4 cheap alternatives to overpriced cleaning products

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By in Save Money, Student Accommodation. Updated August 2016.

Cleaning the house is never gonna be fun, but using these cheap, cheerful and effective cleaning tricks should ease the pain – and the strain on your pocket!
cleaningIf there’s one thing more annoying than having to clean the house, it’s having to waste your precious pennies on overpriced cleaning products.

There’s actually no need to fork out on expensive cleaning supplies to get your floors, windows, even your microwave sparkling (trust us on this).

Little did you know, you might already have everything you need to have your whole flat completely spotless, just waiting in your cupboards to be used.

When you eventually get round to it the following alternative cleaning supplies are perfect for a student household, ’cause they’re cheap, versatile, non-toxic (you can even eat this stuff) and – as you’ll see from the suggestions below – extremely multi-purposed!

Check out these hilarious pics of the laziest students ever known!

Using Vinegar as a household cleaner

Vinegar is one of these substances that we’re all very familiar with, but very few can actually tell you what it’s made of.

There’s many types of vinegar that are made slightly differently, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re a weak form of acetic acid that’s created through a natural fermentation process (go science).

Although vinegar is technically an acid, it’s entirely safe to eat, and it has just a high enough acidity level to lift dirt and make things sparkle!

Clean your windows

fox-windowMix 50% white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle with 50% tap water. Spray your windows with this solution, using scrunched up newspaper to wipe it down.

If your windows are seriously grimey, wash them with warm, soapy water first, then use the vinegar solution and dry newspaper to get rid of any streaks.

Descale your shower head

showerCredit: Steven Depolo
If you share your shower with a number of people and live in an area with high levels of limescale in the water, you’re probably familiar with the problem of a seriously scaly shower head.

Sometimes, the buildup can get so bad it even prevents the water from flowing properly, till you find yourself struggling to wash under one single-jet drizzle. Vinegar can solve this issue in a jiffy (or, more accurately, in a few hours).

First, either detach the shower head completely, or if you’re unsure of how to do this, just unhook it from the wall. Find a bucket or bowl that it can fit into snuggly (the smaller the bowl the less vinegar you’ll have to use, but make sure it fits!) and fill it with white distilled vinegar until the shower head is completely covered.

Leave it to soak for a couple of hours (overnight if you can). Remove from the vinegar and scrub under warm water with a toothbrush (an old one, please!) and the flakes should come away easy peasy!

Clean your dishwasher or washing machine

washing machineCredit: Alexander Lindquist
Does your dishwasher or washing machine smell bad, and generally need a clean up? Vinegar is perfect for this as it’s non-toxic (so safe to run through your dishwasher) and weirdly, vinegar is even good for your clothes.

Simply fill a plastic cup with white distilled vinegar and place this in the (empty!) machine. Run the machine on the hottest cycle and the vinegar and hot water together should break away any mould or mildew, and leave it smelling fresh!

Interesting fact alert: In Scandinavia, fabric softener is hard to come by since many supermarkets don’t sell it due the damage it does to the environment. Instead, they throw in a half cup of vinegar with every wash, as it’s said to keep clothes soft. And no, it doesn’t make your clothes smell like vinegar!

Make a multi-surface cleaner

sprayCredit: Branco Colin
You can mix vinegar with another household cleaning gem, the lemon, to make a pretty heavy-duty multi-purpose cleaner.

Make the concoction by adding the skin of a lemon to a small(ish) jar of distilled vinegar and leaving for two days to pickle. Then, pour the vinegar into a spray bottle, and you have a mixture that will remove tough grease and even pick up strong smells like fish from kitchen surfaces.

Warning!: Don’t use vinegar to clean granite kitchen surfaces, as the acidity can etch away at porous surfaces like granite or marble. Also, you might be tempted to run some vinegar through your iron to clean that too but this isn’t a good idea – it can damage the internal parts of the iron, so avoid this!

Using Lemon as a household cleaner

Normally called upon for medicinal purposes, the humble lemon is a bit of an underdog when it comes to household cleaning. Not only do lemons have antibacterial and antiseptic qualities that are good for sorting you out when you’ve got a cold, but these qualities also make lemons ideal using around the house.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a reason why so many cleaning products are lemon scented, and it’s not just cause they smell nice – lemon is also powerful at cutting through bad odours! That includes the 3 month old thing you have rotting at the back of the fridge.

Clean chopping boards

chopping board Clean chopping and cooking surfaces by cutting a lemon in half and rubbing it accross the whole surface. By some sort of miracle, lemon seems to be able to remove even some of the most brutal smells (fish guts being one that’s tried and tested – yuck!).

