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Everyday Cheapskate: Know your cleaning products for safety and savings

Two women, different locations, same accident.

Both women, using an ordinary commercial toilet-bowl cleaner, were not satisfied with the way it was removing stains. Each added household chlorine bleach and stirred with a brush.

One died quickly, the other spent a long time in the hospital.

Here’s the problem: Whenever chlorine bleach comes into contact with acid or an acid-producing substance like toilet-bowl cleaner or vinegar, there is a sudden release of chlorine gas. This is not a good thing! A similar result occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia, lye or other alkaline substances. Chlorine gas is lethal.

Now that I have your attention, let me assure you: If you stay clear of chlorine bleach, you have nothing to fear by making your own cleaning products. But, you may be wondering, why should you even consider doing that? The cost, for starters.

You know that blue window cleaner sitting on your counter? You paid about 28 cents an ounce for it, and it’s 95 percent water.

Your own products will cost only pennies to make and will not contain toxic chemicals.

Glass/window cleaners

Club soda, straight up. For a light-duty glass cleaner, just pour club soda (less than 2 cents an ounce) into a spray bottle and you have a very effective, non-toxic glass cleaner. How simple and cheap is that?

Vinegar and water. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a spray bottle. If glass is particularly dirty, wash with warm soapy water first.

Ammonia and rubbing alcohol. Heavy-duty formula. Mix household ammonia and rubbing alcohol together in equal proportions in a spray bottle. Label and keep out of reach of children. This is strong stuff and powerful, too!

All-purpose cleaner

Combine 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into a gallon of warm water. Mix well.

Tub and tile cleaner: This is a terrific homemade version of Soft Scrub. Make sure you measure the ingredients exactly: In a small bowl mix together 1 2/3 cups baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap (not detergent). Dilute with 1/2 cup water and add 2 tablespoons white vinegar. Stir with a fork until smooth and all the lumps are gone. Pour into a 16-ounce squeeze container with a squirt flip-top cap (like a ketchup bottle or similar). Shake well before each use. Keep tightly capped between uses. Hint: Rinse the flip-top cap after each use so that it won’t get clogged.

Disinfectants

Soap. Regular cleaning with plain soap and hot water kills some bacteria.

Borax. Borax (Twenty-Mule Team is one brand of borax) has excellent disinfectant and deodorizing properties. Mix 1/2 cup borax (available in the supermarket laundry aisle) into one gallon hot water, and mix thoroughly.

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. This is an excellent disinfectant. Sponge on and allow to dry. It must dry to do its job. Use in a well-ventilated area, and wear gloves.

Toilet-bowl cleaners

Baking soda and vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then drizzle with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. This combination both cleans and deodorizes.

Borax and lemon juice. For removing a stubborn stain or ring, mix enough borax and lemon juice to form a paste. Apply the paste to the ring, allow to sit for two hours, and scrub thoroughly.

You can email Mary at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. Include your first and last name and state.

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