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As I became more frugal, I quickly realized that the cleaners I had been buying at the store were pretty costly. I was buying laundry detergent, mopping solution, dishwasher detergent, window cleaner, cleaning spray, soap, toilet cleaner and bleach on a regular basis.

After reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette, I realized that I was spending too much money on this stuff, so I began researching ways to make my own.

While I was researching, I learned that many commercial cleaners are full of toxic chemicals that are dangerous for us to breathe or get on our skin. (I should have realized this as I was already buying special laundry detergent because most of the ones I’d tried before gave me a rash).

Products that are supposed to be non-toxic are even more expensive than normal cleaners, and though they typically come in recyclable containers, contribute to waste coming into your home.

Now, DIY is my new motto and it applies to a lot of things in our house, including cleaners. One of my favorite things about DIY cleaners is that you can use the same ingredients over and over again in different recipes:


A boron mineral and salt that’s mined directly from the ground (not to be confused with boric acid). Borax is a powerful disinfectant that kills germs, bacteria and fungi. It also deodorizes well (our dirty diapers and running clothes can attest to this). Borax is a common ingredient in natural cleaners.

Washing Soda

Like borax, washing soda neutralizes and eliminates odors. Washing soda is a good degreaser and stain remover. (For tough stains, you can soak stains in a washing soda/water solution overnight or rub some Fels Naptha on the stain to pre-treat it). We use washing soda regularly in our laundry detergent. You can buy it locally or online, or make it yourself.

Baking Soda

When I first got married, I bought the baking soda that came in the little box. You know, the one you see in stinky refrigerators. I only used it for the few recipes I baked and one box lasted a long time. Now, I buy baking soda in bulk because we use it so much. Baking soda scrubs, whitens, deodorizes and cuts grease. I sprinkle it in the toilet bowl now instead of toxic abrasives and it’s even more fun when you add vinegar! We use it for baking, cleaning and as shampoo.


The other ingredient I now buy in bulk (thank you, Costco). I stick with the distilled white vinegar and use it to kill germs, cut grease, deodorize. It gets used in many cleaning recipes, with water and essential oils for cleaning up bed-wetting accidents and as a hair rinse.

Essential Oils

Many essential oils are great at protecting against outside threats, purifying the air and cleansing surfaces. My favorites for cleaning are lemon, eucalyptus, lavender and melaleuca. (When using essential oils in cleaning sprays, it’s best to use glass containers, which are impervious to essential oils).

  • Lemon: A natural degreaser, lemon essential oil is great for getting sticky stuff off anything. It’s also great for deodorizing.
  • Eucalyptus: Great at purifying and cleansing, eucalyptus essential oil is good to add to cleaning solutions for mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms.
  • Lavender: A delightful smell and cleansing properties make lavender essential oil a good additive to cleaning recipes. I combine lavender and lemon essential oils in my laundry detergent for yummy smelling laundry.
  • Tea Tree: Known for its excellent ability to protect against environmental threats, melaleuca essential oil is perfect for adding to household cleaners.

Castile Soap

This is a vegetable-based soap with many uses. We buy bulk liquid castile soap and use it for mopping, body wash and in several cleaner recipes. Castile bar soap is grated and used in our laundry detergent.

To find DIY cleaning recipes, check out one of my favorite sites, diyNatural. They have several free recipes posted, as well as a book full of natural cleaning recipes that will save you money and help you remove toxic chemicals from your home.

What cleaners do you make yourself?