Strolling through the household cleansers section of a grocery store can sometimes seem like a trip through a chemical wonderland, a cross between Willy Wonka's factory and a high school science lab. Multicolored potions peek from hundreds of bottles and lurid labels advertise the latest miracle cleansers. Bizarre and beautiful brands abound: Some claim to be they're easier on the environment, others promise that they won't harm your family. All seem to guarantee that they will make even your toughest stains disappear.
It would be natural to yearn for something simpler -- a few household cleaners that are effective, not too expensive, and not too rough on the environment. The wonderful thing is, these cleaners exist, and have existed for decades. They are, in short, the tried-and-true brands that your mother and grandmother used.
In the search for cleaner, healthier homes, it's easy to dismiss the harsh chemicals of the past. Yet, it's also worth noting that the active ingredients in many popular cleaners -- things like ammonia and borax, alcohol and vinegar -- are basically the same things that grandma used, albeit with the addition of lots of water and a little food coloring.
And therein lies one of grandma's secrets: Filling bottles with water and shipping them across the country is expensive, and the manufacturers charge you for the extra gas. If you add the water from your tap, instead of relying on Windex and Mr. Clean to do so, you can save a lot of money. As an added plus, you're also cutting down on the gas used to ship your products around and the number of harsh chemicals that you're adding to the environment.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.