Trimming the Average Budget: Housekeeping Supplies

This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.

Housing – housekeeping supplies – $639

Garbage bags. Dishwashing detergent. Window cleaner. Vacuum bags. Laundry detergent. These are all housekeeping supplies and, over the course of a year, they really add up. $53 a month goes down the drain just to these supplies (and often, it quite literally goes down the drain).

Fortunately, this is yet another area where you can make serious cuts without cramping your style.

Start with vinegar and baking soda. Most cleaning needs in your home can be solved by one or both of these substances – and they’re far cheaper than most cleaning supplies. Water-vinegar and water-baking soda solutions make great cleaners, and mixing baking soda and vinegar over a stain works like a charm. Baking soda works great as a deodorizer anywhere, and vinegar does wonders when cleaning the floor.

Make your own. I’m well known for making my own laundry detergent, but that just scratches the surface. You can make solutions for anything using inexpensive ingredients, from window cleaner to toilet bowl cleaner.

Buy in bulk. Most housekeeping supplies keep for a very long time, thus they’re perfect targets for buying in bulk. Large quantities of dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, and other materials are great to have on hand – they will essentially never go bad and you’re quite sure you’ll eventually use all of it. Plus, buying in bulk means that you save a little each time you use it.

Try different brands. Try the generics. Try the not-so-generics. Experiment with the different brands to find the one that does the job for you at the lowest price. Often, generics will do the trick. Sometimes, they won’t. Try different low cost brands and find the one that works best for you at the cheapest price.

Use coupons. Coupons work great for housekeeping supplies, even if you buy in bulk. They simply shave a little more off of the price of something you would buy anyway. Remember, though, to compare the costs after coupons, because quite often coupons won’t save you enough to make it a better deal than the generic.

Read the directions. Many people drastically waste their household products, doing things like using three or four times as much laundry detergent than they need. Take a moment to read the directions on your household products and you might find that you’re using far too much – and that cutting back to a reasonable amount will work just fine and save you money.

Buy what you actually need, not what you think you need. I’m looking squarely at you, SoftScrub in my closet. I’m not saying that SoftScrub isn’t useful for cleaning – it really is – but most of the times I would break out the SoftScrub, I find other solutions that work just as well and are a lot cheaper and more convenient – I’m looking at you, baking soda paste. Don’t buy it unless you’re sure you need it, and try out using baking soda and vinegar in cleaning solutions first.

Use cloth rags instead of paper towels. Paper towels are one-and-done items – you use them, then you toss (or burn) them. Cloth rags can be used hundreds of times. Even better, they don’t really have a laundry cost, since you can just throw a dirty handful into any load of laundry without altering the load a bit. Keep a kitchen drawer full of cloth rags instead of constantly rebuying paper towels and you’ll see your budget happily drop a bit.

I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.

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  1. Vicky says:

    Great post!

    I am a HUGE fan of vinegar and baking soda. Let’s also not forget that vinegar is wonderful for cleaning pet stains, and removing pet odors from laundry, and its safe to use around the pets. (Febreeze, no matter what they say, is NOT safe around all pets)

    I use baking soda as a carpet deodorizer – just sprinkle it on the carpet, let it sit for 30 minutes and vacuum. Nice and fresh!

    Setting unground coffee beans in nice vases or glasses around the house is a nice air freshener, too. (Though it isn’t as strong as the stuff you buy)

    And pouring baking soda and vinegar down the drain works like drain-o, and the reaction is fun to watch!

  2. SwingCheese says:

    I’m also a huge fan of baking soda/water/vinegar combinations. It does wonders on mold, and the vinegar/water solution cuts through stove-top gunk like no other. Also, I buy white vinegar and baking soda in bulk, which is very cheap.

    As for baking soda/vinegar acting like drain-o, more power to you, Vicky, if you’ve had success with this method. It never seems to work for me in drains, and (as we live in an apartment), I just end up asking maintenance to snake the drain. I won’t use drain-o anymore, but I have in the past, and I can’t seem to make a baking soda/vinegar solution that comes close :)

  3. Vicky says:

    I find it works more to keep the drains clean, then it does to fix a problem. I do it once a week to help flush things through.

