Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cleaning supply list for the broke

As a first time home purchaser in her third year of ownership, I'm still pretty house poor. Recovering from an interstate move, fixing things the last owner didn't do correctly, general increase in expenses that I'm still getting used to. All have forced me to be as cheap as possible. One place I have been able to cut back on is in cleaning supplies for my house. During my uber-green period, I found a number of recipes to make cleaning products rather with just a few basic staples.

My list includes:

3 or 4 spray bottles.

Dish detergent (use your favorite but many people have found other uses for Dawn specifically. Particularly for pest removal)

Borax (get two boxes, one for under the kitchen sink, one for the laundry room)

White Vinegar (buy the cheapest brand you can find. It's all the same. buy 3 gallon bottles)

Baking soda (get the large box on the bottom shelf in the baking or laundry section of the store)

Tea Tree Oil (optional)

My "Guilty Pleasures" include: (I'll justify these later on)

Powdered laundry detergent (don't buy liquid, you're just paying for water no matter what brand you buy)

Bleach (not exactly green)

Window cleaner

Dishwasher Detergent

Bar Keeper's friend

Spic and Span (on the rare occasion)

Oven Cleaner

For general purpose cleaner. Or the spray bottle that I use in the kitchen to wipe off everything:

1 spray bottle

two teaspoons of borax

two teaspoons of dish detergent

8 oz of white vinegar

3-4 drops of tea tree oil (optional)

fill the rest of the bottle with warm water

Shake the bottle to dissolve the borax and mix the detergent. store under the sink for easy access.

I use this on pretty much all of my kitchen surfaces. I don't have stainless steel appliances. But if I did, I would probably spring for stainless steel cleaner or you can use WD-40 (just make sure to wipe it off really well). For a few cents, I can make this cleaner whenever I run low (don't have to run to the store for it). Between the tea tree oil and the vinegar, the cleaner is anti-bacterial.

Toilet Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

1/2 cup of baking soda

dump both into the toilet and watch it fizz. It's the same thing and the old school volcano bit you remember. Once the fizz settles, scrub with brush and let it sit until you "need" to flush. If you have extra stains or need some extra deodorizing, flush first and then add a slash of bleach in the bowl, swish it around with the brush and let sit again until you "need" to flush. I wouldn't add it with the vinegar in the bowl, I can't remember of high school Chem class when vinegar and bleach makes.

Carpet deodorizer

shake some baking soda of the carpet. If you don't have a shaker, wait until you've finished that can of fake Parmesan cheese in the fridge and use that. Leave on for 30 minute and then vacuum. If you want extra scent, put a couple of drops of vanilla or essential oil in your vacuum bag.

Weed Killer

1 spray bottle (I told you, you would need a few)

fill half with white vinegar

a good 4-5 ozs of dish detergent

fill the rest with water

Spray on the weed, and only the weed. This will kill everything! After a day in the sun, the weed will be brown and wilted (yes it works in the shade too). After a few days the weed will be dead. Some other recipes call for salt. You can add that too, if you like.


There are a ton of recipes out there on how to make your own laundry detergent. Honestly, I don't have the time nor the inclination to grate soap. But I have found that ditching the cup that comes with the box of detergent and opting for a 1/2 measurement, will clean most large loads. Add in a 1/2 of Borax to the load too. As always, put the powders in, start to fill the tub, swish with your hand to dissolve and THEN add the clothes.

With cutting back on the amount of detergent I use (which is half of the cup that is included in the box), I buy at most two boxes of detergent a year. Yes there is just a family of two. But I have a teenager don't forget!

Mold and Mildew:

1 spray bottle

1/4 bleach

3/4 water

I don't have a huge problem with this living in a particularly dry area. If I did or had a pretty touch mold job to conquer, would I go out and buy Mold and Mildew cleaner? You bet! (look, I'm just trying to get my house clean and get on with the next thing on the list). But you can tackle small jobs in the kitchen and bathroom with the spray above. Just spray on the area and let sit.

