How To

Spring Cleaning Tips for Under $20

Spring cleaning represents an opportunity to dig out from winter doldrums and start the season fresh. But when you’re on a budget, splurging on cleaning and organizational supplies can set you back financially. Here are easy spring cleaning tips that you can execute for less than $20.

Try before you buy.

Alaia Williams of One Organized Business suggests taking the time to sort and trash items, one room at a time, before you head to the store for plastic bins and storage materials. Not only can they eat into your budget quickly, they’ll lead to unnecessary overcrowding. “I once had a client who swore he needed a five drawer file cabinet, but once we got organized and threw out several garbage bags of paper, the two drawer cabinet he already had worked just fine. At the low end, he saved himself at least $150,” says Williams.

Repurpose what you have.

Repurpose items you already have, and get creative in how you use others. Jessie Holeva of Trend Hungry says that an ice cube tray makes a great storage tool for stud earrings and cocktail rings. Use an old boot box to store scarves, as well as winter mittens and hats. Place over the door shoe hangers with clear pockets on the inside of pantry and hallway doors to store random items like keys, pens, mail, and kid snacks. Jumbo Command 3M adhesive hooks can hold up to seven pounds of weight, and provide an easy, damage-free way to hang purses, backpacks and other odds and ends that clutter a hallway or room, for less than $8. Resist the urge to splurge in an organizational frenzy. Scouring sites, like Amazon and Ebay, can save you as much as $10 over buying on impulse at big box retailers.

Eliminate waste.

MaidPro Chief Cleaning Officer Melissa Homer says that establishing a color-coded cleaning system is the key to saving money on paper towels and sponges. Assign a color to each room and surface in your house, and dedicate a microfiber rag and sponge of the same color to it to avoid cross-contamination, and eliminate waste associated with tossing sponges when you can’t remember where you cleaned last. Steam sponges in the microwave for two minutes after use, to kill bacteria and extend reusability.

Clean creatively.

Kristi Mailloux, president of Molly Maid, suggests using some unexpected items to handle common cleaning tasks. Do you have stale white bread lying around? Clean soiled walls by dipping the bread in water, rubbing it on the smudge, and then wiping dry. Skip the pricey stainless steel cleaner and use a dab of baby oil with a microfiber cloth to clean those surfaces instead.

White, non-gel toothpaste can serve double-duty as a grout cleaner. Rub the toothpaste directly into the grout with a toothbrush and rinse clean with a little soap and water. For tough stains and shower build-up, combine a ½ cup baking soda, 1/3 cup ammonia, ¼ cup vinegar, and six cups of water. Combine in a plastic spray bottle (or reuse the empty ones you already have).

Think outside the box with the cleaners you already own. A gel-type toilet bowl cleaner can also remove mold and mildew from the shower.

Turning to a cleaner that can do the job of up to 18 different products is another way to save money, space, and the amount of unintentional toxins you place into your home via cleaning products.

Lisa Bronner is the granddaughter of Dr. Bronner, creator of the “Magic All-One” soap, which was created in 1948. The product is an old-fashioned soap that is certified organic and fair trade. Though a 32 ounce variety of the pure castile liquid soap will cost you about $15, it is pure soap that requires dilution based on your needs; a little goes a long way. You can use it for your face, hair, hands, body, shaving, removing make-up, balancing skin, and draining congestion.

“Around the house, you can use castle soap for laundry, as a floor, sink, window and countertop cleaner, and even for killing garden bugs and bathing dogs,” says Bronner. To create a face wash and makeup remover, apply three small drops of the pure castile soap to wet skin, you can also add a ½ tablespoon of the soap to a dripping washcloth for a whole body scrub and shave cream.

For an all-purpose household cleaner, fill a spray bottle nearly to the top with water and add ¼ cup of the soap.  Add a ½ cup of soap to a large load of laundry for a homemade detergent. Four tablespoons of the soap added to a bucket of hot water can provide enough mop solution for several rooms in your house.

Strategize donations.

Apply the “one year rule” to your cleaning mission: If you haven’t worn or used it in the last year, donate. As you pack the items, create a list of and note the value of everything you donate using the Goodwill’s Donation Value Guide. Obtain a receipt from the organization you donate to, and file it in a 2012 tax folder so that you can itemize your charitable contributions for the maximum allowed deduction when you file.

Record your mileage and fuel it takes drive to the charity, which is also tax deducible. Alternatively, you can find a list of the charities in your area that provide free pick ups at Donation Town.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.