DI-do’s and DI-don’ts: Cleaning Product Edition

Published: July 22, 2020

by Irene Kaloyannis Science and Policy Exchange

The last few weeks, I have had a lot of free time and have been trying to rely on stored goods rather than going out and buying groceries, and it’s allowed me to experiment more with my zero-waste endeavors and try new DIY recipes. If you, like me, are curious about DIY recipes that will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, I’ve listed and rated some homemade products that I’ve tested out the last few weeks, and noted whether they worked (or didn’t) for me.

I tried to pick recipes that featured only very common household products (e.g. no lye or special butters — just vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, etc.). Unfortunately, I only made DIY versions of products that I actually ran out of, so this article does not feature DIY versions of every single essential (such as body wash, shampoo, etc.), but I have linked easy recipes for those and workshops you can attend virtually.

Initially, I was going to have 3 sections to this post: Cleaning Products, Personal Hygiene & Self-Care and Snacks & Staples. However, that ended up being far too long and so I decided to break it up into 3 separate posts. This post is the one on cleaning products, so stay tuned for the follow-up posts!

Everything you need for these recipes is in this pic! Water, baking soda, vinegar, and (if you want a citrusy scent) orange or lemon peels.

1. Glass & Shower Cleaner — 1:1 ratio of water to white vinegar (easy peasy!)

I’ve been using this one since Fall of last year and I can honestly say it does the job extremely well. I don’t really notice the vinegary smell, but if you do, you can simply let some orange or lemon peels sit in the solution for 2 weeks for a more citrusy scent.

Score: 5/5, would DIY again!

2. Toilet Cleaner — 1 part baking soda, followed by 1 part vinegar

Simply line your toilet with baking soda (as much as you need, I use about one cup) and follow it with the same amount of vinegar. The fizzing sound will bring you right back to your elementary school days making little volcanoes out of the stuff. I let it sit for 20–30 minutes and then scrub as usual. If you have more time on your hands, you can try making these toilet tabs.

Score: 5/5, worked like a dream!

3. Surface & Carpet Cleaner — 1:1 ratio of water to white vinegar

Yes, you read that right! It’s the exact same recipe as the glass cleaner. This spray is truly all-purpose! That being said, for granite or marble countertops, vinegar can be too abrasive, so I would recommend this castile soap surface cleaner recipe. Upon doing more research and reading this post, actually, I learned that the white vinegar in these recipes can be easily replaced by apple cider vinegar — which I will be doing from now on since apple cider vinegar can be made at home from apple scraps.

Score: 4/5 — while this cleans just about everything super well, if you have a major carpet stain, I would opt for soap too or something more heavy-duty (I use a stain remover bar I bought a while back at Alchimiste en Herbe — a bit pricey but a highly-effective and long-lasting investment).

On the left, my homemade hand sanitizer in an old plastic bottle, which needs to be shaken before it is used as it separates naturally. However, experts say washing your hands with regular soap (on the right) and water is best.

4. Bonus: Hand Sanitizer — ⅔ cup rubbing alcohol, ⅓ cup aloe vera gel

A few months ago, I went shopping at my local Maxi and bought an aloe leaf (which I knew they sold packaging-free), having heard it could be used to make homemade hand sanitizer. I cut it up, blending the gel with some rubbing alcohol I had at home, and put the finished product in an old face wash dispenser (hot tip — save your old plastic bottles if you still have some, you never know when they might come in handy!). I used a little bit less aloe vera than the recipe recommended, as I’d read that there is some weak evidence that using pure aloe vera gel topically could have carcinogenic effects. There turned out to be quite a few issues with this recipe — the aloe vera leaf had way more gel than I would ever use, and the sanitizer had a pretty overwhelming rubbing alcohol smell (albeit, this may just be because I didn’t put any essential oils in). Also, I read that it may not even be effective at fighting germs, and it’s best to just use good old soap and water. In the end, I ended up hardly using it.

Score: 1/5

Not all of these worked spectacularly for me, but I encourage you all to try any that interest you.

I did the math and, if I keep making my own all-purpose spray (recipe #1 & #3) and toilet cleaner (recipe #2) instead of getting the store-bought alternatives, I would avoid 1.2kg of plastic every year! Not to mention I would avoid financially supporting the manufacture of products laden with harsh and toxic chemicals. If you run out of a product and don’t want to go out to buy it again, try to see if a recipe for a DIY version exists online and give it a shot. It may end up saving you money and environmental harm. Happy testing!