Ready to Replace it? Maybe You Just Need to Clean it!

by Katy on July 10, 2012 · 24 comments

It’s very easy to replace your Stuff when it gets worn out, but I’m here to tell you that your first step should always be to rejuvenate that item before replacing it. (Of course, if it’s a safety issue, then please, replace away!)

My first example of cleaning instead of replacing is the rock wall in my backyard that my sister built four years ago. Yes, I realize that this example is a bit extreme, as very few people would replace a rock wall just because it was looking drab and uninspired, but bear with me. It’s a way to get a fresh new look without buying anything new.

Pardon the pun, but the before and afters is powerful. (Because, you know, I used a power washer. Oh . . . never mind.)

The inspiration was that my next-door-neighbors bought a power washer. I am a firm believer in mutual moochiness when it comes to neighborly relations, so I started salivating as I watched my neighbor spray down his this, his that and his everything. Luckily, they were happy to share the wealth, so we set up a time for a how-to lesson and then left me to my own devices.

Here’s a before shot of my rock wall. Do you see all the variation in stone? Nope, I didn’t think so.

And here’s the after shot. Bow down in all the texture in the stone, as well as the rich red iron content of some of the rocks. And if you look to the right side of the picture, you might spy a large chunk of amethyst. I bet it escaped your notice in the first photo. (Please, click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Here’s the before photo of the brick steps. Dirt, mildew, moss, we’ve got it all!

And the after shot. Clean, bright and with chock full of definition! I  highly doubt you noticed the detail of small stones set between the outer circle of bricks in the before photo.

My second example of cleaning instead of replacing is this filthy patio umbrella canopy. My mother, (bless her heart) is not so good about taking her outdoor furnishings out of the elements during the rainy season. (October through mid-July.) So she offered me her old patio umbrella, which was downright nasty looking. Agree?

I decided I would run the canopy through the washing machine, which I did adding laundry detergent, enzymatic cleaner and borax and for good measure. I even stopped the cycle for a few hours mid-way so it could enjoy a nice rejuvenating soak. I had thought I’d need to buy a packet of fabric dye to complete its My Fair Lady transformation. But it turned out to be completely unnecessary.

Because all the patio umbrella needed was a simple laundering. It’s now in perfect condition, (better than the one I garbage picked last year) and no one will care if the the inner and outer colors show differentiation.

Certainly not me.

And just for fun, here’s a photo of me getting’ busy with the power washer, which was super swell fun. (Seriously, it’s a blast to use!)

So remember, next time you look at your outdated, filthy or simply uninspiring Stuff, give it a scrub before you give it the ol’ heave-ho.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike | Homeless On Wheels July 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Great advice! And if it turns out that you still don’t want whatever it is you’ve just refurbished, you know it will be so much easier to sell or give away when it is looking its best.


Jacci July 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

We borrow my parents power washer and do the sidewalks and driveway every spring. It gets so clean and white it hurts our eyes (I am not exaggerating–this Texas sun is bright)! I think I love it so much because the transformation is instantaneous and cheap. We are maintaining our neighbors yard as they are selling it and moved out of town. I’m hoping to have my way with their driveway and sidewalks too!


rosarugosa July 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Your sister’s masonry work is fabulous – she’s a real artisan!


namastemama July 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Just cleaned our shower liner with bleach and the sun. Worked like a charm and good as new. Plus it keeps it out of the landfill.


Katy July 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I did the same thing today as well! I bought a fabric liner at Ikea just so that I could launder the ever-present Oregon mildew from it.



Renee CA July 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

If you have a plastic liner, it can go in the washer as well. Just add a couple of towels. Hang to dry.


Lindy July 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I actually bought a power washer this year and LOVE it! It does spiff up everything to looking new! And its fun to use. ha.


hydra July 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

WOW! I’m super impressed. Your wall looks so different, and your steps are even better.


Saving in the City July 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I enacted this philosophy just the other day with my hair brush… and wrote my first real post about it!

I fell down on the job of cleaning the product off of it and it was looking kind of grim. I started looking for a good one in the stores, which is an investment, and darn it, I liked the one I had at home! So I tried soaking it and scrubbing it with a toothbrush and… viola! It was like new!

