I pretty much hate to buy things I know I can make for less money and in a fraction of the time it takes to find them in a store. Take cleaning products, for example. Knowing I can make specific cleaners for pennies that cost dollars in a store just makes me happy. It's a no-brainer.
Here are my top five handy recipes to help you get started saving all that money you've been spending on cleaners:
Eyeglass cleaning solution
Fill a spray bottle of any size ¾ full with 70 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol (91 or 99 percent are fine to use but more costly and not necessary). Add 2 small drops of mild dishwashing liquid (Blue Dawn is ideal), and fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water (see note). Add the spray top, and gently shake the bottle by rolling it between your hands or on a countertop, so as to not create a lot of bubbles. To use: Spray both sides of your lenses, and gently rub them clean with a clean microfiber cloth.
Windshield washer fluid
Pour 3 cups rubbing alcohol, 1 tablespoon Blue Dawn and 10 cups distilled water into a 1-gallon plastic jug. Shake thoroughly to mix. Pour into your car windshield washer reservoir in place of commercial windshield washer fluid. Always shake prior to adding to the reservoir. The alcohol speeds the drying time and prevents the windows from freezing or cracking in the winter.
Counter and appliance cleaner
Countertops made of granite, marble and stone are tricky because these materials are porous and stain easily. You never want to clean them with anything acidic, which means vinegar and lemon juice are both out.
Here is a homemade countertop cleaner that will not stain and is not acidic. It works like a champ to clean and shine all types of counters -- granite, marble, stone, quartzite, quartz and Formica.
Pour ¼ cup rubbing alcohol into a 16-ounce spray bottle. Add 3 drops (only 3) Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent, 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil (this is optional but will add a nice fragrance) and enough distilled water to fill the bottle. Apply the spray top, and shake to mix. You can use this cleaner to clean and shine your appliances, too. Be sure to label this product clearly.
Hardwood/laminate floor cleaner
Mix 1 part alcohol to 4 parts distilled water (example: 1 cup alcohol to 4 cups distilled water, or multiples thereof) plus 3 or 4 drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. If you make it up ahead, be sure to label it well and keep it out of the reach of children.
To use: Sweep or vacuum the floor. Spray the cleaner in a small area; scrub well with a cloth or sponge; and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth. The secret is to spray, scrub and wipe dry immediately. If you do not want to do this on your hands and knees, I recommend the Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop for both wood and laminate floors. It sprays the cleaner from a removable bottle that you can fill with your own cleaner. This mop is fabulous because it has a large surface with an even bigger detachable microfiber cleaning pad that swivels for really easy handling. It makes scrubbing wood and laminate floors a breeze.
I just got a message from my dear reader Cliff, who wrote: "About a year ago I clipped your column from the local newspaper as I was interested in your distilled water, alcohol, and Blue Dawn recipe for cleaning hardwood floors. Recently I tried it and it's great. Far better than anything I have ever used."
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Note: Distilled water is not mandatory in any of these recipes, but it's a good idea for this reason: Tap water can leave hard-water marks on floors, windshields and countertops. Distilled water will not. You can buy distilled water in any supermarket or discount department store. It's cheap.