5 must have cleaning products you need to have in your cleaning business

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by Tom Watson on January 19, 2014

Over my years in the cleaning business I’ve relied on just the most basic set of cleaning supplies. Nothing fancy, just the basics!

A little bit of glass cleaner, disinfectant cleaner, regular toilet bowl cleaner and paper towels gives you what you need to do the job the vast majority of the time.

This doesn’t mean you won’t need specialty cleaners from time to time. It really depends on the job in question. I’ve accumulated all types of solutions that do this or do that. I don’t bring them on every job, but they are nice to have.

So for today’s post I decided to share with you some other cleaning products that you may not need to use all the time, but come in handy. Though I don’t keep these in my primary cleaning bin, they are “on the truck” in case I need them.

5 Must Have Cleaning Products

High Acid Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Badly soiled toilets and urinals need special attention and this product is my secret weapon to get the “worst of the worst” to look better. It works well primarily due to the fact it contains hydrochloric acid.

If this product can’t make a difference then the customer probably needs a new toilet altogether. It’s good for quickly removing rust, dissolving organic stains and eliminating hard water residue.

Just be careful when using this solution as its pretty toxic. Some brands are so potent they actually create a “smoke cloud” that rises from the toilet when applied. Needless to say you’ll want to avoid breathing that in!

TIP: Different vendors sell different “strength” solutions so pay close attention to what you are purchasing. Some may contain 10% hydrochloric acid while others have up to 23% included. Stronger works better but may be over-kill at times depending upon your needs.

Goof Off – Need to get something sticky off a window. How about some latex paint off concrete? This product is a miracle worker for anyone in the cleaning business as far as I’m concerned.

I was simply amazed at how fast, easy and powerfully this product works at removing everything from old dried paint to gummy, sticky messes. Even tough to remove stains like grease, tar, ink can be removed in some situations.

This product is good for use on concrete, brick, metal, vinyl, siding, glass, fiberglass and wood. It’s also an option on “fully cured”, varnished and oil based painted surfaces. Avoid using this product on any plastics surfaces.

TIP: Always pretest small area before going “all in”, as the product can ruin some finishes. Manufacturer claims it can damage “most” plastic but I personally would avoid using it on any such surface you think is plastic.

Soap Scum Remover – Does your company clean lots of bathrooms where the soap buildup on the shower or soap dish is just unbearable to clean? If so you need some industrial strength soap scum remover.

When we were cleaning tons of houses having some effective soap scum remover saved us a tremendous amount of time and energy. Cleaning bathrooms can be time-consuming but having the right products can cut that time in half in some cases.

TIP: Go to a janitorial supply house and ask for a gallon of concentrate then make your own mix. Over the counter remedies not only cost too much but they don’t work all that well in comparison.

Milsek Furniture Polish –  What’s nice about this product is that it doesn’t leave behind a waxy or silicone build-up like many other types of spray-on furniture polishes do. Instead it polishes the wood through the use of natural oils.

This makes a big difference as it only leaves behind a beautiful shine, no greasy finish whatsoever. We found it to be a good product for polishing and protecting wood furniture and trim in the home.

TIP: You don’t need to use all that much as a little goes a long way. Works well on kitchen cabinets too.

Stainless Steel Cleaner – Virtually all homes (and even some commercial properties) have stainless steel appliances that need to be cleaned. This can be troublesome because cleaning them tends to be harder due to the fact fingerprints and smudges stand out more.

One place we clean is a pizza place that has about twenty different freezers, tables, ovens and sinks that are all stainless steel, and our main job is getting it all to look clean after a whole week of employees with pizza sauce touching it all.

Your job is to make things shine, and a good stainless steel cleaner does that for you. Check with your local janitorial supply house to find a brand that you are comfortable with.

TIP: Stainless steel cleaners come in two varieties. One is oil based and the other is water based. We’ve used both and prefer oil based cleaners, but try both for yourself to see what works best for you.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Mellon January 19, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Hi Tom,

Happy New Year to you and your wife.

One thing I have learned about buying cleaning products in this business is always get the best. I have asthma and this makes me hyper sensitive to some things. I have found out that the cheaper cleaning products really bother me where as the name brands such as things made by Johnson & Johnson, for example Windex do not.

I once purchased Jon Dons house brand of general purpose bathroom cleaner and it had such a flower smell to it that I had to toss the case in the trash because it made me sick when ever I used it.

This goes for stainless steel cleaner as well. The name brands will work harder for you and you wont have to. Cheaper SS cleaner I have found out will leave a residue.

As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

2 Tom Watson January 19, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Hi Joe! Nice to hear from you, and THANKS for the well wishes. I agree with you, plus most customers would prefer to see brand names products used.

