Save Some Cash With These 6 Clever Cleaning Hacks

By Linsey Knerl on 1 July 2009 (Updated 4 August 2009) 15 comments
Photo: Linus Bohman

I’m a sucker for brand-name cleaning supplies, and while it’s no crime to be brand-loyal and use what works best for you and your family, often times there are shortcuts that can cut back on cleaning time – and out-of-pocket expenses. The July issue of All You Magazine had several inspiring ways to get your cleaning jobs done for less.  Here are my top picks, along with some additional ways to stretch that dollar! 

 

1.  Sanitize your Sponges

Synthetic sponges and kitchen cloths are super-convenient to have on hand, but we all know that after just a few uses, they can get a bit funky-smelling.  Instead of throwing them out and buying new ones (a total waste of money), or just tossing them into the wash (which doesn’t always work,) why not use this clever tip from?  Fill up your kitchen sink with hot water, add one cup of bleach, and toss those stinky things right in!  Bacteria will be gone for good, leaving your sponges fresh-smelling again.  (You’ll also have a shinier sink to show for it!)

 

2.  Measure it

 

Are you using 2x or more concentrated detergent?  Chances are good that the products you use today are twice as potent as the ones we used years ago.  Pay careful attention to measure out only what you need to get your cleaning tasks done efficiently (read the label and the fill lines, first.)  Not only are you saving money by avoiding unnecessary over-portioning, but you can save your clothes and other household surfaces from an early demise.  Too much cleaner can be harmful! 

 

3.  Sweep it up

I know a trick for using that popular sweeping tool without buying the expensive refill cloths.  Simply cut old polar fleece clothing into the same size and shape as your brand-name, disposable cleaning cloths, and use them to pick up all the dirt, lint, and hair that plagues your hard-surface flooring.  Toss them in the wash to use again and again!  (Another snazzy trick is to try used dryer sheets in the same way – only using them once for their new purpose, of course.  Talk about getting extra miles out of your cleaning products!)

 

4.  No shoes allowed

There is a very good reason to ask your family and guests to leave their shoes at the door.  Not only does it guarantee that dirt and mud won’t get tracked throughout your home, but it can give your carpeting and hardwood floors an extra lease on life (less scratches, snags, and general wear-and-tear.)  You’ll rest easy knowing that you’re also contributing to a healthier environment inside your home – the soles of your shoes can carry more icky germs than a typical toilet seat!

 

5.  Pare down your Cleaning Arsenal

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There really are one-size-fits-all cleaning products on the market, one of them being my personal favorite, Oxy Clean.  The all-purpose cleaner is available at most any store, and it isn’t more than $4 or so for a 1.5 pound tub (I also reuse the empty containers to store clothespins, kids’ crayons, or random nails and bolts.)  Advertised with having over 100 uses around the home, I’ve really only tried about 10 or so.  I can say that the best use for the stuff is removing those “impossible” stains.  (Recently my daughter sat on a melted blue crayon in the backseat of our car.  After letting the colored wax cool and harden, I scraped most of it off with a knife, then dampened the area and sprinkled it with Oxy Clean.  After working the product into the denim with an old toothbrush, I rinsed it in cool water and threw it in the wash.  You can’t see any signs of the offending crayon!)  Bottom line: If you find a versatile cleaning product that fills the needs of more than one routine, consolidate – don’t duplicate!

 

6.  Get floors spotless with the power of steam

I’m a huge fan of the steaming floor cleaner.  In fact, I’ve had several models in my lifetime (not because they wore out, but because I love trying new models!)  A good steam-powered floor cleaner will leave your floors sanitized, squeaky-clean, and streak-free within minutes, and the best part is that they require no chemicals or additional product: just the pure ingredient of water!  Investing in a $85 – 120 model may seem like a chunk of change, but when you factor in the cost of floor cleaners over the life of the steamer and consider how much safer and environmentally-friendly your new mop is, the cost is justifiable.  Most mops also come with everything you need to do several rooms with a moment’s notice – including enough microfiber cleaning heads to get you started.  There is no waste, and water is the cheapest cleaner we know of!

You can find other cool household tips on All You’s Budget Home section, like how to fight tough stains around the house, effective ways to reuse household items, and the secret to streamlining your kitchen with clever storage spaces. 

If you have a cleaning hack of your own please share them in the comments!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Good one, Linsey. I didn't know they had steam cleaners for regular floors. That's good to know. Can you use them on laminate flooring, or only on things like tile and marble?

Check out my various projects and services at Itinerant Tightwad. I also have a monthly education newsletter.

Guest's picture
Karen

I run my sponges through the dishwasher -- if it's good enough for my spoons, it's good enough for my sponges. And, speaking of which, here's another sort-of-obvious cleaning hack: Never run the dishwasher unless it's full!

Guest's picture
Guest

Or dump the sponges and use a fresh cotton dishcloth every day. They're cheaper, and unlike synthetic sponges, they can be composted after they wear out.

