7 Cost-Cutting and Safer Alternative Household Tips

These are some ways we save money without sacrificing the management or enjoyment of our home:

Clean with Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl Alcohol Spray BottleOur favorite cleaner is isopropyl, which looks pretty in clear spray bottles around the house. It is not perfumed, does not leave toxic residue like other cleaners, and costs only $1 to $2 for a large bottle. We acquired the mentality of scrupulous sanitizing from singing teachers, some of whom insist upon spraying everything with Lysol before touching. Lysol, however, damages the skin and leaves you with toxic fingers while rubbing alcohol evaporates cleanly away. Only be aware that rubbing too hard with alcohol might remove a little paint or varnish.

Left: One of our handy all-purpose isopropyl alcohol spray bottles that we keep around the house.

A few things we regularly use rubbing alcohol to clean are:

  • Library books before reading
  • Pillowcases before going to bed (in case pets have used our pillows in our absence)
  • Doorknobs
  • Cosmetic containers and surfaces (where we keep and apply makeup)
  • Closets where we store pillowcases, clothing, and towels
  • Office equipment such as phones and computers
  • Mirrors
  • Washer and dryer openings that come into contact with dirty laundry before we take out our clean laundry

Exterminate with Rubbing Alcohol

Yet another use for the wonderful isopropyl is in killing unwelcome insects. Because we have pets, Penelope and I are very reluctant to use poisons. A squirt of alcohol, which can even reach a tiny bug on the ceiling, makes most insects drop dead (no squashed guts!). A spritz can also drop airborne flies and gnats. There are no worries of children or pets touching and ingesting insecticides, and even adults can reduce cancer risk by avoiding exposure to many household chemicals. For tougher insects, white vinegar is more effective and although it leaves a smell, is healthier for everyone except the bug. A spritz of vinegar is more effective than a fly swatter because the fly thinks it’s water and does not try to escape.

Dilute Cleaning Solutions

When necessary, we prefer name-brand cleaners such as Lysol or 409 as being safer and more effective than cheap alternatives with suspiciously jaunty names. These cleaning products are—as expected—rather expensive and the use of spray bottles very wasteful (a whole squirt to wipe one or two paw prints). Adding water to cleaners in spray bottles allow for spot cleaning or covering large areas with less waste. The amount of dilution depends on the intended use—weaker for kitchen and table, more potent for bathrooms and pet accidents.

Alternatives for Curtain Rods

Instead of using store-bought curtain rods, we sometimes hang curtains from evenly spaced nails over both arched and straight windows. 5 to 7 nails cost much less than the cheapest curtain rod and the result is very attractive. We paint the nail heads to match the walls and keep the grease from staining fabrics. Framing nails are best as they do not bend when pounded into hard wood. The curtains can be hung by loops, ribbon ties, or button holes. (More details will be given in a future article.)

Spaghetti as Long Matches

Instead of long matches which can only be used once, ignite spaghetti noodles from stove tops or regular lighters to light sunken down candles and other hard to reach things. The noodles can be used until they are too short. After each use, break off the completely burnt tips, leaving about a quarter inch of charred noodle to make it easier to light next time. Make sure to completely blow out the noodle after use. Some brands of pasta take longer to light.

Scented Light Bulbs as Votives

Tangerine Scented WaxInstead of burning votive candles or melting scented wax in burners, rub softened scented wax onto light bulbs. When the lights are turned on, the heat from the bulbs will release the fragrance. Even energy saving bulbs get warm when in use. This saves you the expense of candles and tea lights as well as the risk of candle fires.

Paint Plain White for Easy Maintenance

We paint our floors and many pieces of furniture with non-tinted white paint, using the generic brand of our local hardware store. The reason for this is that we have rather large active dogs who naturally scratch, bang, and sometimes chew our house. And admittedly, we humans sometimes drag chairs or accidentally carry large objects into the walls. Using a color easily available, we touch up wear and tear with very little expense and trouble. Of course, our home doesn’t resemble a white void. We simply have to take extra care not to chip the colored things. Diluting paint with water makes repaired areas less conspicuous.

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