Like most people, a large portion of my budget goes to household products. In the wake of loosing my job and suddenly sustaining a family of five on just one income, I started looking for ways to cut costs. To my surprise, I already had many substances that could effectively replace store-bought household products. Not only did I save money, but I found it to be quite fulfilling. There’s a satisfaction that comes with being self sufficient and frugal. Another added benefit was that my kids enjoyed experimenting. Since the majority of homemade products are natural, kids can safely become mini-scientists. What could be better than getting your children excited about cleaning? Below are a few of my favorite homemade household products that can be made from items you probably already have in your pantry.
Many basic products in your home can be used by themselves or combined with something else to create an effective, inexpensive and natural alternative to store-bought cleansers. Four that I cannot live without are lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda and salt.
- Use lemon juice to naturally deodorize and clean your home. Many commercial products have a lemon aroma not just because it creates a fresh scent. Lemon juice is a natural antibacterial product. Use it as a bleach alternative, a glass cleaner or metal cleaner, especially on copper. It works great to remove the stains from your coffee pot too.
- Although I hate the smell, vinegar is my favorite household cleaning product. It’s antibacterial, so use it to clean up kitchen counters, spray fresh fruits and vegetables or kill mold. I keep diluted vinegar in a spray bottle and clean my faucets every day to avoid hard water build-up. It’s also a great alternative to bug spray if you have those little sugar ants that like to invade your kitchen in the summer. I spray my counters each night to keep them away. To mask the smell, I mix a few drops of scented oil, like peppermint, in my spray bottle.
- Baking soda is the number one home deodorizer. Most of us have used it in our refrigerators for years. It’s also great on carpets, Tupperware and other kitchen items. Its gritty consistency makes a great scrub. Mix it with a little water or hydrogen peroxide to make a cleanser.
- Similarly, the grittiness of salt makes it an effective scrubbing agent. Mix it with vinegar and a little soap for a powerful, deodorizing clean. Sprinkle a little salt in a greasy pan before washing. It will soak up the grease and help scrub it clean.
A few simple ingredients can make the perfect cleaning agent for cars, upholstery, leather and numerous other surfaces. For concoctions I use regularly, I buy plastic storage containers at a local dollar store. Mix up a big batch and store it, so your favorite cleaners are always ready.
- Washing Your Car: For stubborn bugs on the front of your car, make a paste with dish soap and baking soda. Scrub gently and rinse. Use the same paste on your car’s chrome surfaces. The baking soda is a gentle, but abrasive cleaner and the dish soap is a degreaser, tough on bug and motor oils. For the rest of the car, just dilute a quarter cup dish soap in a standard three gallon bucket. Use vinegar or club soda on your windshield. Just spray and wipe dry.
- Cleaning Leather: To clean and condition your leather furniture or car interior, mix a quarter cup vodka, a quarter cup vinegar and four drops of olive oil. Rub gently into the leather. There’s no need to rinse.
- Upholstery and Carpet Cleaning: Mix four cups water, one cup vinegar and two teaspoons baking soda. Add a few drops of a scented oil for a fresh smell. I like lavender for carpets. Wash using a circular motion. Rinse with clean water.
- Polishing Wood: Combine one cup olive oil and a quarter cup vinegar or lemon juice. Pour mixture on a cotton cloth and wipe your furniture. The vinegar or lemon juice cleans while the olive oil polishes. Use lemon juice if you like the lemony scent of commercial polishes.
- Washing Clothes: I saved the best for last. In order to make laundry detergent, you probably need to purchase a few ingredients. However, by my calculations I pay two cents per load with the following recipe. Mix four cups Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, four cups baking soda, four cups Borax and two bars of Castille or FelNaptha soap (grated). Use one eighth to one quarter cup per load, depending on load size.
Become your own mad scientist. Save money and be more environmentally friendly by making your own household products.