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12 cheap alternatives to overpriced cleaning products

Can’t afford to splash out on expensive cleaning products? These cheap, cheerful and effective cleaning tricks should ease the pain.

If there’s one thing more annoying than having to clean the house, it’s having to waste your precious pennies on overpriced cleaning products.

There’s actually no need to fork out on expensive cleaning supplies to get your floors, windows and even your microwave sparkling (trust us on this). You might already have everything you need to have your whole flat completely spotless sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

When you eventually get round to it, the following alternative cleaning supplies are perfect for a student household. They’re cheap, versatile, non-toxic (you can even eat this stuff) and – as you’ll see from the suggestions below – extremely multi-purpose!

Ingredients for making natural cleaning products


Vinegar is something we’re all very familiar with, but very few can actually tell you what it’s made of.

There are many types of vinegar that are made slightly differently, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re a weak form of acetic acid that’s created through a natural fermentation process (go science).

Although vinegar is technically an acid, it’s entirely safe to eat (obviously), and it has just a high enough acidity level to lift dirt and make things sparkle!


Normally called upon for medicinal purposes, the humble lemon is a bit of an underdog when it comes to household cleaning. Not only do lemons have antibacterial and antiseptic qualities that can sort you out when you’ve got a cold, but these qualities also make lemons ideal for using around the house.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a reason why so many cleaning products are lemon scented, and it’s not just because they smell nice – lemon is also powerful at cutting through bad odours! That includes the three-month-old thing you have rotting at the back of the fridge.

Baking soda

Baking soda is one of these miracle products that’s become so thoroughly integrated into cleaning routines that we’ve forgotten how you’re even meant to use it for cooking in the first place. Trying to work out what it’s made from is even harder!

What we can tell you is that it’s a sort of powdery crystallised salt that’s slightly alkaline, which is why it foams when you combine it with vinegar. Baking soda is also good for soaking up odours (try sprinkling it into your smelly trainers after you’ve been to the gym!).


Aaah coke – terrible for your gut, but great for making things look nice and shiny!

The combination of coke’s carbonation (the bubbles) and the high level of acidity make it the ideal substance for cleaning things up. Not only this, but the carbonic acid it contains can dissolve limescale, and the phosphoric acid can even remove rust!

Kind of makes you think twice about ever drinking it again…

12 natural cleaning alternatives you can make yourself

  1. Window cleaner

    Mix equal quantities of white distilled vinegar and tap water in a spray bottle. Spray your windows with this solution, and use scrunched up newspaper to wipe them down.

    If your windows are seriously grimey, wash them with warm, soapy water first, and then use the vinegar solution and dry newspaper to get rid of any streaks.

  2. Drain unblocker

    You don’t need to rely on all those nasty, extremely toxic foaming drain unblockers to get things moving.

    Using baking soda, you’ll actually get a similar foamy reaction if done properly. Try pouring half a cup of baking soda down the blocked drain, and then follow it with a half cup of vinegar. Cover the drain with a cloth and leave for about 10 minutes. You’ll see science get to work as the two start to foam!

    Rinse with hot water after 10 minutes and you should find the soda and vinegar combined have worked their magic. If you’re still struggling to clear it, you can also try cutting a tennis ball in half, placing it over the plughole and using pressure to create the same effect as a plunger.

  3. Shower head descaler

    If you share your shower with a number of people and live in an area with high levels of limescale in the water, you’re probably familiar with the problem of a seriously scaly shower head.

    Sometimes, the buildup can get so bad it even prevents the water from flowing properly, and you find yourself struggling to wash under one single-jet drizzle. Vinegar can solve this issue in a jiffy (or, more accurately, in a few hours).

    First, detach the shower head completely (if you’re unsure how to do this, just unhook it from the wall). Find a bucket or bowl that it can fit into (the smaller the bowl, the less vinegar you’ll have to use) and fill it with white distilled vinegar until the shower head is completely covered.

    Leave it to soak for a couple of hours (overnight if you can). Remove the shower head from the vinegar and scrub under warm water with a toothbrush (an old one, please!) and the flakes should come away easy peasy!

  1. Oven cleaner

    Not only are oven cleaning sprays super potent and dangerous for your health (there’s a reason you’re told to cover absolutely everything in your kitchen and open all the windows when using them!), but they’re pretty expensive to buy too.

    You might be sceptical about this natural cleaning method, but believe it or not, it does actually work!

