shower cleaner and my Swiffer Wet Jet, and neat stuff that makes the cleaning jobs faster and easier. But when it comes time to pinch the pennies until they squeak, convenience cleaning gadgets aren't in the budget. I recently stumbled on a free copy of Shameless Shortcuts, which reminded me that you don't need fancy toys to keep your place clean. There are good, inexpensive, tried-and-true cleaning methods that homemakers have relied on for decades. What you'll lose is time: it takes longer to scrub a tub than to push the Scrubbing Bubbles button. What you gain is cash.
Make your own all-purpose cleaners: For a light-duty cleaner, fill a 32 ounce spray bottle (save one when you use up what's in it) with water and add 3 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid. For stronger stuff, combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. For windows, it's 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a gallon of water.
DIY Furniture polish: Mix 3 parts olive oil with 1 part white vinegar. Although at today's prices a bottle of Pledge might be cheaper.
Vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner and is cheap! Use it to decalcify your coffee pot, disinfect your washing machine, remove lime deposits (apply vinegar-soaked paper towels to the deposits and come back in an hour). Pour some in the toilet bowl and let it sit while you tidy up to disinfect.
Steam your microwave: You don't need fancy exploding sponge thingies to clean the zapper. Fill a microwave safe dish halfway with water and zap it a few minutes until it boils. Some folks like to add a little lemon juice. The steam softens the tried-on crud. You can neutralize stinky sponges by getting them wet and microwaving them for a minute. The temperature of the steam kills the microbes making the stink (let it cool before you take it out).
Wax your tub: Yes, grab some car wax and wax it (not the floor, though, it'd be too slippery). Wax makes water bead up and roll away, taking with it dirt and water spots. This works on sinks, appliances, basically any surface the wax says it's safe on.
Baking soda: Make a thick paste of baking soda and water for scouring. This works great on anything stainless steel, on dishes or china that need a scrub, and while it's abrasive it won't scratch. Sprinkle dry baking soda on a damp cloth to wash your fridge and freezer (remember to rinse afterward) to clean and deodorize. Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet before you vacuum to pull out smells. Put a half cup in your laundry to fight stains.
One thing I'm not quite ready to give up: My Swiffer Duster. I adore my Swiffer duster, and so do the boys: they will actually fight over who gets to dust with it. Junior asked if he could spring clean this morning and dusted half the house, including a ceiling fan that was embarrassingly dusty.