Cheap, easy & eco-friendly DIY cleaners for the home

The increasing concern with toxic chemicals in household cleaners isn’t just a fad or trending topic. Many companies refuse to list their ingredients because irrefutable evidence is mounting linking some of those chemicals to long-term illnesses. 

Not only is mixing your own household cleaners safer for your family and better on the environment, but it’s also friendlier on your wallet. These cleaners will cut the cost of purchasing name-brand cleaners and eradicate many of the toxic chemicals circulating your home. 

Porcelain and tile cleaning

Tile cleaners usually have bleach, chlorine and ammonia in them. These chemicals alone are irritants to the eyes and skin, but combined, they react to create lung-damaging gases. To clean your porcelain and tile, try this homemade solution instead.

First, try using baking soda, water and a sponge to wipe buildup off surfaces. If stains and mildew invade your tile, try using a combination of lemon juice and vinegar. Douse the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes. Then scrub away with a textured sponge or scrub brush. 

If you just want to disinfect your tile, mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 drops of tea tree oil. Use this mixture in place of harmful bleach. 

For stinky, stained toilet bowls, sprinkle borax — which can be found at your local supermarket — into the bowl before you go to bed. In the morning, use a toilet brush to loosen the powder and scrub the bowl; then flush the stains and odor away.

Kitchen cleaning

Like tile cleaners, kitchen counter cleaners use many of the same chemicals to clean and disinfect. The same place where you cook food to consume, toxic chemicals lurk. 

For grimy cutting boards, use half a lemon to scrub the surface; let sit; and then rinse to remove food and stains from the surface. 

Lemons are extremely versatile — use a slice to soak limescale buildup on faucets overnight, a squeeze of juice in your dishwasher to cut grease and on your hands to remove lingering odors after cooking. When done with all your hand lemons, put them through the garbage disposal to freshen the smell and clean the blades. 

Baking soda is like the cure-all for home cleaning. It’s tough on stains but gentle on your body. If you have tough stains, make a thick paste with baking soda and water, cover the stain and let it sit for a while before you wipe it clean. 

For even more stubborn messes, like baked food on pots (not nonstick), the stovetop or the oven, try using table salt with a scouring pad for extra abrasion. 

Window cleaning

For a non-streaky window, you don’t need a bottle full of chemicals. You can make your own window cleaner by combining 1 cup of water, ¼ cup white vinegar and two to three drops of original blue Dawn into a spray bottle. Use a cut-up old T-shirt to eliminate paper towel waste and streaks. The smell may be unpleasant at first, but it fades quickly and is much friendlier to your home and family than traditional cleaners.

Carpet and furniture cleaning

To clean an area or small rug, the first thing you should do is take it outside and beat the hair, dirt and other mystery particles out with a broom, old-school style. Then stick it in the wash, at home or at the laundromat, with some extra Borax sprinkled in. 

For new spills on your rug or carpet, urgency is key. Cover the stain in club soda and use a rag to blot (not scrub!) the stain out. Another method: Pressing the rim of a drinking glass into the carpet and scooping the club soda back in lifts the surface stain easily. Cool, huh?

For more stubborn stains, pour white vinegar on the spot and let sit for five to 10 minutes. Then dampen an old rag, cover the stain and iron slowly over the rag. Use the rag to gently blot the stain to remove it. This creates a similar effect that professional cleaners use: using steam and cleaning agents to lift deep stains to the surface.

For big, explosion-type spills, try dumping cornmeal on the area, waiting five to 15 minutes and then vacuuming the mess. It will absorb most of the wetness so you don’t have to use three rolls of paper towels to dry it up before treating the stains. 

For furniture that isn’t slipcovered, sprinkle baking soda on fabric, let it sit and then vacuum it up. This will help remove odors and surface dirt for easy freshening. To polish and condition wood furniture, mix 2 cups of olive oil with juice of one lemon, and rub the mixture into wood with an old T-shirt. 

Drain cleaning

Drain cleaners house some of the worst chemicals — such as bleach, chlorine and ammonia — and they permeate the places where you clean your body. 

To unclog a nasty sink or bath drain, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Then, follow the baking soda with 2 cups of boiling water. If the drain remains clogged, after pouring the baking soda down, pour 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover the drain tightly to allow the fizzing of the chemical reaction to unclog the drain. Finally, flush the drain with a gallon of boiling water. 

Laundry cleaning

Not only is laundry detergent loaded with chemicals you can’t pronounce, but it’s also pretty darn expensive. For the same results at a fraction of the cost, you can make your own. Use an old, clean gallon milk jug and add 3 tablespoons of borax, 2 tablespoons each of washing detergent and Dawn, and slowly fill the jug with water to avoid suds. For each load, use 1/3 cup of the mixture. All of these supplies combined costs less than $20 and can make 20+ gallons, which brings the cost per load to less than a quarter.

You probably never thought that many of the ingredients that sit, barely used, in your panty would actually be helpful in cleaning your house. Avoiding expensive, toxic cleaners by creating your own household cleaners is not only easy, but can even end earning you incentives for your home insurance, depending on your location. 

Tell us: Which of these cleaner mixtures seem the easiest to you? What are some scary facts that you’ve found about common household cleaners?