    I have had major drain issues before that required a plumber, and he suggested I just poor draino down it once every so often to keep them clean (I have long hair that always clogs things up) so I do this instead.

  4. Sara A. says:

    I have nearly left my boyfriend over his wanton paper towel use. I keep clean rags and dish towels around at all times. Yet, every time he washes his hands, he uses a paper towel! Why? I don’t understand! He will dry our dishes with paper towels when there are clean microfiber towels just as close? Gah, the more I talk about it, the more I want to pack my suitcase and leave him.

  5. stella says:

    Sara
    Leave your guy over paper towel usage?

    Seriously?

  6. lurker carl says:

    Most companies selling cleaners purposely design their products to make you use too much. Examples – dispensers on squeeze containers are too large, full plunge on pumps squirt too much, fill lines on measuring cups are purposefully misleading, instructions recommend “apply product, rinse and repeat” and so on.

  7. Megan says:

    I like the advice on using rags instead of paper towels. You can also add cutting up t shirts for little thin rags. That’s great for quick spills!

  8. Anne KD says:

    I can’t seem to shake the habit of using too much dish detergent when I wash some dishes by hand.

    @lurker carl- for plunge pumps I just press carefully down to about halfway, cuts down on usage.

    A friend of mine who cleans houses and offices for a living told me to buy concentrated cleaner (Mrs Meyers, for anyone who wants to know) and then dilute it 1:10. I keep the diluted stuff in spray bottles, 1 per floor. One bottle of concentrate has lasted me for months. I’m much happier doing that than buying several different types of cleaners for specific places like bathroom vs kitchen vs floors and stuff.

  9. lurker carl says:

    @ Vicky – Fit a green scrubber over the drain to capture hair while water flows out. Drano only works on grease and soap build up while the hair stays in the pipe until someone physically pulls it out with a plumber’s snake or wet-vac.

  10. Christine says:

    @Sara,

    That made me laugh! I told my BF that we were going to use cloth from now on for cleaning messes, drying hands etc. I cut up some old towels, showed him where they were to be kept, and it’s been going great ever since. He didn’t have any issues with it. Little habits like that can the be so frustrating thing sometimes!

  11. Michelle says:

    I love using a baking soda paste for scouring out my bathtub and kitchen sink. The added bonus is I don’t have to worry about getting the baking soda on my clothes because it doesn’t have bleaching agents like commercial cleaners do!

    My only problem with using vinegar as a laundry softener (which I would like to do) is that it’s often more expensive to use vinegar to soften my laundry than to buy commercial fabric softener sheets. As it is, I buy the cheap boxes (usually around $1 or $1.50 for 100 or so sheets) of fabric softener and cut the sheets in half. That makes the fabric softener sheets come in around a half-penny per load, whereas the vinegar takes a good half-cup per load, coming in at roughly 32 loads per gallon, or about 4.5 cents per load, assuming a $1.50 gallon bottle of vinegar.

  12. Vicky says:

    @lurker carl I have the most incredibly annoying drain on the planet. I can’t ‘fit’ it with anything that will stay put!

    @ Michelle, I use vinegar in my laundry as dryer sheets. I just cut a sponge into 4 pieces, soak it in vinegar, then throw it in the dryer with the clothes. It works GREAT :)

  13. Adam says:

    @ Sara,

    Holy cow. If you’re THAT anal about paper towels, which can be bought in bulk for like 50 cents a roll that lasts a week or more…are 100% biodegradable more than just about any other garbage…I hope you do leave him. He’d be better off without such a control freak.

  14. Steffie says:

    for Sara…Habit and what you grew up with has a lot to do with what you use. We had no paper towels growing up so I don’t use paper towels. My man asked where they were when he moved in, I told him the rags were under the sink and that if it was really greasy he could throw it away. He said ‘ok’ and has never asked again. After you finish this roll just keep ‘forgetting’ to buy them and he will get used to not having paper towels. (And if that is the only thing that drives you crazy you are one lucky girl!)

