Money & Career

How to save money on cleaning supplies

© Hood Photography Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Hood Photography

Money & Career

How to save money on cleaning supplies

Of all the items in your grocery cart, cleaning supplies (soaps, detergents, air fresheners, polishes) are some of the most expensive.

So we've dusted off some time-tested tips that may protect your health and help you save money on cleaning supplies in one clean sweep!

How to make your own cleaning supplies
Making your own household cleaning supplies is a great eco-friendly way to save money. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers kept their homes spic-and-span without expensive and unhealthy chemicals, so why can't we? Here's how they did it and how you can save money on cleaning supplies.

1. Copper pots
Love your copper bottom pots? Want to show them off? Keep them lustrously copper-orange by rubbing the copper with the cut half of a lemon. Give it a gentle squeeze as you rub it all over to make the surface wet. Next, sprinkle a good amount of table or sea salt all over. The lemon juice will make it stick. Now, take that lemon half again, and use it like a scrubber, rubbing the salt all around.

You'll marvel as the surface changes from green to coral-orange in seconds. Rinse, dry and glow in the knowledge that you made your prized copper beautiful without spending a fortune and you didn't flush any poisons down the drain. That gives you three things to feel good about.

2. Silverware
Polishing silver is not only a gooey, chemical mess, but it's also a drag. Still, bright, shiny silverware is pretty, especially when company's coming. Here's a trick that's safer than liquid polish; it's mostly hands-off and super inexpensive, too. In fact, you probably have what you need in your pantry right now.

Line the bottom of a pot that's large enough to fit your silver items with a folded sheet of tinfoil. Cover completely with water and set on the heat. Next, add a healthy sprinkling of baking soda -- about a half to one cup should do -- and bring water to a boil. With a spoon or tongs, add your silverware and move the items around so all surfaces are exposed to the tinfoil, baking soda and water, and watch the transformation. When they are as clean as they are going to get (some tarnish is too tough for this gentle method) use tongs to lift out into a sink of warm, soapy water and wash or run through the dishwasher with your regular load. Dry to a glorious polish. This method works for silver jewellery, too.

3. Windows, mirrors and glass surfaces
Manufacturers are catching on and 'double strength' or 'cleaning vinegar' is now available in most grocery stores. For taking care of pests, full strength is best -- just drizzle over the pesky weed or anthill.

For cleaning glass and windows, one to one parts water and extra-strong vinegar in a mister bottle works great. You might want to add lemon juice if you don't care for the smell of vinegar.

And because the stuff is edible, running it through the coffee maker once in a while to take care of mineral salts is without risk. Use it to get minerals off the showerhead and in the laundry machine, too.

4. Tiles and toilets
In a container with a lid, blend baking soda and a bit of vinegar, a few drops at a time, into a thick paste. After all the foaming dies down, you'll be left with a great multi-purpose cleaner, great for tiles, bathtubs, basins and toilets, kitchen sinks, the stovetop or barbecue. Just be sure to rinse surfaces well with lots of water after you've cleaned them, as the baking soda can leave a white powdery residue.

5. Natural room fresheners
Resurrect your potpourri burner or put a pot of water on the stove to simmer. Just add orange peels, cinnamon sticks, vanilla (or whatever you like the scent of) and let the fragrance waft through your home.

6. Fine wood
Before there was canned dusting spray, folks simply used the morning's cold tea to clean and hydrate tables and other wood furniture. Beeswax was the polish that kept everything glowing and mineral oil penetrates to keep wood from cracking and drying out. Can't find beeswax or find it too expensive? Petroleum jelly will do in a pinch. Try adding some lemon essential oil to your wood cleaning solution for a lovely aroma.

7. Natural disinfectants
Rub lemon and salt over cutting boards to keep them squeaky clean, odourless and bacteria-free. Let it sit for a bit, then rinse with hot water. Vinegar is also a natural disinfectant.

8. Wooden cutting boards
Wooden chopping boards get put through the ringer with all that cutting and washing. Every now and then they need a little oil massage. Mineral oil is the preferred oil but olive oil will work, too. Pour a few drops onto the board, spread it around, allow it to soak in for a few minutes, and then polish off excess.

9. Drains
Clogged drains are caused by a number of icky things: hair, grease, food bits and plastic bits. There are compressed air gadgets you can buy at grocery and hardware stores, and they work. But you should also get into the habit of dumping baking soda, vinegar and a kettle of boiling water down your drains every now and then, just to keep things flowing. Sometimes that's all that's needed to shift a clog.

How to shop for smarter cleaning supplies
Many of us don't have the time or inclination to make our own household cleaning products, but we can make better choices at the store. Here are some things to consider when shopping for cleaning supplies:

1. Skip the brand name versions
Read the ingredients and small print on products. Even no name brand products are made by name brand companies.

There are some tip-offs: Check the look, size, and shape of the packaging. Is the jug the same shape and size as your favourite brand? It's quite likely it's made by the same company.

2. Buy multi-purpose cleaners
Marketers would have you believe that you need Product A for countertops, Product B for tiles, Product C for floors and on and on, until you've got a cupboard full of expensive -- and similar -- chemicals. Look for all-purpose and multi-purpose products and choose cleaners that can do more than one job.

3. Ditch expensive paper towels
If it doesn't boast on the wrapper that it's made from "100 per cent post-consumer fibre" then chances are those paper towels that you're addicted to are made from beautiful, rapidly vanishing forests. Instead, invest in dishcloths. As long as you rinse well and hang to dry between uses, then chuck into the laundry, they are perfectly healthy. In fact, some dishcloths on the market have anti-bacterial properties.

4. Dryer balls
Never buy expensive and allergenic dryer sheets again. Dryer balls look like dog toys -- brightly coloured, plastic balls, covered in stubby spikes -- but they go in the dryer to bounce along with the load. They won't add fragrance, but they do soften simply by battering the clothes. They also reduce drying time by inhibiting clumping and twisting and helping the air to move in and around the items.

5. Old-fashioned laundry detergent
Borax powder is coming back into fashion. And it's dirt-cheap! But what is it? Boric acid is a naturally occurring mineral, found in some lakebeds, blessed with all sorts of great attributes. It's a natural cleaner and whitener. It disinfects and is a fungicide. And it can replace expensive laundry detergent.

The three essentials of environmentally friendly and inexpensive cleaning are vinegar, borax and baking soda. With these three common and economical products under the sink, there isn't much you can't clean. And just think how good it will feel to save money on cleaning supplies the next time you go to the store.

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Money & Career

How to save money on cleaning supplies