    First, use a dry scourer or brush to remove any bits of food from the inside of the oven. Then, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda across all the greasy bits and parts that need a good clean. Follow this up by spraying vinegar on top of the baking soda, and watch it foam up as it gets to work on that tough grease!

    Leave for at least 30 mins (but probably closer to an hour or two if it’s particularly grubby) then get scrubbing with a sponge, scourer or brush to make sure all the tough grease has been removed. Wipe down once or twice with a warm, damp cloth, and you’re good to go!

  2. Dishwasher or washing machine cleaner

    Does your dishwasher or washing machine smell bad, and generally need a cleanup? Vinegar is perfect for this as it’s non-toxic (so safe to run through your dishwasher) and weirdly, it’s even good for your clothes.

    Simply fill a plastic cup with white distilled vinegar and place this in the (empty!) machine. Run the machine on the hottest cycle and the vinegar and hot water together should break away any mould or mildew, and leave it smelling fresh!

    Interesting fact alert: In Scandinavia, fabric softener is hard to come by as many supermarkets don’t sell it because of the damage it does to the environment. Instead, they throw in a half cup of vinegar with every wash, as it’s said to keep clothes soft. And no, it doesn’t make your clothes smell like vinegar!

  3. Multi-surface cleaner

    You can mix vinegar with another household cleaning gem, the lemon, to make a pretty heavy-duty multi-purpose cleaner.

    Make the concoction by adding the skin of a lemon to a small(ish) jar of distilled vinegar and leaving for two days to pickle. Then, pour the vinegar into a spray bottle, and you have a mixture that will remove tough grease and even pick up strong smells like fish from kitchen surfaces.

    Warning! Don’t use vinegar to clean granite kitchen surfaces, as the acidity can etch away at porous surfaces like granite or marble. Also, you might be tempted to run some vinegar through your iron to clean that too but this isn’t a good idea – it can damage the internal parts of the iron, so avoid this!

  4. Chopping board cleaner

    how to clean chopping board

    Clean your chopping and cooking surfaces by cutting a lemon in half and rubbing it across the whole surface. By some sort of miracle, lemon seems to be able to remove even some of the most brutal smells (the dreaded fish guts being one that’s tried and tested!).

    If you have particularly tough stains or smells to clean up, try rubbing them with salt or throwing a bit of baking soda on first before you get a-lemon-rubbin’.

  5. Kettle descaler

    This one is so easy that you’ll wonder why on earth you’ve been enduring cups of tea with calcium floating around in them all this time.

    Fill your kettle with water to just below the max level and add one lemon cut into eight chunks. Bring the kettle to the boil, then leave to stand overnight (make sure you stick a post-it note warning your flatmates not to use it!).

    In the morning, throw the fruit away and give the kettle a good rinse (scrub the inside too to help get the flakes off if necessary) before making your scale-free cuppa!

  6. Bathroom mould remover

    If your bathroom tiles tend to suffer from a buildup of mould and mildew, there’s an easy way to keep on top of it that won’t break the bank.

    Mix a paste together out of equal parts baking soda and lemon juice and spread across the tiles (paying close attention to the mouldy bits, of course!).

    Leave the paste to work it’s magic for around two hours, then rinse off. Any tough spots can be removed using an old toothbrush!

  7. Clean up burnt pans

    Fill the saucepan with coke until the burnt area is completely covered (just go for cheap, discount cola – it does exactly the same thing!). Bring to the boil, then pour away the coke.

    Rinse and wash the pan with warm water, and you should find that the burnt parts of the pan come away pretty easily!

  8. Toilet cleaner

    If you’ve ever wondered what Coca-Cola does to your insides, this is a pretty clear (and worrying!) indication.

    If your toilet bowl is looking a bit grey and discoloured, try throwing in a can of cola and leaving overnight (coke cleans pretty slowly). In the morning, scrub away at the sides with a toilet brush and flush away.

    The phosphoric acid works wonders on removing limescale and discolouration!

  9. Microwave cleaner

    This one’s an old favourite! Chop a lemon into quarters and put in a microwave-proof bowl of water. Place the bowl in the microwave and ‘cook’ the lemon mixture on high for around three minutes.

    The time will vary depending on how powerful your microwave is, but we’d suggest waiting until you notice the glass steaming up from all the evaporating lemon liquid.

    This should get the hot lemon juice into all corners of the microwave, and the heat should loosen some of the tougher food splatters. Wipe down the insides with a cloth, and you’ll hopefully find that it cleans up nicely!

Struggling to keep your student housing clean? Check out our guide to dealing with difficult housemates, as well as tips on how to survive shared living!