Most of us don’t think twice about heading to the store for common household products like detergents and other cleaning supplies. But why pay more for pre-made products when cheaper, all-natural alternatives abound? Making household products yourself can save hundreds of dollars per year, and you’ll cut back on the use of chemicals in your home. Check out these five quick and easy DIY household products to keep your wallet heavy and your footprint light.
The main ingredients
Most homemade household products contain the same ingredients. The first – and probably most obvious – is soap, which you can purchase in bars, liquids or flakes for less than $3. Soap itself is completely biodegradable and nontoxic. But when choosing your soap, opt for brands without synthetic scents, colors or other additives for the most eco-friendly results.
Once soap is dissolved in water, adding common kitchen ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and salt is usually enough to get things clean. But for added power, some recipes use powdered wash soda (also known as sodium carbonate) and borax (also known as sodium tetraborate). Both ingredients are mineral-based and available in the laundry section of most grocery stores for about $4.
1. Laundry detergent
Store-bought detergents can cost up to $10 for 32 loads, which can really add up over time. But it’s easy to get the same fresh-smelling clothes the all-natural way for less than half the price.
Adding soap flakes to the warm water at the start of your wash cycle is a quick and easy substitute for detergent. If you’re washing in cold water, simply dissolve your soap in a small pot of water on the stove and pour about a cup in with each load. And skip the fabric softener. Adding 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle will soften clothes just as well.
You may run into problems with basic detergent recipes if you have “hard water” – meaning your water supply is very rich in minerals. When added to hard water, soap flakes can stick to your clothes and leave them a little less than clean. For hard water areas, add 1/3 cup of wash soda to water before adding clothes, and use dissolved soap in place of detergent (the wash soda softens water and helps clothes come out clean). Add 1/2 cup of borax for added cleaning power.
2. Glass cleaner
Pricey bottles touting a streak-free shine for all your glass surfaces can sell for as much as $5. But did you know a homemade alternative costs less than 20 cents?
Just mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 8 cups of warm water to give your windows, mirrors and glass countertops a shiny finish. You can apply your mixture with a towel. But if you prefer the spray-on method, pick up a reusable spray bottle from a local discount store, or reuse the bottle from a purchased glass cleaner.
3. Toilet cleaner
Cleaning the toilet is probably the ickiest (and most necessary) job in the house. And while many of us spend a bundle on “extra-strength” cleaners in an effort to stave off bacteria, all-natural methods can be tough on germs too – and cost way less. So, ditch those brand-name cleaners, and sub in a DIY alternative for less than a dollar.
To get the bowl clean, simply sprinkle in about 1/4 cup of baking soda and drizzle with vinegar. Let the mixture sit and fizzle away for about 1/2 hour, and scrub clean with a toilet brush. Your porcelain throne will be just as clean without the harsh chemical smells.
4. Tile and grout cleaner
It’s tough to clean tile and grout without being left with a sore elbow. And you may think that expensive cleaners make things easier, but a $10 price tag and a fancy label isn’t the only way to get the job done. About 50 cents worth of baking soda or vinegar is enough to leave your tiles clean and your elbow rested.
Usually, mixing 1/4 cup of vinegar with about 15 cups of water will be enough to clean your tile. But if you’ve got some tough spots, you may need something a little stronger. Make a paste using 1/4 cup of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid soap and scrub it onto tough areas with a scouring pad.
5. Wood polish
You want to keep your wood furniture looking nice, but is $5 for a little can of polish really worth it? To get all your wood finishes looking shiny and spotless, skip the pricey polishes and do it yourself on the cheap.
For ugly rings on your wood tables, just make a paste using equal parts baking soda and toothpaste. Yes, we said toothpaste. Use a plain, non-gel toothpaste and apply your mixture over the ring with a cloth. Wipe off the film with a wet cloth, buff with a dry one and your table will be good as new.
To give surfaces a glossy sheen, mix about 1/2 cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil and apply like your usual polish. Vinegar will pull dirt out of your wood surfaces, while oil leaves them shiny and moisturized.