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12 Recipes for Homemade Cleansers

By , June 24th, 2008 | 36 Comments »

homemade laundry detergent

With the prices of everything skyrocketing, making your own cleaning products can be an easy way to save money. In addition to saving money, most are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and safe for use around pets and children. They take very little time to make, so they don’t add to the workload. I am frequently asked for my cleanser recipes, so I’ll share them with you. I’ve tried all of these and found them to be at least as effective, if not more so, than commercially prepared products.

Before you get started mixing things up, you’ll need a couple of spray bottles to put your concoctions in. You can get inexpensive bottles in the travel section of stores like Wal-Mart or Target, or you can reuse spray bottles from commercial cleaners as long as you thoroughly clean them out to prevent unwanted chemical reactions. Be sure to label what you make to prevent accidents.

You’ll also need some old rags, sponges, or cloths for scrubbing purposes. I use an old fashioned sponge for the heavy scouring work and micro-fiber cloths for cleaning surfaces like counter tops. Micro fiber cloths can be rinsed/washed and reused over and over, making them an inexpensive choice if you don’t like rags or old washcloths.

Now that you’ve got your basic supplies, on to the recipes!

Window/Glass cleaner: Mix equal parts water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. You can use a rag to wipe the glass, but a sheet of newspaper does even better.

Floor cleaner: Pour 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar into one gallon of water. Mop as usual.

Counter tops: Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray and wipe down countertops with a sponge or cloth. For stubborn stains, scrub with baking soda.

Tubs/sinks: Straight baking soda works well for scouring away soap scum and mildew. Sprinkle it into the tub and add just enough water to make a paste. Then scour away. Spray the chrome with the counter top mixture (above) of vinegar and water then wipe down to make it shine. If you have heavy mold or mildew, straight vinegar sprayed directly on the affected area works well for loosening it.

Toilets: Sprinkle straight baking soda into the toilet and swish around with a brush. Let it stand for a few minutes, swish a final time, and flush.

Fabric softener: Pour 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser or add manually during the rinse cycle. This softens clothes, removes excess detergent and does not leave a smell behind.

Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle straight baking soda on carpet, using more in heavily trafficked areas or where pets stay. Vacuum after 20-30 minutes.

Powdered laundry detergent: Mix 5 cups soap flakes and 7 cups of Borax and shake well to mix the flakes and Borax. Store in plastic container or old laundry detergent box. Use 1/2 cup per load.

Exterior house wash: If you have vinyl siding, this cleanser will get rid of mold and mildew. Mix one quart of bleach per gallon of water in a hand sprayer. Add 1/4 cup of dishwashing liquid (hand washing liquid such as Dawn or Ivory, not dishwasher liquid). The dishwashing soap just makes the mixture “sticky” so it will adhere to the wall long enough for the bleach to do the work. Spray on the walls and then rinse with a garden hose or light pressure wash.

Drain Cleaner: Pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and plug the drain until the fizzing stops. Pour one gallon of boiling water down the drain to flush out the clog. Prevent clogs by pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain once per week.

Dishwasher Rinse Aid: Pour distilled white vinegar into the rinse agent compartment and wash as usual.

Furniture Polish: Mix 1/4 cup olive oil or mineral oil with 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and 20-30 drops of lemon essential oil. Pour into a spray bottle and shake well before using.

One of the concerns I often hear about the recipes that use vinegar is that the vinegar will leave a smell behind. Let me assure you that once it dries or runs through the rinse cycle in the washer, it no longer smells. One of the benefits of homemade cleansers is that most leave no scent whatsoever behind, so your home does not smell like a hospital. If you want to add some scent, you can experiment with essential oils such as peppermint or lemon. You can find these at health food stores, or places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Another concern is that these cleansers don’t kill bacteria. The Heinz company has found that vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of viruses, so if you want to disinfect without using harmful antibacterial chemicals, vinegar is a great choice. Tea tree oil is another great disinfectant and can be mixed with water and used on countertops and in sinks, tubs, and toilets to disinfect.

As with any sort of cleanser, test your creations on inconspicuous areas to make sure there’s no discoloration, scratching, or other adverse effects. And two final words of warning: First, never use vinegar on natural stone such as granite or marble because it will scratch and pit the stone. Second, never mix bleach with vinegar because it will give off a toxic gas.

Using homemade cleansers is just as effective and much less expensive than using commercial cleansers. Once you’ve mastered the basics, don’t hesitate to experiment with the concentrations and added scents you use to find what works best for you. Just remember to always test anything new before using it widely.

For a few more ideas you can see what some of the members of our forums are doing here. Homemade household cleaners

Image courtesy of Garden Hoe

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  • creditcardfree says:

    Sounds like baking soda and vinegar do the trick for most things! I’m going to start this when my other cleaners run out.

