Frugal Family: Cleaning the Home for Less

Simple, inexpensive solution replace fluids and powders found at the grocery store.

How does the frugalista keep her house clean? Well, if she’s anything like my mother she uses white vinegar – A LOT. My Mom was one of those people who would get out vinegar and a pile of newspapers to clean the windows in our house during the summer months. She swore it made them look better than anything store bought and honestly, those panes did sparkle.

In doing some online research I found that vinegar can be used to clean pretty much anything and everything.  It’s a natural disinfectant and deodorant which makes for a great all-purpose cleaner.

Mix one part water to one part vinegar to clean your stove, appliances, counter tops (unless they’re marble) and of course windows. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in your washing machine instead of fabric softener and in the bathroom you can pour it around the inside rim of the toilet bowl and scrub to remove rings. Diluted it can be used for mopping the floor.

It’s an effective grease cutter and can actually work on getting rid of mold and mildew. Just make sure you use only plain white vinegar and as hinted to earlier, do not use it on marble or stone because it will actually etch the surface.

Lemons are also great for keeping the house fresh and tidy with little cost. You can use them to clean a coffee pot – squeeze the juice from a few slices into your coffee decanter and throw them in along with some hot water and salt. Swirl and rinse to remove that cloudy residue. You can use them to clean brass and copper – just cut a lemon in half and dip into salt to scrub spots off of copper fixtures.

Another recipe I found calls for cleaning brass and copper with vinegar and salt. Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with two tablespoons of salt, apply and let sit for 15 minutes before wiping off with a sponge.

Did you know that you can actually pour lemon juice on white linens and clothes and allow them to dry in the sun to bleach away stains? I’ve never tried that but I used to put lemon juice in my hair all Summer when I was younger and I’d end up with some awesome highlights. It was a great frugal and natural way to get a Summer look.

Another clothes washing related tip is aluminum foil. If you throw a ball of foil in the dryer with your clothes it eliminates static cling. We’ve been doing this for over a month now and our original golf ball sized ball is half its size after a few weeks but there’s no static cling.

I’ve read that baking soda can be used to clean a dirty oven and while it did seem to help break up some of the baked on mess it took a while to rinse it out.

Another suggestion is to sprinkle table salt liberally on the hot spill before your oven cools down. After the oven cools you then use a damp cloth and the mess will come right out. A better option would be to put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch drips in the first place, but I always seem to think of that after the pie is in the oven and has already made a mess of things.

Baking soda is an abrasive and does a great job of scrubbing. Mix it with an equal part of dish soap for homemade scrubbing cleanser for the sink or tub. It has a high pH and is actually eliminates odors rather than hiding them by changing the pH and neutralizing the odor. Sprinkle it on your carpet before vacuuming to help eliminate odors and add ½ cup to the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.

Speaking of neutralizing odor, I can personally attest that a mixture of Dawn dish soap, peroxide and baking soda helped turn my skunked pup into something I’d allow back into the bedroom. The television show Mythbusters actually tested this one and it was confirmed to work stating that tomatoes don’t actually get rid of the odor – it just masks it so we no longer can tell it’s there.  Mix one pint of hydrogen peroxide, one small box of baking soda, and a couple of squirts of Dawn dish washing liquid in a gallon of water. Roasting coffee and cinnamon in the oven also helped get things back to normal after that adventure.

How much will you save by using baking soda, vinegar, and lemons to clean your house? It may not be enough to go away on vacation with the family but every little bit counts and a simple trip to the grocery store or your own pantry will get you everything you need. 


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