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Benefits of Homemade Household Cleaners

Written by Matt Jabs - 38 Comments

Have you ever considered making your own household cleaning products? It’s actually pretty easy to do, and the results can be quite good. But is it worth the trouble?

As with many do-it-yourself projects, there’s a tendency to focus on cost when deciding whether or not to make your own cleaning products. Some people assert that the money saved doesn’t justify the time invested — i.e., the opportunity cost is just too high. For others, the money saved is well worth the work required.

Looking beyond the financial aspects, there are actually a number of other reasons that I’m interested in making my own cleaning products. In hopes of stirring up some intelligent debate, I’ve listed below all of the cleaning products that I’ve made, or intend to make. After that, I provide a list of seven benefits beyond saving money.

Homemade cleaning products

  1. Laundry DetergentDone! Making my own homemade laundry detergent was the project that started it all. The recipe that I followed resulted in powdered laundry detergent, and it required just three simple and natural ingredients. Best of all, it works great.
  2. Dishwashing detergentDone! I’ve also created my own powdered dishwasher detergent. This recipe also contains only 3 natural ingredients and works wonderfully! I have yet to publish a pictorial tutorial for this recipe but plan to do so soon.
  3. All-purpose cleanerYet to do. Though I have yet to make this cleaner, I do know that you can use washing soda diluted in water to clean nearly everything. Whatever I end up making, I want it to be in liquid form so I can use the spray bottle that I have ready and waiting!
  4. Glass cleanerYet to do. I have another spray bottle just waiting for some homemade glass cleaner. This project will likely utilize white vinegar or maybe a little ammonia — I haven’t yet decided on a recipe yet.

I’m not sure if I’ll go beyond this, though I could see myself making shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, etc. if I had enough time. Maybe I can persuade my wife to take interest in a few of these projects and help out.

Advantage of homemade cleaning products

Looking beyond the financial benefits, here are seven benefits of making your own cleaning products:

  1. Freedom from advertising – I have always hated commercial advertisements for products, but the older I get, the more I see them as not only annoying, but detrimental. Of course, there are purposeful uses for advertising, but the extent to which commercials are used in American mass media is nothing short of bombardment. I want something different, so I make my own cleaning products.
  2. Creative and independent mindset – Once you make your first homemade cleaning product, there’s a good chance that you’ll be hooked. I’ve always wanted to do this sort of thing, but never got around to it. Once I took that initial step toward product independence, my creative juices were flowing, and I immediately began to look for other things I could make myself. I like to exercise creativity and independent thought, so I make my own cleaning products.
  3. Environmentally friendly – By making my own products, I no longer rely on large plastic detergent containers. Granted, I recycled them anyway, but this way I cut back on the amount of packaging that we wast. Instead of traditional packaging, my wife and I store many of our homemade products in the 32 oz. yogurt containers we have left over from our healthy breakfasts. I’m opposed to extravagant, expensive, and unnecessary packaging and I also disagree with running harsh chemicals down the drain, so I make my own cleaning products.
  4. Self-reliance – Although I’m still buying the products required for my homemade cleaners, the ingredients that I’ve been using are raw natural ingredients that I combine into an end product. This helps to eliminate reliance on commercially advertised products, and also exercises my resourcefulness. I want to create my own simple, resourceful, and effective products, so I make my own cleaning products.
  5. Education – Making your own products is a great way to learn. Doing so involves a bit of math, chemistry, and even art. It’s also important to me to know as much about what I keep in my home as possible. I like to learn and stay informed, so I make my own cleaning products.
  6. Knowledge of ingredients – I no longer have to wonder about the contents of the products I use. I can pronounce the name of every ingredient in my recipes, and can count them on one hand. Again, I can rest easy knowing that I’m doing my part to steer clear of washing harsh chemicals down the drain. I prefer to know the origin and purpose for all the ingredients, so I make my own cleaning products.
  7. Because they work – Thanks to billion dollar advertising budgets, we’ve come to accept that the best products are those that are sold in big name stores. I’ve noticed that this mindset bleeds into nearly every aspect of our lives, and is utterly unsupported except by popular thought. Every product that my wife and I have created has worked just as well, if not better than, any chemical-laden commercial product that we’ve used in the past. I’m trying to shed any and all product brainwashing that I may have undergone, so I make my own cleaning products.

