Part 2 -Tools of The Trade: TOOLS

In Part 1 CLEANERS, I emphasized Less is More. In Part 2 TOOLS, I am reversing this rule, here More is More!

You need to own more well-built tools, learn the proper safe way of using them, and use them often to Green Clean your home!

5 is a good number- five tools is the minimum not including your vacuum and mop.

Your 5 must have Cleaning Tools:

1. Apron

If you visit my website, you’ll see my picture wearing an apron. Never in the fifteen years in the business of keeping Connecticut homes clean have I left home without it! (

Batman wears a utility belt to tackle tough jobs in a serious and efficient manner and you need to do the same.

Would you hire a carpenter that goes up and down a ladder to get a nail every time he/she needs one?

Cleaning your home is time consuming. Take it seriously, make sure it’s done safely and efficiently to get the best results with the least amount of pain!!

2. Toilet Brush

Choose a simple, well-contoured, well-built toilet brush with strong bristles and a handle with a good grip. A toilet brush is a multi-purpose tool. Plus it’s good to own more than one!

Why not? Toilet brushes are good for bathroom work, but they can also be used for other cleaning tasks in your home.

We use a TILE BRUSH to scrub bathroom tiles, tubs and sinks but in a pinch, you can use a (new) toilet brush. Designate one for your specific cleaning job. I wish they made them in different colors!

3. White Scrub Pad

As a tool for use in the kitchen or bathroom, this is one of my favorites and most challenging tools as it needs to be kept dry at all times.

A CLEAN SECRET:  Bacteria thrive in moist wet environments. Keep your white pad and all your tools HIGH & DRY!

Why White instead of Green? Because the white pad is gentler. For routine cleanings use the white. If you have a tougher job—like cleaning the stove—use the green pad.

Note: If you can’t get an area cleaned with the tool you are using, STOP (scrubbing harder!!!) and use a different tool!

TIP BOARD: NEVER use any tools on a DRY surface unless specified in the how-to manual. Doing so may damage the surface.

4. Feather Duster

We use ostrich feather dusters, however whatever type of duster you like to use make sure it’s of good quality and you know how to use it. If not, in your cleaning travels, you may leave unwanted feathers behind or worse breakage!

5. Cleaning Cloths

We use 100% white cotton cleaning cloths (they look like regular napkins) instead of paper towels. If you like to use paper towels use the plain, not the printed kind. The color will bleed!

TIP BOARD: A TRAY is good to have to keep all of your supplies organized and clean.  We always carry in our trays a pair of medium-size Nitril gloves.


Dust brooms are great to use as they don’t require electricity and are quiet. They are a combination of broom and dustpan. My local diner uses a dust broom often as they are open 24/7.  I also like a good quality BROOM WITH SYNTHETIC FIBERS rather than a straw (witch) broom, which often leaves evidence behind!

TIP BOARD: ALWAYS keep your tools in impeccable shape and, in turn, they will help you keep your home in shape!

If you keep things tidy at home and use the right tools often, at the end of the day you will spend less time cleaning.

Enjoy a Green Clean home!

Happy Cleaning!



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Part 1 -Tools of The Trade: CLEANERS

Five CleanersONLY FIVE

Fifteen years in the house cleaning business and I can honestly say Penguin’s Best rarely needed to use more than five cleaners in any one home.

Walk away from the belief that the more cleaners you own the cleaner your home is.  How is it working for you?

Think less. Think multipurpose.  Think Green.

Do your homework when it comes to chemicals, and remember to Keep It Simple (KISS) always


Who comes in contact with CHEMICALS every day? EVERYBODY!  Exposure to household cleaners can be more harmful to your health than hazardous chemicals. People take notice to the latter; however, often we disregard the cautions when it comes to cleaning products.

From the 5 cleaners, the first 3 are universally known and are MUST HAVES in every home.

