As the cost of living spirals, employing a cleaner is more of a luxury than ever.
Around my area, some people are cutting back on outside help and others have cut down on the hours their cleaner does to save money.
Those who do all the chores themselves, meanwhile, are on the hunt for the cheapest, most efficient ways to keep their homes spick and span without spending money on branded cleaning products.
So with all this in mind, I’ve had a chat with my friend Luke Murfitt, founder of cleaning company Integrity Cleaning, to get money-saving tips.
His first piece of advice was to buy commercial cleaning fluids, like those his cleaners use on commercial properties, and then dilute them. ‘A five-litre bottle of Triple Clean concentrate is only £10.10 at Carecleanuk.com,’ he said.
‘Mix it at a ratio of 1 part cleaner to 80 parts water and it actually makes 400 litres, or enough to refill a 750ml trigger spray bottle over 533 times at a crazy 1.9p per refill!’ Just one five-litre bottle could last the average home a couple of years.
Those who do all the chores themselves, meanwhile, are on the hunt for the cheapest, most efficient ways to keep their homes spick and span without spending money on branded cleaning products
Stocking up on refillable bottles and cloths that you can just wash is another great way to cut cleaning costs, but if you would prefer to use eco-friendly products, the ‘green’ cleaning company Clean Living (CleanLivingInt.com) has cleaning packs of refillable aluminium bottles, reusable wipes and concentrated cleaning products that you dilute yourself with prices from £8.99 for a starter pack including the aluminium bottle, a sachet of concentrated solution and a micro-fibre cloth. Refills start from £1.99.
When it comes to removing dust from the house, nothing beats a good vacuum cleaner. ‘But don’t be taken in by the marketing for expensive vacuum cleaners,’ says Luke Murfitt.
‘The best one by far that professional cleaners use is the Henry. It costs about £130-£150, but that’s less than half what the Dyson machine is and it should last for years. All the parts are easily accessible and it’s much more efficient than other makes.’
I have pale carpets so I do have to get them professionally cleaned every now and then, so I was pleased to try out the VAX SpotWash Duo, (£139.99 including a 250ml VAX Spot Washer Cleaning Solution), which is a high initial cost but will save you money in the long run as getting professional cleaners in is not cheap.
It lifts stains well and is small enough to fit easily into the cupboard. You could always make the money back on the cost of buying it by hiring it out to friends and neighbours.
When it comes to cutting back on the cost of expensive products, not only is it cheaper to use store cupboard basics such as vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and baking soda to do the cleaning, it’s also more eco-friendly
Steam cleaners can make floors, walls and tiles shine without the effort of scrubbing. Again, it’s something of a cost upfront but Which? magazine recommends the Black and Decker steam cleaner at £57.99 as their top product. This is another machine you could hire out to others to recoup the cost.
When it comes to laundry, I haven’t used fabric conditioner for years since seeing research that showed it’s really not of much use. In fact, using fabric conditioner on towels makes them less absorbent A better way to fluff up towels is to put a large mugful of white vinegar in the washing machine’s drum during the rinse cycle.
Katherine Bell from another eco-cleaning company Smol says we should consider washing our clothes less. She adds: ‘If each UK household cut back by just one wash a month, together we’d save the same amount of energy as heating 43,000 homes for a year!’
When it comes to cutting back on the cost of expensive products, not only is it cheaper to use store cupboard basics such as vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and baking soda to do the cleaning, it’s also more eco-friendly.
Lisa, executive housekeeper at The Grand hotel in York, says you can wipe off caked-on grime in the microwave by first heating a cup of water with several tablespoons of vinegar and a chopped lemon on high until the microwave window is steamy. Let the bowl sit for 5 minutes and then wipe the dirt away.’
In the bathroom, she says: ‘First spray vinegar all over the bathroom glass, let it sit for a few moments then mix equal amounts of baking soda and salt to make a paste. Use a moistened sponge to rub this paste on the surfaces and rinse well.’ Jane Baptist, one of the cleaners at Integrity Cleaning, adds: ‘You can use one part water to one part white vinegar for descaling the kettle. Fill the kettle up with the solution and leave overnight to easily remove limescale.’
That’s much nicer than the chemicals you usually find in commercial descaling packets. She also recommends a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water as a scouring cream for pans, cooker and sink.
Sarah Dempsey at Myjobquote.co.uk says a simple old, dampened toothbrush is great for cleaning your computer keyboard. I tried it and it’s true!
Alex Woollam, founder of Waterline Plumbing, says you don’t need to use expensive detergent to clean the dishwasher either. ‘Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge and add enough water to make a paste-like substance,’ he says. ‘Make sure to turn on your dishwasher before squirting the solution into the washing machine’s spray arm. Run the cycle as usual and let everything cool down.’
The carpet seller Tapi says a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar is even good for your carpets. Just spread bicarbonate of soda over your carpet and work it into the fibres with a stiff brush, before letting it sit overnight. Vacuum the baking soda up in the morning and then fill a spray bottle with equal parts of vinegar and cold water. spray into the carpet and work with a stiff brush, and your carpet will be as good as new!
