubs and floors)
  • Small scrub brush (you’ll need this for corners and around faucets)
  • Toilet brush (some come with a decorative holder which hides the brush, a nice buy)
  • Plunger (one of these might come with your apartment, so store it near the toilet for emergency situations)
  • Trash cans (it’s extra nice to have a foot pedal one in the kitchen)
  • Vacuum cleaner (warning: used vacuums can contain fleas)
  • Optional item: blind/fan cleaner

Cleaning products you’ll need to buy and replace

You’ll find a wide variety of cleaning products at any grocery store, dollar store or drug store. And most of them last a really long time.

Also, note that you can substitute the brands below with other products, including those that might be more environmentally-friendly. (Use the brand name to find the right section of the cleaning aisle!)

  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets
  • Spot removal (for laundry)
  • Dishwashing soap (for hand-washing dishes, choose a kind that’s easy on the skin)
  • Dishwasher soap (for the machine)
  • Soft-Scrub (this product has a little grit in it, and cleans stubborn stains from sinks and other surfaces)
  • Endust (for dusting wooden furniture and décor)
  • Tilex mildew root penetrator (for dirty grout in the kitchen and bathroom, or any tiled room)
  • Pine-Sol (which you add to water) or Swiffer products (mop product depends on your flooring)
  • Bleach (you’ll need to use this with caution, but when added to warm water, can erase stains)
  • Glass cleaner (like Windex) for mirrors and windows
  • Febreze or air freshener (it’s nice to keep this in your bathrooms)
  • Stainless polish (for stainless appliances and trash cans)
  • Stove-top cleaner (if you have a glass-top stove)
  • Oven cleaner
  • Hand cleanser (dish-washing soap can be harsh on the skin; some are designed for double-duty)
  • Lint removal roller (if you have pets, use this to pick up fur from fabric-covered furniture, linens)
  • Optional item: Shelf liner
  • Optional item: Poison Ivy Soap by Burt’s Bees is good to have on hand if you love nature

Natural cleaning products

Many cleaning supplies contain dangerous chemicals that can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems. According to the American Lung Association, some products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can produce dangerous pollutants indoors and be especially harmful to your health.

You can purchase all-natural soaps and cleaning products or make your own citrus vinegar cleaning spray or other non-toxic products. For some other ideas, here are green tips for a naturally clean kitchen.


How often to clean your apartment

How often should you tackle the various tasks to keep your home clean and healthy? The following are some general recommendations. But, for roommate harmony, it would be a good idea to look at these suggestions together, tweak them for your own reality, and make sure your hopes or expectations are in line with each other. Dividing up chores with your roommates is a critical part of learning to live well with others.


Clean your toilet (don’t forget to lift the seat) twice a week or more often, if needed. Clean your tub and shower walls, sink areas and the floor weekly.


Clean surfaces after each meal prep. Sweep the floor daily. Clean sink at least once a week. Mop floors weekly. Deep-clean refrigerator surfaces twice a year, or immediately after a spill. Clean stainless surfaces, as needed.


How often you should clean your oven depends on how often you use it. For avid cooks and bakers, you should scrub it once every three months. If you rarely use it, cleaning it about once or twice a year should suffice. If you use a microwave oven regularly, you should clean it at least once a week.


Dust twice a month, or more often, if you have dust allergies.


Vacuum any carpeting weekly or more often if you have pets. Mop floors at least twice a month. Having an entrance rug to scrape shoes on will cut down on the dirt.


Use a lint roller often if you have pets on the furniture, otherwise, as needed.


Wash windows as needed or every month or two. Use a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to wipe away dust or grime on the window panes. Vinyl or metal blinds collect dust and should be dusted with a damp cloth. Curtains should be vacuumed at least once a month.

Make cleaning a priority

To stay organized, keep a list of needed cleaning supplies on your refrigerator or an app on your cell phone. Clean a little each day to keep from being overwhelmed. Relax, make a game of it, turn on some music and have fun!




2021 Tax Brackets Are Here: Here’s What You’ll Owe Next Year

The year 2021 is looking a lot like 2020, at least in terms of taxes.

The IRS released its inflation adjustments for 2021 federal income tax rates and brackets. While these changes are unlikely to have a huge impact on your bottom line, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Because these are the 2021 tax rates, they’ll determine your tax bill that will be due in 2022. You’ll use 2020 rates and brackets when you file your taxes on or before May 17, 2021. That’s 32 days later than usual due to the tax deadline extension.

