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Back in August, I had a fantastic suggestion from a reader named Jodi. She wanted to know how Mr. Picky Pincher and I clean. Well, thanks for the suggestion, Jodi! Here are all the answers and then some. 🙂
My take on frugal cleaning
It’s all the rage these days to use natural or homemade cleaners. These are fantastic because they can reduce chemical exposure (and the nastiness that comes with it), clean your home, and save you a few bucks, too.
Although I know many frugality bloggers make their own cleaners and always go natural, I’m not one of them. Gasp! That’s right: my approach to frugal cleaning is doing whatever works.
For example, we use white vinegar to clean our floors, kitchen block, and tables. That’s pretty darn frugal, since a big jug of vinegar goes for $2 at the store. We’d like to make our own vinegar in the future, too.
However, there are some things that vinegar and other natural cleaners just can’t clean.
That mostly means hard water stains (before you say it–yes I’ve tried vinegar, baking soda, and scrubbing stones), windows, and our stainless appliances.
I’ve tried cleaning all of them with vinegar and then Dr. Bronner’s (Amazon link here), to no avail. In these particular situations, I’ll buy the storebought stuff.
The upside here is that storebought cleaners are usually ultra-concentrated. Like, beyond the point of being useful. So when I do opt to use a storebought cleaner, I try to dilute it first, as long as it’s safe to do so.
This way, I’m reducing the amount of the chemical in my house, as well as saving money by using less of the cleaner.
I know there are plenty of cleaning solutions out there, but I’m pretty happy with a half natural and half storebought solution. I don’t have to buy a bottle of Windex each month to keep my house clean, which is nice, but I’ll bring in the big guns when needed.
What, how, and when we clean
So what exactly do we clean, and how? Like I said, I take a half-storebought / half-homemade approach, so it depends on what I’m cleaning.
Ohhh, the floors. The floors are the one thing that haunt me in this damned house. With the exception of our bonus room, our entire house is tile and laminate. I’ve never dealt with the pain of trying to clean a house like this!
I know tile is cleaner than carpet, but holy smokes! I have to sweep at least twice a day. Otherwise, I have to wear socks around the house because of all the dirt that gets on my feet. Yech!
I currently clean our floors daily. I’ll sweep the living room / kitchen area every morning and the bedrooms and hallways as needed (usually once a week). I’ll mop with a vinegar-water solution about once a week. I make a 50-50 solution that I put into a cheapo refillable mop from the grocery store, like this one. No Swiffers for me!
I want to get a Roomba, though (Amazon link here). I spend so much of my life cleaning this floor that it would be worth shelling out the $500 for an extra few hours of life each week. It’s not a matter of if I’ll get a Roomba, but when. 🙂 The extra time is that important to me that it’s worth a little financial detour.
Counters and tables
If y’all followed our renovation tale, you’ll know that our DIY kitchen counters are horrible.
They’re concrete and rough and impossible to clean–so yeah, we can’t really “wash” our kitchen counter that much. It’s gross, sure, but we do what we can. About once a month Mr. Picky Pincher will hose it down with diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap and scrub it with a wire brush.
For our butcher block, dining table, and coffee table, I wash these daily (or more) with vinegar. I don’t dilute vinegar here since I want its full potency.
If you want something milder, you can do a 50-50 vinegar and hydrogen peroxide mix.
Okay, okay. I know people say you should wash your bedding every two weeks. I try to abide by that, but c’mon. I’m a human being. I don’t have the energy to be fluffing my comforters every 14 days.
When I do remember to wash our bedding, I wash it in our energy-efficient appliances with my HE-friendly homemade laundry soap.
Some readers commented that homemade soap doesn’t make their laundry smell fresh. I like to spritz my homemade room / shoe spray on the sheets to give them a just-cleaned smell.
I HATE doing dishes. I would rather scrub toilets than do dishes. But, alas, since Mr. Picky Pincher and I love to cook at home, we collect quite a few dishes. We just rinse them and toss them in the dishwasher.
We did an experiment with homemade dishwasher soap, but it didn’t go well for us. My sister sent me her recipe so I’ll need to try this out again. I hate spending money on those pricey dishwasher pods! I do use a coupon whenever I buy them, though.
We do hand-wash things like our knives and pots. This increases the life of these expensive items; we pay a premium for nicer items that last longer.