3 Alex Blake January 19, 2014 at 10:23 pm

I appreciate mr Watson effort with this page and info.its very helpful stuff

4 Tom Watson January 19, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Thanks Alex!

5 Arlene January 20, 2014 at 4:04 am

Hello Tom,
I have a new client that requires me to clean with animal safe cleaners only. Know of any that you could recomend to me?
Thanks, Arlene

6 Arlene January 20, 2014 at 4:07 am

Hello Tom,
 What natural cleaners can you suggest for enviromantal safety?
Thanks, Arlene

7 Heather January 20, 2014 at 9:31 am

Do you have any favorite non-toxic or green cleaning products that you use?

8 marc January 20, 2014 at 10:18 am

great tips Tom!! As a cleaner myself I find using green scrub pads a huge benefit to have on hand all the time, saves your triceps!!

9 Karen January 20, 2014 at 10:26 am

Any suggestions for glass shower enclosures? I have several properties that have glass doors and enclosures in the bathrooms. The hard water spots and soap scum build up is impossible to remove. I know there has to be something out there to help clean and shine up these glass enclosures! Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

10 Tom Watson January 21, 2014 at 6:04 am

Hi Karen! My suggestion is to purchase the heavy duty soap scum remover from your local janitorial supply house. This way you can make different batches of varying strengths depending upon your needs.

We use a product called “TD3 Surface Scum Remover”. A company called “Chemical Service” out of Philadelphia PA makes it. Don’t know if they are national however. Stuff works great if you can get that brand.

11 Tom Watson January 21, 2014 at 6:09 am

Hi Heather! I can’t say I have a true favorite, however I am a fan of Spartan Chemical products. You need to purchase them through a distributor (can’t buy direct). Here is a distributor look up to where you can buy them… http://www.spartanchemical.com/distributor/lookup/

They have a line of products called “Green Solutions”, and that is what I would ask about. Another set of products is called “BioRenewables”. This line of products seems to be a little “less green” than the other, but still eco friendly.

12 Tom Watson January 21, 2014 at 6:11 am

Hi Arlene! I’m a fan of Spartan Chemical (I’ve purchased a lot of their products over the years). They are one of biggest players in the cleaning marketplace and they have been around for a long time. Need to buy from a distributor though. Here is the link… http://www.spartanchemical.com/distributor/lookup/

13 Tom Watson January 21, 2014 at 6:13 am

Hi Arlene! I’m going to look into that. That is a GREAT question concerning animal safe products. If I find anything I’ll either get back to you or I’ll do a post on it!

14 Susan January 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Hi Tom,
Another cleaner I have on my “Must Have” list is a spot remover for carpet called Folex. As you mentioned I don’t use it every visit, but I do have one client that appreciates a little carpet spot cleaning for his office. He has such a small amount of carpet it isn’t worth bringing in a machine. Folex can be found at Home Depot and WalMart in my area. I think it was about $5 for 36 oz. I know that seems expensive, but that bottle has lasted me for months and isn’t empty yet. It’s extremely easy to use, just spray it on the stain, work it in, and let dry. It leaves no residue so you don’t have to come back with a vac. I call it my Secret Weapon when my clients asked what I use. I tell them it’s a trade secret. : )
Hope someone finds that helpful,

15 Tom Watson January 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Hi Susan! WOW, thanks for sharing that tip with everyone. I’ll give that a shot myself.

16 Tom Watson January 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm

I agree, the pads save you big time. Thanks Marc!

17 Joy January 28, 2014 at 10:51 am

Hello Tom,

Thanks for all the great tips. Do you know of an oven cleaner that can safely and effectively clean ovens that have a lot of baked on grease in them? Some of the ovens look like they have not been cleaned in years and the grease is now very hard, like metal.


18 Tom Watson January 28, 2014 at 11:11 am

Hi Joy! You are very welcome. For ovens this is what we use in our company… http://www.spartanchemical.com/products/product/300404

19 T.Davis January 30, 2014 at 11:21 am

Hey Tom,

Could you show me where to find your list of small commercial offices(types) to get started in this business? Thanks

20 Tom Watson February 1, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Hi T.Davis! I don’t really have a list per say… With that said, in my courses I do cover in detail where I looked for the highest paying accounts. The courses also have the sales letters I used (and still do) to get those accounts to call me.

21 Helio Tavares March 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

Thank you Tom and others for sharing the product, tips in here. I started my own cleaning business in Perth, Australia and often find situations where I don’t have a solution for it due to lack of information. This site is so educational that now is the place I come to find solutions,


22 Tom Watson March 3, 2014 at 8:11 am

Hi Helio! We are happy to help and THANKS for the kind words. If you ever need anything, or have a topic you would like us to cover in the blog (or podcasts) just let us know via the comments or email.

23 Tracy Middleeton March 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

In regard to soap scum and hard water spots on glass shower doors….using Rainex on them once you’ve gotten them clean helps to keep them that way.

24 Tom Watson March 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

Wow, very creative Tracy. Thanks for sharing that tip!

25 Dawn Hackett February 12, 2017 at 4:24 pm

I know this post is ever so old but I’m sitting here going through many of them. I have found that bar keepers friend and a yellow dobi pad work great for getting hard water stains off of glass. No it will not scratch it. Also, alcohol is number one for spot removal.

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