Bamboo Wok Brush

I use well-seasoned cast iron and carbon steel pans for the better part of my cooking. To clean them, I’ve used the same bamboo wok brush than I bought at a corner market in Sacramento in 1990. I’ve been thinking of buying a new one, just so I can phase it in over a few years while I slowly retire the original. It only takes a few swishes around the inside of the pan with hot water (no soap!) and a rinse to clean a pan. In the time I’ve been using it on my iron and steel pans, including the wok I use occasionally, I’ve gone through countless sponges, scotch-brite pads, and those looped-plastic scrubbies that I use on stock pots etc., all of which get pretty hinky once put into use and have to be run through the dishwasher to get free of food particles. It also looks dignified and fine sitting on the countertop by the sink, has just gotten more seasoned, and never needs more than a rinse to get clean. The edges of the cane bristles are pretty blunted by now and a new one might work better for attacking the occasional nuclear cooking mess. On the other hand, it’s gentle enough on the built-up seasoning in my pans that they keep getting non-stickier and shed scorched cheese like schmutz on teflon.

The brush I bought way back when has flat bristles, about 11 inches long by 3/16 wide, and stouter than most of the wok brushes I’ve seen recently in Asian groceries. I can’t imagine that there’s been much innovation in wok brush technology in the last 3000 years, but quality is probably inconsistent on an item like this, even from the same seller. Unless you have access to Asian markets and can shop around while you’re out making your weekly durian run, Amazon has a variety to choose from, all about $7.50 with shipping. The Wok Shop seems to be reputable, but it might be prudent to order a few just in case yours only lasts as long as a good hamster.

-- Brian Garber-Yonts  

Bamboo Wok Brush
$7

Available from Amazon



Muji Nylon Body Towel

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This woven nylon shower or bath scrubbing cloth, 11″x43″ in size, can be folded up or used long to scrub the back in those hard to reach places. It’s really good for scrubbing (and exfoliating I guess) all over, it foams up easily with a small amount of soap, rinses easily and completely, and dries quickly on its hanging loop. It folds up small and fits in its provided plastic zip case for travel. It can be machine washed (but not dried!) and is very hard-wearing – mine has been used every day for at least three years.

It’s simpler, more hygienic and easier to pack than a brush or loofah. It can’t unravel like those pouffe things. I bought mine out of curiosity, and I’m glad I did. I’ve used this towel for several years.

-- Matt Petty  

Nylon Body Towel
$5

Available from and manufactured by Muji Muji also makes a softer version You can also get a similar non-Muji version in various colors on Amazon



Bon Ami

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I’ve used Bon Ami cleaner for a year and a half. I have yet to find something that it won’t clean to perfection. I’ve used it to remove tarnish and other corrosion on metal, wax, grease, glued-on paper, soot stains and permanent marker from nonporous surfaces. It removes engine grease, wet oil paint and food coloring stains from skin, but isn’t gritty like Lava soap.

It also works great as a kitchen-cleaner. As it’s nontoxic, it is ideal in this role.

-- John Edds  

[Note: Similar to the previously reviewed Bar Keeper's Friend whose active ingredient is oxalic acid, Bon Ami is an even safer alternative that uses feldspar, calcium carbonate, and sodium carbonate. For a more thorough breakdown you can read more here. --OH]

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser
$7

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Bon Ami



Dexas Pop Silicone Colander

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After a year of regular use, I’m still struck by how much of an improvement this collapsible colander is over traditional ones. For small apartment or galley kitchens this colander brings serious space savings.

The bowl section folds flat and the legs swing under, clicking into place. When collapsed, the colander is 1.5 inches thick. It can be easily stored upright like a book between cupboard items or behind a counter-top appliance. It even has a hole, if you prefer to hang it on a rack.

Though the colander is compact, it’s well-designed. The legs are set broadly apart, making it extremely stable. The tall legs give ample clearance underneath the colander, which can be handy if there are dirty dishes in the sink and the pasta needs to be drained right away. The wide handles offer a solid grip. Also, it’s dishwasher safe.

The only benefit to another colander would be volume. I rarely cook for more than a few people, so the 2.5-quart Dexas suits my needs fine. If you’re cooking larger portions, I’d recommend one from OXO.

-- Aaron Scrignar  

Dexas POP Ware Collapsible Silicone Colander
$30

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Dexas



Brush Picks

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I hate flossing. I hate how the floss cuts into my fingers and lips, and how it gets wet and slimy and impossible to manipulate. I’ve tried those little flossers with handles but they’re not much better than regular floss. I’ve used interdental brushes (they’re like itty-bitty bottle brushes with handles) but they’re not flexible and don’t fit between normally-spaced teeth. After years of ignoring my dentist’s suggestion to just floss the teeth I want to keep, I think BrushPicks are my solution.

“These are AMAZING,” said my mother-in-law as she presented our final, newspaper-wrapped stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve. I was sure her description was a little over the top for what turned out to be a tiny box of glorified toothpicks. That was until I gave one a try.

Each disposable plastic pick has a pick end and a brush end. The pick end has tiny ridges that help to scrape harder material from between your teeth. But it’s the brush end that’s a real innovation. It looks kind of like a feathery antenna, with a flat row of tiny bristles extending on either side of a thin, flexible pick. This brush end is stiff enough and thin enough to poke easily between your teeth, but flexible enough that it readily bends so that you’re not jabbing painfully into your gums. This flexibility also allows for cleaning behind rear molars. Rotating the brush end as you clean helps to loosen and remove gunk from otherwise impossible-to-reach areas.

BrushPicks are so effective that they’re actually kind of fun to use–in a “look what I just dug out of my own head” sort of way. I’ve taken to using one every 2 or 3 days and I’m anxious to see if my dental hygienist notices the difference during my next cleaning.

