The Practical Housekeeper

Just take a spin down the cleaning aisle at the supermarket, and you'll realize the cruel reality of housekeeping: Getting your home clean and organized can cost a lot of money. There has to be a better way. So we asked housekeeping experts for their best money-saving tips to help you maintain your standards without breaking the bank.

Pare Down the Potions
Buy strategically, thinking double and even triple duty, says Julie Edelman, author of The Ultimate Accidental Housewife: Your Guide to a Clean-Enough House. "Regular glass cleaner is my favorite; you can use it instead of separate products for windows, counters and other surfaces." If you can, buy in bulk and decant into smaller reusable containers to store in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Concentrate!
Check out concentrated cleaners, which you dilute with water, says Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet. "They use less packaging, which saves resources, and because they're concentrated, one bottle lasts longer, so it's less expensive."

Take Stock
Before you hit the cleaning aisle, get reacquainted with what's under your sinks. Pull out everything: Do you have two opened bottles of wood floor cleaner? Three kinds of carpet spot remover? It's easy to buy new stuff when you're not sure what you already have, says Edelman.

Don't Treat the Cleaning Aisle Like Baskin-Robbins
There may be more than 31 ways to clean a toilet, but don't waste your money on every one. "What gets expensive is trying all those disposable wipes, mops and toilet brush thingies," says Carolyn Erickson, a former housecleaner and contributing writer to The Housekeeping Channel. Stick to a few basics like your toilet brush and some cleanser.

Maintain What You Own
Instead of relegating your old vacuum cleaner to the junk heap, get it cleaned and serviced once a year to keep it humming, says Erickson.

Avoid Throwaways
Use microfiber cloths rather than paper towels; dust rags (old T-shirts, for example) instead of disposable dust cloths; and an old-fashioned mop (with a removable, machine-washable head) rather than a mopping "system."

Clean as You Go
The tidier you keep things, the less often you'll have to do a big scrub, says Edelman, so you'll use cleansers less frequently. When soaping up kids in the tub, use a non-oily bubble bath or shampoo, and swish out the tub afterward. Rinse well, and keep a microfiber cloth on hand to shine the faucets and quickly wipe down the edges (where soap spills collect).

Pause Before Washing
Often, "dirty" clothes just need airing (or a spritz with a fabric freshener), says Alicia Rockmore, organization expert and coauthor of Everything (Almost) in Its Place. No need to fill a washer with once-worn jeans.

Fold Like the Gap
Seriously! Folding shirts and sweaters neatly keeps clothes in good shape and wrinkle-free, so they'll last longer without needing to be replaced. Tops thrown all over are more likely to be tossed in the wash because you're not sure what's clean, says Rockmore.

Share the Big Stuff
You want to keep your carpets shampooed, wood floors polished and a tall ladder in the garage, but do you really need to buy all these heavy-duty items? Instead of shelling out a lot of cash, get together with neighbors and share them.

Wash Smart
Using your dishwasher? Forgo the rinse-hold cycle (it uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water!) and the heated drying cycle-both use a ton of energy. And dishes will still sparkle if you use half the recommended amount of detergent.

Schedule Tasks to Save
If you have several loads of laundry to do, tackle as many as you can in one day; your dryer uses less energy when it runs consecutive loads. Same goes for ironing: Better to iron a week's worth of shirts in one go.

For more great tips on cleaning house, check out WomansDay.com.