  • wealthman says:

    This really is not a good use of your time and money. Yes, you will save a few pennies by making your own, but in the time it takes to get the ingredients, mix and bottle them all up, you could earn 10 times as much by working an extra hour. It doesn’t make sense to waste valuable time to save pennies.

  • wealthwoman says:

    wealthman —

    Not everyone has the option of working extra hours.

  • wealthman says:

    If a person has the time to mix their own cleaning supplies, then they have the time to work an extra hour. If they can’t work the extra hour at a job they are employed at, they can do it in a job they create themselves. Everyone has an option of how they use their time. Saying that some people don’t have the option is nothing more than a lame excuse.

  • Hilary says:

    wealthman – perhaps if you read her last post more carefully, you would remember that this blogger doesn’t live her life according to how much money she makes. Some people enjoy doing things in a frugal fashion not only because it saves them money, but just because it’s a different and unmaterialistic way of living. I am still shocked that you continue to come onto this blog and make sarcastic and unneccessary comments berating people who want to save, rather than earn. Why don’t you find another blog that is more in line with your values?

    As for this post, this is awesome advice. I will be testing these out over the coming months!

  • wealthman says:

    That’s not what she states:

    “With the prices of everything skyrocketing, making your own cleaning products can be an easy way to save money.”

    If she is giving advice that this is a good way to save money, I disagree. It’s makes more financial sense to earn a bit more than waste your time making your own cleaners.

    If the argument had been environmental, that’s a different topic. But it was addressed as a way to save money. My point is that just because something saves you money doesn’t necessarily make it a good financial move.

    My comments may seem sarcastic and unnecessary to you, but they are a valid counterpoint. I hope you aren’t one of those people that only read things you agree 100% with because that puts you into a cocoon that your opinion is always right.

    If you think my comments are so wrong, explain to me why taking an hour to save less than $5 is a good use of your time?

    • danielle says:

      Sorry but buying baking soda and vinegar is saving you WAY MORE than $5. And you’re wasting time doing what? Pouring some baking soda and water into a spray bottle? Or vinegar and baking soda down the drain.
      You’re seriously delusional. None of those recipes would take anymore than 5 minutes to create. NONE.

    • Brooke says:

      My time at home is very important to me. Why should I spend an extra hour at work every month to buy laundry soap? I make mine in under 5 minutes and it costs about 2 cents a load instead of the 6 cents plus that it would cost otherwise. Why should I work an extra hour for this and that? The extra hour at work adds up. My children would rather see me than have name brand cleaners. I would rather teach my children the ease of using eco & wallet friendly ingredients and I would rather use cleaners that my children and pets can touch without risk of getting sick. They are exposed to enough chemicals at school. And cleaning with homemade cleaners is usually easier than using store bought chemicals, also saving me time. You say others are in a cocoon but Brother, you fight so much about what’s posted… Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. 🙂 I’m not criticizing you for thinking abjectively but not everyone has the option, time or willlingness to work overtime for the extras.

  • Monroe on a Budget says:

    If it was at all possible for my husband or I to earn more money, we would.

    Reality being what it is, I’m more than willing to spend time to save money.

  • Cindy M says:

    The baking soda and vinegar thing works very well for the drains, better than the awful drain products I tried, surprisingly. I do like sudsy ammonia mixed with water for windows, and a large bottle will last forever. Sometimes I want a clean smell but have no problem with the vinegar. I save all my spray bottles (actually, I save almost all containers for awhile, at least). Very handy to keep one under the bath sink, kitchen, garage, etc.

  • miki says:

    1. It doesn’t take much time to mix most of these. Certainly not an hour.
    2. My main reason for using them would be because they are eco-friendly.
    3. My second reason would be my health – allergic to a lot of stuff so using the store bought products causes problems. And you can get allergic reactions at any time even if you have not had them in the past.
    4. If I can save a little money because of #1 and #2 – I’m ahead!

  • EllaMinnowPee says:

    I have been using vinegar and baking soda for cleaning for about a year now. This is one of the easiest ways to save money as well as to “go green.” Think about how much energy is used just to make, fill, and ship each bottle of commercial cleaner! My family used to comment on the vinegar smell but now they don’t even notice it. I love bypassing the chemical-laden, expensive cleaning products at the store, and I love knowing that my family is not inhaling the toxins found in many of those commercial products. I’m always trying to be frugal and go green, and this was one of the easiest changes I made.

  • Hilary says:

    wealthman – From the post: “They take very little time to make, so they don

  • Alex says:

    Vinegar and baking soda are wonderful and economical alternatives to expensive chemical cleaners(which are mostly water anyway). I’ve used them both for many years for many, many household cleaning tasks.

