Best Bargain Buys: 10 Great, Cheap Cleaners

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Good cleaners can be hard to come by. We all want something that's effective, doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and won't kill us with toxic fumes. I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to settle for 2 out of 3 on this one.

A cheap, effective cleaner that renders my bathroom unusable due to the danger of asphyxiating on dangerous chemical vapors or an effective, natural cleaner that costs so much that I have to downsize or take on roommates to afford it simply will not cut it. Fortunately there are other options! Here's a list of great, inexpensive cleaners that I use in my own home.

1. This Homemade Citrus Cleaner is amazing! It's a bit of an investment in time, but as it's made from discarded citrus peels and plain white vinegar it costs less than a dollar for the whole batch.

2. Barkeeper's Friend is only $2.00 a canister and has a dozen uses. It's the only thing that gets the stains off the bottoms of my le Creuset, so I'm definitely a big fan.

3. Bleach, another multi-tasker. Great for whitening laundry, removing stains, and sanitizing kids' and dogs' toys (diluted of course). I prefer the chlorine-free biodegradable Seventh Generation Bleach, it's only $4.49 a gallon and lasts forever!

4. CitraSolv Degreaser is essentially a highly concentrated version of our Homemade Citrus Cleaner, which makes it perfect for cleaning heavy grease stains on driveways and in garages, as well as removing permanent marker and oil based paint from spots where they don't belong. For someone without children it is surprising how often I need to clean up paint/marker/crayon from walls and furniture, I get a little enthusiastic with my projects!

5. Earthstone Kitchen Scrub Stones are like pumice stones for your oven. They're $3.95 for two stones, which will last through many cleanings of your oven, range, broiler, and even your Pyrex.

6. Now, you'll have to hear me out on this one. At about $18 a bottle, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap doesn't appear to be cheap, but the 32-ounce bottle goes a long way and can essentially clean anything in your home, including your very own body. Really, you can use it to wash the dishes, mop the floor, do the laundry, cleanse produce, and yes, wash your hair and shave your legs too. Plus it comes in eight great scents, including my favorite, unscented (I know, I'm pretty wild!).

7. Good old-fashioned 20 Mule Team Borax is cheap (under $4.00 a box), and performs one of my favorite tasks, cleaning the machines that are supposed to be doing the cleaning. It kills mold and gets rid of mildew smells that might lurk in the washing machine and freshens a less than fresh smelling dishwasher, plus in its more traditional function as a laundry aid it softens water and adds to the effectiveness of detergent.

8. Up & Up Floor Sweeper Cloths are meant to be a replacement for a Target brand floor sweeper, but I tend to simply use them on their own to dust surfaces and occasionally to "foot mop" the floor. They're $3.59 for 16 cloths and perfect for times when you suddenly need to tidy up because someone is going to stop by. I also like to slip one in my suitcase when I travel so I can dust off my shoes during my trip, it's amazing how dingy a pair of black shoes can look when you've been wearing them several days straight!

9. Microfiber Towels ($9.88 for 18) are great for cleaning and polishing smooth surfaces. They're particularly good at achieving a streak-free finish on shiny surfaces like the glass front of your microwave or oven. Plus, they're reusable, which is good for your wallet and your conscience.

10. Magic Erasers are a guilty little secret of mine. I've been fascinated by them for years, ever since a college chemistry professor explained how the open-cell foam pads are created, it's cleaning and it's science! I hate that they're disposable, but I absolutely love how effectively they clean difficult stains without added cleaning agents. They're only $2.69 for a box of two, which is great as I only tend to use about one a year for cleaning scuff marks on the walls and floors!

What great, cheap cleaners do you use in your home? Have I missed anything great?

(Image credits: Kate Legere)

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