Certain things, when homemade, are better than the store-bought version. Macaroni. Mother's Day cards. Cleaning products? We tested some famous home remedies against store-bought products.
The idea that you can clean your house or apartment and dress your salad with many of the same products seems a little weird – and mixing up a fresh batch of furniture polish seems a little Little House on the Prairie. But, in the spirit of experimentation, saving money, and using fewer chemicals around your house or home, give homemade cleaners a try. We did—and the results were surprising.
Dishwashing liquid and baking soda vs. Multi-surface cleaner
Winner: Dish soap and baking soda. Sprinkle a little baking soda on a cook top or countertop, drizzle some standard dishwashing liquid on top, and there you have it: cleaning power that's far superior to store-bought spray. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it scrubs away any dirt or grime with ease while still being gentle enough not to scratch your kitchen surfaces. Plus, baking soda is alkaline (the same element that makes it so great for toothpaste), and really did appear to make my white cook top whiter.
1:1 ratio of olive oil and vinegar vs. Wood polish spray
Winner: Wood polish. Both worked, but use the store-bought stuff instead, and here's why: Although the olive oil and vinegar combo leaves a nicer sheen on wood furniture than cheap store-bought spray, and the vinegar smell quickly evaporated, something just felt wrong about pouring $US15-a-bottle olive oil into a spray bottle instead of a skillet. I've heard linseed or omega-3 oil will work just as well, so you could probably find a cheaper oil to use for the same results. But for me, the same principle applies: As long as I'm spending the money on a new bottle of oil, I'd rather just buy premade furniture polish. Less mixing. Note: If you do decide to try the olive oil and vinegar mixture, be warned: Too much oil can quickly transform your polish into a sticky mess.
1 part rubbing alcohol, 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water vs. Glass Cleaner
Winner: Rubbing alcohol mix. This one was a surprise: Once you get over the smell of the rubbing alcohol, which is guaranteed to bring back memories of that cheap vodka you used to drink at university, the rubbing alcohol mixture definitely wins. Not only is it cheap (you can reuse the same ingredients for most of these cleaners, after all) but the rubbing alcohol will cut through any buildup on your window, with very little elbow grease required. I put this theory to the test on an exterior window on my apartment building, and yes, the rubbing alcohol/vinegar/water combination melted away dirt quicker and easier than the store-bought stuff. Plus, its high concentration of isopropyl alcohol will kill just about anything you spray it on. Really.
One cup vinegar in one gallon of water vs. Wood floor polish
It's a draw: There are a lot of homemade floor cleaner recipes out there, and this one is by far the easiest and cheapest. (Stay away from the ammonia mixtures, please) The good news with this cleaner is that it works, and it's so easy, you'll never have an excuse not to mop again (here's looking at you, roommates). The vinegar and water mixture will definitely clean your wood floors in a pinch, but we say it's a draw because cleaning with water and vinegar won't give your wood the shine and protection that comes with a wax or store-bought floor polish. Speaking of protection, water can easily seep through worn spots in your floor's sealant, so use it on wood floors with care.
The takeaway? On the whole, homemade cleaning products are worth the effort. Not only do they save money, but also they can provide the same cleaning power as store-bought brands without harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia. Plus, despite what advertisers want you to think, you really can use the same natural products for multiple surfaces around your home. So what are you waiting for? Buy some white vinegar and get mixing.
Annie Hauser is New York City-based writer, and she's on Twitter, naturally.