    Wealthman, mixing the ingredients doesn’t take any time to speak of, and it’s not like baking soda and vinegar are unusual kitchen staples — everyone has them.

    You’re very fortunate (and probably incredibly talented/gifted/skilled) that you have abundant financial resources and you don’t have to concern yourself with money. Would you share with us how you acquired your considerable wealth?
    Thank you.

  • yramsey says:

    I’ve been using baking soda as a scouring/cleaning/bleaching product and vinegar to wash windows and clean glass for decades now. It was used because of a lack of money at first, then later because it does a great job and now because of all of the above and it’s an easy way to go green. Obviously, Wealthman has never had to be concerned about the cost of things. Even though his comment about spending an hour to save $5.00 does make sense, these products literally only take minutes to make, especially since most people already have baking soda and vinegar

  • Gail says:

    Thanks for these great ideas! I’m allergic to many houshold cleaners and so have to avoid them. I have found that baking soda also cleans my flat stove top (the glass kind). They recommend some other goop and say to use only that, but it doesn’t clean the way baking soda does and it is a gentle, mild abrasive. Plus no driving to Sears to find the one and only goop I’m supposed to buy and then paying big bucks for it. Using baking soda saves me time, gas and money.

    Wealthman–obviously YOU don’t buy these cleaners yourself because if you did, you would realize they cost much more than $5! Most bottles of cleaners are between $2-3 each if not more, which adds up for each cleaner you don’t have to buy. Go take your money and get a life. Some of us like saving money. I can’t figue out either why you haunt these boards as you don’t seem to understand the purpose of SAVING-ADVICE!

  • bobby says:

    i think these recipes are awesome man oh yea

  • bill and andraya says:

    if anything i think these pple need 2 juz shut up lik 4-real and juz write down sum recipes but datz gud dat yall got da recipes cuz sum ppl might not no it but yea yuh guezz are still cool…

  • Summer says:

    I have been using vinegar and baking soda to clean for about 6 months now. I have a standard vinegar mixture of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water with a few drops dr. bronners soap, it takes about 30 seconds to mix up a bottle and I use it to clean everything. It takes way less time and energy to mix it up than it would to go to the store to get more cleaner if I run out. Thank you so much for your tips!

  • Steve says:

    I love it!

  • claudia says:

    I use the vinegar and water for everything but I add rubbing alcohol to it….equal part keeps windows and mirrors streak free, as well as disinfects. It takes two seconds to mix in a spray bottle that I keep under the sink.

  • Audra Curtis says:

    All these comments about this being a waste of time are frustrating! You pick up the ingredients at the store when you get the rest of your groceries, and spend 3-4 minutes mixing! PLEASE! That’s not much time out of your day!

  • Jen says:

    Love these recipes!

    1. I always forget to pick up cleaners when I go shopping, so it’s such a time saver to just throw some vinegar and baking soda in an empty spray bottle. Especially when I hadn’t planned on cleaning…
    2. Regular cleaners unless I purchase the all natural kind leave rashes on my hands
    3. Sooooo much better for the environment, not only the lack of chemicals, but I reuse my old spray bottles, and like someone else said you save on gas and emissions
    4. The cleaners I use to buy are expensive! Somewhere around $4-$5, $2 for baking soda and vinegar and that would probably make 6-10 bottles if not more? 10 bottles x $5 typical cleaner=$50, wow that’s a savings of up to $48… I don’t make that much an hour wealthman, and even if I did, I would still make my own cleaner for all of the above reasons.

    On a side note, I don’t think as many people would be losing their homes, or have to cut back on medication, food, health care or even just doing the things they enjoyed if they had the option to just pick up extra hours at work, and picking up a side job is growing increasingly more difficult in this economy. For a lot of people saving the money they do have is the only way to make ends meet. And it also makes you feel like your doing something to help the situation, or it means taking that savings and using it towards something better than overpriced cleaner… for example.

  • angie_b0118 says:

    I did not read all of the comments posted, with the exception of the few that were at the top. “Wealthman” is the one this is actually addressed to, as his/her posts hit quite a nerve with me. Using baking soda, vinegar, and water is not just about saving money. For those of us with children, sensitive skin, environmental concerns, etc., it is more of a concern about the chemicals used in commercial cleaning products. And as far as “time” goes, seriously, HOW LONG DOES IT ACTUALLY TAKE TO MIX VINEGAR AND WATER???

    Oh, and another tip: cleaning the microwave – take a lemon or two, squeeze out the juice into a microwave safe dish (or simply use lemon juice if this is too time consuming or too much work),
    microwave for 60-90 seconds, and wipe clean. This will take away any odor or food that is stuck on your microwave.

    Thank you, Jen, for your comments, as well! If we’d been able to afford our mortgage, I wouldn’t be looking for more frugal ways of living. If I hadn’t lost my job, if my husband’s overtime hours weren’t cut, if the economy didn’t suck, we probably wouldn’t have thought twice about cutting back. But the truth is, 4 years ago, when we got pregnant, we had to start making major cutbacks, and I’m glad we did! Not only are we saving so much more money (even though it doesn’t feel like it due to the economy), we are also helping out the environment, and not using any chemicals around the house!!

  • NCatHm Mom says:

    Thanks for this information. I’m definitely going to try these out. I need to save money…want to go green as much as I can…have lots of allergies; your tips are a win-win for me!

  • Greengal says:

    I make all my own soap, shampoo, lotions & creams, household cleaners & detergents – anything I can really. There’s lots of great recipes out there but it’s also simple to make up your own. Not only do I save vast amounts of money – I also like to be different – everyone that’s tried them says the products I make are lots better than the expensive ones! It’s creative, easy, and I’ve learned heaps about the highly marketed chemically laden products, that cost a few pence to actually make, but many $’s to buy. More fool those that allow themselves to be conned by the advertisers!

  • stuart says:

    wealthman has forgoten or never heard “a penny SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED” and figuring cost of each cleaner from here, dozens more from similar sites you can make better safer and healthier homemade cleaners that add upto over a hundred bucks i im not a lawyer or doctor so thats 3 times what i make, and dont forget time and fuel saved running to a store when your out of something . a quick trip to the kitchen and mix some up.here are a couple tips i learned for cleaning vinyl siding cds and dvds dish soap and water both tips came from friends one does buisness and residental pressure washing a dj showed me how to the pros cds i was shocked but just used soap and water rinsed in running water patted dry and put the disc on a towel to dry small scratches are fixed with a little old fashion car wax follow directions on the can apply let dry to haze then buff(lightly) cd cleening and scratchrepair kits are about 20 bucks hope that helps.theres another penny saved

  • Lindsey in AL says:

    A penny saved is worth far more than a penny earned because saved pennies aren’t taxed (income tax). And money not spent is money not taxed again (sales tax). Even if I could buy fancy cleaners for 25 cents per bottle (a generous estimate on the cost of vinegar and water) I would have to pay 2.5 cents sales tax (in the county where I do my shopping). And if my husband worked an extra few minutes to make that quarter, we’d have to send a fraction of that to our state government (about 7% so another 1.75 cents).

    For no more than 5 minutes of my time (that includes the time to remove the vinegar from the shelf in the store while doing my normal shopping as well as the time spent mixing the vinegar with water in my kitchen) I have saved my family 4.25 cents- nearly a nickel. And I have avoided sending MORE of my husband’s hard-earned income to the government. And we’re spending a little more time each day without our husband/father. That time is valuable to us!

    While a nickel doesn’t seem like much, every time I do some small thing like this I save us a little more, and eventually that does add up. Add that to the fact that I do these things while staying home with my children, making our family healthy (and frugal) meals while giving my children an education superior to that supplied by the government, I really don’t think getting a minimum wage job and working an extra hour is worth my time or effort AT ALL.

  • Rebecca says:

    I can hardly wait to rid my cabinets of smelly cleaners that pollute my lungs and my environment. Time to get back to the basics – vinegar, baking soda, borax and water! These products go a long way and replace most of all other cleaners, leaving the cabinets cleaner, fresher, & cleared of multiple containers. If the wealthman thinks its a waste of time to save money, or that it takes more than a few sec. to mix vinegar & water, then he’s prob.NOT making big bucks as a rocket scientist…AND even if we were only saving a “nickle”(as he implied), it would be worth more than an hour of HIS time. Live Wise, Live Healthy!

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks for the tips Jennifer!

  • Jodi says:

    just started following these posts, wonderful ideas I should have thought of long ago. Thank you all… @ Wealthman, you’re an idiot.

  • aioc says:

    After reading through these emails, I’m surprised at the many negative comments. I was raised if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. Not only are these recipes good for saving money, they are good for you, your children and the environment. I have a child with allergies and we use only homemade cleansers in our home and it has made the world of difference. I also own a cleaning business and switching from harsh chemicals to all natural ones has left us breathing easier in addition to the fact that my hands would always dry out and crack due to the cleaning products we used. At the end of the day, switching has saved us money, our health and helped the environment.

  • Region of Durham street sweeping says:

    • Baking soda: a natural scourer and odour remover
    • Lemon/lemon juice: a natural degreaser and lightener for stains
    • Vinegar: another good degreaser


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