5 DIY Home Hacks to Borrow From Your Hippie Friend
Ranked according to usefulness.
Everyone’s got one.
You know what I’m talking about – that bohemian chic friend who makes their own detergent, lotion and hasn’t stepped into the cleaning supply section of the grocery store in years. The one who swears all you need in your pantry are a couple of lemon rinds, a toothbrush and some baking soda.
There are dozens and dozens of natural cleaning remedies out there. They all promise instant results for half the cost of commercial products with no harsh chemicals. Bonus points if they’re good for the Earth!
But how do you know which ones actually work? I rolled up my sleeves and tried some of the top cleaning hacks to let you know which ones are actually worth it:
5. Have a Sage Burning
Smudging ceremonies are an ancient cleansing ritual. A bundle of herbs – sage seems to be the most common – is burned and said to clear out negative energy.
On my first trip to New Orleans I returned with a sage and lavender stick from the infamous Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, but you can easily make your own at home using dried herbs (make sure to remove any seeds) and a little bit of string.
Start with a clean home and open windows. You’ll be walking around while you perform the ceremony, so it’s best to keep the stick in a heatproof dish or in an ashtray. Light your herb bundle and wave the smoke in every corner and crevice of your home.
Verdict: If you’re sensitive to smoke, definitely pass on this one. Only time will tell whether I managed to clear out all the bad vibes, but I did find the process extremely soothing and I liked the smell. If burning sage isn’t your preferred form of meditation, those sage bundles may be better off used as mosquito repellant.
4. Make Your Own Soap
From laundry detergent to bubble bath, you can whip up your own soap, often with items you already have in your pantry.
DIY Laundry Detergent 03:24
Verdict: Here’s the truth – if you don’t already have most of these items in your pantry, acquiring them is going to be both time-consuming and a pretty big initial investment. A vial of essential oil can cost anywhere from $10-15, you’ll need containers to keep all your new cleaning products in, plus you actually have to spend the time making it. If you’re dedicated, your investment will pay off long-term; you should be able to make several batches of products with one trip to the store. If you’re not ready to spend all day playing alchemy lab, start with a small project with items you do have on hand and then see if you’re ready to commit.
3. Get Rid of Pests With Booze
Every summer, fruit flies and slugs flock to their favorite vacation spot: my apartment. My first kale harvest grown from seed quickly became the hottest buffet in Atlanta and every cooking adventure was accompanied by swatting at fruit flies.
If this sounds familiar, but you want to avoid chemicals and pesticides, pour pests a drink instead.
For slugs, many gardeners swear by beer traps, which can be made in minutes by sinking a tin or small cup filled with beer (any beer will do) near the problem area. The idea is that slugs will be attracted to the odor, crawl into the tin and drown.
Though fruit flies seem to be attracted to pretty much anything, they love wine. Start with a clean home – make sure there are no dirty dishes, fruit or food left out to distract them – then pour some wine in a small cup (I used a shot glass), cover it tightly with plastic wrap and use a pen or toothpick to poke a couple of holes in the top. Like the slug trap, those greedy fruit flies won’t be able to resist the wine’s aroma and won’t be able to crawl back through the holes you made. (Plus, there are worse ways to go out than wine.)
Verdict: I’m thrilled to report the fruit fly trap works. If you have an especially bad infestation, like I did, you’ll notice fruit flies hovering closely as soon as you uncork the wine. I kept the same trap in my kitchen for over a month and caught at least 50 fruit flies. Two tidbits of advice: Use a paper cup and keep your trap out of reach – this trap gets gross fast and you do not want to spill it.
The slug trap, however, is less effective. The hack is not really to blame here, but the voracious nature of slugs. The beer trap will catch a few slugs here and there, but others treat it like an open bar and then go back to munching on your garden. Seriously, they’re relentless. You’re better off trying copper tape or crushed eggshells – at least you won’t waste good beer.
2. Clean Wood With Your Tea Collection
One of the first pieces of furniture I bought for my apartment was a reclaimed wood coffee table. To clean, polish and shine my table, I actually took advice from my fellow DIY Network editors: Use a teabag – the tannic acid gives hardwood a beautiful shine.
