5 Incredibly Easy DIY Cleaning Products You Can Make for Cheap

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Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

There aren’t many DIY projects on my to-do list. But one experiment has been on my mind for months — and the only thing stopping me was my 120-year-old house (too many places for old dirt to hide) and two roommates.

But when I relocated to Florida, I decided it was finally time to try homemade cleaning products.

“This will be easy,” I told myself. “Pinterest will have the answers.”

Sure, it’s easy if you don’t compare prices at two online retailers and two grocery stores first. It’s easy if you buy enough supplies to last you until the apocalypse.

But my glasses are always dirty, and I’ve never been one to buy in bulk.

I liked the idea of making my own cleaning supplies, but would this adventure be practical? Was I resourceful enough?

Family size and personal problems aside: I want to make a solid effort to be more eco-conscious, and making my own cleaning supplies seemed like a relatively inexpensive way to go.

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Buying a hybrid car? Not really there yet. Using biodegradable cleaning products with ingredients I can pronounce? Sure.

What I Bought for My Homemade Cleaning Products

I hopped on Pinterest — that endless black hole of ideas — and started seeking recipes that looked easy and shared some of the same ingredients. I didn’t want to have to scour (get it?) for specialty supplies I’d only use once.

I chose five recipes and started pricing the ingredients. I checked Jet, Amazon, Publix and Walmart. Amazon’s prices and selection beat almost everyone else’s, but while it’s so much easier to buy items in bulk from Amazon, it doesn’t make much sense to order a single item, like bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

For small items, it was cheaper to walk to the grocery store and grab a bottle than it was to get them shipped to me.

Here’s the shopping list I used to get started:

Publix

Publix rubbing alcohol, 16 ounces: $1.39

Publix white vinegar, 1 gallon: $2.99

Publix hydrogen peroxide, 16 ounces: $1.15

Arm & Hammer baking soda, 8 ounces: 59 cents

Amazon

Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade Soap, 8 ounces: $8.99

Beauty Aura Peppermint Essential Oil, 4 ounces: $10.00

Clear glass bottle: $2.50

Plastic spray bottle $2.49

Total Spent: $30.10

I already had a few empty glass jars to lend to this project, along with washcloths and a few odds and ends I’d need to complete these recipes.

How Did My Homemade Cleaning Recipes Perform?

Here are the five recipes I tried and my thoughts on whether they were worth the effort.

1. All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

Ingredients:

1 cup white vinegar: 64 cents

A few drops of essential oil: 8 cents

1 cup water

Spray bottle: $2.49

Total cost: $3.21

Refill cost: 72 cents

 

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

I started fiddling with making my own spray cleaner years ago because it’s just so easy. I started with a travel-size spray bottle I would bring to my shared kitchen to clean up after a meal-prep session.

It was time to up my game and go to a full-size spray bottle.

I now use this mix all over my house, from countertops to mirrors. I even spray it in my shower once I’m done instead of using a pricy daily shower spray.

Get ready for the vinegar smell that can linger after cleaning sessions, though. That’s why choosing an essential oil you like is so important if you want to make your own cleaning supplies — you need to cover up the vinegar!

Never worked with essential oils before? Start with a few drops, and add more as desired once you start using the cleaning spray.

If you make one thing from this list, it should be this cleaning spray. It’s so versatile that everything else you keep under the sink will get dusty from neglect.

2. Dish Soap

Ingredients:

1 cup liquid Castile soap: $8.99

A few drops of essential oil: 8 cents

1/4 cup water

Pump bottle: $2.50

Total cost: $11.57

Refill cost: $9.07

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

I don’t have a dishwasher, which means hand-washing is not just a daily chore — it’s also a test of my efficiency and cleaning skills.

There are probably 1,000 ways to mix your own dish soap, but I wanted to start with a simple recipe. I turned to concentrated vegetable-based Castile soap (it’s biodegradable!) and the Fulfilled Homemaking blog.

Castile soap isn’t cheap, although it does get less expensive per ounce if you buy larger containers.

