The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve been duped into
buying items I don’t need.
I thought I needed specific store-bought products until years of
being broke forced me to find affordable DIY alternatives. I
learned to forgo some items all together.
Seeking out other options for expensive household products can
save you money and make a dent in your bottom line over time.
Affordable DIY Alternatives for 11 Household Items
Edge these items off your grocery list and put more money in
your pocket with cheaper substitutes — or by doing a little DIY
Deodorant Lemons can work as a deodorant, but they do not block
perspiration. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
I didn’t waste money on deodorant for years because I didn’t
need it. Why buy something I didn’t need?
Well… I did need it eventually and found an inexpensive
natural alternative that blew my mind.
Lemons work as a natural deodorant. Citric acid kills
bacteria and odor, plus this method is 100% natural.
Dice up the lemon into wedges and rub the juice side of the
wedge on your armpit. Get the whole area wet. One wedge should work
for both sides. It doesn’t take much, and the same wedge can be
used until it dries out, which can be days or more than a week.
You can use fresh or overripe lemons. Experiment to find what
size works for you. They will not stop you from sweating because
they’re not antiperspirant.
Pro tip: Do not apply after a fresh shave, ladies. It’s
painful and might cause irritation. Trust me.
Not into lemons? Try Crystal brand mineral deodorant. One stone
costs around $3 and can last for a year.
Dissolve table salt into a glass of water for a mouthwash
replacement. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
A name-brand bottle of mouthwash costs between $5 and $10. A
saltwater rinse costs a few cents. Mix table salt with warm
water and you have the cheapest mouthwash around.
Or try apple cider vinegar, a common homemade mouthwash before
over-the-counter mouthwashes became popular. Use two tablespoons of
apple cider vinegar and one cup of filtered water.
Another solution is right in your medicine cabinet for a
fraction of the cost: hydrogen peroxide.
Look closely at the bottle, which says, “oral debriding
agent” right on the front. This means it is safe to put in your
mouth as an oral wound cleanser. On the back, you’ll find
debriding instructions. You basically dilute with water and swish
for a minute.
You should use the water and peroxide mixture immediately, and
don’t save any leftover solution.
Hana Rashid, a dentist in Roseville, California, said she loves
to gargle and
swish with peroxide, especially when she has a cold or sore
It helps reduce inflammation in the mouth and keep bleeding from
gum disease down between visits, she says. The burning or bubbling
sensation means it’s working to calm inflammation.
“It is not an unsafe mouthwash, but care must be taken not to
swallow large amounts,” she said.
Peroxide is the main ingredient in tooth-whitening products, so
if left too long, Rashid warned, it can temporarily bleach your
gums, lasting about 20 to 30 minutes.
Swishing with peroxide will yield similar results as expensive
mouthwash, but it won’t taste great.
“I like to use essential oils, like peppermint, cinnamon bark
and clove in water,” she said.
Try mixing peroxide with baking soda for your own
whitening paste and skip buying whitening strips while you’re
Shaving Cream Bar soap can be used as a replacement for shaving
cream. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
I stopped using shaving cream years ago.
I simply sub in bar soap or hair conditioner.
Most of us have a nearly empty bottle of conditioner occupying
precious shower real estate. Use up that sad vessel next time you
shave. You’ll wonder why you bought shaving cream all these
Conditioner and bar soap aren’t ideal for facial shaves, so
try substitutes like shave soap or aloe vera. One $3 bar of shave
soap can last more than six months.
For aloe vera, apply directly from the plant to your face, or
use an affordable gel. It works great as an aftershave, too. Its
anti-inflammatory properties reduce razor burn and irritation. I
have a garden full of the stuff, so it’s a freebie for me.
Consider planting some!
It took years before I figured out that I didn’t need to buy
cleaning rags. (Don’t be mad at yourself for not realizing this
Use old undershirts, leftover fabric and any clothes unfit
Tear or cut them — careful to remove any buttons — into
pieces. They last longer that way, and you’ll have an endless
supply to fit your cleaning needs. Toss them in the wash and reuse
until they reach retirement age.