Steep two teabags in boiling water and let cool slightly. Then, take a soft cloth, dunk it in the tea, wring it out and wipe down your chosen surface. I’ve found a microfiber rag works best, especially since my table has some rough edges and other fabric tends to snag or leave behind lint. I even go a step further and add a few drops of olive oil to the tea mixture for extra polishing power.
Verdict: This tip was one of our most-pinned photos back in 2012 and I’ve been cleaning wood this way ever since. Plus, double victory here – this method works extremely well and you can make yourself a cup of tea to sip on while you’ve got all the supplies out.
1. When in Doubt, Use Vinegar
People close to me know I keep a gallon of distilled white vinegar under my kitchen sink. I use it for everything from washing windows and mirrors to cleaning out my coffee maker.
White vinegar is powerful enough to dissolve dirt and deodorize, while still being gentle enough to be used as a fabric softener. Other uses include cleaning your garbage disposal, getting rid of that mildew smell that accompanies forgotten laundry, cleaning your showerhead, cutting grease – the list goes on.
Verdict: If you can’t already tell, I’m a big fan of vinegar. An added bonus for me is that the scent of chemical cleaners often trigger terrible headaches, so it was easy to give them up. Grab a box of baking soda while you’re at the store and these two items can essentially replace most all-purpose cleaners for less than $5.
Vinegar is by far one of the most versatile cleaning agents. Use it to remove soap scum from the shower. Mix it with borax to get rid of hard-water rings in the toilet. Tape a bag of vinegar to your showerhead and leave it overnight for an easy, sparkly clean; or add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to your dish soap to eliminate grease in the kitchen.
You use your toothbrush to clean your teeth, but don’t forget about cleaning your toothbrush. Let it soak in hydrogen peroxide for a few minutes to get rid of any lingering germs. Hydrogen peroxide is also useful on many hard surfaces. Use it to scrub your toilet, trash cans, shower, mirrors and doorknob. You can even mix it with equal parts water for a safe and effective solution for mopping the bathroom and kitchen floors.
The acid in lemons makes them a great natural cleanser. The juice is great for disinfecting kitchen countertops and cutting boards. Cut a lemon in half and scrub your bath and shower to remove soap scum. And if your shaving cream has left a rusty ring in your bathtub, use your lemon half to scrub it away.
Do you have a mold and mildew problem in the bathroom? Skip a trip to the store, and pull out some inexpensive vodka from the liquor cabinet. Spray it directly onto the mold and mildew, and wait 15 minutes. Then use a cloth or small scrubbing brush to wipe it clean. And don’t forget to save a little for an after-cleaning celebration!
More than a favorite beverage, brewed tea can be used to clean windows, mirrors and countertops. Spray on your bathroom surfaces just as you would any typical window or surface cleaner. Then, keep your bags to hide in the back of the fridge. They will actually work to deodorize it. And if you need to remove the scent of onion, garlic or fish from your hands, cut a bag open, and wash your hands with the leaves to remove the odor.
Remember that miracle lemon that cleaned the tub? If your dirt stains are particularly stubborn, add some salt to the lemon, and scrub the surface of your bathtub, sink or toilet. Once your salt solution has done the trick, just rinse off any pulp and leftover residue, leaving your bathroom perfectly clean with a lemon-fresh scent!
Perfect for cleaning counters, sinks, drains, the toilet bowl, soap scum, shower doors, showerheads, and well, pretty much anything in the kitchen and bathroom, baking soda is one cleaning agent you don’t want to be without. For most kitchen and bathroom surfaces, a simple paste made of baking soda and water will do the trick.
Though it is not a natural cleaning solution, exactly, a drain snake is an eco-friendly way to clean out the main source of drain blockage: hair. And if you don’t have a drain snake, you can still avoid pouring harsh chemicals down the bathtub drain by unwinding a wire hanger, hooking the end, pushing it down the drain as far as it will go, and pulling up hair that is keeping the water from draining properly.