1. Use a timer
Decide how long you're going to spend cleaning before you start. Next, divide your time into chunks - 15 minutes to vacuum and perhaps the same again at the sink, and so on. Now that you have a timed target, you'll find you work that bit harder. Also, if you absolutely hate a job - cleaning the bathroom, for example - knowing you're going to spend just 10 minutes in there may make you feel less bothered about tackling it.
2. Avoid concentrated products
This isn't something the manufacturers are going to shout about, but unless you use them sparingly, you're just throwing money away when you choose expensive, high-powered cleansers. Standard-strength products are quite sufficient for most jobs. You actually need very little detergent to clean a dirty kitchen floor - about 2 tablespoons of most standard brands, swished into half a bucket of water. With bleach, adding more doesn't make it more effective, either. Germs die from the time spent in contact with the disinfecting solution, even when it's only at the recommended dilution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water.
3. Clean your windows for less
Save money by making your own glass cleaner. Simply pour 4 liters warm water into a bucket. Add 100 ml white vinegar and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and stir well. If you're cleaning a lot of windows, apply this mixture with a squeegee mop, straight from the bucket. Otherwise, pour it into plastic spray bottles, ready for future use.
4. Give your sink a bath
Abrasive cleaners can scratch your sink. Instead, try an herbal bath. Steep several bunches of rosemary or thyme in hot water for a few hours, then strain. Stop up the sink, pour in the herb solution and let it sit overnight. In the morning, you'll find a glistening, fragrant sink.
5. Fizz your toilet clean
Most cleaners are tough on your toilet, so try something gentler that will do the job just as well. Once a week, drop two denture tablets into the bowl and leave for at least 20 minutes. Then give the inside of the bowl a quick brushing and flush. The same action that brightens dentures will leave your toilet gleaming.
6. Oven-clean your grill
Put away that wire brush and leave that caustic oven cleaner in the cupboard. Here's an effortless, non-toxic way to clean the mess off your grill rack. Simply slide it into your self-cleaning oven, turn the setting up to High (around 500°F) and leave for 45 minutes or so. This will scorch away any greasy remnants from the rack. If your barbecue isn't too big, you can clean its greasy racks in this way, too.
7. Buy extra basics
Having at least two sets of sheets means that you can change bedding on a set day, then launder when you have time. You'll also save trips upstairs if you keep a set of cleaning products on each floor. Build a high shelf for them in the bathroom, out of reach of young children.
8. Give wipes the boot
Save money by using your own cloths. Spray them with a suitable cleanser and wipe. Then stick them in the washing machine when you've finished and select a hot wash to kill any germs.
9. Clean your own curtains
Dirty curtains send some homeowners straight to the Yellow Pages. Then they find out that professional cleaners often charge by the foot to clean curtains. Soon you're into triple figures. Here are some tricks to keep curtains in peak condition for longer:
- Dust them regularly. Don't bother taking them down. Simply run your vacuum cleaner over them - from top to bottom - using the dusting brush or upholstery attachment. Focus on the tops and hems, where most dust gathers. Avoid sucking the fabric into the nozzle by either reducing the vacuum pressure or grasping the bottom and holding the curtains tight. If you don't have the proper attachments, use a feather duster. Dusting prevents dirt build-up and lessens the chance that the curtains will need a major cleaning.
- Wash if you can. Try to identify the fabric, including any trimmings and linings, and use that information to choose the best cleaning method. If you're unsure about washing, play it safe by just wetting an inside turn-up of fabric first to gauge the effect. Even if you know your curtains can be machine washed and tumble-dried, remove them from the dryer and hang while they're still damp. This way you'll avoid having to iron them.
- If washing seems too risky, but you want to freshen your curtains between visits to the drycleaner, hang them out on the line on a breezy day. You can guarantee they will come back fresher.
- Get them measured. Ask your drycleaner to measure your curtains before leaving them for cleaning. If they refuse, go elsewhere. The best cleaners will do as you ask because they will be happy to guarantee that your curtains will come back the same length as they started.