  1. GLASS CLEANER: Multiple surfaces including mirrors and glass.  A safe option for use on appliances and stainless steel.
  2. WHITE VINEGAR: Tasty on salads and wonderful for cooking—even more wonderful to use on drains and floors! With over 90 other uses, distilled white vinegar is a winner and a Green hero!*
    *A footnote: In Haley’s Cleaning Hints you will find hundreds of green clean recipes for your home made from ordinary household items. A good read!
  3. BLEACH: The ultimate kryptonite for germs—Lethal! Mix one part bleach to 10 part water solution (never use bleach straight).  Always work in a well-ventilated space—especially when you use bleach in smaller rooms (like a bathroom).
    *A footnote: After 24 hours, your water/bleach solution will lose its potency.  Get in the habit of mixing a small batch whenever you need it.
  4. POWDERED CLEANER: Ajax and Comet are common options, but you may also find similar cleaners in a cream form. Powdered cleaners are often used for the inside of porcelain, stainless steel, fiberglass in kitchen and bathroom sinks, bathtubs, and toilet bowls. Only a small amount of product is required for a good clean. The cream varieties allow you to have better control when dispensing, thus leading to less product waste; however, I personally prefer the powder form.  To limit the powder flow, open only two of the many holes at the top of the container. Also consider powdering only the sponge or brush you are cleaning with rather than the surface. Add just a small amount of water while you are agitating the area to be cleaned. Thoroughly rinse the surface with cold water when done.
    Important Note: never leave a powder product on a surface and walk away without rinsing. The paste will harden, and will be tough to rinse.
  5. SURFACE CLEANER: I have had more debates on the topic of surface cleaners than on any other cleaner. Especially now with the popularity of greener living, chemical companies are slapping more Green labels on their cleaning products than their food industry counterparts, like Smart Choice. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Choose a surface cleaner that is non-toxic, biodegradable, odor-free, and safe to use around food. Also, choose one that can be used on multiple surfaces.

At Penguin’s Best we’ve used Red Juice for the past 15 years with great results (

* TIP BOARD: When you invest in big ticket items for your home—such as kitchen or bathroom counters, floors, furniture, rugs—take the time to speak with your retailer regarding proper maintenance of your purchase. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to get this information to reduce waste and save money. If the retailer or manufacturer recommends a specific product, ask him or her if they can provide you with more details.

Investigate the chemicals you are currently using at home and anything new that comes in the door—including all aerosol products (hairsprays to room fresheners).


  • CLEAN OFTEN: If you clean your home more often, and do spot cleaning when time is tight, your dependency on harsh chemicals will greatly be reduced.
  • CHOOSE YOUR TOOLS WISELY: Use the right tools for the job (coming soon in Part 2 of Tools of The Trade).
  • SIMPLIFY: Get in the habit of using ordinary household items like distilled white vinegar.
  • READ LABELS: ALL of them. Contact the manufacturer and request the product’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This document outlines the health hazards of a product and how to protect yourself from any danger associated with the product’s chemicals.
  • CONCENTRATE: Buy concentrates that you plan to use within one year. All cleaning products lose their effectiveness over time.
  • SAY NO TO HOT WATER: Do NOT use hot water with ANY cleaner. The heat activates the chemicals, and the steam will prevent you from seeing the job at hand.



**** Stay tuned for Part 2 - Tricks of the Trade: TOOLS ****

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Need A Good Mop?

Do you need a GOOD mop?  What constitutes a GOOD mop?

Could a good mop look like the one the self-crowned Queen is holding in the picture?  NOT!

Since I started Penguin’s Best Housekeeping Service 15 years ago, we use the same mops and buckets.  I do not mean the same design, I mean the same exact mops and buckets and they look like new!  How could this be possible?  Here is the formula:

Nicky’s GOOD Mop Formula:  Quality Mop + Easy Care = Good Mop

TWO POINTS to help you apply the mop formula at home:

1.  CHEAP IS OUT.  Invest in a professional mop and bucket.  As the British say, “I am not rich to buy cheap products.”

2.  EASY CARE.  Your selection needs to have removable, washable parts (mop head).


There are mops galore.  You can find lots of Mr. Mops dumped every day in our landfills.  I am sure, when they were initially selected at the local grocery store, they did not look too bad.  Let’s see–most of us have used the standard string and sponge mops.  Newcomers to the market are the Microfiber Roller Mop, the Fabric Twist Mop, the Tornado Mop, the Wonder Mop and the wet/dry collection.  All full of promise and power.  Many come with removable or replaceable refills.  I favor the ones with washable refills over the replaceable ones.  It will stretch your investment $ a bit further.

My pick for a mop and one that I use for my home and business is an easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain mop.  It is professionally designed and constructed with a removable, washable mop sleeve (mop head) at an average price point.

I initially discovered my mop from a company in California.  Now you can find a similar mop at your local grocery or hardware store.

