BEFORE YOU START: The following article is intended to help keep your house sparkling clean on a budget, not kill the coronavirus. Please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for guidelines and recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting households against COVID-19 and other viruses. Also refer to the Environmental Protection Agency list of recommended disinfectants.
Your quarantined family is home 24-7, and you feel like you’re cleaning 24-7. Not only are you scouring stores for expensive (and often wildly marked up!) cleaning supplies, but shelves are empty — and your wallet is, too.
Here’s a little secret: You might already have what you need in your pantry to safely clean your home and save the heavy-duty virus disinfectants for where they’re needed most. Follow along to find just the recipe for DIY cleaning supplies that will wipe out dust, mold, soap scum and grime, not your budget.
Distilled white vinegar has all the superpowers: natural, inexpensive, zero toxic fumes, plus is effective against bacteria and mildew. Buy it in giant jugs and add to water the way you would ammonia or bleach. Pour the water/vinegar solution into buckets or empty spray bottles to clean floors, counters, sinks, bathrooms, light switches, doorknobs and fixtures.
- Wash fresh produce: Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to a sink or large bowl of water. Take produce out of boxes and bags from the grocery store and plunge them in this solution to soak for one hour, then rinse and let air-dry. (Hint: not bananas!)
Savings breakdown: 1 gallon of white vinegar can be bought for under $3, while individual cleaning products for these tasks can easily cost $5-$7 each.
From cleaning to deodorizing, baking soda is another all-natural, all-purpose household cleaner, plus it has abrasive qualities. Grab a box and attack:
Couches: First, wipe away any surface debris. Next, sprinkle on a coat of baking soda and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then use your vacuum and brush attachment to suck up the baking soda along with dirt and odors.
Stovetops: Make a paste using warm water and baking soda. Spread the paste onto your stovetop and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Once the paste hardens, use a soft scrubbing sponge to remove the gunk.
Shower grout: Mix a paste of baking soda and lemon juice. Brush the paste on the grout lines and let sit for 10 minutes. For serious stains, scrub with a stiff brush and a little elbow grease. Finally, wipe away the paste with a damp towel and rinse with water.
Savings breakdown: One pound of baking soda can be bought for under $2, while individual products for these tasks can cost over $6 each.
Lemon juice has antiseptic properties that can sterilize and refresh most surfaces when you’ve run out of store-bought polishers and cleaners. Try it on: -Varnished wood: Fill a spray bottle with warm water and add a little lemon juice. Simply spray it on varnished wood, such as cabinets and furniture, then wipe it off with a damp cloth. -Glass shower doors: Cut a lemon in half and rub it over the build-up on the glass. If you have a few stubborn spots, a sponge might be necessary. Once you’ve covered the entire door, rinse it off with warm water. -Chrome knobs and faucets: Cut a lemon in half and rub it over chrome hardware on furniture and appliances. Once you’re happy with the results, wipe off the juice with a damp cloth.
Savings breakdown: One pound (about four average-sized lemons) costs about $2 — an inexpensive natural alternative.
Out of antiseptic wipes and paper towels?
Repurpose sheets, dish and bath towels that have seen better days. Scrunch up aluminum foil to double as a scrubbing pad. And here’s a trick for making your own canister of DIY cleaning wipes.
Finally, make your own hand sanitizer
Nothing beats a good hand scrubbing with soap and water. But check out this hand sanitizer recipe using rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel (there’s probably some in your beach bag!) and a fragrant essential oil. Store it in plastic bottles at the door to your home, by bathroom and kitchen sinks, and in your car and purse.
While cleaning aisles are often bare, the internet is full of creative, effective DIY cleaning hacks that are hostile to regular household dirt, budget-friendly and kind to your skin and lungs as well as the environment. Read directions carefully, follow official CDC guidelines and always test your “products” to make sure they are safe on the surface you are cleaning.