  15. KC says:

    Add lemon juice as a great cleaner as well as baking soda, vinegar (white and regular), bleach, ammonia, etc. Just google to find out ideas for using these cheap cleaners. Also remember that an all-purpose cleaner like Comet (Ajax, off-brand) can be used to clean just about anything in your kitchen or bath. You can look for sales and often pick that cleaner up for less than 50 cents a can. One can goes a long way.

    I also make very good use of coupons – I know what days my grocery stores offer triple coupon days and double coupons from $1-$1.98 (they always double coupons under $1). I use these coupon days to my advantage and often pick up cleaners for next to nothing.

  16. Des says:

    @stella & Adam:

    Unclench. She was obviously exaggerating to make a point. Sheesh…

  17. KC says:

    oh and reuse your dryer sheets – one will last me 2 loads. Someone else mentioned cutting them in half – great idea!

  18. jgonzales says:

    I have a thing where I have to use paper towels for my messes. Something about using the cloth regularly grosses me out (I think it’s the amount of gunk I clean up with my 2 little kids). What I do, though, is buy Shop Towels. You get get them in the Automotive department of your big box store. I think price per unit they are more expensive, but I only need 1 paper towel for even the grossest mess unlike needing 2 or 3 regular paper towels of even the highest quality. I figure I end up paying less in the long run.

    I do use vinegar and baking soda to clean.

    Oh and Vicky (and everyone else) DO NOT use straight baking soda on your carpet. I have a friend who repairs vacuums for living and he was telling me that it kills the life of your vacuum. Your vacuum manual will also tell you not to use baking soda or those dry carpet cleaners (I checked mine after he told me). If you want to deodorize your carpet, spray it with a baking soda/water solution like you would use to clean your kitchen. You use it right after you vacuum.

  19. Molly says:

    @jgonzales – How do you soak up things like vomit and spills without the baking soda? I usually start with blotting with several rags, but usually it’s still messy/wet/whatever (the cat yaks when I’m not home), so what do you recommend instead?

    @SwingCheese – I’ve found that when I let the baking soda/vinegar sit for a while in the drain, and then flush with boiling water, it helps a lot. The boiling water following seems to be the key for me.

  20. jgonzales says:

    Molly, you can use it soak things up, but don’t vacuum up the remaining baking soda. The problem is that many people, like Vicky (and I used to) is that you put straight baking soda down and then vacuum it up. The baking soda clogs up your vacuum causing it to lose suction and eventually stop working. In fact, that’s how I learned about it. Our friend was over & I made some comment about the vacuum had stopped working. He fixed it and explained to me what had happened.

  21. JB says:

    We stopped buying paper towels at my house. That was the only way I could train myself not to use them. It’s a clean cloth/towel or nothing else. Works great and is a big savings. Disposable products add up.

  22. chacha1 says:

    I use cloth rags for a lot of cleaning chores and have found the very best ones are vintage linen napkins, picked up cheap at antique malls. They are lint-free.

    The best dish drying cloths are the ones made from old rice or flour bags.

    Tee shirts make great dusters but don’t have enough “body” to handle soaking up liquid messes; old terry washcloths are great for that kind of thing. Not the fancy velvety face-cloth kind, though – the rough scrubby kind sold for kitchen use.

    I still use paper towels for some things, but at least I buy the pick-a-size type.

    When my SoftScrub runs out, I promise to try baking soda for cleaning. So many fans here!

  23. Margaret says:

    lemon juice is great for cleaning microwaves. Squeeze one lemon into a glass cup measure and fill the rest with water. Put it the microwave on high for 3 minutes, then let it sit for 3 minutes. Stuff will come right off. If it’s really dirty, repeat with the same solution. I would use lemon juice on more things but vinegar is cheaper.

    Newsprint for window glass is great. Leaves no Lint. I don’t get a newspaper but I pick up a lot of those free newspapers that printed on newsprint.

    I tried baking soda on our oven, that did not work so well. It was harder to clean out than the original gunk. Still haven’t found a good inexpensive and enviro friendly oven cleaner.