Elle McAtamney of TopCashBack.co.uk says: ‘Cola can be used to clean rust or water stains and baby oil is great for polishing stainless steel.’
The cleaning experts at Good Housekeeping also say baby oil is good for removing stickers on surfaces. Sainsbury’s own-brand is £1.50 for 300ml. Good Housekeeping suggests using nail varnish remover to clean product build-up on hair straighteners. It shouldn’t be used on anything else as it is far too strong.
Tea can also be used as a cleaner. Fill a bowl with a litre of boiling water, add a teabag and wait for the water to cool. Then use to clean mirrors, taps, glass oven doors and microwaves. Lynsey Crombie, cleaning expert on ITV’s This Morning, says if you drop in a used teabag while soaking pots and pans, the tannins help to lift any residue.
Got a question for Jasmine? Email her at AskJasmine @MoneyMagpie.com
Cheap treat for half term? Pick your own pumpkins
Just when everyone is trying to cut back on the bills, it’s half-term and the kids will need to be entertained.
But there are cheap, and even free, ways to entertain the children outside the home. To find out what free events are taking place near you, go to magicfreebiesuk.co.uk/cheap-and-free-days-out.
Pumpkin-picking has become a great October day out. You do have to pay for your pumpkin, but it’s a cheap way to have family fun. The Big Family Little Adventures website has a list of pumpkin fields at bigfamilylittleadventures.co.uk.
In London, there’s the free, family friendly Halloween Trick or Treat Trail around Covent Garden from October 28-30. Sign up at the Covent Garden Mum website (coventgardenmum.com) to get the trail details. The Royal Parks is running Hair-Raising Halloween in Hyde Park from October 25-27 (royalparks.org.uk).
Next week you can treat the kids to some restaurant nosh for very little. Frankie & Benny’s is letting adults eat free for one visit so long as they have an accompanying child under the age of 11 (frankieandbennys.com).
ASDA is keeping its ‘kids eat for £1’ deal going until January. Parents don’t have to buy a meal for themselves in order for the kids to qualify.
And M&S cafés have brought back their Kids Eat Free deal until October 28 — £5 or more must be spent on an adult’s food or drink to qualify.
Nifty apps that’ll chop grocery bills
Food inflation is at a record 12.1 per cent, so it has never been so important to get the best deals on your supermarket shop.
Happily, there are a few apps and websites around that can help you pick the cheapest places to buy your shopping essentials.
The best one I have tried is Trolley (trolley.co.uk) which enables you to compare 130,000 products and 7,000 brands across more than 15 supermarkets and shops from Aldi to Wilko. The prices are updated daily and include promotional offers. My team at MoneyMagpie.com tested it with Yorkshire Tea and we found that you can sort it by the lowest price, choose stores to see if a product is in stock and select alternative brands, size and quantity. It is easy to see where to save money.
There’s also Priceable (priceable.co.uk), which you can use to compare prices or find out where the latest deals are. It tracks more than 150,000 products daily from the UK’s top supermarkets and enables you to compare grocery prices, discounts and multi-buy offers, too. You can work out the best price for your shopping overall.
Then there’s a tool on LatestDeals.co.uk for comparing prices within its app. It’s free but we didn’t find it particularly user-friendly.
My Supermarket Compare (mysupermarketcompare.co.uk) compares Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Superdrug among others. Like Supermarket Comparison, this site only lets you put in single items to find where they are cheapest.
And Shelf-Scraper is a basic website (shelfscraper.herokuapp.com) that would appeal to ‘nerd shoppers’ who like to see exactly what’s good value by using spreadsheets.
Night at the ballet... for only a fiver
Have you ever thought of yourself as a seat-filler? No, I haven’t either, but if you’re willing to put yourself forward as one you could get cheap or even free tickets to theatre shows.
Sign up for free, or download the app, at centraltickets.co.uk. It says on the website that members pay only £4-6.50 for theatre, music, dance, opera, classical music, talks and movies by becoming a seat-filler. The tickets may be for random seats at events that you wouldn’t have thought of going to but it can open your eyes to a wealth of culture for just a few quid.
Do you have a garden that you just don’t have the time or energy to look after? Well, there’s a free website, run by volunteers, that aims to put garden owners together with local garden lovers. Called Lend And Tend (lendandtend.com), it’s free to sign up to and you might get someone to look after your garden for free or find a local private garden that needs your tlc.
According to American Express, a third of us are planning on buying books for friends and relatives this Christmas. If that’s your intention, you can cut the cost for yourself by picking up hardback books for £5 at Foxlane Books on Fridays at foxlanebooks.co.uk. The rest of the week they have half-price bargains on their sale page. All the books are fiction titles, some of them signed copies, including books by Alison Weir, Louis de Bernieres and Joanne Harris.
Did you know car manufacturer Peugeot made pepper mills long before it made cars? The 2022 kitchenware collection includes the now iconic salt and pepper grinders, as well as beautifully designed bakeware and wine accessories. Have a look at uk.peugeot-saveurs.com/en/ and use the code JASMINE20 at the checkout to get a 20 per cent discount until November 5.