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How to Make a Household Cleaner From Scratch

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Ran out of your usual cleaning products? Before you head to the store for more, check your pantry. You may already have everything you need to make an effective household cleaner on hand. Here are some ideas to help get you started.  

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All-Purpose Cleaner

To make an all-purpose cleaning spray, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) recommends mixing one part white vinegar and one part water. Combine the ingredients in an unused spray bottle (a used one could lead to a bad chemical reaction), add lemon rinds for a fresh scent, and let sit for a few days. The concoction works to wipe away grime, remove smudges, clean glass, and more. Just don’t spray it on natural stone or other surfaces that can be etched by acid.  

Why it works: Vinegar is an acetic acid, which means it has the ability to kill bacteria and viruses. One study shows that vinegar kills mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is among the most disinfectant-resistant bacteria, after 30 minutes of exposure. But, the solution has to be at least 6% acetic acid for it to be effective, which is why you need to use white vinegar,  (it tends to be more acidic than apple cider or wine vinegar) to make your DIY spray.  

Deodorizing Scrub

You may have baking soda on hand for making your famous chocolate chip cookies, but did you know that you can also use the ingredient for a tried-and-true cleaning product? That’s right: Just sprinkle it directly into your toilet bowl, oven, or sink, and then scrub with water.  

Why it works: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer. One study showed that, when spread at the bottom of a food-waste bin, the ingredient cut odor coming from seven-day-old garbage by about 70 percent. If it’s powerful enough to fight that degree of stench, just think of how much it can help freshen up your fridge the next time you inadvertently let expired goods sit in there for too long.  

The other good thing about using baking soda is that it’s abrasive enough to work as a scrub, but not so abrasive that it will leave marks behind on your toilet, tub, or other scratch-prone surfaces.  

Stain Remover 

Got a rust stain on your countertop? A sauce stain in your tupperware? Lemon to the rescue! Squeeze citrus juice onto affected surfaces and let it sit for at least 45 minutes before rubbing with baking powder and rinsing clean with water. This trick works on clothes, too: Moisten unwanted spots with lemon and salt, and then wash the item as usual. The best part? You can use the lemon itself as your scrubbing tool.  

Why it works: Lemon juice is a natural bleach. Same goes for lime juice, which, according to one study, is even more effective at removing stains than its citrus cousin.  

These are the basic ingredients of most homemade cleaners, and there are loads of slightly different recipes available online to try. Just beware that there are potentially dangerous combinations of fluids to steer clear of, so you shouldn’t mix DIY ingredients with chemical ones, even if it seems like a good way to get the best of both worlds. (For example, you should never pair vinegar and bleach, because that creates a dangerous chlorine gas.)