Those warm breezes blowing in your window make you think about spring cleaning, don’t they? If the outdoors world is smelling fresh, you want your house to smell fresh, too! But there’s no need to run out and buy the costly cleaning supplies and equipment you see on the TV ads.
Here are six ways to get a clean home without cleaning out your wallet.
1. Consider unconventional cleaning tools
You’ve probably broken a dozen toilet bowl cleaners in your life, but you keep buying them because you need something to clean the bowl with. The next time you break one, skip the usual piece of junk and visit a hardware store instead. There you’ll find a large variety of tough brushes designed for many serious chores — at least one of these brushes will have the right angle to clean the bowl, and it will probably be the last toilet brush you ever need to buy.
While you’re there buy a regular, rectangular, old-fashioned bristle brush, which you can use to clean tough grime in the bathtub or kitchen sink (it will last years longer than the toughest sponge you can buy, and it will work better). Another thing to look for in the hardware store: an industrial strength squeegee. Using this to wipe away the water when you clean the windows will provide a better shine than wiping with a paper towel, and it will shortly pay for itself in towel savings.
White vinegar is a great natural cleaner. It is mildly acidic, which helps it clean soap scum, grime, and other deposits on all smooth surfaces. And it naturally deodorizes (its own smell quickly fades when it dries). You can create a gentle cleaner by mixing one part of white vinegar to an equal amount of water. Pour this into an old spray bottle and you have an ideal kitchen and bathroom spray cleaner.
If you’re trying to clean more stubborn stains, try heating the solution in the microwave until it’s just warm before applying it to the stain — the heat adds a little soap scum-melting power. And if you’re cleaning the inside of the toilet, use straight white vinegar rather than the 50/50 solution.
Baking soda is another natural cleaner, and it’s slightly abrasive so it can help with tougher problems. Smear a paste of baking soda and water onto really tough stains and let it sit for 15 minutes. When you wipe it off many stains will disappear. Of course ammonia, which is an ingredient in many commercial cleaners, works great, too. A strong glass cleaning solution is one cup of water, one cup of rubbing alcohol, and one tablespoon of clear, non-sudsing ammonia.
3. Shop at a janitor supply business
If you really need the commercial cleaning solutions, at least stop buying them at your grocery store. Instead, visit a janitor supply business (online or in a real store, if you live in a big city). Just type “janitor supply” in any search engine and you’ll be connected to a world of good prices on cleaners. Yes, you’ll probably have to buy in larger quantities than you are accustomed to, but the savings will make it worthwhile.
4. Skip the disposable wipes and toilet brushes
Sure, the TV and magazine ads make these things look great — just wipe and flush! But in reality they are no more convenient than re-usable versions, and the money you’re flushing down the toilet after each use should make you cringe! Any time you hear the word disposable, force yourself to imagine your money being disposed!
5. Paper towels? Please!
Hopefully you’ve been keeping a bag of old socks and t-shirts to use as rags. Now that spring cleaning is here, break it out and put those old threads to use. Soft, cotton or cotton-blend cloth is a delight to use when you’re washing windows, cleaning floors, dusting, etc. And since it’s a rag, just pitch it if it gets too soiled.
6. Recruit the kids
Make spring cleaning a family affair and get your kids in on the act. Depending on their ages, their help might be more nuisance than actual help, but at least you’ll be getting them into the spring cleaning habit. And if they’re old enough, put them to work on real projects. They might not be cleaning experts, but nearly any kid can help pick up clutter, dust large surfaces, vacuum carpets, and handle scores of other chores.
One big tip: Make it fun and their contribution will be much more valuable!
Spring cleaning is an age-old tradition because nature calls for it. Heed that call with some of these tips and your wallet will make it to summer intact!