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Cover your mom's eyes -- we're about to reveal the four classic cleaning products you never have to use again!

I had an epiphany recently. Sure, it was cleaning-related, but an epiphany nonetheless. I noticed that several of my go-to cleaning products have been m.i.a. from my shopping list. I was out of stock and I hadn't even realized it.

And what's most surprising is that once upon a time, I thought I'd need these cleaning essentials for the rest of my life! I mean, my mom has always used them. Your mom most likely has too.These are everyday cleaning tools you pretty much take for granted - the things you stock up on or buy in bulk from big-box stores like BJ's and Costco.

But these products are now gone from my cleaning caddy, and guess what? I don't miss them. I've found that using the greener alternative for each of these products is just as effective -- plus it's better for the environment and easier on my wallet.

So, without further ado, here are the four cleaning "essentials" you never need to buy again.

These kitchen standbys provide the perfect environment for germs and bacteria to thrive. In fact, kitchen sponges are among the biggest germ magnets in the entire house -- even sponges that claim to be anti-microbial. So I'm a dishcloth convert -- particularly cotton dishcloths with a highly absorbent waffle weave. Unlike sponges, dishcloths are easy to wash and sanitize. I have a few on hand and just toss them in the wash weekly with my tea towels and microfiber cloths, so I never need to replace them. (Contrary to some published reports, dishwashers are not designed to clean and sanitize soft, spongy objects like kitchen sponges.) I love not needing to plunk down a few dollars on a replacement sponge every couple weeks.Aside from the sanitary factor, dishcloths allow you to feel the dirt with your fingers and apply more pressure to remove it.

Standard dryer sheets coat fabric with a thin layer of a chemical softening agent, which helps them feel soft to the touch and reduces static cling. I now use wool dryer balls, which are completely natural and chemical-free. Four wool dryer balls tossed in the dryer with a load gives my clothes that nice bounce. Plus, they're reusable, so I don't have to spend money on boxes of disposable dryer sheets anymore. Granted, dryer balls are not cheap, but they pay for themselves over time. (Or you can make your own dryer balls!) As a bonus, wool dryer balls actually help my clothes dry about 30% faster (a benefit that dryer sheets don't offer). So I'm saving money at the laundromat, and I'm saving energy.

Of all the cleaning products I ditched for good, I was most skeptical about getting rid of paper towels. What about spills?, I thought. I'm a klutzy person so it seemed unfathomable to make it through even one week without a roll of Bounty. But I stocked up on a half-dozen reusable, non-linting cleaning cloths instead. With the first spill, I found they are much more absorbent than a paper towel. This little cloth cleaned up a big soda spill. At first, I had my last roll of paper towels around just in case I encountered a sticky situation -- like peanut butter. But I've found that I always seem to have some paper napkins around from a take-out delivery (if you just toss these napkins out with the trash, stop! Hang on to them for emergencies). For liquid spills, reusable cloths work even better than paper towels and can be tossed into the laundry with the towels. I love knowing that I'm saving so much paper and waste by using these cloths. I'm definitely saving money, too. And no, I didn't invent this idea. This is one of those ares in which our grandmothers were green before our era of convenience. They were washing their cleaning rags rather than picking up a $4 roll of paper towels. I guess some traditions should never go out of style.

Once upon a time, I thought that specialty cleaner -- you know, that ubiquitous blue stuff -- was a must-have for your cleaning caddy. Years ago, I learned that many cleaning experts don't opt for a window or glass cleaner to make their windows and glass shine. It turns out that a simple few squirts of dishsoap in a bucket of warm water makes the best solution for cleaning windows and glass. (Others swear by white vinegar.) And, since you've ditched your paper towels, use newspaper to buff glass to a shiny finish -- it won't leave lint or streaks behind.

Trust me, I was a doubter at first. But using the green alternatives exclusively for just a few months made me a believer. Give it a shot; you've got nothing to lose -- except, perhaps, part of your carbon footprint.

  • C-gilman

    You can microwave the sponge to kill germs.

  • Terri

    Please don't microwave a sponge! My friend did that and it caught fire & ruined her microwave. Just throw out the old sponges & buy new ones.

  • Michael

    I much prefer sponges over dishcloths. Sponges contour themselves to the nooks and crannies of various items being cleaned, whereas cloths do not. When I wash any dishes, I always add a small amount of bleach to the dishwater to kill germs that may harbor in the sponge or water. I feel much safer with the job I do with a sponge.

