4 Inspired Cleaners to Make at Home for Pennies

Save money and avoid harmful chemicals by making your own cleaners at home. Instead of paying full price for surface wipes, hand sanitizer, laundry soap, and even toilet bowl cleaner, look to the tried-and-true know-how in The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques that Save You Money and polish your home for pennies.

Make Your Own All-Purpose Surface Wipes

country almanac of housekeeping techniques save money DIY cloth wipes

The ease of commercial cleaning wipes is hard to beat—but the price of disposable wipes designed to swipe away kitchen and bath grime can really clean out your wallet. Considering how many of these wipes you might use in a week, you can save money and the environment by making your own nontoxic, reusable wipes that do the same job. You’ll reduce waste and ensure that the solutions that touch your home’s surfaces are safe. (Doesn’t it make sense to use edible substances on surfaces you use for eating and cooking?)

Once you get in the habit of making your own cleansing wipes, the process will take you less time (while using no fuel) than hauling to the store to buy more cleaning wipes.

Cost savings: up to $10/month on wipes; or up to $120 per year, depending on frequency of use

Benefits: Clean surfaces with all-natural solutions and reduce waste with reusable cloths.


  • Container (plastic container with a “pop” lid; or reuse a cleaning wipes container)
  • A package (or more) of reusable cloth wipes
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water

How to Make Surface Wipes

  1. Mix the cleaning solution. You can adapt this recipe to make cleansers for various purposes (such as glass cleaner). This mixture is an all-purpose surface cleanser using a 1:2 mix of vinegar and water.
  2. Prepare the cloths. Fold and soak the reusable cloths in the vinegar-water mixture.
  3. Package the wipes. Keep the wipes moist by placing them in a container. A plastic (BPA-free) container with a pop-out top provides easy access. Or simply use a saved container from the disposable wipes that you no longer have to buy now that you can make your own!


Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

country almanac of housekeeping techniques save money DIY hand sanitizer

Pocket-size gel hand sanitizers are handy for on-the-go “cleanup,” but these formulas are drying, costly, and contain 60 to 90 percent alcohol. Why rub a formula on your hands that is potentially toxic before you eat? The risk elevates for mothers who carry sanitizers to clean children’s hands. The good news: you can make your own safe, affordable hand sanitizer.

Witch hazel, tea tree oil, and peppermint have antiseptic and astringent properties. They’re great germ killers. Aloe vera will prevent the skin from drying out—a welcome alternative to commercial sanitizers that leave hands parched.

Note: Even use of this all-natural solution should be limited to a few times daily for those with sensitive skin.

Cost savings: You’ll spend about equal, but win by making a healthy alternative to drying commercial sanitizers.

Benefits: This moisturizing hand-sanitizer contains no alcohol like off-the-shelf varieties.


  • 1 cup (235 ml) pure aloe vera gel
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons (15 to 28 ml) witch hazel
  • 3 to 4 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 3 to 4 drops peppermint essential oil

How to Make Hand Sanitizer

  1. Stir together ingredients. Measure the ingredients and stir together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Adjust aloe vera content. To thicken the solution, add more aloe vera gel one teaspoon at a time.
  3. Package the product. Travel-size toiletry bottles are ideal for toting this hand sanitizer. Save and clean empty bottles for reuse if you don’t want to invest in empty new ones (available at most drugstores).


Make Your Own Laundry Soap

country almanac of housekeeping techniques save money DIY laundry detergent soap

If you do a lot of laundry—heck, even if you don’t do a lot of laundry—you’ll probably find this recipe for homemade soap a real money-saver. It costs less than 1 ½ cents per load and takes about 15 minutes (plus setting time) to make two gallons (7.5 l).

The key ingredients are borax (sodium tetraborate) is an alkaline mineral that comes in powder form and is also an effective deodorizer. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a soda ash with a fairly high pH or alkaline level. It is an excellent solvent for grease and oils, and it has deodorant qualities as well. Everything you need (except for the essential oils) should be available on your grocer’s shelves and are safe to use with laundry.

Cost savings: About 13 cents per laundry load

Benefits: Inexpensive laundry soap that works well and deodorizes, too


  • ⅓ to ½ bar of Fels-Naptha or Kirk’s CoCo Castile soap
  • 4 cups (940 ml) water
  • ½ cup (154 g) washing soda
  • ½ cup (154 g) borax powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) essential oil, such as pine or peppermint

How to Make Laundry Soap

Grate the soap bar and put it in a saucepan with the water. Heat the mixture until the soap dissolves. Add the washing soda, borax powder, and essential oil. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes over the heat; stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Fill two 1-gallon (3.8 L) jugs halfway with hot water. Pour the soap mixture in equal amounts into each jug. Shake well, and then completely fill each jug with warm water.

Cap the jugs and shake well. Set aside for 24 hours while the mixture sets up.

Application: ½ to ⅔ cup (120 to 155 ml) per wash load. Premix these small amounts to make 5 gallons (19 L) at a time; 2 gallons (7.5 L) is good for about 50 laundry loads.


Make Your Own Toilet Bowl Cleaner

toilet bowl cleaner DIY make your own household cleaners country almanac

If there’s one place in the home that you want to keep clean and fresh, it’s the bathroom. Use this simple recipe for a clean toilet and the satisfaction of money well-saved.

For a simple and inexpensive toilet bowl cleaner, mix ½ cup (120 ml) of distilled white vinegar and ¼ cup (55 g) of baking soda (you can double these ingredients if needed). Pour the vinegar into the bowl and let it soak for 15 minutes. Then add the baking soda and scrub the fizzy solution with your toilet brush. Neither ingredient will harm the plumbing, or more important, your septic system.

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The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money is an empowering book that shows us all how to live healthier and greener, save money, take care of our homes and yards, and do it all ourselves! It would make a great gift for any homeowner.”—Brigitte Mars, www.brigittemars.com, co-author of The Country Almanac of Home Remedies

Our forefathers and mothers knew how to keep their homes clean and homey—and live richer while spending less. Many of today’s products are expensive, bad for the environment, and don’t work any better than Grandma’s methods, which only cost pennies.

The editors at Back Home Magazine have collected hundreds of formulas for effective cleaning, gardening, and home maintenance—as well as ways our ancestors saved on heating bills, prevented costly repairs, and maintained a cozy, charming home with little besides ingenuity.

Drawing on the advice and techniques of contributors across the country, this indispensable guide shows you the best ways to take care of everything in your home from wood floors, to tile, to stainless steel appliances–and how to get the longest life out of every household item from pots and pans to pillowcases.

The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money is chock-full of solutions, recipes, and how-to projects for living a simpler, cleaner life and keeping your home beautiful.