Money saved and one hairbrush kept out of a landfill 🙂


Renee CA July 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm

One of my mottos: “Anything can be cleaned”. Loved the Don Aslett books for how to.


jennifer July 11, 2012 at 3:14 am

At first glance of the pic of you power washing I thought, “Man, Katy has got some serious tattos on her legs!! Then I realized, it’s just dirt! LOL! Great job power washing, it is fun!


Katy July 11, 2012 at 5:28 am

Ack, no! Not tattoos, but dirt and sand.



Paula in the UP July 16, 2012 at 12:03 am

Haha I thought the same thing !!! Was relieved to see it was just dirt when enlarging the pic !


Lucy July 11, 2012 at 4:15 am

I actually have a little side business wherein I buy very cheaply used horse tack that some spoiled little girl is getting rid of because it is dirty, cleaning it, and reselling it on eBay.

When I was a teen a friend of my parents gave me her daughter’s old saddle becasue it was dirty and gross and needed a minor repair. I cleaned it and repaired it myself and used it for another 30 years. It was quite presentable, too. I think that was the start of it for me.


Bellen July 11, 2012 at 4:53 am

Our rainy season results in lots of pretty green mold on almost every outdoor surface, especially the stucco finish on the house. We power wash it plus the screens, lanai, walks, drive, windows, lawn mower and anything else he can power wash – it is after all lots of fun.

My husband bought a better power washer than the one he had & sold the old one – so quickly and with so many responses he decided to buy another to refurbish & sell. He’s done it 4 times so far with always the same result – multiple calls and quick sales with a tidy profit. AND all of the refurbishing was quick cleaning to remove dirt and clogs with one needing replacement of the nozzle due to misuse. Tidy profit as well.


Alison July 11, 2012 at 6:06 am

This post made me realize that I’ve been reading your blog for over 4 years now (since I remember the posts about building the rock wall). Your blog is one of the few (actually the only one) I read faithfully and regularly. Thanks so much, Katy!


Katy July 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Aww, you’re welcome!



Trish July 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

There’s a product called blue coral dri clean that works great for cleaning stains on upholstery. gives you the ability to rescue an old piece of upholstered furniture or make your car seats look like new.


Linda from Mass July 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

I was looking for a used grill because my grill had seen better days and in the past year housed a rodent family and a family of birds. Since my husband wanted to buy a new grill instead of picking up a free one on the side of the road (I spied 3 in one weekend), I decided to clean out our grill. I cleaned out all the nests and nasty stuff. I put the grill on high for about 1 hour to sanitize and then power washed the inside. Again, I turned the grill on high for about 20 minutes or so and finished by adding new lava rocks. The grill works great and is sanitized. I did not need to buy a new grill or pick up a free one on the road.


Practical Parsimony July 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I am shocked at the difference in the appeaance of the stone after power washing. I buy breadmakers and sewing machines and clean and sell. Cleaning a thing makes such a difference! I thought you had on boots, but I had not enlarged it.


Heather October 13, 2015 at 4:00 am

True, true! This also works well for old cars. We drive a lot of old cars. Whenever we are tempted to get a newer one, it usually means that the old one is dirty and needs something minor like a windshield wiper. Clean it out, fix the wiper, and it feels awesome!!! And way better than a car payment!!


Patti October 13, 2015 at 4:12 am

Your rock wall is beautiful!! And now you are inspiring me to spend some time and bleach on my bath mat that has mildewed that did not come out in the wash. I was about to buy a new one at Aldi for “only” $4.00 but have decided a toothbrush, some bleach, and some elbow grease will clean up my old one. $4.00 saved!!


Sandy October 13, 2015 at 9:12 am

Katy, Katy, Katy!!! Safety First! It is very dangerous to pressure wash with bare feet! Please, ALWAYS WEAR BOOTS OR STURDY SHOES! One slip and high pressure water could go into your foot. It would require emergency room treatment or worse.

Having said that, I love to pressure wash! Reminds me of my years as a Dental Hygienist! The results are so instantaneous and rewarding.
Just be careful!


Katy October 13, 2015 at 10:46 am

This picture is years old, so I’m not sure why I was barefoot. I normally wear my Birkenstock gardening clogs. Thanks for the safety reminder!


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