20 essential dos and don'ts for DIY cleaning products
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20 essential dos and don'ts for DIY cleaning products

Whether you're trying to save a little cash or live a life that's a little more eco-friendly, making your own cleaning products is an appealing option. With only a few ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and Borax, it's possible to make a wide range of products that can clean just about every surface in your home.

Before you get started, flip through the slideshow below for 20 essential dos — and don'ts — for making and using DIY cleaning products. 

 
1 of 20

Do identify the best cleaners for the surfaces in your home

Do identify the best cleaners for the surfaces in your home
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The types of DIY cleaners you need will depend greatly on the different surfaces in your home. Identify your various surfaces — like marble countertops, stainless steel appliances, and tile floors — and figure out which products are the best at cleaning those specific floors and counters. 

 
2 of 20

Don't just throw out your old cleaning products

Don't just throw out your old cleaning products
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As you make the transition to DIY, don't throw out the cleaning products you already have. Use them up first, then start shopping for the ingredients you need to make your own floor cleaner and kitchen sanitizer. 

 
3 of 20

Do buy your staple ingredients

Do buy your staple ingredients
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Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, Castille soap, and rubbing alcohol can be used to clean a variety of surfaces, and it's important to identify which ingredients will be staples in your cleaning rotation. From there, you can combine ingredients as needed to build your own DIY cleaners. 

 
4 of 20

Don't forget to keep safety in mind

Don't forget to keep safety in mind
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Some ingredients just don't mix and can either damage your surfaces or produce noxious gases. Before you start combining chemicals, make sure you have a strong understanding of which types of ingredients (like bleach and vinegar, for example) don't mix. It's also important to use protective equipment, like gloves, when needed. 

 
5 of 20

Do invest in quality spray bottles and containers

Do invest in quality spray bottles and containers
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Because cleaning products are used so frequently, it's important to make sure they're easy to use. It's worth spending a few extra bucks on spray bottles that don't leak, laundry detergent containers that include a handy dispenser, and reusable microfiber cloths to make the transition to DIY products even more convenient. 

 
6 of 20

Don't throw away old bath towels and t-shirts

Don't throw away old bath towels and t-shirts
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Instead of tossing out bath towels when they get frayed, cut them up into DIY cloths that can be used for dusting, cleaning countertops, and countless other uses. T-shirts and old bedsheets also make for excellent DIY cleaning cloths. 

 
7 of 20

Do figure out an essential multipurpose spray recipe

Do figure out an essential multipurpose spray recipe
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For an easy multipurpose cleaner that can be used on everything from floors to countertops, mix together a half cup of vinegar and 10 ounces of water. That combination can be used in a spray bottle or used in mop buckets. 

 
8 of 20

Don't sleep on dryer balls

Don't sleep on dryer balls
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Inexpensive and much more sustainable than chemical-coated dryer sheets, wool dryer balls are an easy DIY swap. If you miss the scent from dryer sheets, use a few drops of essential oil to add a hint of lavender or lemon to your load of towels. 

 
9 of 20

Do learn the magic of "Dawnegar"

Do learn the magic of "Dawnegar"
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A cult favorite among cleaning aficionados, a spray bottle of Dawn dish soap and vinegar mixed together can work wonders. The combo is especially helpful for cleaning shower tiles, scrubbing glass stovetops, and scouring toilets. 

 
10 of 20

Don't overcomplicate your DIY cleaners

Don't overcomplicate your DIY cleaners
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Sometimes, all you need to get a surface clean is a little vinegar, hot water, and elbow grease. It can be tempting to bring in additives like abrasives and more powerful chemicals, but those can be damaging to your surfaces. Keep it simple, and your surfaces will sparkle. 

 
11 of 20

Do add essential oils for scent

Do add essential oils for scent
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DIY cleaning products are often just as powerful as commercial cleaners, but they lack those fresh smells that we've all grown accustomed to. Use blends of essential oils — lemon and peppermint is a popular combination — to make DIY sprays and other cleaners smell better. 

 
12 of 20

Don't forget about baking soda

Don't forget about baking soda
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Whether used as an abrasive in a scrubby shower cleaner or combined with vinegar to deodorize a smelly garbage disposal, baking soda is a versatile ingredient in a DIY cleaning arsenal. Buy it in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco to make big batches and save a little extra cash. 

 
13 of 20

Do use vodka to eliminate odors in soft surfaces

Do use vodka to eliminate odors in soft surfaces
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Thanks to its bacteria-killing power and quick evaporation, neutral spirits like vodka are great for removing odors from soft surfaces like sofas and carpets. It's okay to use the cheap stuff, too — just put it in a spray bottle and spritz it onto musty surfaces. 

 
14 of 20

Don't toss out your lemon peels

Don't toss out your lemon peels
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After using citrus fruits like lemon and orange while cooking, save the peels to infuse into a DIY cleaning spray. Fill a spray bottle half-full with vinegar, and allow the peels to infuse in the vinegar for a couple of days before filling to the top with water and using as a multipurpose cleaner. 

 
15 of 20

Do learn the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing

Do learn the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing
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Cleaning and sanitizing aren't exactly the same thing, and it's important to learn the difference. If a surface, like a cutting board or toilet, needs to be disinfected, you'll likely need a heavy-duty cleaner like bleach to do that job. 

 
16 of 20

Don't forget about the incredible versatility of castile soap

Don't forget about the incredible versatility of castile soap
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Sold in big bottles that last forever, a few drops of Castille soap can clean a variety of surfaces. Add a few drops of the liquid soap to piping-hot water for a cleaner that's great at scrubbing floors, or use a bar to remove hard water stains in the shower. 

 
17 of 20

Do consider skipping DIY laundry detergent

Do consider skipping DIY laundry detergent
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It's tempting to make your own DIY laundry detergent, but many recipes just don't contain enough surfactants to really clean a load of laundry. Instead of going DIY, consider dye- and scent-free products sold in recyclable packaging. 

 
18 of 20

Don't forget Borax

Don't forget Borax
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Perfect for cleaning dishes and laundry, Borax is a versatile and affordable natural cleaning product. It can even be used to scrub floors and deter pests and weeds from your garden. 

 
19 of 20

Do add tea tree oil

Do add tea tree oil
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Mixed with vinegar and hot water, tea tree oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties that make it great for adding to DIY cleaning products. The scent can be polarizing, but a drop or two of lemon oil makes the scent a little less astringent. 

 
20 of 20

Don't get discouraged

Don't get discouraged
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Sometimes, the DIY cleaner you're super excited to try just doesn't work out. If the DIY floor cleaner you made was a bust, it's okay to transition back to a traditional product while you figure out a better solution. 

Amy McCarthy is a Texas-based journalist. Follow her on twitter at @aemccarthy

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