Jul 23, 2013

3 Frugal & Green Hacks To Replace Costly Store-Bought Cleaners

This little beast makes bathroom cleaning less horrible.
Ugh. None of us want to use dangerous chemicals to clean our homes or skin, but holey buckets are natural cleaners expensive! And still you don't know if they will work for you until you buy them and bring them home to use. Don't get me wrong, I think it is worth it to spend more for nontoxic cleaners, and I have found some that really work for me. But I've discovered some cheaper natural solutions that reduce or eliminate my need for these expensive items. These are just as convenient to use as something you'd buy (no extra elbow grease needed). They also happen to work better for me than their pricey, store-bought counterparts. As a bonus, they are all stored in reusable containers so I'm using less packaging too. Win-win-win!  

Here are my three favorite cleaning hacks that actually work:

1. Magic Bathroom Cleaning Stick

This. Actually. Works. I found it on Pinterest (as the link above can attest), and I am so glad I did. For about the cost of one bottle of eco-friendly bathroom cleaning spray you can get a dish washing want—which you'll use as a tub and tile scrubber that you simply refill with dish soap and vinegar.  Something about the vinegar mixed with dish soap actually cuts soap scum in record time and with little effort. Because the solution is kept easily accessible and ready to use in a dishwashing wand, I can quickly wash down my shower walls while I'm in there, or just before hopping in. It also works really well for the sink bowl. This one item has changed my relationship with bathroom cleaning.

Tip: Find a way to store this out of the shower stream so that it can dry between uses, like maybe hang it from a suction cup at the top of the tile wall opposite the shower head. I also squeeze mine out when I'm done using it to speed up the process.

2. The Oil Cleansing Method

I have crummy skin. Oily and acne-prone, my face is also easy to dry and flake. Gross.

Over the years, I've spent an arm and a leg to find a product that would work for me and keep my skin from drying out and flaking, or getting greasy in the middle of the day. There are a million product choices, and in the natural skincare lines the face cleaners can get ├╝ber expensive. I'd buy one, and if it didn't work, I'd be out that $20 or $30 bucks and on to another one. Honestly, I never found a face cleanser that I loved...only some that I didn't react to as badly as others.

And then.

I stumbled into the oil cleansing method (OCM) on the interwebs (see the link above for the post that convinced me to try it). To call this discovery life changing would probably not be an exaggeration. It's basically a mix of castor oil and olive oil that you can adjust for your skin type. You use OCM in place of face cleanser. Yup. Oil. Instead of soap.

This is what happened to me. I saw a massive reduction in the number and severity of acne outbreaks and deep, painful blemishes. My skin stopped feeling tight and dry after cleaning. I mostly stopped having any flaky, dry skin on my face. With less irritations, my skin had time to heal and is now much less red and blotchy. And perhaps the best thing was how balanced my skin became. Before, I had always (ALWAYS) gotten shinier over the course of the day as my face tried to replace the oil I had stripped from it during cleaning. With OCM, I no longer get greasy mid day. Ever.

Bonus? You use maybe four or five drops a day of the castor-olive oil mix, which ends up being really inexpensive. And you know exactly what you are putting on your skin. My skin feels great. I have more confidence. And I spend WAAAY less money to get better results than I did with even the highest end natural store-bought cleansers. I wish I would have discovered this two decades ago.

3.  A Better Hand Soap

This one I didn't find on the internet, but discovered on my own. If you're purchasing a natural brand of liquid hand soap you know that it ain't cheap. We've tried to make our own hand soaps for years using liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner's peppermint, if you must know). We bought fancy recycled glass soap dispensers. We added tea tree oil, thinking it might act as a natural antibacterial. We used different ratios of soap to water. But my sensitive skin wasn't a fan. I found that the castille-based liquid hand soap was too harsh on my skin, and my hands would dry and crack. We went back to store-bought natural hand soap, which was just a little gentler on my skin... but definitely not on my pocket book.

But as it turns out, the dispenser can make all of the difference. When we purchased our first bottles of liquid hand soap in foaming dispensers (ours were Everyday Shea brand), I decided to try again. Once it was empty, I refilled the foaming dispenser with a Dr. B's-water mixture (to your liking—I think our ratio is somewhere around 1/4 soap to 3/4 water).

I don't actually know why this worked so well, but it absolutely did. Here's what I think:  The foaming mechanism mixes in air and creates a bubbly, foamy hand cleaner using less actual soap than a regular pump would dispense. Since it is already so foamy, I use less of it, and so I've got less soap drying out my skin with just as much cleaning power. It lasts a long time, it doesn't dry out my skin, and I can pronounce all of the ingredients (which is usually not the case even with "natural" liquid hand soaps).

Do you have any tricks for housecleaning or body care that are green and frugal, and that really work well? Share them in the comments!


  1. I might try the olive oil/castor oil mix. Lately I've been using honey and salt mixed together - which also seems to work well. When I run out and use soap or cleanser, I always notice the difference.
    I threw away a foaming dispenser recently - dang. It's ok, I can buy another one. I refuse to regret that bit of decluttering. I am one of those clutter people who keeps things in case of a need in some some post apocalyptic future. Recently, I have convinced myself to let go of this because if society does collapse - I probably won't be able to take my collection of socks I hate to wear and old soap dispensers with me when I am on the run from armed motorcycle gains and possible cyborg/canine hybrid people.

  2. Make that "gangs" not "gains"!

  3. Emily, I found myself in that same "saving things just in case" place. One thing that helped me was to pretend I was moving in a few months - what would I really pack and move across the country? (Turns out, I did, and I was pretty ready because I'd had this stuff-reducing mindset for a couple of years.) Sounds like you are already there!

  4. Thanks for the helpful information and the comments below as well <3
    ~ Harefield Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  5. Thanks for keeping us motivated as well. This is a great cleaning guide and my wife & I loved it. We clean every weak and we have fun doing it. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I really love when I can clean with products that I made by myself. Thanks for sharing and helping me live a little healthier :)