Are name-brand cleaning products worth the extra money? Sometimes yes, but often no, according to Cheapism.
An online consumer guide for the super-thrifty, Cheapism compiled the results of expert tests and consumer reviews of popular cleaners, store brands and homemade alternatives to sort out the real bargains from money- and time-wasters.
Max Levitte, co-founder of Cheapism, offered these results and tips of their spring cleaning study:
Windows: Pitted against bargain glass cleaners, Windex rated best. The name brand gave the best polish and left no residue. Meanwhile, the bargain cleaners' performance was a little streaky. A frugal alternative: windshield cleaner. Available at automotive supply stores, it costs less than $2 per gallon, and performed as well as Windex.
Laundry: Tide 2X Ultra (which costs about 23 cents per load) rated tops in performance. Generic laundry detergents don't clean clothes as well, and powder formulas often don't fully dissolve, leaving clumps on clothes, say the experts. For light loads, Costco's Kirkland laundry detergent (14 cents a load) did the job well at a bargain price.
Dusting: Consumers and experts say generic dusting spray works just as well as Pledge, the top brand (at 53 cents an ounce). Kleen Guard Fresh Lemon Furniture Polish (18 cents an ounce) was a bargain standout, Levitte said. Save money on dust cloths by recycling dryer sheets or repurposing old athletic socks.
Floors: The Swiffer-type mop works great on tile or linoleum, but it requires expensive refill pads that don't necessarily outperform generic refills costing up to 60 percent less. For the extra frugal, the mop sheets can be flipped over and used again. Or wash them in a mesh laundry bag for multiple uses. A super-cheap alternative: A simple string mop or sponge mop paired with homemade floor cleaner (1/4 cup white vinegar mixed with one quart of warm water).
Tile and grout: Generic or homemade tile and grout cleaners worked just as well as name-brand options, but required more time to get results (and a little more elbow grease). A spray bottle filled with half vinegar and half water is a good mild cleaner and disinfectant for bathroom and kitchen tiles. It also works on most counters. For moldy grout, a baking soda paste works best. Wet baking soda with just enough vinegar to make a paste; add in salt for those hard-to-reach spots. Use lemon juice for discolored tile. Let baking soda paste and lemon juice sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing off.
Multipurpose cleaning: Bleach the most common disinfectant is bleach, regardless of the brand, according to Cheapism. Go for the generic.
For more tips, click on www.cheapism.com.
Plant seeds for beets, carrots, celery, chard, endive, fennel, jicama, mustard, radish, spinach and turnips.
It's your last chance to plant such "cool weather" bedding plants as pansies, violas and primroses.
Flowers that can be planted from seed directly into the garden include alyssum, aster, celosia, cosmos, four o'clocks, marigold, morning glory, periwinkle, portulaca, salvia, sunflower, verbena and zinnia.
Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings. Plant seed potatoes.
When the soil dries out a little after spring rains, plant dahlia tubers. Wet ground may cause the tubers to rot. Remember: Dahlias need good drainage.
Plant other summer-flowering bulbs such as tuberous begonias, callas and gladiola.
Trim dead flowers (but not leaves) from daffodils and other spring bulbs. Also, give them a boost of phosphate-rich fertilizer to help the bulbs form next year's blooms.
Pinch back chrysanthemums to 12 inches to encourage fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.