Dusting Spray (for wood):

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Ok, I'll admit that I've never done this. I'm still working on the can of Pledge that I bought a couple of years ago (I don't dust very often). But I have seen recipes for this. Directions include dabbing a small amount of EVOO on a clean cloth. Rub into the wood. Finish with a cloth slightly moistened with Lemon Juice.

My other Guilty Pleasures:

Bleach: Look, I know it's not "green" and it's a very caustic chemical. But I need my bleach. I need it for my dingy whites in the laundry. I need it for my brown and coated coffee maker and cups. I need it for the clothes I use to wash dishes and wipe up messes that I can never get clean. I NEED BLEACH.

Window Cleaner: People say that you can clean windows and glass with a combination of white vinegar or ammonia and water and use anything from newspapers or coffee filters for a sparkling result. I've tried it; it just doesn't work from me. It think it leaves streaks and smudges that are more effort to get out than the job it worth. Save yourself the time and frustration and just go out and buy a bottle of commercial window cleaner. Doesn't have to be name brand; the generics work just fine. But the homemade stuff just can't compare.

I have read that you can use windshield wiper fluid as well. I haven't tried it, but the theory is sound. Plus you can buy a gallon of this stuff for like a buck and a half. If you've tried it, let me know how it worked for you.

Dishwasher Detergent: If you love your dishwasher and want to keep using it, this is not a place to experiment which some homemade concoction. Price compare and use coupons to get the one you like and the works the best for you at the cheapest price.

Bar Keeper's Friend: Very rarely will I promote a specific brand of something. I rarely ever buy the name brand of anything. But I have a white porcelain sink in my kitchen and I drink a lot of coffee. The combination of the two can lead to some very nasty results. The only thing that I have found to really clean one of these types of sinks is Bar Keeper's Friend. It doesn't scratch as much as some of the other brands and it gets the stains out of the sink.

However, if you have an aluminium sink, by all means, have at it and use something else. In this case, I would recommend not buying another product and using either a good handful of Borax or Baking Soda sprinkled over the sink and some gentle scrubbing.

Spin and Span or some other liquid cleaner: When it comes to mopping my floors, I'm sorry but the only thing that works to get the dirt off is a commerical cleaner. I will usually buy a bottle of one of these all purpose cleaners and use it for the kitchen and bathroom floors and sometimes the toilet. Sure I could use the same stuff elsewhere in the house, but I'm trying to make it last so I don't have to buy more.

Oven Cleaner: Here's the deal. My oven gets used a lot. Stuff gets spilled inside and no, I don't wipe it up immediately. The stuff gets baked on (several times over). I just need something with some real muscle to get this stuff off. Yes, there are tons of people who swear by using some of the homemade cleaners I mentioned above. But I just don't have that much elbow grease in me to made that work. I buy the commerical oven cleaners (again not name brand). Also, because I have an electric stove, the drip pans and rings get a good spray with cleaner now and then. Yes, the fumes are terrible. Yes, its caustic and tough on the hands. But really, how often do you clean your oven? Once? Twice a year before holidays and before company comes? That's what I thought.

There are many more ways to save money on cleaning and household items. Most of them are more common sense than anything.

  • Use grocery bags for small trash bags
  • Made sure those trash bags are full before you take them out. Most of the time, when you remove the bag from the can, there's a lot more that can be put into the bag because of settling. Take advantage of it.
  • Use bread bags to wrap meats before freezing. It's always a good idea to double bag if you're going to do this to protect your meat from freezer burn.
  • Cut down or cut out the paper towel usage. After cleaning your windows or mirrors, take the same, now-damp, paper towel and use it to dust the stuff in the living room. The slight dampness in the towel will help to hold the dust much better.
  • Use the net bags that onions and other vegetables and fruits come in, and made a pot scrubber. There are several instructions on the net on how to do this. It is the exact same material that is in the scrubbers that you buy in the store.
  • Learn to love your local Dollar Store. Whether it's the Dollar Store, or Dollar Tree or whatever it's called, every town has one. You can get everything there for $1. This is a good place to stock up on cleaning supplies. Also, you might want to check out the health and beauty isle. Stocking up on shampoo and body wash for a dollar a pop can't be all bad.

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