Keeping your house in order shouldn’t cost a bundle. If you do the cleaning yourself — instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars annually on cleaning services — you’re already way ahead of the game.
Use the following tips to create a tidy, comfortable living space while giving your budget an extra break.
Don’t waste water
You need plenty of water to clean a home properly, but don’t waste the stuff, especially if the water utility charges by the amount you use versus a flat rate. You also pay a sewerage fee for the water that goes down the drain — yet another reason not to overdo the H2O.
Don’t run the dishwasher until it’s full. Since that might take two meals or more, rinse dishes quickly to keep food from getting too caked-on. Or put a very small amount of water in the sink (just enough to cover the bottom) and splash off the dinnerware items before putting them in the dishwasher.
The same holds true for your clothes washer. Run full loads whenever possible. If you must do a smaller batch, adjust the load size; no need to fill up a “super” load of water when a “full” or “small” load would do the trick.
Let everyone in the house know this rule.
Air-dry dishes and clothes
You don’t have to rely on electricity to dry your dishes and duds. Turn off the dishwasher before it gets to the drying cycle, and let your plates and cups dry by themselves.
If hanging laundry to dry outside is allowed in your area, put up a clothesline or create a temporary one with bungee cords. In my household, we also drape towels and sheets over deck railings and — in the winter — atop interior doors.
We also use three large drying racks during winter and inclement weather. Two of them spaced about a foot apart can hold one queen-sized sheet, with the second sheet draped over the other rack, plus a wooden chair. They dry within a few hours.
We have a smaller drying rack for socks and underwear, and put shirts and T-shirts on plastic hangers. All four racks fold neatly into a closet when not in use.
The savings can be large. A typical household pays about $100 per year in utility bills to power an electric dryer, or $40 to power a gas dryer, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
Two other benefits of air drying:
- Your clothes last longer when they’re not bounced and tumbled (and shrunk) at high heat.
- The smell of sheets and pillowcases dried in the sun and wind makes for some truly luxurious slumber.
For more savings, find out if your region has off-peak utility rates. If so, run the dishwasher and do your laundry at those times.
Switch to DIY cleaning supplies
Die-hard frugalists make their own laundry soap. “3 Easy Ways to Wash Away the Cost of Laundry Soap” tells all.
Erin Huffstetler, who blogs at MyFrugalHome.com, goes one step further: She makes her own four-ingredient dishwasher detergent. It takes only a couple of minutes to mix together the washing soda, kosher salt, baking soda and lemon juice, and portion it into molds. (Ice cube trays work fine; Huffstetler uses a silicon candy mold.)
The cost works out to 4 cents per load, compared with 30 cents per load for the commercial variety, and there’s no borax or questionable chemicals.
Baking soda and vinegar can replace many other commercial cleaning products. The first is great as a nonabrasive porcelain scrub, deodorizer, tarnish remover, laundry brightener, oven cleaner, carpet freshener and grout de-grimer, among other things. See “77 Uses for Baking Soda — and How It Could Save Your Life.”
Vinegar is magic. It can keep drains open, clean even the greasiest stove top, shine windows and mirrors, de-gunk shower heads and remove hard-water stains. For more information, see “82 Amazing and Environmentally Friendly Uses for Vinegar.”
Save money on commercial brands
If you don’t want to make your own soaps and cleansers, at least work at spending less on the store-bought stuff. Watch for sales at supermarkets and drug and department stores. You’ll generally spend a lot less if you shop for cleanser, bottled ammonia and vinegar and baking soda at the dollar store.
The dollar store is also a good place to buy some of your cleaning equipment. Seriously, how much do you want to pay for sponges, dustpans, mop buckets, brooms and the like?
Be sure to pick up some microfiber cloths, which are absolutely magnetic when it comes to dust and dirt — and unlike those disposable dusters, the cloths can be used and reused. Just give them a good shake (outdoors!) to rid them of the dirt, and launder them now and then if you like.
A true frugalist is all about repurposing. For years I used a discarded detergent tub as a mop bucket. Newspapers are great for cleaning windows and mirrors, used with some of that vinegar-and-water solution mentioned earlier. Socks worn-out at the heels? Use them as dust cloths by wearing them over your hands.
Get creative and save.
What tips do you have for conquering the cleaning? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.