But NOW we have the 21st C.equivalent---or improvement! Microfiber cloths!
These little beauties do it all. I bought the Quickie 4-pack starter set at the Mart of Wall. They come with the hip neon green kitchen cloth for counters and appliances; the camel colored one for furniture; the blue for glass and mirrors; and the silver for metal finishes like stainless appliances. They heave different surfaces for the different jobs. You can also get them individually. (There other brands out there, some of which I've tried, but these are the best I've used. Compare for thickness and size.)
They are amazing! You don't even need chemical cleaners to make them work (though sometimes I cave). They can be used dry or wet with just a little water. What makes them work is the ability of the microfibers to grab and hold the dirt. It's like microscopic Velcro! If you have rough, chapped fingers like I do, you will actually want to slather on lotion before using them because they will even stick to your skin!
In the morning, Father R always needs to wipe the fog off the mirror after showering to finish his "toilette". He had been grabbing the handtowels for this which did get the fog but left its own "fog" of lint. I hung out the blue glass/mirror cloth. He's a tough sell but he was elated! It got the mirror so clear! (I was thrilled too: no more lint-removal follow-up.)
The green kitchen ones are thick and hold GALLONS of water. The counters get dry and polished in one or two swipes.
In my house, people were born with fingerprints so stainless appliances always look like the police were there on a case. The silver one is the only thing that has ever returned the look of them to showroom quality. With no cleansers.
I already admitted I don't polish furniture much, so since it's not April I can't report on the brown one, but I trust it will live up to its brothers' reps.
Now we can save money, trees, and landfill space on paper towels, and safely get the under-age set to clean without the fear of those nasty chemicals. So here's to lots of help and happy cleaning!