How the 2021 Tax Brackets Break Down

There are seven tax brackets that range from 10% to 37%. The 2020 and 2021 tax brackets break down as follows:

Unmarried Individuals

Tax Bracket Taxable Income for 2020 (use when you file in 2021) Taxable income for 2021 (use when you file in 2022)
10% Up to $9,875 Up to $9,950
12% $9,875 to $40,125n $9,950 to $40,525
22% $40,125 to $85,525 $40,525 to $86,375
24% $85,525 to $163,300 $86,375 to $164,925
32% $163,300 to $207,350 $164,925 to $209,425
35% $207,350 to $518,400 $209,425 to $523,600
37% Over $518,400 Over $523,600

Married Individuals Filing Jointly or Surviving Spouses

Tax Bracket Taxable income for 2020 (use when you file in 2021) Taxable income for 2021 (use when you file in 2022)
10% Up to $19,750 Up to $19,900
12% $19,750 to $80,250n $19,900 to $81,050
22% $80,250 to $171,050 $81,050 to $172,750
24% $171,050 to $326,600 $172,750 to $329,850
32% $326,600 to $414,700n $329,850 to $418,850
35% $414,700 to $622,050n $418,850 to $628,300
37% Over $622,050 Over $628,300

Heads of Household

Tax Bracket Taxable income for 2020 (use when you file in 2021) Taxable income for 2021 (use when you file in 2022)
10% Up to $14,100 Up to $14,200
12% $14,100 to $53,700n $14,200 to $54,200
22% $53,700 to $85,500 $54,200 to $86,350
24% $85,500 to $163,300 $86,350 to $164,900
32% $163,300 to $207,350 $164,900 to $209,400
35% $207,350 to $518,400 $209,400 to $523,600
37% Over $518,400 Over $523,600
Pro Tip

Not sure of your filing status? This interactive IRS quiz can help you determine the correct status. If you qualify for more than one, it tells you which one will result in the lowest tax bill.

Tax rates apply to the income within each bracket. So if you’re an unmarried individual with taxable income of $50,000, you won’t pay 22% of that $50,000 to Uncle Sam.

According to the 2021 tax brackets (the ones you’ll use for next year’s return), you’d pay:

  • 10% on the first $9,950
  • 12% on the next $30,575 ($40,525 – $9,950 = $30,575)
  • 22% on the next $9,475 ($50,000 – $40,525 = $9,475)

2 Tax Changes That Could Affect You in 2021

The modified tax brackets aren’t the only changes for 2021. About 60 tax provisions were adjusted in the new year. A few highlights:

  • The standard deduction will rise slightly: For 2020, the standard deduction is $12,400 for single filers and people who are married filing separately. In 2021, it will rise by $150 to $12,550 for single taxpayers. For those who are married filing jointly, the standard deduction will rise by $300, from $24,800 in 2020 to $25,100 in 2021.
  • Some limited-income families can get an extra $68. The maximum Earned Income Tax Credit will increase in 2021 to $6,728, from $6,660 in 2020. You need at least three children to qualify for the maximum amount.

3 Tax Rules That Aren’t Changing in 2021

  • IRA contribution limits won’t change. The traditional IRA and Roth IRA contribution limits will remain at $6,000 for people under 50. The extra $1,000 “catch-up” contribution the IRS allows people 50 and older to make won’t change either. You can still fund your IRA for 2020 until tax day, which is May 17, 2021.
  • 401(k) contribution limits aren’t changing either: If you have an employer-sponsored tax-deferred retirement plan, like a 401(k) or 403(b), your maximum contribution is still $19,500 in 2021. The additional “catch-up” contribution workers ages 50 and older can make will also remain at $6,500.
  • There’s no limit on itemized deductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 suspended these limits.

Ready to Start Your 2021 Tax Prep?

If you’re ready to dive into your taxes, you can check out this comprehensive summary of 2021 tax changes courtesy of the IRS.

Even if you’re not ready to jump into 2021 tax planning mode just yet, keep in mind it’s a good time to check your tax withholdings and make adjustments if necessary. Just make sure you file your return or ask for an extension by the May 17 deadline. If you can’t afford your tax bill for 2020, it’s essential that you file a tax return anyway and ask for an IRS payment plan.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]




How to Keep Your Budget in Check this Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays. Amid the cheer, festive gatherings with loved ones, and stress from the inevitable craziness, if not careful, they could put a serious dent on your credit cards. While it’s certainly not news that the holidays happen every year, they do have a way of unexpectedly creeping up on us.