Of course, the reality is that you’ll also save a few cents (if not more) with each application of every product. Thus, it stands to reason that the more products you make yourself, the more money you’ll wind up saving. If you’re worried about the time commitment, I’d recommend making your cleaners in bulk. In the end, nearly any recipe you choose to follow will take far less time than a trip to the store.

What’s your view? Do you make your own cleaners? Why or why not?

Published on June 16th, 2009
Modified on November 29th, 2010 - 38 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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38 Responses to “Benefits of Homemade Household Cleaners”

  1. 1
    Julie Says:

    Have you read the book “Clean House, Clean Planet”? There are recipes there for all kinds of homemade cleaning products…several of which I’ve made up and use. My next two products I want to make up are a heavy-duty (yet natural) bathroom cleaner to get the extra cruddy buildup in the shower and a room deodorizer that makes use of essential oils.

  2. 2
    Blaine Moore Says:

    We use a diluted vinegar solution as a cleaner.

    After every shower we spray down the tub and shower curtain, which keeps mildew from developing, and it works great for cleaning counter tops and such.

  3. 3
    The Happy Rock Says:

    I will be looking for the dishwasher recipe. I hate buying the expensive name brand stuff that leaves your dishes smelling like wet dog, but nothing else I have tried does a good enough job.

  4. 4
    Alissa Says:

    I’ve been making my own moisturizer for a few years now and it works great. I moved to a much colder climate this past fall. I started making my own lotion with this move and didn’t have a single patch of dry skin all winter. And this includes me standing at the bus stop every day no matter what the wind chill factor was (ok, so I didn’t leave the house the day it was minus 40).
    My skin has never been more supple and what I can mix at home is not only cheaper but I can also tailor it to my needs at the time. I highly recommend looking into it.

  5. 5
    Frugal Dad Says:

    I’m glad you focused on the environmental and anti-commercialism aspects of making your own homemade cleaners. In my rebuttal to making homemade laundry detergent posted a few months ago, I focused solely on the financial benefits, which for me weren’t that great. Having said that, I prefer your powder recipe because of the time savings involved.

    Assuming we wash a load a day we could save around $58.00 over the next year by switching to homemade. ($0.05 per load vs. $0.21 per load for 365 loads). Nothing to sneeze at!

  6. 6
    Annette Says:

    Love your blog – I read it all the time! However, I thought I would warn you that mixing ammonia and vinegar to make the glass cleaner will only neutralize each other and make a salt solution.

  7. 7
    Corporate Barbarian Says:

    I’ll second the vinegar solution for cleaning the shower. It’s more environmentally friendly than Tilex, and does a good job on general cleaning.

  8. 8
    MikeS Says:

    Hey Matt, any idea whether the powder can be used in a new HE front-load washer? I’ve only ever used liquid in it, so I’m not sure if I can use a powder.

  9. 9
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @MikeS: Excellent question Mike and perhaps one I should have addressed.

    High Efficiency (HE) front load washers require “special soap” for one reason and one reason alone…low suds.

    Because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy. The good news is, the homemade detergent in my recipe is VERY low suds detergent so you can use it in your HE washer with no worries.

    Again, the HE designation is just another advertising mechanism the industry is using to try & swindle consumers into buying “special soap” that they charge unnecessarily exorbitant prices for.

  10. 10
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @FrugalDad – I of course agree & will take $53 anywhere Ican get it! :-) Glad you enjoyed the post.

  11. 11
    MikeS Says:

    Thanks Matt. I agree more money in my pocket is always a good thing.

  12. 12
    Mom Says:

    I like this article for two reasons…not only does it give practical information on making your own cleaning products in a simple and inexpensive way, but it also extols the virtues of rising above the brainwashing that we get from Madison Avenue daily and actually thinking about the benefits of living a more simple, self-reliant lifestyle. Good job, Matt! You could also translate this article into many other areas of our lives. For instance, when I was in my 20’s, I learned that if we girls did not remove our make up at night, our skin would age overnight the equivalent of 14 days. That got me to thinking…..what about while we wear the gook during the day! So, I stopped wearing make up and only do skin care. At 55, people compliment me on my youthful complexion all the time!

