9 Cheap House Cleaning Tips That Actually Work

A woman in a mask with household disinfectants
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to keep your home sparkling clean.

Learn how to save money on cleaning supplies and other frugal housekeeping tricks with these house-cleaning tips that really work.

1. Clean often

vacuuming
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It seems counterintuitive, but cleaning your home more often will save you time and money. Consider this: A quick swipe of a soapy dishcloth will remove a fresh spill from the stove, but you have to break out the heavy-duty cleaners and scrubbing sponges if you wait until that spill is a hard, crusty glob.

The same is true of almost any other kind of cleaning: soap scum in the tub, crumbs in the carpet, stains on fabric and dust on the television, furniture and blinds. It all comes off more easily when you clean it right away.

An exception is mud on carpet or upholstery. If you pounce on it right away with a wet cloth, the stain can get rubbed into the fabric. Let it dry, then vacuum up as much dirt and soil as possible before treating the leftover stain.

Clean your house weekly or more often, and you’ll see that a cleaning cloth dampened with water takes care of most messes. You won’t go through expensive cleaning products as quickly, saving your hard-earned cash for more important — or fun! — purchases.

2. Purchase good-quality cleaning supplies

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I like to buy most of my house-cleaning tools at a hardware or janitorial supply store. At least that’s what I liked to do 10 years ago, which is probably how long it’s been since I’ve needed to buy anything.

The point is that these cleaning tools work well, are comfortable to use and last a long time, so you don’t keep buying flimsy new tools that break and need constant replacements.

Try not to get swayed by too many added features that are merely a trick to get you to spend more money. A flat mop, broom, dust pan, window squeegee, tub squeegee, cleaning bucket, spray bottles, real ostrich feather or lambswool duster, and several neatly folded cleaning cloths will do for most homes.

3. Dispose of the disposables

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If you want to save money on cleaning supplies, don’t buy disposable items that require refills or replacing. Use rags instead of paper towels, and wash them between uses. Choose a mop that can be used without the need for replaceable pads.

In love with your Swiffer? Don’t waste your money on the replaceable pads. Instead buy a pair (or two) of those stretchy, chenille socks (found at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Christmas Tree Shop) for about $1 or $2 and pull one over your Swiffer head.

Use a vinegar solution to wet mop the floor, then switch to a dry sock and wipe it dry. Or, if you’re at all handy with a sewing machine, these reusable Swiffer covers are adorable too.

4. Buy a lightweight vacuum cleaner that you can afford

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I’ve used a lot of vacuum cleaners, and my two criteria are that I must be able to move the vacuum without a tow truck and buy it without financing. If you can’t lift them, you’re less likely to use them. And if you have to make payments — well, just don’t.

These days, even inexpensive vacuums have HEPA filters and do a pretty good job. Research the reviews, buy what you can afford now and save up for your dream vacuum.

5. Edit your cleaning supplies

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For most jobs, like wiping counters, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and mopping tile, a no-rinse, all-purpose cleaner is all you need. You don’t need special products for every room or surface in your house.

If you want your all-purpose cleaner to disinfect or sanitize, be sure to follow the directions on the bottle. Most disinfecting cleaners require a “dwell time,” meaning you need to let the cleaner remain, wet, on the surface for a specific amount of time (often 10 minutes).

If you want to limit your cleaning product collection to a few key items, these cleaners are on our must-have list.

6. Swap store-bought for DIY homemade cleaners

Woman with cleaning supplies
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Don’t waste your money on store-bought cleaners that don’t always work as well as you’d like. It’s cheaper to make your own cleaning supplies from ingredients you likely already have on hand.

You can make an all-purpose cleaner by filling a spray bottle with half water and half white distilled vinegar. Spray this cleaner on surfaces, windows, and stainless steel and chrome fixtures, then wipe with a lint-free cloth or paper towels. Diluted vinegar also gets rid of odors in plastic containers and lunch boxes.

Undiluted white distilled vinegar will clean dirty, greasy surfaces, such as stovetops, oven doors, exhaust fan screens, ceiling fans, cloudy shower doors and door tracks. For stains, scum and baked-on food, sprinkle baking soda on the surface and scrub with a wet sponge.

Baking soda and vinegar used together can keep your drains free of clogs and odors and stand in for toilet bowl cleaner. Borax is excellent for scrubbing showers, bathtubs and sinks.

If you need glass cleaner, a tablespoon of ammonia or 2 tablespoons of vinegar mixed into a quart of clean water will do a better job than the store-bought sprays and is much cheaper. Even cheaper, the best cleaner I’ve ever used on bathroom mirrors is plain hot water. It dissolves hairspray and toothpaste perfectly.

7. Shop smartly for store-bought cleaners

Clorox brand
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When you need to buy a commercial cleaning product, know that cheap cleaning supplies typically work as well as expensive ones. To save money, look for generic or store brands instead of buying the brand-name product you saw on TV. If you compare the ingredients, you’ll see they’re not so different.

If you must buy a name brand, look for store-specific or manufacturer’s coupons in weekly circulars or online to avoid paying full price.

8. Store cleaning products together in cool, dark places

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Certain household cleaners lose their effectiveness or can become flammable when exposed to light and extreme heat. Store your products in cool, dark places to ensure you get the maximum strength from your cleaners. If you have kids or pets, make sure your storage area is also high up and out of reach.

Another money-saving tip is to keep all your cleaning supplies together in one place, rather than some in the bathroom, others in the kitchen, and still more in a supply closet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched my house for a bottle of something, only to discover three half-empty bottles in different rooms of my house. Don’t waste your money buying new cleaning products because you can’t find the ones you have.

The exception to this rule is that bleach and ammonia should not be stored near each other — or ever mixed — because the combination of the two can create toxic vapors.

9. Choose a minimalist lifestyle for minimal cleaning

comfortable remote worker houseplants
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It goes without saying if you have a smaller home or less stuff, you’ll have less to clean — saving you time and money on cleaning needs. Do you need all those knick-knacks that require dusting or rugs that need vacuuming?

Simplify your life, and you’ll also simplify your cleaning routine. Plus, if you get rid of your stuff at a garage sale, you can earn some money to put back into your dream vacuum fund.

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