  24. heather t says:

    Here’s a fun baking soda story: I am a huge fan of Bar Keeper’s Friend, which is a scrubbing powder that also gets out stains from my white porcelain sink. I decided to try baking soda instead. Sprinkled it on the sink, scrubbed, rinsed. It looked a bit better, but still some stains. I was disappointed to say the least.

    Came back an hour or two later – my sink was CLEAN. As clean as if I’d used the Bar Keeper’s. So just because something doesn’t appear to work at first, wait a bit or give it another try before giving up.

    By the way, I keep my baking powder for cleaning in a reused parmasean cheese shaker. Works like a charm!

  25. STL Mom says:

    Margaret –
    I just boil plain water in the microwave, and stuff comes off pretty easily. Where I live, lemons can cost 99 cents each, which is a pretty expensive way to clean the microwave!

  26. Amanda says:

    Margaret, if you put a bowl of ammonia in the oven and leave it overnight, the fumes should soften the gunk in the oven enough for you to scrape or scrub it off. If you need to, do it again the following night.

    Speaking as a professional housecleaner, may I say that cleaning more often will usually eliminate the need for the strong chemicals (obviously there are exceptions, such as if you are on well water and have a terrible time with water deposits). It’s a trade-off between time and money (spent on the expensive cleaning products). But then it takes a lot less time to clean a bathroom more often before it gets nasty than to wait longer and then spend more time scrubbing.

  27. Sara says:

    Wow, $53 per month seems like a lot! I don’t know exactly how much I spend on housekeeping supplies because I combine it with grocery spending, but I would estimate less than $10/month. Of course, I live alone, so I use a lot less than the average family.

    I like using coupons for cleaning supplies, and I would add combining sales with coupons. As you point out, this stuff has a long shelf life, so if I see a great deal, I don’t hesitate to buy it even if I won’t need it for a long time.

  28. Andy says:

    For dishwashing liquid. I too tend to use a LOT. So what I did was take an old bottle, fill it 1/3 with the soap and the rest with water. I can still squirt it, but I am using it less, especially with the SUPER concentrated ones. Works for me, since I LOVE to squirt soap.

  29. Anitra says:

    I like some of my cleaning products, but I’ve been cutting back lately, as we have few places in the house that are totally child-proof, and so not much room to store lots of bottles of cleaner. Straight bleach makes an excellent toilet cleaner, and is WAY cheaper than the stuff in the angled-neck bottles.

    I see people buy those little deodorizing capsules for their garbage disposals; if you ever eat citrus fruit, you don’t need to buy those. Just toss the pieces of peel into the disposal, and it will be citrus-y and fresh again!

  30. Amanda says:

    I have always avoided bleach for cleaning because of the fumes and because of the possibility of staining my clothing. Vinegar works just as well for germ-killing purposes.

  31. Brittany says:

    This series is starting to get really old. Perhaps space them out more in the future (one or two a week instead of everyday)? Is it over yet?

  32. Jules says:

    “Buy what you actually need”

    Reminds me of these commercials that they show: a perfectly white toilet bowl, with the voice-over “is your toilet bowl *really* clean?

    Most people are waaaayyy too paranoid about germs.

  33. I think the key here is to just go “homemade”. We recently decided to go as environmentally helpful as possible in our household. Eating vegetarian, no more harsh cleaners etc.

    Well, the costs of the vegetarian lifestyle basically wash themselves out–its really not that much more expensive at all.

    Its all the million dollar cleaners (as I like to call them) that are killing me. After we run thru all that stuff, we will start making all of these cleaners on our own.

    What could be healthier??

  34. deRuiter says:

    Never mix amonia and bleach! This toxic brew gives off deadly chlorine gas. I’m a rag finatic. If you’ve read this before you can stop now! Buy bath towels at yard sales. Paint your bathroom white so you can use any color towels. When the towels get a bit thin, they’re demoted to dish towels. When they get worn, they’re cut up to dish rags and wiping up rags. When the wiping rags are threadbare these small, worn rags are put on a special pile and used for really nasty gunk and discarded with the gunk. Since good towels are 100% cotton, they will biodegrade. If the “gunk” is organic, no matter how disgusting, you can put the rag in a compost pile which will sit for a season, and it will have another life as garden compost. Obviously you don’t do this if you’re wiping up some non organic sludge. Every dollar you don’t spend on paper towels is really $1.33/$1.50 in your pocket, because that’s how much you must earn to buy a dollar’s worth of paper towels, which include that environmentally damaging clear plastic in which the towels are wrapped. LOVED THE TWO COMMENTS ON LETTING THE TOWELS RUN OUT AND THEN NOT BUYING MORE!

