Photo (cc) by jessica mullen
Peek in the cabinets under your kitchen sink and you’ll probably find a lot of half-empty bottles and jugs – cleaning products you don’t remember buying, much less what you paid for them.
In 2008, the average American spent more than $650 on housekeeping supplies, including cleaning products, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the worst part is we’re getting less and less for our buck every day, as companies continue to shrink the containers and slap “New and improved!” labels on them. In reality, the only thing that’s “improved” is their profit margins: Here’s an example of hand sanitizer shrinking on the sly. You can Google “product shrinkage” for more examples.
Fortunately, when it comes to household cleaning products, we don’t have to tolerate insults to our intelligence or our wallets. There are cheaper alternatives for many of the cleaners we use around the house. They’re also better for the environment, because they have fewer dangerous chemicals. These do-it-yourself (DIY) cleaners are definitely catching on: one of our most popular stories ever is DIY Laundry Detergent.
The next time you’re at the store, instead of picking up a bottle of Lysol or a jug of Purex, grab these six items and make your own cleaning supplies:
- Vinegar. It may smell a little weird, but vinegar can handle everything from dishes to laundry and even weeds. We’ve written about the wonders of vinegar before in Household Products Vinegar Can Replace.
- Baking soda. Eliminates odors and helps with stains, and also works as a natural method of pest control – ants hate it.
- Borax. This mineral salt beats bleach as a toilet cleaner and is also useful for scrubbing walls. Works with laundry, too.
- Fels-Naptha soap. This one’s actually made by one of those big cleaning companies out to pinch our wallets: Dial. They recommend it for “pre-treating” stains. In other words, “use this in addition to a bunch of our other expensive products, like Purex!” But you can turn the tables by using it as part of a recipe for your own laundry detergent, and they can keep the Purex.
- Rubbing alcohol. Works as a disinfectant and is also a great glass cleaner. It also gets grime off plastic and metal surfaces like patio furniture or bathroom fixtures.
- Lemon juice. This cuts through dish grease and is an ingredient for homemade furniture polish – but it’s not the easiest thing to preserve long-term.
Once you’ve got all the ingredients, you’re ready to make your cleaners. Make sure you use the right proportions, though, and take just as much care in keeping these out of the hands of children as you would with commercial cleaning products – most of these are less toxic, but there’s no reason to take risks. Here’s a few recipes to get you started:
- ½ cup vinegar
- 1 gallon of water
- 250 ml vinegar
- 250 ml rubbing alcohol
- 250 ml water
- 2 drops of dish soap (optional)
To find more uses for the items above and tons more recipes for cheap homemade cleaners, check out these sites: