DIY: Frugal and Natural Household Cleaners

 Photo by Tammy

Worried about using toxic cleaners around your house? With the ammonia, bleach, corrosive solvents, and poisonous disinfectants that many brand name cleaners use, picking a green cleaner is no easy task. High costs make the decision even more difficult. End the hassle and protect your family by making inexpensive alternatives out of ingredients you already have around the house!

Easy-to-Find Ingredients

Baking Soda: Baking soda is often considered the king of natural cleaning ingredients. Not only can it deodorize, but the powder also has enough abrasive qualities to act as a scouring agent and can help remove stains. Take note: sodium carbonate, or washing soda, can look like baking soda, but it tends to be flakier and far more caustic. So while it is great at tackling grease, sodium carbonate can easily damage skin and eyes.

Biodegradable Soaps: Soaps with natural ingredients are safe to use, cheap, and great at cleaning just about anything. If you buy such soaps, avoid scents and petroleum distillates. If you make your own soap, you will need a glycerin soap base or similar material to start the project.

Citrus Acids: Lemon juice is highly acidic but entirely natural. It can be useful for removing some stain and killing bacteria in a harmless way…unless you accidentally get some in your eyes.

Vinegars: Vinegars are another staple of homemade cleaners. They are inexpensive, but possess powerful acidic qualities that can help remove stains. Most people prefer white vinegar, since it will not stain and does not have the strong scents of other vinegars. However, there are some surfaces, like marble, that you should never use a strong acid like vinegar on.

Borax: Borax, like washing soda, is sodium borate, but friendlier. While it cannot cut grease in the same way, borax is still useful for disinfecting, softening water, and making a variety of cleaning agents for everyday dirt.

Cornstarch: Cornstarch may seem innocuous, but it can prove great at absorbing stains and cleaning floors or certain types of fabric.

Essential Oils: Essential oils serve two vital roles in natural, DIY cleaners. First, they make many cleaners (and your house) smell good. Second, many essential oils, such as citrus, lavender, clove, and tea tree oils, have antiseptic properties. The downside is that essential oils tend to be the most expensive part of shopping for DIY cleaning supplies. But a little goes a long way.


Cleaning Solutions for You

All Purpose Cleaners: All purpose cleaners, as you can imagine, feature a diversity of ingredients to choose from. In general, these cleaners consist of a combination of vinegar and water, with the possible addition of natural soaps. Some combine water with essential oils to make a lighter all purpose cleaner. Doing so makes it suitable for fragile materials or simple dusting jobs. Formulas will not cost more than a dollar a mixture in a reused sprayer, a far cry from the many expensive cleaners on the market.

Glass Cleaners: Glass cleaners have much in common with all purpose cleaners. Leave out the soap and essential oils, but keep the simple vinegar mixture. A common frugal suggestion is to use old newspapers as a lint-free wiping option. Not only will you save several dollars compared to buying a brand name cleaner like Windex, you will avoid using a toxin like ammonia.

Floor Cleaners: For most floors, you can use a mixture of vinegar, soap, lemon juice, and water. However, especially sensitive stone tiles may not respond well to such powerful acids, so check recommendations for the type of floor you have, or test a small amount of cleaner in a corner. Try to scrub by hand when possible instead of using a mop.

Wood Floor Cleaners: Wood floor cleaners follow floor cleaner formulas, but they tend to use less vinegar and no soap (which causes film). Wood floors should also not be mopped – if there are serious stains, check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you can use detergents on the floor. For darker wood, try using damp black tea bags to get that extra shine.

Furniture Polish: A light acid, like lemon juice, mixed into an oil and water formula will often do the trick for wood furniture. It is worth noting that the solution doesn’t store well, so be sure you make the mixture right before using it. Olive oil is a favorite, but this mixture is improved with essential citrus or eucalyptus oils. Use a soft cloth to apply.

Scouring Powders: Scouring powders work best on tile, porcelain and ceramic materials. Baking soda has a lead role here, although it can be improved with a little sea salt for extra abrasiveness, or cornstarch for absorption. You can also try adding a small amount of lemon oil. Use a toothbrush to apply the powder to your grout lines.


Living the Green Life

DIY green cleaning is just one example of the ways you can save money around the house. Start by applying these mixtures to your everyday projects, then explore other options like homemade organic pesticides. Remember, there are plenty of easy, earth-friendly ways to save money. Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot!

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