  13. 13
    Eric Says:

    We had a house cleaner for a short time. She insisted on using a weak solution of vinegar for all surfaces and glass. She says it cleans better than anything you can buy.

  14. 14
    Rosa Says:

    I am better at talking my friends into making hand lotion & shampoo than I am at actually getting it done myself. That’s extra cheap & fast, though :)

    I have tried almost all of these (everything but the laundry detergent) and I’ve either gone back to buying most of them – or just not using them anymore.

    For things I can buy from the bulk area of my coop, the cost & environmental impact are so close to homemade that the extra time (and attention- careful measuring is not my strong suit) aren’t worth it to me. And truthfully, for most anything you need to clean, a tiny bit of detergent, a sprinkle of baking soda, or a spritz of diluted vinegar will do the trick.

  15. 15
    Cheap Like Me Says:

    Great post. The *contents* of commercial cleaning ingredients are even more worrisome than the packaging, IMO.

    You didn’t mention plain baking soda, which does a fantastic job of scrubbing bathroom surfaces, with far less environmental impact than Comet or similar bleach-based scouring powders (and the Arm & Hammer package claims it won’t scratch — though, granted, that’s an advertising claim!). It’s also very cheap — I just bought a 12-pound bag at Costco for $5.59. It will last me at least a year.

    I did try homemade dishwasher soap, but it didn’t work and etched our dishes. That one seems very dependent on water quality/hardness in an individual location.

    Just today, I blogged about the effectiveness and money savings of making your own deodorant, so I’m totally on board with this method.

  16. 16
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @Cheap Like Me: I read your deodorant…awesome stuff.

    Baking soda is a great cleaner and one that I plan to explore more as time permits. Thank you for your endorsement of it. Also, did you ever find a dishwasher detergent recipe that worked?

  17. 17
    Kristy @ Master Your Card Says:

    Oh…Julie, I’m totally going to have to check out that book!

    I don’t currently make my own cleaning products, but I’ve given the matter some serious thought! I think putting the time and effort into actually making a product makes you conscientious of how much you use and waste, which is a good way to avoid wasting money.

    I think for me the biggest thing is that all-natural products aren’t slowly killing me and my cats. :) I have three cats and despite the fact that I clean the litter boxes twice a day, sometimes the air can get a little stale. I air the place out once a week, but during the interim I like to freshen it up a bit. Air fresheners and the like are pretty bad for us to be inhaling, so I’d like an all natural product that works like Frebreeze (only better). Same with the harsh cleaners. I don’t like inhaling them when I clean. I’m definitely considering a switch!

  18. 18
    Mom Says:

    Hi Kristy, you can do wonders for deodorizing your home with essential oils. You can do a lot of things with them, including diffusing them into the air for the purpose of deodorizing. A cold diffuser is recommended so that the integrity of the oils is not compromised. Essential oils have qualities that are beneficial to humans and pets. The Young Living Oils website has a lot of information about essential oils and products if you are interested to know more.

  19. 19
    S Says:

    This is great! I have used water for cleaning my mirrors for years. A good line of natural products (if you want to buy them, but they are natural) is by Green Works, made by Clorox. But that kind of defeats these ideas. I have already starting using these ideas from this post, and they really do work well. The natural laundry detergent does clean nicely.

  20. 20
    Victor Says:

    Making your own toothpaste is one of the simplest DIY cleaning products you can try.

    There are recipes all over the Internet, but basically baking soda is what they are all based on, plus other ingredients in small quantities if you don’t like the taste of just baking soda.

    Replacing traditional toothpaste this way saves the plastic toothpaste tube, the cardboard box, and the trip to the store, plus you can control what you put in your mouth. Many people have concerns about the health effects of fluoride.

    Nice article!!

  21. 21
    JMT Says:

    Make sure to do your research on toothpaste. Maybe our grandmothers and grandfathers didn’t use fluoride…but maybe our grandmothers and grandfathers didn’t have teeth! :) Enjoyed the article, thank you.

