Raid your cupboards …
Instead of rushing out to buy new cleaning products, check for almost-empty bottles squirrelled away at the back of your sink cupboard that you can use up.
You may have other supplies that can be repurposed. Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are favourites with cleaners, and can be used to freshen up drains or to clean windows or a mattress, among other tasks.
Steve Payne, of the bed retailer Sleep and Snooze, says if you are looking to clean a mattress, first vacuum it, then spritz it with white vinegar. “Don’t worry about the slight vinegar smell – this will disappear as it dries,” he says. “Next, get a sieve and use it to sprinkle a fine layer of baking soda over the mattress. You want the whole surface of the mattress to be covered. Leave the baking soda and the vinegar to get to work soaking up any musty odours. After an hour or two, you can vacuum up all the baking soda, making sure you get into all the crevices of the mattress.”
Tina Simpson, at Triton Showers, advises using the same two items to give a mouldy shower curtain a deep clean. “Add washing detergent and half a cup of bicarbonate of soda to the drawer and commence a 30-degree wash, stopping before the rinse cycle,” she says. “At this point, add half a cup of vinegar to the detergent drawer and commence a final rinse, before hanging back up in your shower to dry.”
The bathroom retailer Drench suggests that shaving foam doesn’t need to be saved for faces: use it to clean mirrors, streak-free – and with no fogging later. It can also be used on carpet stains as well as glass hobs: “Try covering the electric hob in shaving foam and leave for 15 minutes. Wipe away and the grime will be gone.”
… but take care
When extolling the virtues of these alternatives, people sometimes say they don’t have “harsh chemicals” like purpose-made cleaning products, but they would not work if they didn’t.
Abigail Yearley, a spokesperson for the TopCashback website, says you can clean a microwave or oven more easily “by popping some lemon rinds or juice into a bowl (or baking tray, if cleaning the oven) of water. Heat your appliances and then leave the receptacle to cool. This will help to remove stains (and ease the elbow grease).”
Although lemons can be used elsewhere, “their citric acid can corrode metal – so use with care”, Yearly warns.
Other cleaning alternatives also come with a similar warning. While some people suggest that vinegar can be used to deep-clean a dishwasher, it is acidic and can damage rubber seals and other parts. Which? has a guide to things you should not clean with vinegar, which includes dishwashers along with mirrors and granite or stone kitchen worktops.
Do some research if you are unsure, rather than risking an expensive mistake.
Use natural forces
Throwing open the windows can get rid of musty smells and make your home feel fresher for free. If you have outdoor space, dry your laundry there – the sun will help to bleach your whites, at no cost. Airing duvets and pillows outside can refresh them without the need for a wash.
Create your own storage
“People always jump to thinking ‘I must buy storage solutions,’ because that’s the fun part, but you don’t need to,” says Lizzie Grant, a professional organiser and decluttering expert at the website Vinted. She suggests that you use “a shoe box, a [mobile] phone box, tins – anything where you can group things together so you know everything has a home”. Don’t buy a label-maker, she says, as any stickers will do. You could make boxes more attractive by decorating with scraps of paper or fabric.
Repurpose items: an old fruit crate could be used as a tray, while a wheelie suitcase with a broken handle could be used for under-bed storage.
Vacuum storage is not something you can make, but it will help you maximise the space in your home, so it could prove a good investment.
Buy gear at the best price
Shop around before you buy big-ticket items such as a vacuum cleaner or power washer. According to the cost comparison website PriceSpy, prices for cleaning equipment tend to be competitive between now and June, so you may get a good deal. Its site lets you compare prices on specific makes and models from a large number of retailers. If you are an Amazon user, CamelCamelCamel shows you the price history of items on the site, so you can see how today’s offer compares. It also lets you sign up for an alert if the cost of an item is cut.
Items such as carpet cleaners are unlikely to be worth the money or space – but they are commonly available for hire. RugDoctor cleaners cost from £24.99 a day, while HSS is charging from just under £21 for the same period. If you don’t have many carpets to clean, you could team up with a friend.
A Library of Things will usually carry this kind of item – there are several in London and around the country. In London, a steam cleaner is available to hire for £9.50 a day, plus a small membership fee.
Or you could see whether a friend or neighbour has a machine you can borrow. Try your neighbourhood page on social media, or ask a local WhatsApp group if you are part one. If you repay them with a nice box of chocolates or similar, you will still have saved money.
Clean your cleaners
You will get more efficient use from appliances, and they will last for longer, if you look after them.
With your vacuum cleaner, look after the filter. If it is washable, give it a clean and you should find there is more suction power when you put it back. If the machine has a bag, do not let it get completely full before you change it.
Clean out your dishwasher filter – again, it just needs washing in hot water and a bit of washing-up liquid. If the machine smells, give it a hot wash either empty with a bought cleaner, or when you are doing the dishes.
If you live in a hard water area, descaling your washing machine will help it work for longer and more efficiently. For this you will need to buy a specialist product.
Tafari Smith, head of savings at RCI Bank, suggests that you also vacuum refrigerator coils and de-lint the tumble dryer, if you have one, and de-ice the freezer. “This simple maintenance saves a considerable amount of money on water and energy bills, while preventing unnecessary repair costs in the future,” he says.
Earn money from decluttering
You may be able to offset the cost of anything you need to buy by selling off some of the things you no longer want. For clothes, eBay, Gumtree and Vinted are among the options, while for old books, CDs, DVDs and games, musicMagpie is another site to check out.
Clothes that are not good enough to be sold or given to charity could be repurposed: old T-shirts can be cut up for dusters, or the fabric used to decorate boxes for storage.