Cost cutting in the home

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  • I turn off unused lights
  •  I use energy saver bulbs
  •  I switch off unused appliances, TV, computer, stereo, microwave and oven
  • I dry clothes on the line and under veranda if wet
  •  I dress warmly rather than use the heater
  • I installed a DVS system to reduce moisture and circulate fresh air in my home
  •  I have a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in my home
  •  I removed all damp areas from my home



  • I use canvas shopping bags
  •  I avoid pre- packed items where possible
  •  I buy locally
  •  I buy farm fresh free range eggs
  •  I buy meat from family with a lifestyle block
  •  I grow my own fruit and vegetables
  •  I support local grocers who buy local produce
  •  I don’t buy things I can do without
  •  I recycle as much as I can
  •  I buy second hand



  • I recycle paper items – gift wrap, envelopes
  •  I recycle plastic containers
  •  I have a compost bin
  •  I donate used items to charity
  •  I print on both sides of paper
  •  I repair goods when they break, rather than just replacing them



  • I have a front loader washing machine
  • I use cold water washes and do only full loads
  • I recycle washing machine water on my lawn
  • I do not run the tap while brushing my teeth
  • I have short showers and don’t use the bath as much
  • I hand wash dishes in a half full sink
  • I use a half flush on the toilet
  • I do not have dripping taps
  • I insulated my hot water cylinder
  • I half fill the jug with cold water for a cuppa



  • I use natural homemade non toxic ingredients for cleaning
  • I get bills e-mailed to me
  • I patronise stores and organisations that have committed to environmental sustainability
  • I walk to the shops

We have created a pile of rubbish our great grannies would be disgusted with; waste disposal is a cost to us all that we do not normally consider; these are hidden costs that one way or another we all pay for. However we can do small things in our daily lives that will make a major impact on our environment in a positive way and at the same time save a lot of money. Consider how we lived only 30 years ago, when we had no plastic bottles, or cans of drinks and no plastic shopping bags. We are facing a recession, we have to cut costs where we can; implementing these changes we can save the planet and our finances.





Today’s modern home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier. The cost of these commercial, chemical-based products can be high with long term health concerns for the family and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal.

Should any member of your family suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis, treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment.

For many home cleaning chores, you can make your own cleaning products using the formulas listed below. A growing number of commercial non-toxic home cleaning products are also available, as healthier and environmentally responsible alternatives. Your use of these products helps promote the growth of  ‘Green Businesses’ which are contributing to a local sustainable economy.


There are many inexpensive, easy to use, natural alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Here is a list of common, environmentally safe products which can be used alone or in combination for a wealth of household applications.


Baking Soda

Cleans, deodorises, softens water and scours



Unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars, is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.



(Sodium- bicarbonate) cleans, deodorises, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.


White vinegar

Cuts grease, removes mildew, odours, some stains and wax build up.




Washing soda

Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans walls, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use with care as washing soda can irritate mucus membranes. Do not use on aluminium.



Cornstarch can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.


Trisodium phosphate (TSP).

A mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed, but it can be used on many jobs, such as cleaning drains or removing old paint. This does not create any fumes.



Combinations of the above basic products can provide less harmful substitutions for many commercial home products. In most cases, they are also a lot less expensive.

Here are some formulas; these formulas and substitutions are offered to help minimize the use of toxic substances in your home, and reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use and disposal of toxins. Results may vary and cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe and effective. Before applying any cleaning formulations, test in small hidden areas if possible. Always use caution with any new product in your home.

Make sure to keep all homemade formulas well-labeled and out of reach of children.



Mix ½ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda or borax into 2 litres of water. Keep and store well-labeled. Use for water stains from shower, bathroom chrome, windows, and bathroom mirrors, etc.


Microfibre cloths lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for years. 



Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell.

Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in a small dish will absorb odours around the house.

House plants help reduce odours around the home.

Simmering vinegar (1 tsp in 1 cup of water) when cooking will reduce odours.

To get the smell of fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.

Simmer cinnamon and other spices in water on stove.

Place fragrant flowers and herbs in rooms and place bunches of dried herbs in cupboards for a refreshing scent.



Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let it sit for several minutes and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water. For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix ¼ cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub into a paste place on area and leave to dry and vacuum off.


Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda, but increase the washing soda if your water is hard.



Commercial low- phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae which use up oxygen in the water ways. A detergent substitution is to use liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm soapy water for tough jobs.



Mix 2 tsp of borax, 4 tblspns vinegar and 3 cups of hot water. For stronger cleaning power add ¼ tsp liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a non- aerosol spray bottle.


Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain then ½ cup of vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break down fatty acids into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash away down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour boiling water to clear residue.

Caution: only use this method with metal pipes as boiling water can melt plastic pipes. Also, do

not use this method after trying commercial drain cleaner as the vinegar can react with the drain cleaner and create dangerous fumes.


