Living Well

Cut Cleaning Costs

By Sarah Mahoney

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Most shoppers are painfully aware that just about every product in the cleaning aisle costs $4 or $5, but few probably realize how quickly that adds up. In fact, according to research conducted by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Canadians spend more than $275 million on household cleaning products.

But cleaning up doesn’t have to come with such a hefty price tag. Erin Bried, author of How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew explains how you can shave hundreds off of that total if you think before you squirt. Here, five simple ways to stretch your cleaning bucks.

1. Shop at drugstores first.
Karen Wilmes, a blogger at KouponKaren.com, has found that, for cleaning products, drugstore chains like Rite Aid and CVS typically offer better deals -- and more valuable coupons -- than supermarkets. “On Sundays, I sit down with the store ads, decide where the best deals are, and map out my shopping strategy,” says Wilmes. “When my daughters are in preschool during the week, I do the shopping.”

2. Leave shoes at the door.
By some estimates, 70 to 80 percent of dirt in homes is tracked in on shoes, so the best way to lengthen the life of your vacuum-cleaner bag is to enforce a shoes-off-in-the-house policy. (It will also add to the life of your carpets and floors.) Or, invest in a doormat to prevent excess dirt from coming into the house. And the next time you shop for a vacuum, consider a bag-less version: The Good Housekeeping Institute reports that they clean as well as bagged machines, but without the additional cost.

3. Rethink your paper personality.
When it comes to paper products, it pays to think strategically. Some paper towels are perforated to allow you to select a size rather than waste a whole sheet; others make economy-sized rolls. While warehouse clubs often appear to offer great deals, experts say it’s important to do a little research with a calculator first -- who wants to have to store 30 rolls of paper towels that weren’t that great a deal? And when you do find warehouse bonanzas, Bried suggests going in with a buddy, so the extras don’t take over your basement.

4. Demystify dusting.
The more you dust, the less buildup you’ll have -- decreasing the need for furniture polishes, which are expensive, toxic and, frankly, bewildering. (Beeswax? Mineral oil? Denatured alcohol?) When you do polish, try this simple recipe, which is recommended by the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia: Dust surface with a damp, lint-free cloth. Then, polish the surface with a soft cloth using a mixture of 1 teaspoon olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar.

5. Remember maintenance.
Certain jobs, left undone overtime, will require even more time and money to do a big cleaning. A daily five-minute cleaning of a specific surface, such as the bathtub, will reduce scrubbing time and the amount of product needed to clean the surface. Plus, it will eliminate the need for specialty cleaners later on.

Sarah Mahoney is a contributing editor at Parents and Prevention magazines. Her work also appears regularly in Family Circle and Good Housekeeping.




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