  35. Vicky says:

    Do you have some links with info on the baking soda and vaccuums?

    I’ve had the same vaccuum (A bagless dirt devil) for 6 years and have always used baking soda on the carpet.

    I open it out and clean it out once every 2-3 months (I have a lot of pets, and dog hair is a huge issue), replace belts and change filters regularly, and have not lost any suction or anything with it.

  36. Vicky says:

    Also… is there a difference between plain baking soda, and the Arm & Hammer air freshener powder they sell in the store to put it on your carpet and then vaccuum?

  37. Jane says:

    I would be careful about cleaning your bathtub and porcelain sink with abrasive cleansers like Comet. Baking soda is actually in the same category, because over time those gritty cleansers will wear off the finish on your porcelain, making it harder and harder to keep it clean. I’ve lived in old homes where you see the long term effect of cleaning with these cleansers. We eventually had to get the tub re-glazed, because even right after I cleaned it it would still look dingy. Comet, Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami, and baking soda are great for stainless and other surfaces, but I would avoid it otherwise. It’s better to use vinegar or other liquid commercial cleaners. Our re-glazer told us that those powders are the main thing that keeps him in business.

  38. Peggy says:

    I’m also a big fan of Mrs. Myers. We have a glass top stove and the only thing I found to clean burned on stains is Mrs. Myers and a nylon scrubbing cloth/sponge. I spray diluted Mrs. Myers on rags to clean the microwave, counter tops and most every other washable surface.

    ‘Magic sponges’ as they’re called in Asia are amazing for removing dirt and stains. (I think Mr. Clean eraser is a similar US product) They are dense white sponges that come in blocks that we slice to size. Wet the sponge with water and wipe away all kinds of dirt that nothing else seems to remove. No harmful chemicals (check out snopes.com).

    We use rectangular ‘Japanese scrubbing cloths’ that are made from recycled plastic bottles for washing. They are about 15″x36″. I cut a strip about 4″ wide from an old scrubbing cloth and sew it at one end of the cloth I use leaving about an inch open along the side. All our slivers of soap that used to go down the drain have found new cleaning power!

    a few drops of WD-40 on a rag cleans away old adhesives in a flash.

  39. Kate says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that using a *much* smaller amount of cleaning product will not only save money but also present less damage to the environment. As my mother has often told me, the companies’ goal is to sell more product, rather than to offer realistic guidance to the consumer! I find I rarely have to use more than a quarter of a capful of detergent or fabric softener, and often even less than that is sufficient.

  40. Leah says:

    I keep the paper towels in the cupboard so that they are hard to reach. That way, we have them if there’s a really awful, gross mess, but we definitely use the towels and rags first!

    My favorite tip here is to use less. Especially less laundry detergent. I use a fraction of the “recommended” amount, and my clothes are still clean. Heck, even when I use scented detergent (using up my boyfriend’s tide now that we live together before switching back to my preferred Trader Joe’s) my clothes still smell strongly of the detergent, and I only use about a tablespoon for a medium to large load.

  41. Claudia says:

    I use about 1/16th the amount of fabric softener that is suggested (only about 1/4 inch or so in the cap). This amount works fine and a bottle of fabric softener lasts for months and months. It also cuts down on the smell, which isn’t so nice if you have asthma and react to strong scents.

