Instead of piling your supermarket trolley full of abrasive chemical cleaning agents and spending loads of money, raid your kitchen cupboards and rustle up some homemade cleaning products for next to nothing.
The following concoctions will leave your home fresh and gleaming in no time. To clean your house thoroughly, start upstairs and hoover and dust rooms from back to front, so you bring the dust and dirt down with you.
Clear out cobwebs: Cover your broom with an old pillowcase to clear out cobwebs in the corners of ceilings. This will stop the bristles of the broom from scratching the paintwork. It is also much easier to remove cobwebs from a cloth than to pull them out from the bristles.
Carpet smells: Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda onto carpets before vacuuming to get rid of pet smells.
Windows and mirrors: Fill a plastic spray bottle with hot water and white vinegar, squirt onto mirrors and windows and buff them up till they sparkle.
Homemade cleaning products: The bathroom
Toilet: Chuck a litre of Coco-Cola down the loo for a sparkling clean.
Baths and taps: A squirt of shampoo is great for removing soap scum on baths and taps because it rinses clean.
Limescale: Soak pads of cotton wool in vinegar and wrap them around shower heads, tap and bath rims, and any other areas in which limescale had built up. Leave for 30 mins and the limescale should wipe away easily.
Clean cracks and crevices with a toothpick: To get rid of dirt and grime in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices, dip a toothpick or cocktail stick into some clear alcohol and run it through the affected areas. Also use to get rid of dust around the buttons of your phone and computer keyboard.
Ovens: Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to a cup of hot water to get rid of oven grime. To remove baked-on food from oven plates, sprinkle the lumps of food with salt, dampen the area and let the salt sit in the food until it starts to lift the baked-on food. Then simply wash away with hot soapy water.
Homemade cleaning products: The kitchen
Fridge: Put a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in a saucer or small pot at the back of your fridge to get rid of odours. To get rid of stronger smells, wipe the inside walls with a swab of vanilla extract. To prolong the scent, soak a cotton wool ball or piece of sponge with vanilla extract and place it in the back of the fridge.
Deodorise the microwave: Vanilla extract will also get rid of fishy or spicy smells lurking in your microwave. Pour a little extract into a bowl and microwave it at a high setting for a minute to get rid of any residual odours.
Eliminate smells when frying fish: If you love cooking fresh fish but hate the smell that lingers around the house afterwards, add a dollop of peanut butter to your pan when frying fish. The peanut butter will absorb the odour instead of your carpets and curtains.
Homemade cleaning products: The living room
Woodwork: Add a drop of lemon juice to some olive oil to polish up wood and leather sofas. Remove watermarks from wooden table tops by applying petroleum jelly around the marks and letting it sit overnight. The marks should wipe away with the jelly in the morning. Squeeze a blob of petroleum jelly onto chewing gum stuck on furniture legs or underneath tables to help remove the offending lumps!
Clean narrow-necked vases with sand: Cleaning flower vases can be tricky. If the neck of the vase is too narrow for your hand, put a little sand and warm soapy water into the vase and swish gently. The sand will clean the residue inside.
Keep cut flowers fresher for longer: Dissolve three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of white wine vinegar into warm water and fill your vase. Make sure that the cut stems are covered by at least 7cm of the mixture. The sugar will nourish the plants while the vinegar will inhibit bacterial growth.
Sweeten the smell of your home Your home can begin to feel a little fusty in deep winter with the central heating on full blast and the oven in constant use. To sweeten up the smell of your sitting room, dab a couple of drops of vanilla extract to your lightbulbs. The vanilla will heat up when you switch the lights on and fill the house with the delicious scent of fresh baking!
From Perfect Money Saving, by Smita Talati, published by Random House, Jan 2011.