20 Tips for Cleaning on the Cheap

Everyone should know these shortcuts for removing coffee stains, odors, and more.

By SHARE

Sure, it’s easy to drop-off your wine-stained dress at the dry cleaners, or call in a professional service to take care of those ink spills on the carpet, but what if you could fix those problem areas yourself? For barely any money? Here are 20 ways to clean on the cheap:

[Slideshow: 10 Inventive Ways to Save]

Clothing

1. Remove red wine stains. Saturate the stain with table salt ASAP and let it sit for a couple of hours, then wash in cold water. Another trick is to pour some white wine on the stain and wash accordingly.

2. Remove coffee stains. Scrub the stain with baking soda paste. To make baking soda paste, just mix baking soda and water.

3. Remove grease/oil stains. Blot the stain with dishwashing detergent. If the stain has soaked in, mix one part vinegar with two parts water to make an all-natural cleaner. Apply to the stain and wash. By the way, did you know vinegar can replace 30 household products?

4. Remove ink stains. Spray the stain with hairspray or rubbing alcohol and blot the area. Repeat until most of the stain is gone, then wash.

5. Remove lipstick stains. Treat lipstick stains the same way as ink stains (spray-blot-repeat), but follow up by scrubbing with dishwashing soap. FYI, your top of the line lipstick will be more difficult to remove because of the greater depth of pigments.

6. Remove blood stains. First, make sure your stained item doesn’t bleach out. Then, pour some regular, drugstore hydrogen peroxide and let it soak before washing it in cold water.

7. Remove body odor. Spray the problem area (usually the armpits) with a 50/50 dilution of alcohol and water, and then hang it up to line dry. You want to kill the bacteria without damaging the garment.

8. Remove moth ball odor. Try dry-hanging your clothes out in the sun first. If the moth ball smell doesn’t dissipate, seal your clothes in a plastic bag with some dryer sheets or dry lavender, a natural moth repellant. So the next time you put your clothes into storage, use dry lavender instead of moth balls. These methods are safe to use on 100 percent cotton or cotton/synthetic blends, but not all of them are applicable to all fabrics. For more comprehensive tips, check out Cornell's stain removal guide and 16 ways to make your clothes last longer.

[See 20 Things You Should Never Buy Used]

Carpets and Floors

9. Clean mud off carpet. Let the mud dry completely, then remove as much as possible with a knife. Mix one quart of water with one-quarter teaspoon of hand or dish soap. (Make sure the soap doesn’t contain bleach of lanolin.) Pour the solution into a spray bottle: spray, rub, blot.

10. Remove rust stains off carpet. Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle, spray the solution onto the stain, and let it sit for a few minutes. Clean the area with a brush or sponge using warm, soapy water. For really tough stains, spray on a good amount of lemon juice (but don’t wet the padding underneath), let it sit for five to six minutes, and blot with a paper towel.

11. Remove grease/oil stains off carpet. Remove as much as possible with a knife and blotting. Pour rubbing alcohol onto a clean white cloth (or white paper towels). Blot until the stain is removed. If the stain is small, be sure to blot in one direction only so the stain doesn’t spread.

12. Clean wood laminate floors. Sweep up the loose stuff first. Then, add two to four tablespoons of vinegar to a small bucket of warm water. Wet two terry cloths in the solution, wring them out, and lay them flat on the floor. Step on the cloths and walk across the floor in sweeping motions and scrubbing with your toes where necessary. Let it air dry or walk on microfiber towels.

More Cleaning Tips

13. Clean the stovetop. Boil water in a kettle. Dribble a very shallow layer of water over the entire stovetop and it sit for about five minutes. Scrub, wipe with soap, and rinse. This method may not work for all stoves. If you own a ceramic or induction stove, be sure to check the instruction manual and other documents.

14. Clean grill racks. Heat up the grill until it’s super hot to make it easier to scrap off the clumps. Cut an onion in half and attach the round end of a half-onion to a fork. Point the flat side of the onion facedown and rub the grate.

15. Clean windows. Make a cleaner by mixing three teaspoons of vinegar to one quart of warm water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray onto the glass, wiping it dry with crumpled newspapers. To prevent streaking, don’t clean while the sun is on the window.

16. Remove crayon marks off painted walls. Apply baking soda paste onto the crayon mark, rub gently with a clean cloth, and wipe clean. If that doesn’t work, you can also rinse the area with a sponge soaked in liquid dish soap and water, then scrub in a circular motion. Be sure to first test the cleaner on an inconspicuous spot (like near a corner or behind a door).

17. Remove mildew smell from towels. Put the towels into a washing machine and add one or two cups of white vinegar. (Don’t add any other products at this time.) Run the washer using the hottest water setting available. When it’s done, leave the towels inside and wash them again at the hottest water setting -- this time with laundry soap (but no fabric softener or other products). Dry the towels in a dryer using the high heat setting. If the towels aren’t completely dry, run the dryer again, or hang them up outside in the sunlight.

18. Clean vinyl or plastic shower curtains. Take off the rings and put the curtains in a washing machine. Add one cup of bleach, one cup of detergent, and a few dirty towels to help scrub off the soap scum. Run the washer on the gentle cycle with either warm or hot water. Right after the spin cycle, take the curtains of the washer, shake it out gently, and let it drip dry. Don’t worry about the wrinkles: Hot steam from a couple of showers (plus gravity) will smooth out your curtains in a day.

19. Clean soap scum. For the soap scum buildup in your bath and shower area, spray it with vinegar and wipe off with a damp sponge. You can also sprinkle baking soda, borax, or powder laundry detergent onto a damp sponge and scrub.

20. Clean cloudy glassware. To remove hard water deposits, scrub cheap, white toothpaste all over the glass and rinse thoroughly.

Amy Lu writes at Wise Bread, a blog dedicated to helping readers live large on a small budget. Wise Bread's book, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, debuted as the #1 Money Management book on Amazon.com.