  42. Amy K. says:

    I would also add “reduce frequency of use” to the list. It won’t help with the vacuum (you’ll go through as many bags if you vacuum once a day or once a week), but it will reduce the use of cleaning products. E.g. I scrub the toilet with just the brush most of the time, and do a “deep clean” with bowl cleaner every third or fourth time. Similarly we don’t go through many napkins because we leave them at our seat for the next meal and throw them away when they’re actually dirty (I know, I know, cloth is the Holy Grail but we’re not there yet). Re-wearing clothes was mentioned under reducing your clothing expenses, but it will also reduce your use of detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets if you can cut out a load or two a week.

    My favorite of the given tips is to use as much as you need, because more is not always better.

  43. jgonzales says:

    Vicky, I can’t find an online listing (in fact, most recommend it) but my Dirt Devil manual (yeah, I’m one of those people!) specifically states not to use anything that can reduce air flow, which includes baking soda & the commercial Arm & Hammer products. I tried finding a Dirt Devil Manual online, but Dirt Devil makes life very difficult.

  44. Lily says:

    I had never heard about the vinegar/baking soda combo so I just tried it and it’s great!

    I squeeze a lot of fresh lemons and limes that I get at the dollar store to make lemon/lime-aid. After squeezing the juice out, I’ll put the remaining lemon in water for the microwave idea.

    I was going to give some old, but good-quality cotton t-shirts to Goodwill but decided to use them for my steam cleaner. I tie them securely onto my steamer to clean my floor and pile up the dirty rags and do a load of laundry. Worked like a charm!

    @ Sara: About the thick-headed boyfriend, the best advice is to get rid of the paper towels. At least for a few weeks or so. Maybe this way he’ll come to value them like you do. I recently hid a roll of paper towels to force my husband of 28 years to use the cloth towels I provided. He used to take 3-4 paper towels to clean up a spill that only required half a paper towel. Same with toilet paper. He’d take the roll off the holder and wrap his hand with it till he looked like a freaking mummy. So now I remind him that we only have one roll (even though I might have hidden a couple somewhere) so he doesn’t waste so much. The other thing that annoyed me is that he would completely submerge cereal in 1/2 and 1/2, eat the cereal by scooping it out with a fork, and throw away ALL the 1/2 and 1/2. Now I don’t buy cereal and I make him rice pudding instead, made with 1/2 and 1/2. He loves that more than cereal anyways so it was a win-win. What can I say – our men are sometimes idiots but we gotta love them and I for one am lucky he puts up with my scorn. I’m also lucky he doesn’t begrudge my methods and understands that we’re a team and our most important values and goals are compatible. Good luck, Sara.

  45. Debbie M says:

    @Vicky, I have long hair too and agree that prevention is the way to go. I keep strainers in the drains. Yes, I might have to clean out the shower drain every time I take a shower or even twice during one shower. But then there are no plumbers and no product use.

    You can prevent having to vacuum or sweep so often if you take your shoes off at the door and allow people to eat only in the dining room.

  46. anna says:

    Hot water is my favorite cleaner.

    Fill your kitchen or bathroom sinks with really hot water & just a splash of bleach than let them soak for an hour, when you drain them just wipe them down with a sponge and all stains are removed.

    Fill a large pot with water & boil it than pour it down any drain and it will remove a clog. I have long hair and doing this every couple of months has kept them clog free and is a very inexpensive fix.

    I also have a steam cleaner and it is great for cleaning bathrooms, fridges, and stoves. It was a Shark Steam Cleaning package, came with a steamer and a steam mop plus plenty of reusable microfiber cloths for both.

  47. Shauna Redmond says:

    Mopping the floors, I use a terry rag cut in half to replace the swiffer sweeper pad. Works just as well and I can throw all the dirt it picks up in the wash! I live by the terry cloth bag I picked up from Home Depot for 10 bucks 3 years ago. Its the kind that you buy for shop use and It had about 50 cloths in it. Some I leave intact some I cut in half for convenience and to fit in my swiffer mop. When I do throw it away (I clean up something I am unwilling to throw in the wash such as scrubbing the bottom of my cat littler pan) I don’t feel guilty. I still have about 30 of the 50 left. And I can still cut those in half. I use the half size to wash dishes, wipe up spills, mop my floors, and dust. The full size comes in handy to dry dishes, wipe down large spills, wash the car don’t do that unless you don’t care about your paint, lay down on a surface before I spray something such as paint, etc.