However, with a bit of prep, you can avoid those cringeworthy “overspend” moments, and avoid suffering from holiday debt hangover. Here are some ways to keep your spending in check this time around:

Create a Holiday Spending Plan

You may have a budget, or spending plan, for your your day-to-day living expenses. Create a spending plan for holiday-related expenses to see how much you’ll need saved up. This may include traveling to see family, gifts, cards, gift card, party attire for get-togethers, and pet or kid care while you’re out.

Next, estimate how much you roughly need for each expense. I have an spreadsheet just for gifts. For each person I’ll note a few gift-giving ideas plus my spending limit. That way I don’t buy something nilly-willy, and in turn spend more than you I can ultimately afford.

Reduce the Obligations

The holidays are oftentimes a mix of obligations and stuff you enjoy doing. For instance, purchasing a gift for that less-than-pleasant relative you only see once a year, or attending your company party when you’d rather nest at home, feel like obligations. But if you love to bake, then making pound cake for your coworkers is a delightful task.

Jot down what are things you feel you need to do, and things you need to do. You could separate them into “fun” and “no fun” lists. Then go over the “obligations” list to see what you can appropriately nix. If you can’t forgo the obligation completely, figure out a way to bump down the investment of time or money.

For instance, do you really need to buy individual gifts for your uncle, aunt, and their five kids? Or will a single gift for the entire family do? Or do you have to attend every holiday-related gathering, or can you be more selective?

Over the years I’ve set a no-gift rule for my friends. Instead, we plan to get together for a low-key gathering. And I’m trying to gently nudge my family to skip gift-giving altogether (swapping gift cards or cash is kind of silly) and go on a day trip instead. Not only does this save you money, but it cuts down on the stress.

Side Hustle

If you expect an end-of-year-bonus or cash gifts during the holidays, consider taking on extra work. This is only if you have the time and energy to do it. The end of year is usually a busy time, so if moonlighting will only stress you out even more, don’t do it. In the past I’ve catsat and test proctored in December, which boosted my income by $600 or so. While it doesn’t seem like a huge amount of money, it helped me stay out of holiday debt. Plus, when I was catsatting I was still about to do a lot of my work and get my holiday tasks taken care of.

If you decide to side hustle during the holidays, think of low-stress, easy, and fun jobs you could take on. For instance, if you already have kids, maybe watching another kid or two at your home won’t feel like that much extra work. Or if you love animals, take on pet sitting gigs.

Start Your Shopping Early

If you can, try to finish before Black Friday, recommends Kristen Ricupero, a financial coach and owner of Financial Fitness Coaching. “Black Friday deals tempt you to buy things you don’t need, for yourself at a time we should be giving,” says Ricupero. “If you watch carefully, there are generally just as good sales running September to Thanksgiving.”

My mom, the expert deal-spotter she is, swoops in on deals all year long. And by November she has gifts for almost everyone on her list accounted for.

Get Resourceful

There are a plenty of ways to save on your holiday spending without making major lifestyle changes. Shop in your closet, and see if you can add a fresh spin on a fancy dress or holiday party-appropriate suit. Sometimes all it takes are fun earrings, a festive tie pair of cufflinks to breath new life into an initially drab ensemble.

I also am a big fan of using craft paper and holiday ribbons in lieu of standard holiday wrapping paper. And this year I plan to bake up a storm instead of purchasing gifts for my coworking friends and neighbors.

Host a Stuff Swap

Organize a gathering where you can swap unwanted items. You never know, you might find some great stocking stuffers, gift wrap, cards, or decorations that will save you some dough. I’m part of a local Time Bank, where we offer help in exchange for hours, and a Buy Nothing Project group, where we give things away to our neighbors.

Involve Your Family

If you have a big family, do a White Elephant exchange where each family member brings a gift that’s no more than twenty dollars, suggests Amy Schultz, financial coach and CEO of Financial and Female. Holidays with my extended family resemble that of a daycare operation—there are about 20 kids, plus a swarm of pets running around.

“If you feel the need to buy for all the littles in your life, decide what the total amount you want to spend, then divide by the number of kids,” says Schultz. “If it ends up being five dollars per kid, get creative! You want to avoid setting a budget of $30 per kid only to realize you’ve spent $500 on every kid you know.

Drum Up a Plan for Credit Debt Repayment

If you’ve done all you can to keep your holiday spending in check, but fear you might still need to accrue a bit of credit card debt, first off, accept it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. While it’s not ideal, it’s worse if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing and go hog-wild. But if you’re going to put a few purchases on your credit card, set a limit, and commit to a repayment plan after the holidays.

By preparing now, you can avoid going overboard with the spending. And what better way to ring in the new year than by being free of holiday debt?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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