  • T  M Loving

    Ditching dryer sheets for dryer balls doesn't work in my part of the country. The static electricity that is left in my clothes would electrocute a grown man! Dryer sheets aren't just for making clothes soft in my house and there is no way I'd ditch them for any time period, much less forever.

  • E

    More liberal AOL bullshyt.

  • Messa

    So, only liberals want to save money? I think they make medications for people like you, E. You might want to look into that.



  • bj

    I thought saving money was a CONSERVATIVE thing?????

  • XYandZ

    E is just another spendthrift Republican, who doesn't even honor the traditional American values of his grandparents, like thrift. If he even IS an American.

  • Jane

    Dryer sheets are also good for more than drying and softening clothes. You can put them in crusty casserole dishes with warm water to loosen up the food and also use them for drawer and shoe deodorizers. I'm sure there are also other uses for them which escape my memory right now but for those of us who can't afford expensive things they work ok and I can even use some of them twice although "they" tell us not to. Oh well!

  • GetReal

    I use them in my dresser drawers, too! I didn't know that about casserole dishes.

  • Jane

    I won't ditch the dryer sheets. They are good for other things besides clothes. You can put them in a crusty casserole dish with warm water and they will soften the food so you don't have to scrub so hard. They also deodorize dresser drawers and inside shoes. Also some of us can sometimes use them twice although "they" tell us not to, because we simply cannot afford the other more expensive products. Oh well!

  • Tammy

    If you do use a dish cloth make sure you santize that in the microwave as well unless you use a clean one every day. They are germ factories just like sponges if they aren't santizied. Also dryer sheets have cancer causing chemicals in them that disperse onto your cloths when they are in the dryer with them so you get to breath those chemicals in when you wear the clothing. Same with air fresheners. They have cancer causing chemicals in them and every time you breath the smell in you are breathing in the chemicals. Best to just stay away from that kind of stuff. No wonder people are getting cancer of whatever for any little thing these days.

  • Mike

    BEWARE !!! Life causes death !!

  • Mary Rose

    I am not going to go around cleaning up cat vomit on a regular basis with cloth rags that I have to rinse out and wash. Cat vomit and the paper towel used to clean it up go into the trash. The same for any kind of pet urine stains. I am not going to use anything other than paper towels to absorb pet urine. If I have meat that has leaked blood all over the refrigerator. I am using paper towels to clean up the mess. If a human in our house vomits due to having an upset stomach and misses the bucket. I am using paper towels to clean up the mess. The Queen of Clean said to never use newspapers on windows. The ink can make them dirty.

  • Charlie

    My Grandmother used vinigar & newspaper to clean her windows. It's poor advice today because of the ink currently used in newspapers (your hands will be black). Cheap paper towels are less 'linty' than the more absorbant towels and rags. That 'blue stuff'' is better for mirrors than soap (less fogging) and for ceramic tile and counter tops (no residue). Dryer sheets are great static eliminators but aren't necessary if you use fabric softener in the wash.

  • Cathie in LV

    Here are some other tips from my mom & grandmom. Vinegar has disinfectant qualities and repels dust. Makes a floor shine and can cool a sunburn (if you can stand the smell). It makes a dandy "softner" or soap remover in laundry, especially if you are going to hang your laundry on the line outside. We always used dishcloths and rags for cleaning especially really soft old undershirts and diapers. Yeah, I know hardly anybody uses cloth diapers anymore, but they are great for absorbing spills. Maybe we will all be admiring the wisdom of those depression era homemakers who made do with it, used up and wore it out.

  • GetReal

    Sorry, but there's no replacement for a good kitchen sponge (especially with a no-scratch scrubber side). You can boil sponges in hot water for half an hour or more to deodorize them and clean out the gunk. After every use, rinse them in hot water and squeeze them out hard, then prop them up in a sunny window, don't set them down.

  • kevin

    Some dollar stores carry good paper towel. I get mine at family dollar. Works just fine.

  • L

    I have always used dishrags, I wash them in with my whites with bleach. I have paper towels around but use them seldom, I do like them for really messy spills like a broken egg. A case of papertowels will last me over a year and I do use the cheap ones which work just fine. Not sure about getting rid of my glass cleaner but I've heard this before and one of these days, I may try vinegar (I like the smell, reminds me of dying Easter eggs). I also use the balls for the dryer but still have some dryer sheets around for the dresser drawers and really, really static-y things like afghans. First time I used the balls when I washed an afghan, everything else in the load was stuck to the afghan. Always liking hearing about ways to save money and the planet.

  • 29 Comments / 2 Pages

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