As for that orphaned sock, put your hand inside and use it to
remove dust. Wash, repeat.
Paper Towels Try using dish towels and wash cloths instead of
paper towels. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
This one is really hard to quit. Paper towels are so integrated
into our daily lives that we hardly notice how many we use for
tasks such as cleaning up spills, wiping greasy paws or picking up
My usage greatly decreased when I invested $12 in a set of 12
cloth napkins. I use one multiple times before washing (unless
I’m extra messy) and always have extra for guests.
This one move significantly reduced the volume of paper towels I
went through and freed up a little room in my grocery budget.
A coworker said she likes to use cheap fabric from Goodwill
and repurposes old tablecloths as napkins instead of buying paper
When it comes to spills or hand drying, use wash cloths and dish
towels, or something from that old T-shirt rag pile. You’ll be
surprised at how little you need paper towels.
Makeup Remover Jojoba oil can be used to remove eye makeup.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
There are makeup removing wipes, creams, pads, cloths and an
assortment of accessories to clean your face at the end of the
Stocking up on these not only takes up space, but they steal
valuable budget dollars from more important items.
Jojoba, olive and coconut oil remove makeup.
These one-ingredient wonders last for months, have a multitude
of uses and take up little space. You might even have one of them
in your home already. Most oils do the trick, so try something that
works best for you.
If oil isn’t an option for you, try aloe vera, alcohol-free
witch hazel, shea butter, a cotton ball dipped in milk or a
cucumber slice to remove makeup.
I have tried so many bathroom cleaners. None of them quite works
Once I tried to strong-arm tub stains by combining all the
cleaners I had. That dangerous concoction was a terribly unsafe
idea that didn’t work, either.
Did you know that you can use a grapefruit or lemon juice to
clean your bathtub?
Get your tub wet. Cut a grapefruit in half and sprinkle salt on
the exposed part. Start scrubbing! Use this technique on sinks and
Lemon juice with a scrub brush yields a similar result. The
acidity of both fruit eats through scum and leaves your bathroom
smelling naturally fresh (and not like a chemical bomb).
Dryer sheets Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder
Dryer sheets are a common laundry additive that you just don’t
need. They’re a single-use product far from
waste-free, and full of chemicals.
I stopped using them years ago and don’t miss ’em one bit.
If you don’t need them, don’t use ’em.
However, if you live in a dry climate or are a static magnet,
then try wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.
They’re good for thousands of uses, reduce static cling and
wrinkles and speed up drying time. Not to mention they’re cheap,
nontoxic and chemical-free.
WD-40 Cooking spray can be used as a replacement for WD40.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
You know what you have in your home and works just like WD-40?
Yup, I use cooking spray anywhere I would WD-40.
It greases sticky locks and creaky doors and unsticks gum. You
can also use Crisco or a homemade concoction of cooking oils if
that’s what you have on hand.
Remember when we talked about that nearly empty conditioner
bottle earlier? If you don’t want use it to shave, consider
repurposing it as a fabric softener.
homemade fabric-softener recipe by mixing two cups of
conditioner, three cups of white vinegar, six cups of water and
adding any essential oils you like (optional), and voilà; you just
saved yourself from buying overpriced fabric softener.
Stain Remover Dawn dish soap can be used to get rid of
stains. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
Not all stains are created equal. Removing them is an art form
unless you have blue Dawn dish soap. That’s the secret ingredient
in most DIY stain removers.
Most DIY recipes have a variation of peroxide, baking soda and
water. Maybe you’ll learn a personal favorite (do tell), but
try this mom’s “miracle cleaner”
that works on carpet, clothes and upholstery to get you
How excited are you to try all this home?
Next time you’re at the store, don’t forget to smile when
you pass all the items you don’t need to buy anymore.
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These 11 Easy DIY Alternatives Will Save You Money on Household Products