Cleaning house

Cleaning the bottom of the fridge

Cleaning the lower parts of the refrigerator when your back and/or knees aren’t up to the task: I took out the crisper drawers, wet a sponge, and used my grabber to move it around. Every bit as effective as doing it by hand, and no back spasms or knee pain.


Never Mix Bleach and Vinegar

I knew never to mix ammonia and bleach. Why do they not mention that mixing bleach with vinegar creates the same toxic gas? I’ve been experimenting with all-natural daily shower sprays. They weren’t working, so I thought, why not add a tablespoon of bleach? Luckily I Googled ‘can I mix bleach and vinegar?’ and found out why not.

Never mix bleach and vinegar, or any other acid, including lemon juice.

Is It True? Zap! ‘Restorer’ As Seen on TV

There is a type of commercial I’ve learned to be suspicious of. The product always is supposed to solve a real life problem with amazing wonderfulness. They always offer a second one free or for a nominal price, “just pay an additional handling charge.”

After seeing the commercial for Zap! for the umpteenth time and wondering if it would clean the grout in my floor, I Googled “Zap! complaints.” The first result was a link to where it is sold on Amazon (not solely online as they claim). Here are the reviews:

Most said it was no more effective than any other ordinary cleaning product, and was not effective on grout.

When in doubt, Google it.


52 Weeks: Earnings -Pet Care and Housecleaning

From the book:

Pet care

Internet articles about jobs for retired people often mention pet sitting and dog walking. Cliff used to dog-sit for people he met while playing bridge at senior centers. We had one adorable little poodle dog with us for three months while his human companion recovered from a stroke. Well-paid working couples would be a market to look into for this, along with well-heeled seniors who travel.

House cleaning

Those same working couples and seniors might also be in the market for a house cleaner. In the early ‘80s, I worked freelance as a house cleaner. Back then, I charged a set price of $25 for a fixed group of tasks that added up to a basic weekly cleaning. With practice, it took me about two hours to do. You can charge for a set of tasks, or you can charge by the hour and let the customer set the tasks.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Disposables – Trash Bags

From the book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century:

“When I was a child, my mother never bought trash bags. Somehow as an adult, I came to assume that I had to. I still remember the moment my ideas about trash bags changed. It was sometime in the early ‘80s. I was trying to feed a family of four on one income. I was standing in the grocery store aisle with my hand on a box of trash bags. Suddenly I thought, “I’m about to pay money I can’t really spare for something I’m literally going to put straight into the trash!”

For a kitchen trash can I used a paper grocery bag, like my mother before me. She turned the top down like a cuff to keep it from collapsing shut, and put a newspaper section in the bottom to catch any moisture. I don’t get the paper, but there’s always junk mail. Living alone, I use a small wastebasket that fits a plastic grocery bag perfectly. Green enthusiasts may prefer the paper bag choice.”

Oven Cleaning – Take the Door Off

This year for the first time in my life, I cleaned the oven. Previously, my oven cleaning strategy had been to just move. In 2013, for the oven cleaning section of my book, I enlisted an experienced friend to help me test out the homemade oven cleaner recipe. This time I did it on my own.

Combine one cup salt, one cup baking soda, a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and enough water to make a paste. The dish liquid cuts grease and the salt and baking soda are coarse and fine abrasives. Slather it on, let it sit, and scrub.

The thing that made it easy was using a pumice stone for scrubbing. It’s much faster and easier than any other scrubbing tool. Then follow with a green scrubby for the finer points.

Even easier, take the door off. I didn’t know until I researched it for my book, the oven door comes off! Open it a little, to the point where it will stay on its own, then pull upward, and off it comes. I perched on a low stool, and with the door out of the way it was easy to reach the inside to scrub and rinse.

The door goes back on easily if you line it up straight with the metal thingys you’ll see as soon as you take the door off. They fit into slots in the door.

A big thing for me was the realization that with the door off, cleaning up spills as they happen is almost as easy as wiping the stove top. I don’t have to wait for the oven to be all icky before I put some baking soda on a sponge and wipe up whatever spilled. Wiping out the oven could easily be part of the weekly kitchen cleaning.




Cleaning Up

It’s always something. A beverage slops onto the floor, grease splatters, dust settles. Life’s messy. I used to clean it up with paper towels. Here lately a roll of paper towels costs as much to buy as a cloth rag or kitchen towel at the dollar store. When I moved four years ago I left the paper towels on the dispenser in the old place, to be nice to the new owner. I never got around to buying any more. Sometimes I looked at them in the store, but for something I’m going to use once and throw away, they cost so much.

I have a set of kitchen towels on which to dry my hands, and a vast selection of cloths and sponges for cleaning and for wiping things up. Retired washcloths seem to do very well for actual cleaning, while Handi-Wipes are great for wiping up spills. They rinse out easily and dry quickly. I feel a lot better, financially and environmentally, buying something once and re-using it many times.

I used to buy commercial cleaning products. Now I mix equal parts white vinegar and water with some dish liquid and it cleans almost everything to a sparkling shine. For abrasion, I use baking soda and a sponge with a scrubby side. It really doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s only decades of commercial advertising that makes us think so.