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cleaning supplies, paper towels, window cleaner, spongeCorbis

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.

  • Linda

    If you don't want to use newspapers on glass, use coffee filters. Same result. I worked at Burger King as a teenager and the manager told me to wash the glass doors with coffee filters. I stood there for a minute trying to see if she was going to laugh at me when I did it, lol. They work.

  • Irishroyal

    The best glass cleaner in the world is rubbing alcohol, wiped dry with newsprint. Your glass will sparkle, and it only costs pennies (not to mention recycling the newsprint).

  • Gene Rundle

    Best way to clean glass is with a coffee filter. They are cheap to buy and they do not leave any lint.

  • GB

    I still use "blue stuff" to clean my windows, but I buy it in gallon jugs at the auto parts store. Windshield washer fluid costs less per gallon than Windex in a quart bottle. Another good money saving use for it is in place of the high priced wallpaper removers.

  • TucsonMatt

    Well, all I can say is that when my cat pukes on the floor, I would much rather grab some paper towels than use a rag and then have to clean it out!

  • Caroline

    About the person who says not to microwave their sponge. . . it is very safe and effective. . but it's supposed to be very WET! Wet it thoroughly and place in a microwave safe dish. I'm thinking your friend probably threw a dry sponge in there.

  • Di

    Drop dead

  • Miss Lou

    My cousin, the inquizitor wants to know where and what are Non linting cloths wher can she find these?????

  • Linda A.

    A $4.00 roll of paper towels?!?! You've GOT to be kidding, right? I recently picked up an eight (8) pack of Bounty on sale for $5.00. I usually don't use a sheet of paper towelling just once then toss it, unless it's heavily soiled. It's just not practical to use a cloth towel for every little spill and mishap. As for sponges, they can be washed in the washing machine and reused. As for glass cleaner, my Grandma used newspaper and ammonia (and I think white vinegar, too). I make my own glass and chrome cleaner by mixing a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% rubbing alcohol and keep it in a plastic spray bottle. I like it a lot better than any commercial glass and chrome cleaner I've ever used. Baking soda is also a good cleaner to keep around. It's good for removing odors, and not just from the fridge.

  • 29 Comments / 2 Pages

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