-- Rhodora Collins  

Brush Picks
$3 (250 count)

Available from Amazon

Or $36 for a 12-pack from Amazon
Manufactured by Brush Picks

[Note: They are also available for slightly less in bulk from Amazon. -- OH]



Bercom Ladder Pail

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I’ve always done my own painting. I’ve owned a number of boats and have restored an 80-year-old house. Through all that I used dozens of metal and plastic roller pans, the standard variety that are widely available for next to nothing. While they are ubiquitous and cheap, they don’t keep the roller out of the paint; they don’t have a place to keep a brush out of the way and out of the paint; and they’re easily knocked off your ladder’s paint shelf. This one by Bercom rules them all and is well worth the money.

It’s listed as a ladder pail, but it’s really best as a replacement for a standard paint tray. I can fill this bucket with paint, hook my roller on one side, a good brush on the other and proceed to neatly and easily paint both from the ground and from up on an extension- or step ladder.

I’ve used it for more than a year and have done a number of rooms with high ceilings in two different houses. The ability to suspend both the brush and the roller above the paint and use either without interference, easily, on a ladder make this bucket a joy to use. All the fittings are first rate. The shape is perfect. Even the little details shine, such as the molded-in channels to make pouring the paint from the bucket back into the can smoother.

And the magnet that holds the brush is removable for cleaning, which means I can easily get the bucket back to like-new condition. All in all, I highly recommended it. I won’t paint on a ladder without it.

-- Dennis Faust  

Bercom BER-4500-CC Handy Ladder Pail
$22

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Bercom



Brustech

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I have a couple of Luminarc pitchers, and my big hands couldn’t get inside of them to clean out both the bottom and the top corners. I’m an iced tea drinker, and the little tea particles would take up permanent residence in the corners, making the thing look pretty nasty. I figured I could just hit up a local hardware store and buy a long brush, but absolutely no one has one long enough to hit the bottom and still give me a handle up top to control it and put some serious pressure on it. I ended up not using these great pitchers because they were such a pain to clean.

I came across the Brushtech site and ordered their Air Pot and Vacum Bottle Cleaning Brush and an End Brush For Cleaning Vases, Coffee Decanters and Jugs. The Air Pot brush is perfect for the top corners while the End Brush makes quick work of the bottom.

The array of brush types for niche cleaning scenarios Brustech offers up is pretty unbelievable. The two I purchased have been really hearty so far and feel as though they’re built to last. The bristles come out in pretty much the same condition at the end of the work.

[If you've tried Brushtech's drill-operated brushes, let us know in the comments.--es]

Air Pot and Vacum Bottle Cleaning Brush
$12
Available from Amazon

End Brush For Cleaning Vases, Coffee Decanters and Jugs
$14
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Brushtech Inc



Wall Whale

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I used a normal pool brush before, and always had the problem with the brush not sticking to the wall. I would normally have to use a lot of force to successfully brush a vertical section of pool wall. Then the brush finally broke. So I went to a local pool supply to get another brush and came across the Wall Whale brush. It’s unique because in addition to the brush, it has a fin, which creates a powerful force, that basically sticks the brush to the pool wall. It’s pretty effortless to use, and successfully cleans the area that I brush.

I have had it for a few months and love it.

-- Mike Hedge  

Wall Whale
$20

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by GABco Products



Sno Wovel

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As a Montrealer who has shoveled more snow than you can shake a very big stick at, I was intrigued when I first came across a video of this wheeled shovel in action. I live in the suburbs south of Montreal, on a street where there’s a popular bus route; the snow plow can pass my house several times a day during heavy snow falls, repeatedly depositing a compacted mound of snow in my driveway entrance.

I bought a Wovel, and what was once a dreaded exercise in futility has now become a looked forward to workout! Thanks to the Wovel’s design, all the snow’s weight gets transferred to my arms and legs. The fulcrum at the center of the big wheel effectively allows the Wovel to do the heavy lifting for me. After becoming proficient in its use, I was able to master the natural seesaw action and launch the snow surprisingly high. Now, after a season and a half of use, I can consistently build snow banks up to five feet high. It’s like having my own little nonnmotorized bulldozer.

I’ve been using mine to shovel my walk/driveway as well as my neighbor’s for more than a year, and I’ve been beating the crap out of the thing. It won’t quit. It’s made from a thick-gauge steel and is covered by a lifetime warranty. What was once about an hour of back-breaking work has been cut down to about 20 minutes, which makes this purchase one of the best expenditures I have ever made.

-- Billy Zavos  

The Sno Wovel Wheeled Snow Shovel
$130

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Structured Solutions II



Ridgid Wet/Dry Vacuum

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I purchased this shop vac after multiple online reviews recommended this model. The feature that stands out the most for me is its Scroll Noise Reduction, which I find is actually effective. Most vacuums are extremely loud, but with this one it’s possible to have a conversation while it’s running.

I initially sought out this shop vac after renovations left our house coated with a layer of dust. We used the Rigid vac to clean up drywall dust, sheetrock dust, sawdust and other debris. Later we confirmed its wet application utility when a pipe burst in the bathroom. When not being used elsewhere our vac sits attached to saws in the garage, keeping the space clean. The whole unit is light enough (22 lb.) and easy to carry around. It uses a three-layer replaceable air filter, and though it’s not included, there is an option of a HEPA replacement filter.

While the 2-gallon Singer wet/dry vac previously reviewed on Cool Tools seems useful for smaller clean-ups, this 14-gallon Ridgid has been well worth its purchase price.

-- Wes Sisk  

Ridgid WD1450 Wet/Dry Vacuum
$155

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Ridgid