Cheaper ways to clean

HOUSTON Georgine Kaczmarek has loads of cleaning products in her cabinets that promise to add sparkle and shine to every room in her home.

"Everything and anything, I have a use for each one," she said.

But Sue Perry from Consumer Reports ShopSmart says cutting back on cleaning products can save you money.

"We found you don't need a whole army of cleaners to get a clean home," Perry said. "For instance, you don't need cleaners labeled antibacterial for the most part. And over-using these cleaners can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

What's essential? An all-purpose cleaner, like ammonia, works well. Just be sure to dilute it according to the instructions. You can keep it in a squirt bottle for everyday cleaning jobs around the house.

You see lots of bathroom cleaners on store shelves but you can save there, too.

"You can skip a separate toilet bowl cleaner," advised Perry. "A little all-purpose cleaner in the bowl works just fine."

As for the rest of the bathroom, Consumer Reports tests show Scratch-free Comet Disinfectant with Bleach works wonders on shower-scum and on sinks and counters throughout the house.

For stainless steel, a little undiluted liquid dish detergent cleans as well as special stainless-steel cleaners.

"When it comes to your kitchen floor, you need to buy something that's formulated for the type of floor you need to clean," Perry said. "But if you have a wooden floor, hot water and a slightly damp mop is all you need."

Finally, Consumer Reports' top-rated Windex No Drip foaming action will let the sun shine through your windows into your sparkling clean home.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart says be aware ammonia cannot be mixed with bleach because that creates dangerous fumes. And because ammonia is a harsh chemical, it's important to wear gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes.

For some cleaners, you don't need to buy a product at all. In fact there are dozens of homemade cleaning products you can put together yourself and save you even more. Those solutions range from air fresheners, glass cleaners, and even tricks to use less detergent. Because it takes a bit of mixing to get the formulas just right, we'll have them for you on my consumer blog.

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