Ask UfYH: Cleaning While Broke

Q: I really need to do a deep clean of my house, but I have no money. Are there any budget tips you have for getting things squeaky clean without spending money I don’t have?

A: I’m of the firm opinion that you really shouldn’t have to spend extra money to get your house clean. And while specialty cleaning products are often useful, they’re rarely necessary.

Most of what you need to accomplish can be done with things you likely have around the house: hot water, dish soap, rags or sponges, a mop, and a broom or vacuum. I use a lot of white vinegar for cleaning, but that’s pretty budget-conscious, at about $2 a gallon.

  • A mixture of hot water, vinegar, and a squirt of dish soap will clean pretty much any surface, including counter tops, showers, tubs, toilets, refrigerator shelves, stovetops, and most other hard surfaces.
  • Mop your floor with boiling water. Seriously, it’s like low-budget steam mopping.
  • Clean your glass with vinegar and old, lintless rags (like a T-shirt too stained to wear anymore). Lots of people suggest newspaper for glass, but ink transfers onto your hands and often the glass, non-printed newspaper costs money unless you have an in somewhere, and it’s sort of more of a pain than a trick.
  • Vinegar and hot water will clean anything in general, but especially anything that comes in contact with food preparation, like teakettles and coffee pots. It’s also good for wiping down cabinet fronts, but make sure your rag is barely damp, not wet. You don’t want warped wood.
  • Don’t have a vacuum? You can totally sweep your carpet. Generations of Old World grandmas, including mine, swore by it.

Cleaning without specialty products takes a little bit of extra elbow grease, but it’s totally feasible and, once you get on a regular schedule, no more difficult than doing it with all of the gadgets and gizmos. No one should see their empty wallet as a reason or an excuse why they can’t have a clean house.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

9 thoughts on “Ask UfYH: Cleaning While Broke”

  1. Vinegar and baking soda forever. <3

    My kitchen cleaner is Vinegar, water, a little dish soap, and a couple drops of oregano oil. Most expensive bit is the oregano oil (food grade or higher!) but you use so little of it at a time it's worth it, and it has disinfectant properties which is aces.

    And vinegar will also loosen up oxidation (like rust!) and things if you let it set a few minutes. I had some beautiful baking pans that had rusted up in storage that are like new because of vinegar.

    Don't let it set on plastic though- it will eat it if it sets too long. Same with car windows- car windows have a special coating to make it more resistant to cracking and pits, and the vinegar will eat it.

    Baking soda can be used as a mild abrasive as well. really neat.

    Together with vinegar, my mother and I use baking soda as a drain cleaner. But this use does take quite a bit of each. You literally pour a bunch of baking soda down your drain. Under-do it and any clogs won't be treated. Once you tap it a bit to get as much down as possible, pour vinegar over it. Yes, you get fun science fair bubbles, but it will also clean those pipes out, supposing that the clogs aren't so far in that you'd need a plumber/plumbing knowledge any how.

  2. I’m /nobody’s/ grandmother, but I can vouch for the sweeping the carpet thing. I’ve had to do it when the vacuum cleaner broke, or when things get so fucked that if I don’t sweep first, the vacuum’s going to /get/ broke.

    It’s very labor intensive, and doesn’t get things quite as clean as vacuuming, but when you’ve got no other choice, it does the job.

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