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With the prices of everything skyrocketing, making your own cleaning products can be an easy way to save money. In addition to saving money, most are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and safe for use around pets and children. They take very little time to make, so they don’t add to the workload. I am frequently asked for my cleanser recipes, so I’ll share them with you. I’ve tried all of these and found them to be at least as effective, if not more so, than commercially prepared products.

Before you get started mixing things up, you’ll need a couple of spray bottles to put your concoctions in. You can get inexpensive bottles in the travel section of stores like Wal-Mart or Target, or you can reuse spray bottles from commercial cleaners as long as you thoroughly clean them out to prevent unwanted chemical reactions. Be sure to label what you make to prevent accidents.

You’ll also need some old rags, sponges, or cloths for scrubbing purposes. I use an old fashioned sponge for the heavy scouring work and micro-fiber cloths for cleaning surfaces like counter tops. Micro fiber cloths can be rinsed/washed and reused over and over, making them an inexpensive choice if you don’t like rags or old washcloths.

Now that you’ve got your basic supplies, on to the recipes!

Window/Glass cleaner: Mix equal parts water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. You can use a rag to wipe the glass, but a sheet of newspaper does even better.

Floor cleaner: Pour 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar into one gallon of water. Mop as usual.

Counter tops: Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray and wipe down countertops with a sponge or cloth. For stubborn stains, scrub with baking soda.

Tubs/sinks: Straight baking soda works well for scouring away soap scum and mildew. Sprinkle it into the tub and add just enough water to make a paste. Then scour away. Spray the chrome with the counter top mixture (above) of vinegar and water then wipe down to make it shine. If you have heavy mold or mildew, straight vinegar sprayed directly on the affected area works well for loosening it.

Toilets: Sprinkle straight baking soda into the toilet and swish around with a brush. Let it stand for a few minutes, swish a final time, and flush.

Fabric softener: Pour 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser or add manually during the rinse cycle. This softens clothes, removes excess detergent and does not leave a smell behind.

Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle straight baking soda on carpet, using more in heavily trafficked areas or where pets stay. Vacuum after 20-30 minutes.

Powdered laundry detergent: Mix 5 cups soap flakes and 7 cups of Borax and shake well to mix the flakes and Borax. Store in plastic container or old laundry detergent box. Use 1/2 cup per load.

Exterior house wash: If you have vinyl siding, this cleanser will get rid of mold and mildew. Mix one quart of bleach per gallon of water in a hand sprayer. Add 1/4 cup of dishwashing liquid (hand washing liquid such as Dawn or Ivory, not dishwasher liquid). The dishwashing soap just makes the mixture “sticky” so it will adhere to the wall long enough for the bleach to do the work. Spray on the walls and then rinse with a garden hose or light pressure wash.

Drain Cleaner: Pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and plug the drain until the fizzing stops. Pour one gallon of boiling water down the drain to flush out the clog. Prevent clogs by pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain once per week.

Dishwasher Rinse Aid: Pour distilled white vinegar into the rinse agent compartment and wash as usual.

Furniture Polish: Mix 1/4 cup olive oil or mineral oil with 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and 20-30 drops of lemon essential oil. Pour into a spray bottle and shake well before using.

One of the concerns I often hear about the recipes that use vinegar is that the vinegar will leave a smell behind. Let me assure you that once it dries or runs through the rinse cycle in the washer, it no longer smells. One of the benefits of homemade cleansers is that most leave no scent whatsoever behind, so your home does not smell like a hospital. If you want to add some scent, you can experiment with essential oils such as peppermint or lemon. You can find these at health food stores, or places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Another concern is that these cleansers don’t kill bacteria. The Heinz company has found that vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of viruses, so if you want to disinfect without using harmful antibacterial chemicals, vinegar is a great choice. Tea tree oil is another great disinfectant and can be mixed with water and used on countertops and in sinks, tubs, and toilets to disinfect.

As with any sort of cleanser, test your creations on inconspicuous areas to make sure there’s no discoloration, scratching, or other adverse effects. And two final words of warning: First, never use vinegar on natural stone such as granite or marble because it will scratch and pit the stone. Second, never mix bleach with vinegar because it will give off a toxic gas.

Using homemade cleansers is just as effective and much less expensive than using commercial cleansers. Once you’ve mastered the basics, don’t hesitate to experiment with the concentrations and added scents you use to find what works best for you. Just remember to always test anything new before using it widely.

-Author J. Derrick
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