Cheryl Mendelson, author of the sleeper hit "Home Comforts," ignores fancy packaging to find housekeeping marvels at supermarkets and hardware stores.
Mendelson calls the Miele vacuum cleaner "the Porsche of vacuums." Some have HEPA filters, minimizing the amount of dust they emit. And they're great-lookingespecially the "Aluminium" ($1,000; 888-817-5798).
Fabuloso, a Colgate-Palmolive product from Mexico that Mendelson says is "in every bodega," has a strong scent, but it's versatile and mild ($2 for 32 ounces). With Procter & Gamble's little-known Orvus paste, "you can wash everything from antique fabrics to floors" ($10 for 1 pound; www.talasonline.com).
Refrigerator thermometers are vital for food safety. "I keep my fridge at 35 degrees. That's as cold as it can get before a film of ice appears on the milk." Measuring a room's humidity with a hygrometer helps you control dust mites, which "love hot and humid" (thermometers start at $4, hygrometers at $15; www.taylorusa.com).
"I love Scotch-Brite's Dobie pad for nonstick surfaces and Scotch-Brite's Heavy Duty pad for stainless. If all else fails, I use Chore Boy scouring cloths" (pads, $1.59 each; cloths, two for $1.29).
"I have two: a corn broom with uneven edgesgreat for my uneven Mexican-tile floorand a little plastic broom with a straight edge, for close sweeping. And a dustpan, of course. With a long-handled one, you don't need to bend down."
To remove caked-on food, Mendelson uses Bar Keepers Friend or Zud. "Zud has acid in it for rust. You can even use it to clean tires. It's been around forever." (Bar Keepers Friend, $2.50 for 12 ounces; 866-COOKWARE. Zud, $3 for 6 ounces; 800-456-9477.)