8 Ways to Make Your Cleaning Products Last Longer
Make the items you already own work harder.
During any type of emergency (but especially during a pandemic) some people hoard supplies, whether toilet paper, canned goods, or cleaning essentials. And unless companies place limits on bulk purchases, it can be difficult to prevent. But before you panic about running out of disinfecting wipes or sanitizer, take a deep breath. Home organization and cleaning experts explain there are many ways to make your cleaning products stretch further and last longer. The trick is adopting these strategies the next time you do a deep clean.
1. Focus on the Highest-Trafficked Areas
When you’re worried about germs, it can be second nature to want to scrub every last square inch of your space. But Mary Gagliardi, also known as "Dr. Laundry," the in-house specialist and cleaning expert for Clorox, says it’s better to limit your cleaning regimen to high-trafficked areas if you’re trying to conserve your products. This includes anything you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, countertops, and the refrigerator door, and anywhere your family gathers. Not only does focusing your efforts to these spots conserve your limited cleaning products but it’s smart for your health, too. “Prioritizing the disinfection of high-touch surfaces helps reduce the chance that infection will spread,” she adds.
Heather Kauffman, a cofounder of Full Circle Home, also advises setting up house rules for leaving and re-entering your home, like removing your shoes and washing your hands once you're inside, as this can diminish the spread of germs.
2. Limit Your Prep Space
You might adore your partner for their ability to whip up culinary masterpieces. But if he or she is a messy sous chef, it’s time to cut down on counter space. Brian Sansoni, vice president of communication for the American Cleaning Institute, says it’s best to limit your meal prep surface so you don’t need as much product to clean up after serving meals. The same is true for other surfaces throughout your home; utilize only a small area to reduce cleaning. Sansoni doesn’t recommend diluting products, as it could cause them to be less powerful, but you can prevent yourself from running through them quickly by cleaning smaller areas.
3. Only Use What You Need
As the world's focus shifts to sustainability, we're living in a new normal where every last bit counts, and decluttering expert and author Kathi Lipp suggests examining just how much you're using each time you clean. “Now is the time to evaluate how much detergent you really need,” she says. “Read the packaging and see how much detergent is recommended for the load you’re washing.” You could be using more than necessary.
4. Think Before You Clean
Georgia Dixon, a cleaning expert for Grove Collective, says there are ways to multitask our cleaning efforts to reduce waste. As an example, before you dip your mop in the mop bucket, use the cleaning solution and a rag to wipe down surfaces like handrails or windowsills. And when you fill your sink to do dishes, she says to use the fresh sudsy water and a cloth to wipe down your counters, stovetops, and fridge. “Use microfiber cloths, rags or even old T-shirts across multiple rooms for dusting or cleaning," Dixon says. "Unlike paper towels or wipes, these can be laundered along with your regular household laundry and used indefinitely." To prevent contamination, make sure to wash these fabrics after you use them and do not dip back into your cleaning solution with a dirty rag.
5. Let Cleaning Products Sit
Regardless of which cleaning products you use, it’s important to not rush the process. While you might be pinched for time, Kauffman says most of us don’t allow products to sit long enough, causing us to use more. Gagliardi explains that most EPA-registered disinfectants or sanitizers will recommend the appropriate "setting time." Generally, she says these rules apply:
- Mopping or cleaning with a half cup of bleach requires five to six minutes of contact time before rinsing
- You should wait at least 30 seconds before wiping away most disinfecting sprays
- After wiping any surface with disinfectant wipes, you should allow the surface to dry for four minutes
6. Spray the Surface, Not the Cloth
Believe it or not, you’ll actually use less cleaner if you spray it directly on your surface than on a cloth. How come? According to Gagliardi, the towel can soak up some of the solution and cause you to use the incorrect amount to disinfect. This doesn’t mean you need to saturate the area you’re sprucing up, just be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. “The important thing is that the right amount of a product is applied to a surface so that the surface stays visibly wet for a specified period of time,” she says. Gagliardi also recommends using water to rinse away the disinfectant after usage to prevent buildup.
7. Utilize Multiuse Products
Get creative with your cleaning products. Just because you’re running low on disinfectant wipes, doesn’t mean you’re out of effective cleaning supplies. Generally, Gagliardi recommends a cleaner with a label that reads: "Kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria." This signals it’s a disinfectant, which is the only type of cleaner approved by the EPA to kill coronavirus germs on hard surfaces. You should also look on the back panel for the EPA registration number to ensure it’s passed the test. Once you've confirmed your bathroom cleaner meets these regulations, you can use it to clean your doorknobs or countertops too. And remember, the CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
8. Take Advantage of All-Purpose Cleaners
Lipp says most of us designate specific products for various rooms. This spray cleaner for the bathroom, that one for the kitchen, and so on. But many of the solutions are meant to be multi-functional. “You may just be using it for surface cleaning, but the label tells you that it is also a degreaser, a spot cleaner for fabric, and even a carpet cleaner,” she explains. “It’s time to discover the power you already have sitting in that bottle and all the ways that ‘multi-purpose’ is really true."