Over the years, we've bought into the idea that we need a whole arsenal of expensive cleaning supplies in order to keep our homes spotless but it ain't necessarily so. In fact, many of the products we add to our grocery lists every week are just plain unnecessary, not to mention hard on our wallets. With that in mind, here are some of the worst money wasters and the cheaper (and often more environmentally friendly) alternatives.

Glass cleaner and paper towels - in my humble opinion - and I've been washing windows for a good many years - there's nothing like a generous pour of vinegar in a pail of hot water to get the job done. Then wipe dry with old tea towels. Hey, if tea towels are good enough for your glass ware, they can certainly handle windows. If you don't have any old tea towels, pick up a few at the dollar store for a buck each. Try a spray bottle containing water and vinegar for smaller jobs like mirrors. For more on cleaning with vinegar, check out How To Clean Windows with Vinegar and Vinegar Tips.

Disposable dusters and mop cloths - Use once then add to the landfill doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I use a piece of an old tea towel for dusting and I'm a card carrying member of the bucket and mop brigade. It may take a little more muscle and time but I consider it time well spent. If you have one of those Swiffer mops - those ads snared me too! - consider buying a couple of washable micro fiber cloths to replace the throw-aways. These will pick up the dust and debris from your kitchen floor just as well as the disposable cloths and you can get them for $1 a piece at the dollar store.

Pop-up cleaning wipes - Hmmm. How long does it really take to spray a bit of furniture polish or other cleaner on a cloth? To me, these pre-moistened wipes are a pure waste of money.

Reusable cleaning cloths (J-cloths) - Um, if we're going to wash and reuse a cloth, why not just go with a piece of an old T-shirt, a tea towel or a micro fibre cloth, and of which will last far longer?

Fabric softener - Instead of spending all that money on dryer sheets or liquid fabric softener, pop three or four dryer balls in with your wet clothes. Most detergents have a nice scent to them already and who ever said that our clothes had to smell lilac fresh anyway? I've been using dryer balls for a few months now and I haven't noticed that my towels are any less soft than before. Dryer balls last about two years before you have to replace them.

Liquid toilet bowl cleaners - I confess. I've been using a liquid toilet bowl cleaner for years. When I ran out of same one cleaning day recently, I reached for my can of Comet powdered cleanser. The label says that you can use Comet to clean toilets as well as sinks and tubs, so I sprinkled some in the bowl and gave it a try. It did the job admirably, even removing a long-standing stain under the rim with just a little extra elbow grease. Even the toilet brush is looking cleaner. Bonus! I can buy a can of Comet for $1 at the dollar store but the fancy toilet bowl cleaners cost more than twice that. No more special toilet cleaners for me!

Flushable toilet bowl brushes - Convenient? Yes. Necessary? Not by a long shot. Save your money.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas on decorating using only items from the dollar store.


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