Savvy Spring Cleaning

As the warm weather days approach, it's time to think about treating your home to a thorough spring cleaning. With a little effort and a few simple tips, you can save money, keep your appliances running smoothly, and reduce energy costs.

1. Save cash and go green with DIY cleaning solutions.

Don't spend your hard earned cash on a multitude of specialized cleaning products. You likely already have everything you need to make your home sparkle. You'll find a wealth of ideas online for using everyday ingredients like salt, baking soda and vinegar to clean; just a few examples:

  • Distilled vinegar is a terrific multi-use cleaner. To make windows and mirrors shine, fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing soap. Simply spray and wipe. Caveat: never use vinegar on granite or other natural stone.
  • Mineral deposits will not only ruin the taste of your morning joe, the build-up can shorten the life of your coffee maker. You don't need special coffee pot cleaner. Keep your coffee-maker in good shape (and avoid those expensive takeout lattes!) by running a brew cycle with a solution of 2:1 water to vinegar.
  • Use baking soda as a mild abrasive cleanser. Just make a paste with dish detergent to scour a stainless steel sink or scrub bathroom grout.
  • To rid your wooden cutting boards of stains and odors, scrub with half a lemon and some kosher salt.

A nice bonus: natural cleaning solutions are non-toxic, good for both you and the environment.

2. Ditch the paper towels and single use wipes.

Do both your wallet and the environment a favor and stop spending on single use paper products.

  • Go old-school with reusable cloth rags. Repurposed old t-shirts, towels and sheets make great cleaning cloths, then just toss in the wash.
  • Don't trash those old gym socks! Slip one over your hand for the perfect way to dust baseboards and blinds.
  • Use old newspapers for streak-free windows.

3. Show your appliances some love.

Sure, you've wiped down the refrigerator, but have you peeked behind it lately? Hidden dust and dirt collects on the refrigerator coils, making it run less efficiently and wasting energy. Unplug the fridge and use the brush attachment of your vacuum to clean the coils (usually in back, sometimes at the top or bottom; check your owner's manual).

Clean out your clothes dryer's lint filter. A lint-free filter reduces drying time, saving on energy costs.

Both your dishwasher and clothes washer need a good cleaning every so often to maintain efficiency and to prolong the life of the appliance. Follow the instructions in your owner's manual, and be sure to wipe clean the rubber seals and soap dispensers.

Dirt, dust and pet hair collect in your vacuum cleaner filters and attachments, reducing suction. Keep it running smoothly by emptying and rinsing filters, then check for any debris that may be clogging the tubes and rollers.

4. Declutter and organize the kitchen.

A clean, organized kitchen is your best incentive to cook dinner at home. Enjoy a home-cooked meal and banish pricey takeout! Start by organizing your pantry, weeding out ancient spices and expired products. Though throwing out items seems counterintuitive, it's a chance to take stock. That stash of sale-priced mayo is no bargain if it expires before you can use it. Learn to buy only what you need.

Avoid the temptation to splurge on expensive shelf organizers. Instead, repurpose shoe boxes and other reusable containers.

5. Save on energy this summer.

An air conditioning filter clogged with dust and debris blocks air flow. Keep your system running efficiently by cleaning or replacing the air conditioner filter.

6. Turn your spring cleaning into cash.

It's easy to scoop up things you see on sale and think you're saving money. However, if you're spending on items that you don't normally buy or aren't on your list, you're actually adding to your bill. Don't be tempted by sales and add items that you don't really need.

7. Look up and down.

Consider selling items that you no longer need on craigslist or eBay. Better yet, celebrate spring with a yard sale.