To reduce static cling, dampen your hands, and shake out your clothes as you remove them from the drier. Line drying clothing is another alternative.


Vinyl and linoleum: add a capful of baby oil to the cleaning water to preserve and polish.


Wood: apply a thin coat of 1:1 vegetable oil and vinegar with a few drops of essential oil for aroma and rub in well.


Painted wood: mix 1 tsp washing soda into 4 litres of  hot water.


Brick and stone tiles: mix 1 cup of white vinegar in 4 litres of water, rinse with clear water. Most floor surfaces can be cleaned with equal parts of white distilled vinegar and water with 15 drops of your favourite essential oil – shake and mix.

Furniture polish: for varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into ½ cup of warm water, spray onto a soft cloth. The cloth should only be slightly damp. Wipe furniture with the cloth using wide strokes to distribute oil evenly.



Mix 1 cup of liquid soap, ½ cup washing soda and ½ cup of borax. Use 1 tsp for light loads and 2tsp for heavy loads.


You can reduce lime deposits in your tea pot and jug by using ½ cup white vinegar and 2 cups of water, and gently boil for a few minutes. Rinse well with fresh water while jug is still warm.


Aluminum: Using a soft cloth, clean with a solution of cream of tartar and water.


Brass or bronze: Polish with a soft cloth dipped in lemon juice and baking soda solution, or vinegar and salt solution.


Chrome: Polish with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.


Copper: Soak a cotton rag in a pot of boiling water with 1 tblspn of salt and 1 cup of white vinegar. Apply to copper while hot, let it cool, then wipe clean. For tougher jobs, sprinkle baking soda and lemon juice on the cloth before wiping.

Gold: Clean with toothpaste, or a paste of salt, vinegar and flour.


Silver: Line a pan with aluminum foil and fill with water, add a tsp each of baking soda and salt.

Bring pan to the boil and immerse the silver. Polish with a soft cloth.

Stainless steel: Clean with a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar.

Mould and mildew: Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength, with a small amount of salt. Apply using a sponge or a spray bottle and do not rinse.


The common mothball is made of paradichlorobenzine, which is harmful to liver and kidneys. Cedar chips in a cheese-cloth or cedar oil in an absorbent cloth will repel moths. The cedar should be ‘aromatic cedar’, also referred to as juniper in some areas. Cedar chips are available at many craft supply outfits, or make your own using a plane and a block of cedar from a supplier. Homemade moth repelling sachets can also be made with lavender and rosemary – you will find that lavender scent in particular will last for decades. Dried lemon peel can also be used simply tossed into a cheese cloth and hung in the closet.


Moisten oven surfaces with a sponge and water. Use ¾ cup of baking soda, ¼ cup salt and ¼ cup of water to make a thick paste, and spread throughout the oven interior ( avoid bare metal and any openings), let it sit over-night. Remove with a spatula and wipe clean. Rub gently with fine steel wool for stubborn areas.

If you are about my age you will remember ‘Chemico paste cleaner’. It was the only oven

cleaner available when I was a child; my mum used this pink paste to clean the oven, stainless steel, chrome, enamel baths and basins. This product is still available, does a good job and is fully biodegradable.



Non toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available under several brands. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil based paints.  Paint brushes and rollers to be used for an ongoing project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all; simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, squeeze out air pockets and away from light. Fresh paint odours can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.


These markers contain harmful solvents such as toluene, xylene and ethanol. Use water based markers as a safe substitute.



Sprinkle a little salt on rust, squeeze lime juice over salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2-3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.



For the top of the stove, refrigerator and other areas which should not be scratched use baking soda. Apply directly with a damp sponge.


Olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice can be applied to shoes with a thick cotton or terry cloth. Leave for a few minutes, then wipe and buff with a clean dry rag.


Mix ¼ cup baking soda and one cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with a brush and rinse. A mixture of borax – 1 part and lemon juice 2 parts will also work.


For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water.

For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (Vinegar can break down tile grout so use sparingly on this surface).


Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hot water, apply with a sponge over the old wallpaper to soften the adhesive. Open doors and windows or use a fan to dispel the vinegar smell.



Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the top coat. Try applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, buff the entire wood surface.


Mix 2 tsp white vinegar with 1 litre of warm water. Use crumpled newspaper or a cotton cloth to clean. Don’t clean windows if the sun is on them, or  if they are warm, or streaks will show on drying. The ‘All Purpose Cleaner’ above also works well on windows.










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Deborah Harper

Article by Debbie Harper

Debbie Harper is a self-published author and an accomplished blogger. She's the founder of and the author of the book “The Number #1 Rule for a Long and Healthy Life”. If you like this post, you can stay up to date with the latest information from by subscribing via RSS, or receive articles directly in your inbox. Then click here to download a free report on "The Number #1 Rule for a Long and Healthy Life".