If you have particularly tough stains or smells to clean up, try rubbing them with salt or throwing a bit of baking soda on first before you get a-lemon-rubbin’.

Descale your kettle

kettleThis one is so easy that you’ll wonder why on earth you’ve been enduring cups of tea with calcium floating around in it all this time.

Fill your kettle with water to just below the max level and add one lemon cut into eight chunks. Bring the kettle to the boil, then leave to stand overnight (make sure you stick a postit note warning your flatmates not to use it!).

In the morning, throw the fruit away and give the kettle a good rinse (scrub the inside too to help get the flakes off if necessary) before making your calc-free cuppa!

Clean your microwave

microwaveCredit:Josef Steufer – Flickr
This one’s a favourite! Chop a lemon into quarters and put in a microwave-proof bowl of water. Place the bowl in the microwave and ‘cook’ the lemon mixture on high for around 3 minutes. The time will vary depending on how powerful your microwave is, but generally we’d suggest waiting until you notice the glass steaming up from all the evaporating lemon liquid.

This should get the hot lemon juice into all the corners of the microwave, and the heat should loosen some of the tougher food splatters. Wipe down the insides with a cloth, and you should find it cleans up nicely!

Using Baking soda as a household cleaner

Baking soda is like one of these miracle products that’s become so thoroughly integrated into cleaning routines that we’ve forgotten how you’re even meant to use it for cooking in the first place. Trying to work out what it’s made from is even harder!

What we can tell you is that it’s a sort of powdery crystallised salt that’s slightly alkaline, which is why it foams when you combine it with vinegar. Baking soda is also good for soaking up odours (try sprinkling into your smelly trainers after the gym!).

Unblock a drain

cloggeddrainYou don’t need to rely on all those nasty, extremely toxic foaming drain unblockers to get things moving if your pipes are blocked.

Using baking soda, you’ll actually get a similar foamy reaction if done properly. Try pouring half a cup of baking soda down the blocked drain, and then follow it with a half cup of vinegar. Cover the drain with a cloth and leave for about 10 minutes. You should be able to see science get to work as these two things combined start to foam!

Rinse with hot water after 10 minutes and you should find the soda and vinegar combined have worked their magic. If you’re still struggling to clear it, you can also try cutting a tennis ball in half, placing over the plughole and use pressure to create the same effect as a plunger.

Remove mould from bathroom tiles

bathroom tilesCredit: Jessie Essex

If your bathroom tiles tend to suffer from a buildup of mould and mildew, there’s an easy way to keep on top of it that won’t break the bank.

Mix a paste together out of equal parts baking soda and lemon juice and spread across the tiles (paying close attention to the mouldy bits, of course!).

Leave the paste to work it’s magic for around 2 hours, then rinse off. Any tough spots can be removed using an old toothbrush!

Clean your oven

ovencleanNot only are oven cleaning sprays super potent and dangerous for your health (there’s a reason why you’re told to cover absolutely everything in your kitchen when using them, and to open all the windows!), but they’re pretty expensive to buy too.

You might be sceptical about this natural cleaning method, but believe it or not, it does actually work!

First, use a dry scourer or brush to remove any bits of food from the inside of the oven. Then, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda across all the greasy bits and parts that need a good clean. Follow this up by spraying vinegar on top of the baking soda, and watch it foam up as it gets to work on that tough grease!

Leave for at least 30 mins (but probably closer to an hour or two if it’s particularly grubby) then get scrubbing with a sponge, scourer or brush to make sure all the tough grease has been removed. Wipe down once or twice with a warm, damp cloth, and you’re good to go!

Using Coca-cola as a household cleaner

Aaah coca-cola – terrible for your gut, but great for making things look nice and shiny!

The combination of coke’s carbonation (the bubbles) and the high level of acidity make it the ideal substance for cleaning things up. Not only this, but the carbonic acid it contains can dissolve limescale and phosphoric acid can even remove rust!

Clean up burnt saucepans

pansFill the saucepan with coke until the burnt area is completely covered (just go for cheap, discount cola – it does exactly the same thing!). Bring to the boil, then pour away the coke.

Rinse and wash the pan with warm water, and you should find that the burnt parts of the pan come away pretty easily!

Cleaning your toilet bowl

coke toiletIf you’ve ever wondered what coca-cola does to your insides, this is a pretty clear (and worrying!) indication.

If your toilet bowl is looking a bit grey and discoloured, try throwing in a can of cola and leaving over night (coke cleans pretty slowly). In the morning, scrub away at the sides with a toilet brush and flush away.

The phosphoric acid works wonders on removing limescale and discoloration!

Struggling to keep your student housing clean? Check out our guide to dealing with difficult housemates, as well as tips on how to survive shared living!

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