8 MIN READ

These 11 Easy DIY Alternatives Will Save You Money on Household Products

A woman puts jojoba oil on her eyelids to clean her makeup off her face.
Stephanie Bolling uses jojoba oil to remove her eye makeup. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder


The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve been duped into buying items I don’t need.

I thought I needed specific store-bought products until years of being broke forced me to find affordable DIY alternatives. I learned to forgo some items all together.

Seeking out other options for expensive household products can save you money and make a dent in your bottom line over time.

Affordable DIY Alternatives for 11 Household Items

Edge these items off your grocery list and put more money in your pocket with cheaper substitutes — or by doing a little DIY experimentation.

Deodorant

A person holds a lemon outside near a plant.
Lemons can work as a deodorant, but they do not block perspiration. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

I didn’t waste money on deodorant for years because I didn’t need it. Why buy something I didn’t need?

Well… I did need it eventually and found an inexpensive natural alternative that blew my mind.

Lemons work as a natural deodorant. Citric acid kills bacteria and odor, plus this method is 100% natural.

Dice up the lemon into wedges and rub the juice side of the wedge on your armpit. Get the whole area wet. One wedge should work for both sides.  It doesn’t take much, and the same wedge can be used until it dries out, which can be days or more than a week.

You can use fresh or overripe lemons. Experiment to find what size works for you. They will not stop you from sweating because they’re not antiperspirant.

Pro tip: Do not apply after a fresh shave, ladies. It’s painful and might cause irritation. Trust me.

Not into lemons? Try Crystal brand mineral deodorant. One stone costs around $3 and can last for a year.

Mouthwash

A person makes saltwater.
Dissolve table salt into a glass of water for a mouthwash replacement. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

A name-brand bottle of mouthwash costs between $5 and $10. A saltwater rinse costs a few cents. Mix table salt with warm water and you have the cheapest mouthwash around.

Or try apple cider vinegar, a common homemade mouthwash before over-the-counter mouthwashes became popular. Use two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and one cup of filtered water.

Another solution is right in your medicine cabinet for a fraction of the cost: hydrogen peroxide.

Look closely at the bottle, which says, “oral debriding agent” right on the front. This means it is safe to put in your mouth as an oral wound cleanser. On the back, you’ll find debriding instructions. You basically dilute with water and swish for a minute.

You should use the water and peroxide mixture immediately, and don’t save any leftover solution.

Hana Rashid, a dentist in Roseville, California, said she loves to gargle and swish with peroxide, especially when she has a cold or sore throat.

It helps reduce inflammation in the mouth and keep bleeding from gum disease down between visits, she says. The burning or bubbling sensation means it’s working to calm inflammation.

“It is not an unsafe mouthwash, but care must be taken not to swallow large amounts,” she said.

Peroxide is the main ingredient in tooth-whitening products, so if left too long, Rashid warned, it can temporarily bleach your gums, lasting about 20 to 30 minutes.  

Swishing with peroxide will yield similar results as expensive mouthwash, but it won’t taste great.

“I like to use essential oils, like peppermint, cinnamon bark and clove in water,” she said.

Try mixing peroxide with baking soda for your own whitening paste and skip buying whitening strips while you’re at it.

Shaving Cream

A bar of soap is photographed with a razor.
Bar soap can be used as a replacement for shaving cream. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

I stopped using shaving cream years ago.

I simply sub in bar soap or hair conditioner.

Most of us have a nearly empty bottle of conditioner occupying precious shower real estate. Use up that sad vessel next time you shave. You’ll wonder why you bought shaving cream all these years.

Conditioner and bar soap aren’t ideal for facial shaves, so try substitutes like shave soap or aloe vera. One $3 bar of shave soap can last more than six months.

For aloe vera, apply directly from the plant to your face, or use an affordable gel. It works great as an aftershave, too. Its anti-inflammatory properties reduce razor burn and irritation.  I have a garden full of the stuff, so it’s a freebie for me. Consider planting some!

Cleaning Rags

It took years before I figured out that I didn’t need to buy cleaning rags. (Don’t be mad at yourself for not realizing this sooner.)

Use old undershirts, leftover fabric and any clothes unfit for donation.

Tear or cut them — careful to remove any buttons — into pieces. They last longer that way, and you’ll have an endless supply to fit your cleaning needs. Toss them in the wash and reuse until they reach retirement age.

