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Don't Buy This: You Don't Need Drano, Windex or Other Brand Name Cleaning Products

Making your own cleaners is cheap, easy, and better for the environment.
Illustration by Maggie Ahearn

Cleaning your place is no fun, but even worse is knowing you're getting ripped off for the products you use to make the bathroom mirror sparkle and the kitchen sink shine. The average person drops around $500 on cleaning products each year, but there is literally no reason to spend that much to get the job done.

Instead of spending $5 or more for every cleaning product you use, you'll spend closer to $1 if you make them yourself. And because many DIY cleaners use the same ingredients, like baking soda and vinegar, you can save even more by buying in bulk.


Beyond the financial expense of brand name cleaners, there are also health issues. Regular use of cleaning products can be as harmful as smoking up to 20 cigarettes per day, Fortune reported. Cleaning product use has also been linked to breathing problems, the non-profit Environmental Working Group reported.

That's all the more reason to make your own cleaning products that work just as well if not better than the name brands. Here are five easy ones:

Drain cleaner

If your roommate’s hair keeps clogging the drain and she refuses to clean it (or anything else), you may be tempted to buy a bottle of Drano (about $7.27 for an 80 ounce bottle) and call it a day. But not only is that terrible for your drain and possibly even your health, it’s also a big waste of money.

Instead, make your own drain cleaner from baking soda, white vinegar and boiling water for around $3. Just remove the drain stopper, then pour half a cup of baking soda, followed by half a cup of vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for half an hour, then flush with boiling water. Simple, cheap, and safer for your plumbing and the environment.

Multi-purpose cleaner

While Clorox multi-purpose cleaner is useful for cleaning countertops, walls and windowsills, having to drop over $3 a bottle every time can really add up. Plus commercially made cleaners are made from some pretty scary ingredients, which can be bad for the environment and your health.

Stay safe and richer by combining four tablespoons of baking soda ($1.50 per box) or vinegar ($1.61 a bottle) with water in a spray bottle. Like a little scent? You can add essential oils ($0.99 per bottle) to any of your cleaners for a delightful (and safe) scent.


Window cleaner

Sure you could keep spending over $3 for Windex glass cleaner at the store—or you could make it yourself with white vinegar ($1.61 a bottle), a 16-ounce bottle of rubbing alcohol ($.98 a bottle), and water. (An alternate recipe swaps corn starch, which costs $1.48 a box, for rubbing alcohol.)

Instead of buying a new spray bottle, just use the empty Windex one. You'll need about half a cup of vinegar for every cup of rubbing alcohol, plus two cups of water. Shake it up in the bottle and you're good to go. For the best streak-free results, clean glass using newspaper instead of paper towel. It really works! Plus you're doing double duty for the environment as you recycle the newspaper and reduce the harm commercial window cleaner does to the environment.

Fabric refresher spray

If your well-traveled dog is bringing his essence to your couch, rug and just about every other fabric in your home, you may think there’s nothing you can do but suck it up and drop about $5 on a bottle of Febreze. While a 27-ounce bottle sounds like it will do the job, it only covers odors he brings home from few trips from the dog park.

So rather than drop $5 every week for more spray—and potentially more respiratory issues—save a bundle by making it at home for about $3, using baking soda, water and a 15-ounce bottle of fabric softener. Just fill an empty spray bottle with one-eighth cup of the fabric softener followed by two tablespoons of baking soda. Fill bottle with water and use!

Soap for handwashing delicates

The average American spends close to $2,000 on laundry and dry cleaning, which can really eat away at your budget. And while you could use special soap like Woolite, you don’t even need that. Instead, head to the kitchen and grab a bottle of dish soap. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to a basin of lukewarm water, enough to make some suds at the top. Make sure dishwashing liquid is completely dissolved before adding clothing and swish items around to clean. Rinse your clothing well with fresh water until all soap has washed away, wring out and then lay flat to dry. Your clothes will be fresh and clean, plus you won’t have to worry about the respiratory and environmental impact from the commercial cleaner.

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