  22. 22
    T Says:

    For glass cleaner I’ve been using a spray bottle filled with 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar. Works great. I wipe with a microfiber cloth. The mirror gets cloudy at first, once it starts to evaporate it’s crystal clear. I’m never buying glass cleaner again. That solution works great on my smooth-top range too. No more scrubbing the white waxy liquid off to try to make it clean.

  23. 23
    endfactoryfarms Says:

    The most important thing to me is that I’m not buying commercial products that have been tested on animals. Thank you for some great cleaning ideas. I’ve already put these in motion.

  24. 24
    Just Beginning Says:

    Happy Rock… I am SO glad to know I’m not the only one whose dishes smell like wet dog sometimes! It is SO annoying. Any idea what makes it do that? I’m excited about trying the homemade detergent! :)
    Thanks everyone!

  25. 25
    Michelle Ernst Says:

    I am going to try the laundry detergent. Do you still use a fabric softener? Do you have a recipe for a homemade fabric softener?

  26. 26
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @Michelle: We use white vinegar as a fabric softener… just put about 1/4 to 1/2 cup in during the rinse cycle.

  27. 27
    Angela Says:

    @Michelle – I use white vinegar, too, and I’ll never switch back to store bought softener. My laundry smells clean and fresh, and my towels actually absorb water!

  28. 28
    Michelle Ernst Says:

    Angela, I have been using the vinegar since that post and I agree with you. I will never use a fabric softener again either. I still have most of a bottle, I figured that I would use it up, just so it didn’t go to waste. I can’t stand the overly sweet smell anymore. I was amazed that my towels would come out smelling fresh and not feeling rough. I love how soft they are without fabric softener or dryer sheets. Any other tips would be appreciated!

  29. 29
    Angela Says:

    White vinegar has a multitude of purposes in the house. I’ve been using it (diluted in water) to clean my tile floors for years. And white vinegar and newspaper do wonders on windows!

    I recently started making my own laundry detergent and I’m really pleased with the results. (1 bar fels-naptha, 1 C A&H super washing soda, 1/2 C borax) My cousin told me she adds hydrogen peroxide to her whites to help give it a boost. I haven’t tried it yet, but she swears by it.

    I agree with Matt, once you get started on this stuff you want to do more and more! Love the site. Keep the recipes coming!

  30. 30
    Candy B Says:

    Hello all, I have been exploring various ways to cut down chemical use. One of the coolest ones Ive seen is this, using Wool balls in the dryer to stop static cling. I have the wool from another project just need to make them. also if you have pets who shed a lot and you have hair everywhere. Cut a bit of netting (cut apart a shower thingy or get it at the craft store) the length you need is about 12 inches or so. put it in the wash with clothes and its suppose to attract the hair to it. Sounds like a good idea to me. Good luck.

  31. 31
    prairiediva Says:

    I have actually prepared the last two. All purpose cleaner, either the ammonia or vinegar works great.

    Glass cleaner is just the ammonia, but not the soapy kind, in water. An old trick from my grandmother’s day.

    Newspaper used as the cloth, doesn’t leave any lint.

  32. 32
    Chuck Says:

    I’ve been using homemade laundry detergent for about a year now and it works great and saves a bundle. It took me about 15 mins to make it and I bottled it up in some empty tide containers. Just shake and use like normal. White vinegar for softener. Hang outside to save more money. Or put some rods up and hang indoors in winter. Win-win!

  33. 33
    Binkie Says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention one of the major benefits of using homemade laundry soap: it’s non-irritating to sensitive skin! Most detergents contain nasty surfactants like SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth Sulphate). Lots of people have eczema, psoriasis, or other types of a rash that frequently requires medicated creams etc. Getting rid of detergents and replacing them with soap – especially bath/shower “soap” (which is usually detergent as well and not actually soap anymore), shampoo, and laundry detergent – can make an incredible difference.

  34. 34
    Kristi Says:

    I also read about making a solution out of vinegar and baking soda and water mix let foam then use as fabric softener i havent tried yet but im going to when my store bought fabric softener runs out

  35. 35
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  36. 36
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  37. 37
    what does going green mean Says:

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  38. 38
    professional cleaning blog Says:

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