Islanders share their DIY products for spring cleaning

Spring is a time when the light shines in and everything looks... dirty and dusty. Time for spring cleaning!

Make your own window cleaner, dryer balls and more

Water, vinegar and microfibre cloths feature prominently in many of your cleaning routines. (Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock)

Spring is a time when the light shines in and everything looks... dirty and dusty. Time for spring cleaning!

But you can spend a pretty penny on cleaners that just don't do a great job, leaving streaks on windows or stains in sinks. Not only can they be expensive, the harsh chemicals some contain can be bad for the environment.

I asked readers via Facebook their favourite ways to clean naturally and cheaply.

Vinegar is popular

"I use vinegar with lemon peels in it that sits under my sink for months at a time and costs cents per bottle to make and works wonders," said Tiffany MacDonald of Charlottetown. 

Vinegar and lemon peels 'costs cents per bottle to make and works wonders,' says Tiffany MacDonald of Charlottetown. (Submitted by Tiffany MacDonald)

"Water and vinegar for windows and bath," said Sue Vaughan. She uses a 50-50 water-vinegar solution. For tougher soap scum in the bathtub, she suggested upping the vinegar. "If the smell is too much, try adding lemon juice," she said. 

"For new bath installs, a lot of cleansing products will void the warranty," Vaughan noted. 

"Water/clear vinegar or small amount of bleach [plus] citrus or lavender essential oil [plus a] spot of dish soap works very well," commented Lise LeBlanc.

'A bit of a mild volcano'

Charlene Belsher of Murray Harbour says she loves liquid Castile soap mixed with baking soda as a bathroom cleaner. "Great for soap scum in the tub." 

'It's zero chemicals and smells fantastic,' says Caroline M. MacKinnon about the mixture of vinegar, tea tree oil and pure lemon essential oil she uses to clean everything. (Bebeto Matthews/The Associated Press)

Castile soap is vegetable-oil-based soap originally from the Castile region of Spain, and comes in liquid and solid form. 

"I mix vinegar, tea tree oil and pure lemon [essential oil] and use it to clean the bathroom, wash the inside of my car. It's zero chemicals and smells fantastic," says Caroline M. MacKinnon of Charlottetown. 

"For drain cleaning I pour baking soda down the drain, then add some vinegar," shared Vicky Day. "It's a bit of a mild volcano, but I've never had a clog and it speeds up liquid leaving the sink." She said it also work on minor clogs. 

DIY laundry

A couple of commenters said they have been making their own laundry soap for years.

Using a clothesline is cheap alternative to a dryer, but of course, spring and summer are better times to use one than winter. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

John Getson said he hasn't had to buy laundry detergent since around 1997. 

"We make our own about once a year. Now it's up around $19 a batch (was under $10 when we did the first one) and until January this year, [we did] at least one load every single day. A batch lasts a bit over a year."

Mae Bovyer, writing on Facebook as Stratford Area Lion, said she makes her own laundry soap with a recipe of Borax, Arm & Hammer washing soda and Sunlight bar soap, all for about $15 a year.

Borax is part of Mae Bovyer's recipe for DIY laundry detergent. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Here are the directions she sent along: melt one-third cup of shaved Sunlight soap in approximately one litre of hot water in a pot on the stove.

"I have an old cheese grater which I only use for this," Bovyer said. 

I ferment citrus peels for a month to make an enzyme cleaner.— Sharon Labchuk

Remove from heat and add half a cup of Borax and half a cup of Arm & Hammer washing soda, and stir to dissolve. In a bucket, pour six litres of water then add soap mixture and mix. Use a funnel to pour into recycled laundry bottle jugs. Shake well when you use, and use roughly one-quarter cup per load. 

"Quick process ... reading it here looks long winded, but it isn't," she said. 

Health Canada advises children and pregnant women avoid overexposure to Borax, also known as boric acid or boron.

"Health Canada has found that overexposure to boric acid has the potential to cause developmental and reproductive health effects," the agency's website said. "Since Canadians are already exposed to boric acid naturally through their diets and water, Health Canada is advising that exposure from other sources should be reduced as much as possible, especially for children and pregnant women."

Dryer balls 'work great'

Of course ye olde clothesline is the least expensive way to dry your clothes, but it is tougher in winter with a short supply of sunshine and freezing temperatures. 

Reusable wool balls are an alternative to dryer sheets for a great way to soften fabric and help keep down static. (Shutterstock / Craig Chaddock)

Many of you recommended one simple trick for drying clothes and reducing static. 

"I use wool dryer balls! They last forever. Well, until a green crayon ends up on the dryer, haha," commented Katherine Bryson of Flat River, P.E.I. 

"The wool dryer balls work great. I add essential oil to mine. Use three large ones, but some of my friends use six small ones," said Lisa Wilson-Snair.

"They totally reduce the amount of dryer time," added Leni Johnston.

Susan Marchbank shared one of her dryer ball creations. (Submitted by Susan Marchbank )

Susan Marchbank said she goes a step further, not only adding essential oil but rubbing her dryer balls "with a bar of Lush conditioner" to keep down static. 

Karen McInnis had a slightly different take on dryer balls. She cuts a one-inch square from a sponge, adds a few drops of essential oil and folds it into a piece of tinfoil. 

"Then make a tinfoil crinkly ball around it. Crinkle the foil first then wrap it around. No more dryer sheets and use it again and again," she said.

Enzyme cleaner 'like a miracle'

I have been making my own dryer sheets for a few months, soaking rags in a plastic storage container with a cup of white vinegar and about 30-40 drops of lavender oil, but we find the laundry smells too vinegary. 

Sharon Labchuk of Millvale makes her own cleaner she says is "like a miracle."

"I ferment citrus peels for a month to make an enzyme cleaner. After throwing every (non-toxic) thing in my house at a stain on a white top, I remembered the enzyme." 

Labchuck said the cleaner also neutralizes odours — she even used it to clean male cat pee on her car seat. "Took a few applications but it worked," she said.

She shared this YouTube video on how to make enzyme cleaner. You need sugar, organic citrus peels, clean water and a clean bottle to put it in. 

Cleaning cloths 

Tiffany MacDonald and many others professed their love of antibacterial Norwex cleaning cloths, which are microfibre, last a long time and claim to need only water to clean just about anything. Others said any microfibre cloth will do. 

Cleaning cloths or rags replace the need to use paper towels, which are of course made from trees. 

Microfibre cloths can make cleaning windows and other surfaces a lot easier. (Home Depot)

"My current Norwex cloths have been in use for five years so the amount of waste compared to conventional cloths is significant," MacDonald pointed out. 

My mother always used to use newspapers to clean windows, sprayed with vinegar. 

"I did it, but no longer read hard copy — it worked," commented Loanne MacKay of Charlottetown. 

More P.E.I. news 


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara has worked with CBC News in P.E.I. since 1988, starting with television and radio before moving to the digital news team. She grew up on the Island and has a journalism degree from the University of King's College in Halifax. Reach her by email at


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