Is cleaning your dirty home making chemical companies filthy rich? Take a look through your cleaning kit — if it contains a number of caustic brand name kitchen, bathroom, or other specialized cleaners, then you’re paying into the multi-billion dollar chemical cleaning business. Makes my eyes water too.
The irritating thing is you don’t need any of these harsh cleaners to get your floors, countertops, appliances, clothing, sinks, toilets and other household gear clean. Just take a peek in your kitchen pantry and I bet you’ll find some of the best (and cheapest) chemical-free cleaners on the planet.
Frugal Cleaning Kit: The apple and banana are my Spring Cleaning snacks — scrubbing with a little elbow grease makes me hungry.
By cutting harsh chemical cleaners from your grocery shopping list and switching to these eco-friendly alternatives, it’s possible to save hundreds of dollars each year on cleaning your home. Don’t believe me? I braved the brand name cleaning aisle at a big box grocery chain to tally the toxic prices and calculate my clean savings — my homemade cleaners win every time. So before stocking up on supplies for this year’s spring cleaning adventure, try these five DIY cleaning solutions around your home and save big.
Caution, Irritant: The photo quality in this article stinks ’cause I stealthfully used my dang cell phone to capture the store prices. Setting up my camera gear (tripod and lighting) in the middle of the cleaning aisle would have caused a stink and gotten my frugal a$$ kicked out of the store. Heck, this post may be banned in a week, so enjoy my dirty pictures while they last.
1. Homemade Glass and Window Cleaner
Is your glass cleaner giving you the blues? The original Windex formulation contains ammonia and some sort of blue stuff. The label says “keep out of reach of children” and “do not mix with other household cleaners”. At $3.77 for a 765mL bottle of blue, I’ll take a shining to my pet friendly, child friendly, and wallet friendly alternative any day of the cleaning week.
Homemade Glass and Window Cleaner Recipe:
- Mix one part hot water with one part vinegar in a reusable spray bottle.
- Got More Grime: Add a drop or two of dishwashing liquid to the mix for tougher grease. If the soap streaks, use fewer suds.
- Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth to avoid paper waste.
Cleaning Cost: Generic white vinegar is $2.57 for a 4L container with a unit cost of $0.064 per 100mL. A 765mL bottle of Windex cleans your bank balance at $3.77 with a unit cost of $0.493 per 100mL.
The thing is, I use only half to 1 cup of white vinegar to clean my mirrors each year — I need a full bottle of Windex to get the same job done. The winner is vinegar for pennies spent per year. Bonus: Vinegar tastes great on fries — Windex, not so much.
2. Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
If you love to spray, you’ll have to pay! Ever notice that all-purpose cleaners marketed in spray bottles cost bank? Maybe its ’cause they’re fun to use and there’s nothing easier than aiming at a mess and spraying it into oblivion. Cut this dirty cost by making your own cleaner, and reuse an old spray bottle.
Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe:
- Mix a cleaning solution of 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid and 2 cups water in a spray bottle.
- Got More Grime: Mix a paste of baking soda and water to gently scrub grimy counter tops and stained sinks.
- Use an old toothbrush to clean corners and cracks and a generic Magic Eraser or microfiber cloth to wipe clean.
Pennies for Paste: Use baking soda to gently scrub sinks and remove stains.
Tip: Don’t let a spill sit and become a stain. Aim to wipe and clean fresh messes to avoid needing the chemical cleaners designed for caked on dirt.
Cleaning Cost: A bottle of Fantastik all-purpose cleaner (with bleach) costs $3.47 for a 650mL bottle — a unit cost of $0.534 per 100mL. A bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid soap costs $0.99 per 561mL bottle — a unit price of $0.18 per 100mL. The homemade brew costs just pennies per bottle.
3. Homemade Oven Cleaner
Baking soda is one of those ingredients that simply boggles my brain. After reading Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of I was still boggled. So I went and cleaned my oven.
Homemade Oven Cleaner Recipe:
- Make a thick paste by mixing 1 part baking soda to 3 parts hot water.
- Coat the oven surface with the paste, let sit overnight.
- Use a plastic spatula (metal will scratch) to remove your greasy oven grime.
Tip: Line your oven bottom with a spilmat oven liner to prevent future buildup. Be sure to wipe the oven clean after each splatter, spill, or bubble-over.
Cleaning Cost: The best deals on baking soda can be found at animal feed stores, where a 10kg bag sells for $0.50 cents per kilogram. Feed store baking soda is not food quality and is coarser than retail brands, but the price for cleaning cannot be beat when compared to grocery store brands selling for $5 per kilogram.
4. Homemade Wood Floor Cleaner
A while ago I shared my favorite floor mop hack in 4 Swiffer Cleaning Hacks for Cheaper Dust-Free Living.
But a simple sweep doesn’t deal with very dirty dog grime or kid mess, so you have to wash the floors eventually. Let’s mop the mess up!
Homemade Wood Floor Cleaner Recipe:
- Use a damp sponge or microfiber mop to wash wood floors with warm water.
- Got More Grime: Mix 1/8 cup liquid dishwashing soap with 1/8 cup white vinegar in a 4L (1 gallon) bucket of warm water.
Cleaning Cost: I’ve noted the prices for dishwashing soap and vinegar previously — yeah, it’s cheap at pennies per cleaning.
A big 4.2L jug of Pine-sol floor cleaner will run you $11.99. This stuff can’t be used on some floor surfaces, so be careful!
5. Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Some people like dirty toilet humor. Personally, I find nothing funny about cleaning the can. So I’m not going to kid around here — to get the job over with quickly it helps to have a brand name cleaner. But try this DIY recipe first to see if you can avoid flushing your hard-earned cash down the crapper.
Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner Recipe:
- Swish 1/2 cup white vinegar around the toilet bowl. Let stand a few minutes, scrub, and flush.
- Wipe toilet with homemade all-purpose cleaner and a damp microfiber cloth.
- Got More Grime: To remove stains, add 1/2 cup Borax to toilet bowl water and let it soak overnight.
Cleaning Cost: You can buy a 76Oz box of Borax for under $15 and use it for a myriad of cleaning tasks including: boosting your laundry detergent, cleaning baby diapers, and as an all-purpose household cleaner. Buy a bottle of generic toilet bowl cleaner for around $3 and you get to clean your can. I’ll take the multi-use Borax and soak my laundry in it. See How to save money on laundry for more dirty tips and tricks.
Your Turn: What’s your best frugal spring cleaning tip?
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