October 19, 2010

10 Affordable, Green & Old-Fashioned Household Helpers.

There is always something new and “green” to buy in the name of household cleaning. The frugal masters at Wisebread have pulled a few oldies from the time capsule for greener, cheaper cleaning.

So you understand why I need, need, need to share these revelations with you. Some of these tools or tricks don’t save any time, and a few take more time. But if I spend a few more minutes living out my values, then it’s like I’m the thing plugged into the outlet and feeling my power.

1. The Carpet Sweeper

I bought a Casabella carpet sweeper for my kids from a Montessori-based toy and supply catalog (“Now you’re Mommy’s Little Helpers, darlings!”) and now I join in the fight to use it. It picks up a surprising amount from our well-traveled rugs and floors, and I don’t need to use electricity, or my own stress circuits, as much.

2. Take Back the Mop

C’mon, Swiffer. How hard is it to bring up a mop and bucket filled with hot water and Murphy’s Oil Soap? I’d rather take two minutes to do that than pay for your expensive refills. Plus the carpet sweeper gets bits in the meantime. Jealous, much? Plus flushing that dirty water down the toilet is pure victory.

3. Area Rugs

Do you remember relatives that would take rugs outside and beat them? Small area rugs just beg for this simple cleaning. Roll them up or just shake them out the window — you’ve just saved yourself some money and gotten an upper-body workout. Fantastic for when guests are coming in 1.5 seconds: as they are walking up your steps, you can be shaking the bathroom rug out the window and feeling confident that their private bathroom time won’t involve passing judgment upon you. You can’t beat it with a stick, man.

4. The Art of the Drying Rack

Don’t have the space or the time? You might be surprised. A strong drying rack can cost under $20, but if you air-dry most of your clothes, you could save five percent or more on your electric bill and some of the beating dryers can take on clothes. Do you have a small outdoor space or deck on which to place a drying rack? If not, then consider washing a load of clothes during the day and then setting up the rack at overnight in your kitchen. Newer washers pretty much take all the drippiness out of wet clothes, anyhow, so most items will try overnight. For items that take longer fold down one half of the rack and leave the rest to dry through the day, until the next load is ready.

Air-drying is not a huge effort when it becomes part of your routine, and I’ve actually found the process pleasant in the way I find gardening pleasant: your efforts are met by Mother Nature’s, to your benefit. If you go so far as to wash out your plastic bags, drying racks can also hold these. Just puff out the sides before placing them between the rungs. (Yes, I do this, and yes, I also wear makeup, so calm down.)

5. Feather Duster

Speaking of Swiffer, they have helped fuel a feather duster backlash. Dusters spread dust, they say. I’m so over that assertion, because I hate to dust. What takes less time, my friends: feather dusting OR dusting and then running out to buy refills? When I see other people wiping things down I want to scream, because that strikes me as Stepford territory. If you dust before you vacuum, gravity helps you get all the yuckies. So find a lovely duster, with a wooden handle and real feathers. Some of these are almost things of beauty. After you’ve dusted a room, just take it outside and twirl it between your palms quickly to release the dust to the air. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

6. Windows

Room air fresheners, candles and other artificially scented items are outrageously expensive and contain toxic pollutants that are even worse for you if they mix with ozone. If your house smells stale or your pets have given it a bad name, open the windows for a few minutes. (So what if you lose heat, or cool air? Your house stinks, so make an energy offering to the gods.) If you have guests coming, light a beeswax candle (the other ones are junk) and ask yourself if you have 15 minutes to bake something quickly (such as fruit with oatmeal, butter and brown sugar on top), so you can fill your home with a lovely smell and have a treat on hand to boot. The 20-second fix? Heat a pan of water on your stove and add cinnamon, oranges, and any other spices you enjoy. You can reuse the water for tea later.

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