When we wash by hand, we just use normal ol’ dish soap. I’ll buy the bulk pack of soap and pour it into a smaller container for ease of use. I should start diluting this soap, actually, because often it comes pretty concentrated. I could probably get away with a 50-50 dilution of Dawn and water.
Windows and mirrors
I’m gonna be honest: I hardly ever wash our mirrors and doors. As long as I can see through the smudges on a mirror, I’m cool with it.
Whenever I do clean mirrors and windows, I use Sprayaway Glass Cleaner (Amazon link here). Y’all. This stuff is five times better than Windex. I actually get a streak-free shine and it’s pretty badass.
Showers are another thing that … I probably don’t clean as often as I should. I wait until I see mold or scum before I do something about it.
When I’m in the mood to clean our showers and tubs, I use a 50-50 mixture of Dawn dish soap and vinegar. I put the soap in a dish wand and scrub to my little heart’s content. Afterwards I rinse the shower with our removable shower heads (it’s much harder to clean off if you have a stationary shower head, FYI).
When our shower heads get gunky from our hard water, I fill up a Ziploc with a few cups of vinegar and tie it to the shower head with a rubber band. I leave it on overnight and in the morning my shower head is as good as new.
Toilets are one of those things that I cannot get clean with natural cleaners. Our water is very hard, and even the most potent vinegar and determined scrubbing won’t remove it.
You know what does remove it? A dash of Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner (Amazon link here). This stuff says it’s “natural,” but I’m not too sure about that. But whatever’s in it, it cleans my toilets pretty well.
In the coming years we do plan to install a badass water softening system to avoid hard water damage to our appliances.
Our dishwasher is just starting to show signs of funkiness. A few weeks ago I used a storebought dishwasher cleaner and ran it on an empty cycle. It definitely removed a lot of gunk, although I realized after the fact that the main ingredient was citric acid. I don’t have a recipe for dishwasher cleaner that I’ve tested yet, but I plan to make one of my own for next time. I have this five-pound bag of citric acid chillin’ in my laundry room, so why not?
Since we have hard water, I can remove the buildup by running an empty cycle with one cup of distilled white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container. It removes the gunk and leaves our dishes sparkling-clean. I try to do this once a week.
Cat room / office
Zap lives in my office, but it’s better known as The Cat Room. We lock Zap in his room at night because otherwise he caterwauls at our door for attention at 2 am. That means he has nearly 10 hours to destroy this room every night.
And destroy it, he does.
I’ve never seen a cat that’s as messy as Zap. He loves to topple his one-gallon water bowl, scatter litter all over the floor and desk, and leave dirty pawprints everywhere.
Since I work in this room all day, I need it to be clean. It just skeeves me out if it’s dirty. Each morning I sweep the Cat Room, wipe the desk, clean the windowsill, and do the litter box.
I like to think of it as my commute since I get to work remotely.
Ain’t nobody got time to clean
Few people don’t want to come home to a pristine house. The biggest reason why our houses get funky is because we don’t have the time to clean them. Work, jobs, hobbies, and kids are more important than dust-free baseboards.
I’m a super-busy lady, so I know the struggle. I don’t spend my money on a housekeeper or have a magic wand that takes out the trash with the flick of my wrist.
I’m a little bit of a clean freak, so I have to find ways to fit cleaning into my daily schedule.
I work from home now, but I was able to integrate cleaning into my morning routine when I commuted, too. I set up a strict morning schedule that allows me to cook breakfast, work out, shower, and clean the house before I work.
I’ll load the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, sweep, mop, and wipe tables before my day begins.
It makes the day much easier when the house isn’t a total wreck. And, as a bonus, Mr. Picky Pincher comes home to a clean house, too.
Another way to make time for cleaning is to divide and conquer. Mr. Picky Pincher and I divided chores around the house to save time. He takes out the trash, does lawn work, and the dishes. I clean the floors, laundry, and wipe everything down.
Making time to clean and dividing the responsibility makes life a lot easier! And cleaner. 🙂
The bottom line
I hope this post answered some of your burning questions about how we stay tidy.
I’m not perfect and my house is never completely clean, but we don’t live in squalor. When it comes to cleaning, I think you should just do whatever works best for you.
Some people prefer the all-natural route, and that’s fine. For me, I like to combine natural cleaners with a few select chemical cleaners for optimal cleanliness. It’s up to you!
We want to know: How do you clean? Do you have any favorite homemade cleaning products?