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't mind advertorials, but I hope Wisebread will be upfront with people about what they're reading. You lost me at the end with the plug for the magazine.

Still, these are good tips.

Guest's picture
Sarah

I had been reading on the web for months about the amazing powers of vinegar, so I decided to give it a try. It is great! 1 gallon cost me about $2.50 including tax. I have used it as a fabric softener (pour in during the rinse cycle), all-purpose cleaner (mix in a spray bottle with some water & just a small quirt of dishsoap). It works as a disinfecting rinse on my dishes & does better than jet-dry. I can clean my hardwood floors & tile with it, the windows get streak-free (use newspaper to wipe them with), and it also clears out small drain clogs. Full strength it removes lime/calcium buildup around drains & gets rid of soap scum easily.

The best part is that it is completely non-toxic.

Will Chen's picture

"carry more icky germs than a typical toilet seat!"

Ewwww.... I'll have to remember that in the future when I feel too lazy to take off my shoes at home.

"You lost me at the end with the plug for the magazine. Still, these are good tips."

I'm glad you like the tips!  This is not an ad for the magazine at all.  We don't get paid by All You for featuring their tips on Wise Bread.  We did ask All You for permission to share their tips with our readers.  Linking back to them is just our way of saying thanks.  (We would do the same if we had taken the tips from another blog.)

I like to think of these as "frugal previews" of magazines.  This way you get great tips and an idea of whether All You is worth your money (or trip to the library). 

"I had been reading on the web for months about the amazing powers of vinegar"

Me too!  I started making Chinese cucumber pickles with vinegar, salt, and hot pepper.  I think I'm burning a hole through my stomach but they are damn delicious.

Guest's picture
Guest (my name is Lindsey too)

I recently found out that fabreeze is just vinager(under a different name) and perfume. My mom and I stumbleed apon this one. i washed a load of clothes that smelled badly with a cup of fabreeze. later my mom ran a load but she added vinager. and geuss what, then turned out smelling the same. we did some resuch about fabreeze and it turned out our hunch was right. so instead of useing fabreeze, put 1 part vinager with three parts water in a speay bottle, use like abreeze, then go over the same spot with your favorite scent.

Guest's picture

Never heard of this magazine before. But then again who can keep track of the thousands of titles out there. Thanks for bringing this one to our attention.

Lynn Truong's picture

I just bought the Shark Pocket Mop and can't wait to try it. Actually, I can wait because I don't really want to mop the floor, but I can't wait to find out if it works as well as it claims.

Guest's picture
guest

Synthetic sponges are yucky. I always buy the organic sponges that are sold in drug stores (usually they are for showering but they work just as well for cleaning dishes).

Guest's picture
Cheap Yankee

Using an entire cup of bleach to bleach just to wash your sponges is excessive, expensive, and really bad for the environment. If you have a septic tank, it also kills all the "helpful" bacteria and you'll need to pump your tank a lot more often. If you're just washing the sponge, it's better (and cheaper ... and better for the environment) to just throw the thing into a pan boiling water and let it soak until the water cools. When you boil something not-too-messy like corn on the cob or a hard-boiled egg, instead of dumping out the water, fish out your dinner then throw your dish sponge in the pot (heat off), stick the lid back on, and just let it sit until the pot gets cool. It kills the bacteria, which is what causes that icky odor. Because you are reusing a resource (hot water) you would otherwise be throwing out, it doesn't cost you anything.

If you have one of those white fiberglass kitchen sinks, bleach-soaks can be justified under the moniker of "killing two birds with one stone." Only, if you're really smart, you'll kill 3 birds at once, not two. At night before you go to bed, fill your kitchen sink up with 5 gallons of really hot water and 1/2 cup of bleach. Soak your sponge, your dingy white socks, and your sink all at the same time overnight. The next morning everything will be sparkling white and clean. If your sink is stainless steel, you shouldn't be doing bleach soaks in it as it can harm the finish ... use a bucket of water instead and dump the bleach water in your gravel walkway afterwards to kill weeds (instead of your septic tank).

Guest's picture

Nice ideas! I have never heard of the majority of these and I am going to start using them!

Guest's picture
April

I hate sponges, they just seem so germy and stinky, but my husband REALLY prefers them. He soaks them in peroxide because it kills the germs and it doesn't make the sponges fall apart like bleach does.

I like using the scrub brushes with a handle. They work great, and they don't get stinky.

For stubborn pans, I use on old plastic fake credit card (they come in the mail as advertisments). They're firm but flexible, so they're great for getting stuck-on stuff off of plate and pans.

Guest's picture
nicole

I always find these tips hilarious. I realized recently that not everyone takes their shoes off when they enter their own house or someone else's. It's a Canadian thing apparently and a fairly obvious "cleaning hack."

Guest's picture
p90x dvd

It's a Canadian thing apparently and a fairly obvious "cleaning hack."