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Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung which means it's time to clean out the cupboards, dust the tellie and catch up on those cleaning jobs that have a habit of ending up on the "to do" list.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Spring has sprung which means it’s time to clean out the cupboards, dust the tellie and catch up on those cleaning jobs that have a habit of ending up on the “to do” list. Well to do no longer – here are some money saving cleaning tips from members of the Oily Rag Club.

Cheryl M. from Greymouth says, “I have found that Sugar Soap can be great for getting oily stains out of clothes.  It might be an idea to test it on an area that isn't visible in case the dye bleeds but I have found it to be quite successful.”

Sue from Kaitaia also recommends sugar soap. “I use it for cleaning walls, ceilings, floors and to wash the car. It is really good at getting road grime off the car and does not leave waxy marks on the windows. In fact, it has been removing the wax spots that were already there. I also use it in the window washers of the car. It is cheaper than car wash products and does a better job. It is also great in the house and you don't need several different products. It removes mould and grease from walls and ceilings with ease and leaves everything looking nice. Spray and Wipe unusually bleaches the patch where it is sprayed and the walls end up looking blotchy. Sugar Soap is not too expensive and is available at supermarkets.”

Ross writes, “We have many friends with glass fronted wood-burners in their lounges. They use many commercial cleaning preparations to clean the glass – over time this amounts to a significant cost. A simple no-cost solution is to use the ash itself to clean the glass. We have used this for around ten years, and the glass is still like new. Take three pieces of paper towel. Hold one piece under a tap to saturate it with water. Dip this repeatedly in the cold ash and use it to clean the glass. It will come clean within seconds. Use the remaining two pieces to wipe the glass clean and dry. Make sure you have a piece of newspaper spread under the open door to catch the drips as you clean!”

Lots of readers use baking soda for cleaning. Twin Mum from Masterton uses it to remove grease stains. “Try making a paste of baking soda and a few drops of water. Work the paste into the grease stain and rinse with warm water. Repeat a couple of times if needed. The baking soda will help remove the grease while also removing any smell.”

Another reader sprinkles baking soda on the bath without water and uses a brush to scrub off the grime, while a reader from Reporoa says when applied with a damp cloth baking soda is good for cleaning sinks, basins, polishing stainless steel, as well as deodorising and cleaning thermos flasks.”

Chooki1 from Wanganui recommends baking soda to get the smell of cat urine out of fabric or carpet.  "Try sponging with baking soda and water until just damp. Sprinkle baking soda onto this dampened patch, wait until it is dry then vacuum. Repeat if there is still an odour there. When dry, spray lightly with white vinegar (acts as a deterrent). Good luck! If kitty continues to use that spot, try feeding him/her there – they don't like to eat where they wee or wee where they eat."

J.H from Auckland has a cheap tip for cleaning paths and exterior walls. “Save a bucket of washing water on wash days. Add a couple of handfuls of Baking Soda (bought at a bulk bin store) and add a good slurp of bleach. Scrub gently onto surface and rinse. The results are great and lasting.”

If you have favourite cleaning tips then share them with the oily rag community of frugal thinkers. Log on to our website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at