6 Tips for Spring Cleaning on a Budget

by Chris Birk on 23 March 2011 4 comments
Photo: sjlocke

The concept of an annual "spring cleaning" has roots in several cultures spread across the centuries, from ancient Persia and Jewish preparations for Passover to more modern-day needs for a routine whole-house scrubbing.

Today, the arrival of spring signals the start of that ingrained habit. It also tends to jumpstart a needless torrent of spending on cleaning products and other items that whittle away household budgets. (See also: Your One-Month Guide to Spring Cleaning)

The market for household cleaning products is expected to reach $8.1 billion by next year, according to Packaged Facts, a leading publisher of market research in the food, beverage, consumer packaged goods and demographic sectors. That's a lot of fancy, name-brand toilet scrubs and furniture polish. (See also: 30 Household Products Vinegar Can Replace)

In many ways the growth of this industry is a singular triumph of marketing and branding. It's incredible how far a little vinegar and baking soda can go toward replacing scores of those familiar cleaning products lining grocery store shelves. The reality is consumers shell out hundreds of dollars a year on cleaning supplies that can almost always be replaced by a cheaper yet equally effective solution. As the spring cleaning season sets in, here are a few key ways to save money without sacrificing the shine.

Buy in Bulk

Consider purchasing cleaning solutions in concentrate rather than in smaller bottles off the shelf. Big box stores sell these less flashy tubs, which require consumers to add the appropriate amount of water for their cleaning needs.

Recycle and Repurpose

Look for ways to breathe new life into old items. Used dryer sheets are ideal for cleaning TVs and other surfaces. Make dust rags out of old T-shirts or microfiber wash cloths and skip the paper towels, which build up the garbage pile while thinning your wallet. You also don't need a specialized cleaner for every appliance and surface in the house, even though wielding a bottle of stainless steel cleaner just feels good.

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Create Your Own Cleaners

There are all sorts of web pages and online outlets dedicated to this topic. Crafty consumers have thrown together all manner of ingredients to create that perfect kitchen floor/toilet bowl/fish tank cleaner. But you don't need to get fancy. In fact, most people already have what they need on hand — water, vinegar, or bleach. Simple and natural solutions involving those three main elements can do the job of most other cleaners on the market, from tackling floors and cleaning windows and everything in between.

Embrace No-Names

Maybe sitting down to concoct homemade cleaners isn't your style. But that doesn't mean you're beholden to the big brands. Compare ingredients between brand name cleaners and their generic counterparts. In most cases the store brand will produce the same results at a fraction of the price. Consumers should still excercise care when trolling the bargain bins — the last thing you want is to damage an antique with some 50-cent furniture cleanser.

Cut Coupons

It isn't always sexy, but using coupons can lead to big savings on cleaning products. Scour sites like Deal Seeking Mom and hunt for the best offers. You can also go directly to manufacturer websites to sign up for special offers and deals.

Watch the Water

Be judicious when it comes to using the dishwasher and the clothes washer and dryer during the cleaning process. Clothes that have been sitting in a closet all winter probably don't need a run through the washer, which is a sizable energy suck. Hit the stack with some Febreeze and move on. As for the dishwasher, consider forgoing the heated dry cycle and remember to use the detergent sparingly.

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Guest's picture

Great reminder to start cleaning. Maybe I'll sort clothes first to get some new cleaning rags.;0) I like the ideas of natural solutions. I love vinegar. I rather smell that than chemicals.

Guest's picture
Guest

Isn't it a little hypocritical to suggest using Febreeze? One cycle through the washer and dryer is cheaper than a using a bottle of the name brand chemicals you advise against in the rest of the article.

I hate Febreeze. CLEAN the source of the smell, don't mask it with strong chemicals.

Guest's picture
Guest

To refresh things like clothes, drapes, the couch, I infuse some cheap vodka with either vanilla or lavender. Put it in a spray bottle, do a test to make sure it's safe for whatever fabric you are using, and spray away. The vodka evaporates leaving the lavender or vanilla scent. I've even used it on my hair if I've been in a smokey bar.

Guest's picture

These tips are so helpful, thank you. I'm a college study and everything I do is on a budget, including the simple (not simple if your aren't organized like me) act of cleaning. Spring cleaning is important in order to get rid of things and organize before packing up my dorm for the end of the semester. But I can afford cleaning supplies that only need to be used for the next 5 weeks...and lets me honest in those 5 weeks I probably wont use them. So this weekend when I start my spring cleaning marathon (in order to procrastinate more) I will be using this article.