The Nickel Pincher: Spring-Cleaning, Naturally (and Affordably)

You can freshen up your house without blowing your budget.

The Nickel Pincher: Spring-Cleaning, Naturally (and Affordably)

Clean and green: Make your own window cleaner and keep harsh chemicals out of your air.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Spring is here! Some of the coming days will be chilly, of course, and we will certainly have frost on some nights for a few more weeks. But as I look around our farm, I see the early daffodils have joined the exuberant purples and yellows of the late crocuses, the apricot trees down in the orchard are draped in dainty pink flowers, and three adorable white lambs are frolicking with their wooly moms. Everything outside looks fresh and clean, and even I—the most casual of housekeepers—feel inspired to make the inside of my home look and smell the same way.

Most of the cleaning products on your supermarket’s shelves are overpriced, and loaded with nasty stuff that is far worse for you than the grime and dirt it promises to remove. So let’s take a look at how to go about basic cleaning the ecofriendly AND economical way. You can buy good all-natural cleaning products in just about any supermarket these days—but it pays to check the ingredients list first, as there are no regulations as to just what “natural” means on a cleaning product. It pays even more to make these cleaners on your own. Doing so will cost you far less money in the long run, and it’s easier on the environment since your cleaning won’t depend on generating dozens of single-use plastic bottles, putting toxic chemicals down the drain and into the air, or shipping stuff (mostly water) all over the country.

More tips on natural cleaning, anytime:
Keep your air fresh: 4 Ways to Clean Your House without Polluting Your Air
Save time and money doing laundry: 9 Laundry Tips for Cleaner Clothes, Lower Costs
Avoid harsh dry-cleaning chemicals: Dry Clean Only? Nah, There Are Cheaper, Safer Ways
Mix your own green cleaners: How to Make Green Cleaning Recipes That Really Work

Here are some of my favorite ecofriendly, economical cleanser recipes, and how I use them:

Window Cleaner
¼ cup vinegar
½ teaspoon natural liquid soap (optional; I use natural dish liquid or Dr. Bronner’s)
2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to blend. If you want to, you can add a single drop of blue food coloring if you need convince your family that it really is window cleaner.

To use it, spray onto the glass, covering as much as you can finish in a few minutes at a time, scrub as needed with the rough side of a kitchen sponge, and squeegee off. Use a cotton cleaning cloth to dry off the blade of the squeegee between swipes, and to wipe up any liquid that puddles at the bottom edges of the windowpanes. Toss the cleaning cloths in the wash basket, and enjoy your sparkling windows.

Published on: April 9, 2009
Updated on: March 31, 2011

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One of the things I do when I

One of the things I do when I prepare the spring cleaning is call the guys from Port Moody junk removal. There is always extra garbage after cleaning and I want to get rid of it as fast as possible. That way you have the feeling of a 100% clean house.

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This spring I had a real cleaning session for my house. We had to ask for help with a demolition clean up company. We decided to have a little bit of remodeling and that generated a lot of trash. On other hand, we now have a new beautiful interior design.

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My daughter-in-law brought me a large cat scratching post that she found beside the road. It is currently sitting on my patio as I am afraid of it harboring something like ringworm or a cat virus. I had planned to drench it with diluted bleach as I had always been told that this would kill ringworm spores & virus. Now I'm wondering if I could achieve the same results using vinegar. Do you have any information on this subject?

cleaning cloths

Every few years I go into the baby section and buy a pack of thick, cotton diapers. The diapers begin their life with me as kitchen towels, but when they get very stained and begin to have holes they transform into cleaning cloths. Super absorbent and strong, they last for years.


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