The easy – and cheap – way to spring clean

It may have started as a religious practice in the far east – or it could have been a reaction to seeing just how mucky a house had become when longer days and stronger sunlight revealed the dirt built up over winter.

But whatever its origins, spring cleaning can still be a good way to give your home and your spirits a lift.

There is a little more to it that emptying the bins and putting the vacuum round, but it can be easier than you think to get your home squeaky clean. Even better you may not have to buy in a whole basketful of expensive cleaners.

You can use bought in cleaning products – but you might want to try our alternatives first. They could be better for the environment – and your budget!

In the kitchen…

The kitchen is the powerhouse of your home and it’s easy for grease and grime to build up – and it could even become a health hazard.

Give your dishwasher and washing machine a treat. Over time, even the best washing machines will build up soap scum, grease, limescale and mould. You only realise it needs a clean when your freshly washed laundry starts to smell. You may have to use cleaners if you have limescale build up, but a basic remedy is to fill your washing machine drum with warm water and add between 2 to 4 cups of white vinegar, and run it - you might need to leave the solution for at least 2-3 hours or even overnight before draining away.Live in a softwater area? A weak bleach solution should be enough to remove contamination.

Don’t forget the oven. You can buy oven cleaner but remember it tends to be strong so make sure the kitchen is well ventilated. Kinder for you and the environment is a paste from baking soda and water, apply to the oven surfaces and leave overnight. Then simply wipe off with a damp cloth the next day. A light spray of white vinegar will cause any remaining residue to foam, so you can wipe away the final spills.

While they are working look at your kitchen cabinets.

You might not see the build up inside and out, but a wash with very hot water, a little washing powder and some lemon juice will mean they come up like new. For areas close to the hob where grease can build up, try a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and warm water. Put it in a spray bottle and wipe away with a cloth.

The vinegar solution can also work wonders on the floor. Try it with a little detergent to shift dirt.

In the bathroom…

The family get clean in the bathroom and the dirt must go somewhere. There can be a build up of soap, limescale and dirt around taps and crevices. Worse, frequently touched surfaces such as the toilet flush, toilet seat, taps, doorknobs and waste bins all become contaminated with bacteria and viruses during normal use of the bathroom.

You can get a spray cleaner which can deal with all the bathroom dirt and germs, or use some home made alternatives. So, for a sparkling toilet, pour half a cup of vinegar and a spoonful of baking soda and mix. Pour the mixture into the toilet bowl, let the paste stand for about 30 minutes before scrubbing and the soiling disappears, along with limescale. To get the best results repeat once a week.

To clean your shower or bath, mix baking soda and dish washing liquid to create an amazing paste ready to go to work for you. It even removes soap residue from shower doors, as well as limescale and rust stains on ceramic tile. Use a sponge or cloth to rub the paste into the surface until stains are gone, then wipe clean with warm water. To remove stains on the grout, go for a more vigorous method and scrub with a toothbrush using the same paste.

Best make sure it is an old toothbrush…

All around the house

Carpets hold on to dirt and even smells. You can clean them with a hired machine, but if they are not too bad, try a DIY approach.

A combination of baking soda and vinegar is ideal for spot-treating most carpet types and stains.

When the alkaline baking soda reacts with the acidic vinegar, it creates a safe, oxygenated gas that foams up and helps lift stains out.

For general cleaningto freshen your carpet or remove a musty smell in a hurry, sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, dusting the entire area. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then vacuum the carpet thoroughly.

Finally, deal with the dusting. You can use an aerosol product to help your duster pick up dust rather than just spread it around but here’s a cheaper alternative: 1 cup white vinegar, 3 cups water plus ½ teaspoon of olive oil. Pour all the ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well. Spray before you wipe, and dust gets picked up while leaving a sheen on wood.

Dusting is not the problem it was in our great-grandparent’s time, when coal fires could leave a fine residue everywhere. But you still need to do it. These days the biggest proportion of the dust in homes is actually our own dead skin cells…

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