What makes this mop so unique is its large, flat base and the removable mop head that slips over the base.  The mop base covers more space than an average mop.  It measures 8″ x 15″.  It comes with a standard 22″ handle.  The base is low and pivots in any direction for those hard-to-reach places.  Note:  Always wash your mop head separately with a little detergent and bleach.  Hang it to dry (don’t put it in the dryer as it will loosen the elastic).  You can also put it back on the mop to dry.  Have a bracket for your mop and always hang your mop high in order for it to dry.

I do not care to endorse any product or company, but if you like to check my GOOD mop pick, go to under Sh-Mop.  You can also find a mop with a similar design at your local grocery or hardware store.  If you decide to order, don’t forget to order extra mop heads.

TIPS: Not only look for a good quality mop and bucket, but also for a removable and washable mop head.  It will help keep your home Clean Green!  Make sure you vacuum or sweep the floor before you mop.  If you clean your spills right away and mop often, “elbow” and “grease” will stay as separate words for you.  Mopping can be a breeze if you use the right mop and use it often.  I will cover technique later, but I do want to emphasize water is the enemy here.  Make sure you squeeze your mop well before every mopping.

Write to us if you have an interesting or funny mop story.

Happy Mopping!


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Need a Vacuum?

Whether you are buying a vacuum for your home—or, like me, for home and business—do your homework.  As a must-have cleaning tool, a vacuum also happens to be the highest priced item you will purchase for your home.

Here are the 8 steps to vacuum bliss:

When I started Penguin’s Best 15 years ago I needed I great, cheap vacuum. First thing I did was open the phone book and looked under “V” for vacuums, and started calling.

This is a must-do step. God forbid you ever order a vacuum by mail. By the time you finish reading you’ll know why…The first store I visited on my quest was not very helpful.  The employees were not friendly, and I had too many questions. But the second store was a winner! The store owners had daughters my age who also had owned a commercial cleaning business. The owner and his wife gave me a vacuum tutorial that lasted all morning.
To this day, Penguin’s Best uses the same exact vacuum model from the same store (STANTON MILES, Westport, CT).

If you think the more expensive model will clean better, you are wrong. Ask the store owner for an average priced vacuum. Also ask for the warranty, the cost of parts, and if they service the vacuums in-house.

There are two types of vacuums: a canister or an upright. I like the upright. It is easy to handle, and unlike the canister, you worry only about what’s in front of you.

Most people pick a vacuum with all the attachments ON. Don’t. Most people feel they need and will use every single attachment. You won’t. When was the last time you vacuumed your furniture while vacuuming the house?

It’s lucky you have time to vacuum the house! Get the attachments in a separate box. Your vacuum will be lighter and easier to handle.

** A footnote on the weight: keep your vacuum even lighter by changing the bag (or empty the dirt if bag-less) when the vacuum is half-full. The motor will work better and your vacuum will last longer.

This is an important step. Have the store’s employees show you how your vacuum works. Don’t settle with the book. You’ll never read it unless there is a problem. You want to learn preventive vacuum care. Ask them to show you how to change the bag, how to change the belt. Practice changing both at the store. If changing the belt needs a box of tools and a few hours, you need to fall out of love with that vacuum model.

Next, test drive the vacuum. Go ahead and vacuum the store. How does it handle? Take your new vacuum home and start a happy relationship with a tool that will help you Keep it Clean at home for many happy years.

7. BAGS.  If you are buying a vacuum WITH a bag you need extra bags (normally with your purchase you get two free bags).  Buy at least two packs with 12 bags in each packet.  They should last you a few years.  Depending on use, change your vacuum bag every month at worse every two months.

Familiarize yourself with the brand and code of the vacuum bag designed for your model vacuum.

Remember you cannot use any other bag for your vacuum.  ALL BAGS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.

Also, if the vacuum uses a filter buy extra while at the store.  Ask your new friend at the store how often you need to change the filter and get enough for two years.

8. MAKE A FRIEND.  Establish a good relationship with the store owner.  A thank you card is in order. Your luck with vacuums has just changed.  Mazal tov!

TIP BOARD: Before bringing your new vacuum home ask the store to change the cord to a longer one (often the same hook can hold longer cords) so you can vacuum an average size house by plugging it in (a hallway outlet) only once. DUPLICATE: Have a working vacuum (same model and design) on every floor. Easy access to a cleaning tool is a good thing!

Happy vacuuming!

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Welcome to Penguin’s Best

Nicky in 50 Years

Welcome to Penguin’s Best Housekeeping Service.  I am thrilled to introduce the “KEEP IT CLEAN & GREEN” blog to you.

Nicky Tomboulides
Consultant, Penguin’s Best

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