DIY Review: Household Cleaners

A year or so ago I started making my own cleaners in the interest of saving money and/or being slightly more environmentally friendly. Some things have turned out grandly, and others…not so much. Here are three that I tried and my thoughts after a year of use.


Laundry Detergent

I’ve always grown up using powdered laundry detergents, but decided to give the liquid DIY recipe. There are powdered recipes, but I haven’t tried them, and honestly – I kinda doubt they’d work as well. Though I’ve tried some different variations in ratios, the main ingredients for my liquid laundry detergent are water, Fels-Naptha bar soap, Washing Soda, Borax, and (optionally) your essential oil of choice for scent/anti-bacterial purposes.


  • Seems to last forever: I make a batch maybe once a month, though I think it’s more like every 1.5-2 months. Unlike many of the recipes, I don’t use a 5 gallon bucket either, just a little 2 gallon one.
  • Easy to make: I mean, really…for me the most annoying part is shredding the bar soap. I hate using cheese shredders. So sometimes I make Devin do it. Other than that it’s just watching things melt (which I have a strange fascination for anyway) and pouring. I would estimate that the longest it takes is 15 minutes (or maybe 20 if I spend 5 minutes whining about having to use the cheese shredder).
  • Cheap: I haven’t done the calculations, but the ones I’ve seen are generally ~7 cents a load. I don’t know how much a load costs for most detergents though, so that is kinda useless for me. All I know are that one bar of Fels-Naptha, one box of Borax, one box of Washing Soda cost me maybe $9 all together and I can make at least three batches with that…so generally around or less than $3 a month. I will note that most recipes have you use 1 bar of Fels-Naptha for every load (so basically a 1 bar to 1 cup ratio for all the ingredients), but the original recipe I found used 1/3 a bar for every batch and I’ve found that sufficient.
  • SMELLS: I mean this can be a pro or a con, but I think it’s pretty cool. I mentioned essential oils for smell but essentially you can be as brave and bold and experimental as you want in making the soap smell fab. Just maybe try it with test clothes first in case you accidentally find some natural dyes, but I’ve put coffee grounds in, orange peels, etc. when cooking up my laundry detergent. I wouldn’t recommend the coffee grounds unless you’re washing dark colors (like…well my towels are coffee color so yeah), but you get the idea. The essential oils are the safest, and you can do lavender or something. I need to try that. I generally use Tea Tree Oil. If my laundry has been a little stinky, I’ll make my next batch with a lot of it, then I may not put any in the next one. The downside is that essential oils cost a LOT. So yeah. But if you have a lavender bush outside, you could get extra natural! Okay moving on.


  • It can get kinda slimy: if you let it sit for a long time it generally separates into a jello-like top layer and a watery bottom layer. If you’re incredibly lazy like me and don’t always mix them together, it can get to the point that it’s so well stuck together that even going through the washer doesn’t totally break it up. So if it gets like that I really need to break it up either with the garage sale hand mixer or just…well sometimes I just squish it up with my hands cause I’m weird. ALRIGHT, MOVING ON.
  • Storage: I mean, you have to find a place to store it? I’m stretching here. For a while (and still often) I just keep it in the bucket, though I did get a super cheap lemonade thing from Walmart that I often put it in after I mix it.


  • So I’ve talked about mixing it a bit – basically as I said above, once you make it, you let it sit overnight and as it cools it separates into the jello-like top and the watery bottom. I usually take my hand mixer (one of those weird vertical juice ones that I got for cheap at a garage sale) and break it all up so it’s an even consistency. This can be a bit messy because I’m a messy person. ANYWAY, then I dump it all into the other container if I’m feeling like I have my life together. THAT’S ALL.

Overall rating for me: WORTH IT

Dishwashing Detergent

I started this at the same time as the laundry detergent one, and went through a couple slightly different incarnations of it. Again it’s Borax, then some Baking Soda (or Washing Soda depending on the recipe?), Salt, and Citric Acid. At first I got the Citric Acid via Koolaid (which I must admit, made the dishes smell delicious), then later I bought actual straight Citric Acid off Amazon.

I must say that our dishwasher doesn’t seem to work well, so this may be entirely skewed based on that. Just FYI.


  • Um…making…your own…stuff?


  • Citric Acid isn’t cheap in my opinion. I had a really hard time mixing this stuff up because I would want to skimp on stuff like the Citric Acid because WOW IT SEEMS SO EXPENSIVE. So that didn’t work out well.
  • It didn’t work? So, Devin and I argued about the effectiveness of this stuff a lot. I maintained that it was just as good as commercial stuff because OPTIMISM, but he was always like, “Plz just get real stuff kthx.” I held out, but in the end think he was probably right.
  • It turned into a rock. Basically if you got any sort of moisture at all  in the container (which, since it’s for washing and lives under the sink and we live in Oregon…that HAPPENED), it turns into a lovely rock. Which then turned into a “shake the container as hard as possible to break it up” except that didn’t work and when you’d open the container the non-rock stuff (like the borax) would come pluming out and create a lovely cloud. Yeahhhh.

As you can tell, our experience wasn’t awesome.

Overall rating for me: PASS

Vinegar/Baking Soda

Oh vinegar and baking soda. The highly lauded duo of natural cleaners everywhere. But seriously, I’m a fan. We use it on pretty much EVERYTHING – cleaning surfaces, toilets, grout, baking soda for teeth, vinegar for pulling weird smells out of laundry, vinegar for windows…we have a problem.


  • It’s CHEAP.
  • Also you can use it to make delicious desserts.
  • Also every time you clean it’s like an elementary school science experiment.


  • Every once in a while it just doesn’t have quite enough power. In these cases I have to break out the bleach. BTW REMINDER: vinegar and bleach should not go together. I forgot that a couple times. SO YEAH.
  • Vinegar isn’t going to kill EVERYTHING. I mean, nothing really is, but it’s just something to keep in mind if you’re experiencing a pandemic or something.
  • For some reason I have a problem remembering how to spell vinegar. This becomes annoying on grocery lists.

Note: I use white vinegar for cleaning (and apple cider vinegar for baking). The white vinegar is stronger and cheaper and I’m just dumping it in my toilet so yeah.

Overall rating for me: ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Wow that was way too boring and adult, SORRY!

If you happen to be a boring adult as well, what homemade cleaners have you found to be fabulous or terrible?


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