Clean It Before You Replace It

Several years ago I was reading an article about Cuba (I think it was in National Geographic) and part of it was about how the Cuban people were dealing with the embargo. Few people had automobiles, and most of those who did were driving cars made before the embargo began in 1960. The people who owned the old cars were using them to earn money by making deliveries or acting as taxies. Because spare parts were such a rarity, when a car broke down the driver would simply get out and begin taking the motor apart, cleaning each piece one by one, then reassemble it and hope for the best. If it worked he was on his way again and if not the process was repeated.

Much has been written chastising us Americans for our throwaway culture, most of which I agree with. But rather than take us to task for our wastefulness I was inspired by remembering the Cubans forced industriousness and got to thinking of my own experiences with cleaning before replacing.

Interior walls – Before repainting try filling up a bucket with soapy water and scrubbing them down. That could be all they need to look new again.

Exterior walls – Same applies here. Buy a hose end house wash and spray it down to remove stains, mildew and dirt before you consider painting or siding.

Carpet – Compare the price of installing new carpet versus the cost of having it professionally cleaned. If you are confident enough look into renting a machine and doing it yourself.

Tools – While I try to keep my tools clean and in good shape there are times occasionally when something gets left outside, or rust appears on a tool seldom used. When that happens I clean it up with a wire wheel, or use a mixture of lemon juice and salt and scrub it with steel wool.

Furniture – If your upholstered furniture is looking a little grubby try cleaning it yourself with upholstery cleaner of hire a professional. Many carpet cleaners also clean upholstery. If it cleans up well you will have saved a lot of money by not having to replace it.

Wood Fences and Decks – Treated wood can turn grey eventually because of the elements and green because of mildew. Cleaning products are available from hardware and home improvement stores and a fresh coat of stain can transform weather worn wood. If you decided to pressure wash wood make sure you use a very low pressure setting.

Electronics – There are cleaning kits available for VHS, CD, DVD and Blu-ray players and a can of compressed air is unbeatable to clean the dust out of your computer.

I’m sure I have missed some good ideas…what do you try cleaning before replacing?

Related Reading:

How to Save Money by Salvaging 

Ten Best Home Improvement and DIY Sites 


  1. My biggie is cleaning, conditioning, and polishing leather boots and shoes regularly.

  2. These are really a money saving idea. I have an attitude to just throw things and buy a new one instead of wasting time trying to fix it. But then you're right, it will really save me a lot of money.

  3. I agree heavily with this... some nasty old items suddenly become like new after a good cleaning. I opened up my old laptop and gave it a good cleanout (living in Cairo, it gets dusty inside) and it worked like new!


  4. Cleaning can really make a big change. It will make the things in your home look like new. And it's a lot more affordable than buying brand new stuff. I love cleaning and redecorating my home. But in times of trouble, like cleaning the harder ones, I really seek for help. Oftentimes, I asked somebody to clean my carpet. Grand Rapids, Michigan cleaning professionals are very courteous, and very friendly to their clients, so I always seek help from them when it's time for carpet cleaning.


Agree? Disagree? Questions? Leave a comment!