Unfortunately, the simplest recipe might be too simple for success. The Castile soap-and-water blend doesn’t cut grease well, and the mixture is very thin. I was used to instant cleansing power and lots of suds! I found myself turning to my trusty bottle of Dawn I had left by the sink (the one with the duck on it, obviously).

But that same soap mixture, while not great on dishes, turned out to be an awesome hand-washing liquid. It didn’t dry out my hands!

I won’t try making my own dish soap again, but I’ll investigate other vegetable-based dish soaps to see if there’s a manufactured version that suits my needs.

3. Bathroom Scrub

Ingredients:

1 cup baking soda: 59 cents

1/4 cup liquid Castile soap: $2.24

1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide: 4 cents

Total cost: $2.87

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Harsh bathroom cleaners always leave me feeling lightheaded, no matter how clean my bathroom ends up. I got excited about this bathroom scrub recipe from Kristin Marr’s Live Simply, mostly because it was super simple, but also because it sounded like a science experiment.

Normally, combining baking soda and hydrogen peroxide would form a fountain of foam, but this mixture instantly thickened. And Marr’s warning to leave space at the top of your container was absolutely accurate. This expanding mix filled my jar to the brim by the next morning.

Science aside, what about this recipe’s cleaning power? I don’t let my bathroom go too long between scrubbings, so I’m happy to report this mix is all you need for run-of-the-mill touch-ups on surfaces like tile, porcelain and marble.

The best part? No harsh smells. None!

This DIY doesn’t eliminate the physical work of cleaning the bathroom, but it makes the process a little easier (and a lot more enjoyable).

4. Reusable Wet Floor Wipes

Ingredients:

2 cups water

1/4 cup vinegar: 4 cents

2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol: 8 cents

A few drops of essential oil: 8 cents

Total cost: 20 cents

Heather Comparetto

Heather Comparetto

Here’s another great one from Live Simply. I love doing quick spot cleanups with a sweeper stick, but the wet versions of cleaning cloths are expensive. I always feel like I’m running out as soon as I open the box.

But this version costs just 20 cents per batch of about four washcloths in a plastic container of the mixture. When it’s time to clean, just wring out the washcloth and apply like you would a wet mop pad refill.

I like this recipe so much I’ve started using it for surfaces (think: old stovetop stains), as well as floors. I use thicker washcloths for my sweeper stick, while old cut-up T-shirt pieces work well for surfaces. Plus, once you take one cloth out of the container and wring it out, you can probably fit a new cloth or two in to soak up the excess.

I drop all my used cleaning rags into a bucket and eventually wash them with my towels on the hot cycle. Since I’m not using ingredients like bleach, I don’t have to worry about mixing the cleaning mix in with my regular laundry detergent and linens.

5. Air Freshener

Ingredients:
1/2 cup baking soda: 28 cents

A few drops of essential oil: 8 cents

Total cost: 36 cents

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Sometimes the only thing worse than bad smells in your house is the smell you try to cover them up with.

Unlike a super strong gel air freshener or room spray, this mixture doesn’t just cover smells; the baking soda helps absorb them. Need an extra boost of freshness? Just give the jar a shake!

I like the recipe because it’s so quick and easy to make.

My first attempt at making a filter for my jar wasn’t too creative — just a piece of cardboard I grabbed out of the recycling bin. But I later found a brightly patterned piece of cardboard packaging and made a replacement top for my jar. I must admit I was pleased with myself.

Would I Make DIY Cleaning Products Again?

The final verdict? Making all these cleaning supplies was easy.

Pricing the ingredients wasn’t fun, but I also didn’t start with any basics at home to help me out. You probably have regular old vinegar or some rubbing alcohol or a random spray bottle just waiting for its time to shine.

Start by experimenting with what you have, then add other cleaning product recipes as your time and budget allow.

Your Turn: Have you ever made your own cleaning products? Were you satisfied with the results?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s not sure why she keeps volunteering to write about DIY experiments.

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