  48. Gretchen says:

    My Husband’s beard hair kept gumming up the works in both our bathroom sink and tub.We were constantly having slow shower drain issues and the hot vinegar flush worked, but not for long and not that well.

    I bought this little snake thing from (I belive) Billie Mays and it has workd with no problems since (quite a few months now).

    I’m also pro rag, but there are some things papertowels are a must for: cat vomit and raw meat/milk spills are two.

  49. Emma says:

    I was a little shocked by your “rags don’t have a laundry cost” statement. Why not, because they are so small and insignificant? I could use the same argument to justify my paper towel use. You of all people should appreciate that it’s the little things that add up.

  50. gsb says:

    We have Baking Soda, Vinegar and Borax in our house. All of our cleaning and laundry products are made with these.
    Though paper towels may be cheap, we are still using up our natural resources making them. We use mainly rags, towels, cloth napkins for clean-up.

  51. Cheryl says:

    My favorite is coupons. But only combined with a sale. If you have a stockpile you don’t ever run out of any one product.

    Also for weed killer this is more effective than round-up and no chemicals:
    1 gallon white vinegar (pour a little out)
    1 cup of table salt mixed in
    10 drops of dishwashing liquid (I use blue dawn

    Mix together and put in a spray bottle. This kills everything.

  52. Margaret says:

    Whoever suggested a bowl of ammonia– I am going to try that with things that can be taken outside (I saw the cleaning ladies do that on their show on bbc america with toilet seats). I can’t leave a pan of ammonia to evaporate in our house. It’s too well sealed and we have birds–hence my desire for something safer like baking soda, if it weren’t so hard to get rid of afterward.

  53. SockSaver says:

    Recently had my 4yr old granddaughter over for the day. We made “laundry soap”. She grated, stirred, and poured cold water. She had a blast! We had together time in the ultimate old fashioned way. No outside noises(tv-radio) just us. And folks, its the bluing in tide that makes your clothes look cleaner.

  54. PT free says:

    Heard about this website from a friend, and the first thing he told me about was the paper towels! We used about 1 to 1.5 rolls a week, so I decided to try it. I stuffed the washcloths/rags into the cloth tube we once used to store plastic laundry bags…hung it up in the kitchen, and it’s just as accessible as a roll of paper towels. I’ve decided to buy a few more cloths in a distinct color and wash them & my dish towels separately from our bath towels and misc. rags, because the thought of using the same rag on my floor as I use on my daughter’s face or on my dishes skeeves me out. Nonetheless, with this one move I will have saved us at least $60 a year. A small thing, but I’m happy with it.

  55. ck says:

    We purchase the largest or bulk baking soda to use for the Ph balance in the swimming pool; is the same ingredient of expensive pool “chemicals”. Speaking of laundry items: I keep the used dryer sheets, lay 2together length-wise (overlapped) to fit the head of my “swif-fer” for dust-sweeping. I have never purchased the replacement pads. The dryer sheets clings lint, hair, etc., but I just use a damp tissue to pick up the remaining dirt/crumbs.

  56. Carolyn Russell says:

    I don’t use paper napkins anymore, unless it is a grease/oil mess.I read an article that gave the cost savings of using cloth napkins instead. You can use an old sheet and get More than enough napkins from just one. If you don’t want to cut up a sheet you already have, buying a new sheet(the bigger the bigger savings) is still cheaper than buying paper napkins. Zigzag or hem the raw edges. A high cotton or 100% cotton works best, in my opinion. Dish towels and wash cloths make great cloth napkins too. Watch out, tho’, the polyester ones don’t work well for me.

  57. melissa says:

    I don’t use paper towels much anymore at all unless someone else buys them. My in-laws and guests always ask where the paper towels are which is the thing I find most annoying. I used cloth diapers as burp rags for each of my children. When they didn’t need them anymore, I began to use them as cleaning rags. They are awesome. They’re soft enought to use on any surface, super absorbant, and they last for a very long time. I still have about 10 from my oldest son who is now 6!

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