Stop Buying These 7 Household Products That Anyone Can Make

Photo by Ljupco Smokovski /

Every year, too many consumers send hundreds of dollars if not more down the drain — at times quite literally — by buying household products that they could easily make themselves.

For example, they pay $2.99 or more for a bottle of all-purpose cleaner when they could use a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar instead. It takes seconds to mix them in a spray bottle and costs just pennies on the dollar — making DIY all-purpose cleaner a no-brainer.

Following are several other everyday products that are easy to DIY for a fraction of the cost of store-bought versions so you can keep your household shipshape without your budget running aground.

1. Greeting cards

It need not be hard or time-consuming to make your own greeting cards for pennies on the dollar. We walk you through one simple method in “The 20-Cent Greeting Card.”

If it still seems like too much work for you, at least buy greeting cards at a dollar store. You’ll still probably save yourself a couple of bucks compared with buying them elsewhere.

2. Laundry detergent

When a former Money Talks News contributor tried making his own laundry detergent — see “3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing” — he noticed no difference between it and the commercial variety.

Well, he did notice one difference: It cost about 2 cents per load, compared with as much as 20 cents per load for the store-bought stuff.

Here’s how he did it:

  1. Grate 1/3 of a bar of cheap soap into a saucepan on the stove, add 4 cups of water and leave the heat on low until the soap is dissolved.
  2. Put 3 gallons of water into a 5-gallon bucket, and stir in the soap-and-water mixture.
  3. Stir in ½ cup washing soda (not baking soda) and ½ cup of borax. Keep stirring until the product thickens. Let it sit for 24 hours before use.

3. Dishwasher detergent

Here’s a way to cut the cost of dishwasher detergent to only 4 cents a load: Make the stuff yourself.

Erin Huffstetler, the blogger behind My Frugal Home, says it takes a few minutes to mix together washing soda, kosher salt, baking soda and lemon juice and then portion it into molds.

Huffstetler tells Money Talks News that it’s a simple process – and well worth a few minutes of your time.

4. Hand soap refill

Got one of those liquid soap dispensers in the bathroom? Here’s a hack to cut the cost of refills:

  • Put some water in the dispenser and add about a tablespoon of liquid soap. It’s OK to add more, but using only a tablespoon will still produce suds.
  • Stir slowly, with a chopstick or a straw, until it looks mostly mixed.
  • Slowly fill the bottle the rest of the way with water, and stir it carefully. Put the pump back into the bottle. If you like, you can shake it a few times to be sure it’s mixed.

The first time I did this, the cost came out to less than 1 cent per refill. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather pay a penny per refill than $2.99 or more.

5. Wastebasket liners

Rather than paying for teeny-tiny liners for the bathroom trash can, why not just use plastic shopping bags from the supermarket, drugstore or home center? This not only saves money, it gives those bags one more shot at usefulness.

6. Paper towels or rags

Why wipe up spills with a one-time-use product like paper towels? Instead, cut up old T-shirts or other worn-out cotton clothing and keep the cloth squares in a plastic container. This is how I make a roll of paper towels last a year.

Most of the time you can wash and reuse these cloth squares. If the spill is particularly nasty, go ahead and throw them away.

Cut the cloth squares bigger for shop rags. They’re great for chores like wiping greasy hands, cleaning up paint drips or washing the car.

Tip: When cutting up a worn-out collar shirt, save the buttons for future repairs.

7. Fabric refresher

Pets, smokers, amateur athletes and other factors can leave your home smelling pretty funky. The folks who sell stuff like Febreze are happy to help, to the tune of $5 or more per bottle.

Well, that stinks. Instead of paying through the nose, so to speak, make your own spray by filling a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of water and cheap vodka plus a dozen or so drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake well and spritz your curtains, sofa, dog bed, rug, gym bag or anything else that smells a bit off.

Tip: Spritz the furniture and drapes before you leave in the morning. They’ll be dry — and smell much nicer — by the time you get home.

Readers, got any household hacks of your own to share? Let us know in the comments section, or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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