As for that orphaned sock, put your hand inside and use it to remove dust. Wash, repeat.

Paper Towels

A stack of dish towels are photographed.
Try using dish towels and wash cloths instead of paper towels. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

This one is really hard to quit. Paper towels are so integrated into our daily lives that we hardly notice how many we use for tasks such as cleaning up spills, wiping greasy paws or picking up dead bugs.

My usage greatly decreased when I invested $12 in a set of 12 cloth napkins. I use one multiple times before washing (unless I’m extra messy) and always have extra for guests.  

This one move significantly reduced the volume of paper towels I went through and freed up a little room in my grocery budget.

A coworker said she likes to use cheap fabric from Goodwill and repurposes old tablecloths as napkins instead of buying paper towels.

When it comes to spills or hand drying, use wash cloths and dish towels, or something from that old T-shirt rag pile. You’ll be surprised at how little you need paper towels.

Makeup Remover

A person squirts jojoba oil onto her fingertips.
Jojoba oil can be used to remove eye makeup. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

There are makeup removing wipes, creams, pads, cloths and an assortment of accessories to clean your face at the end of the day.

Stocking up on these not only takes up space, but they steal valuable budget dollars from more important items.

Jojoba, olive and coconut oil remove makeup.

These one-ingredient wonders last for months, have a multitude of uses and take up little space. You might even have one of them in your home already. Most oils do the trick, so try something that works best for you.

If oil isn’t an option for you, try aloe vera, alcohol-free witch hazel, shea butter, a cotton ball dipped in milk or a cucumber slice to remove makeup.

Bathtub Cleaner

I have tried so many bathroom cleaners. None of them quite works right.

Once I tried to strong-arm tub stains by combining all the cleaners I had. That dangerous concoction was a terribly unsafe idea that didn’t work, either.

Did you know that you can use a grapefruit or lemon juice to clean your bathtub?

Get your tub wet. Cut a grapefruit in half and sprinkle salt on the exposed part. Start scrubbing! Use this technique on sinks and faucets.

Lemon juice with a scrub brush yields a similar result. The acidity of both fruit eats through scum and leaves your bathroom smelling naturally fresh (and not like a chemical bomb).

If you wanna skip the fruit scrubs, try one of these cheap DIY cleaner recipes or a homemade cleaning product  to get the job done.

Dryer sheets

Wool dryer balls are pictured on a pile of laundry. They naturally help keep clothes soft and static-free without using dryer sheets.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Dryer sheets are a common laundry additive that you just don’t need. They’re a single-use product far from waste-free, and full of chemicals.

I stopped using them years ago and don’t miss ’em one bit. If you don’t need them, don’t use ’em.

However, if you live in a dry climate or are a static magnet, then try wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.

They’re good for thousands of uses, reduce static cling and wrinkles and speed up drying time. Not to mention they’re cheap, nontoxic and chemical-free.

WD-40

A coconut oil cooking spray is photographed.
Cooking spray can be used as a replacement for WD40. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

You know what you have in your home and works just like WD-40? Cooking spray.

Yup, I use cooking spray anywhere I would WD-40.

It greases sticky locks and creaky doors and unsticks gum. You can also use Crisco or a homemade concoction of cooking oils if that’s what you have on hand.

Fabric Softener

Remember when we talked about that nearly empty conditioner bottle earlier?  If you don’t want use it to shave, consider repurposing it as a fabric softener.

Try this homemade fabric-softener recipe by mixing two cups of conditioner, three cups of white vinegar, six cups of water and adding any essential oils you like (optional), and voilà; you just saved yourself from buying overpriced fabric softener.

Stain Remover

Dawn dish soap is photographed with an old white shirt.
Dawn dish soap can be used to get rid of stains. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Not all stains are created equal. Removing them is an art form unless you have blue Dawn dish soap. That’s the secret ingredient in most DIY stain removers.

Most DIY recipes have a variation of peroxide, baking soda and water. Maybe you’ll learn  a personal favorite (do tell), but try this mom’s “miracle cleaner” that works on carpet, clothes and upholstery to get you started.

How excited are you to try all this home?

Next time you’re at the store, don’t forget to smile when you pass all the items you don’t need to buy anymore.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She may have reached granola status.
Read her full bio here or say hi On Twitter @StephBolling.

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