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It pretty much kills me to spend money for things I know I can make myself for less than their pricey commercial cousins.

Take cleaning products for example. Knowing how to make things for pennies that cost dollars at the store just makes me happy. It's a no-brainer.

Here are three handy recipes to help you get started saving all that money you've been spending on household cleaners.

GRANITE CLEANER

Countertops made of granite, marble and stone are tricky because these materials are porous and stain easily. You never want to clean them with anything acidic, which means vinegar and lemon juice are both out.

Here is a homemade granite cleaner that will not stain nor is it acidic. Used with a good microfiber cloth, it works like a champ to clean and shine these natural counters.

Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a 16 oz. spray bottle. Add a few drops Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent, five to 10 drops essential oil (this is optional, but will add a nice fragrance) plus enough distilled water to fill the bottle. Apply the spray top and shake to mix. You can use this cleaner to clean and shine your appliances as well.

This homemade solution costs about 25 cents for 16 oz. Compare that to Granite Gold ($21.75/64 oz.), or Method Daily Granite, ($22.30/two 28 oz. bottles)

STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER

Start with a clean 16 oz. spray bottle. Pour in 1 1/3 cups white vinegar, five drops Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent and 2/3 cup distilled water. Apply the spray top and shake to mix.

To use, simply spray on stainless steel appliances, wipe with a microfiber cloth or sponge to clean; rinse well and then buff with a dry cloth to shine. Be sure to label this product clearly, as you do not want to use it on natural countertops of granite, marble or stone because it contains vinegar.

You can spend upwards of $10 for a 16 oz. bottle of Weiman or 3M cleaner for stainless appliances, or make it yourself for lots less than a buck.

CARPET SHAMPOO

This is a cleaning solution to be used in your Hoover SteamVac or other carpet-cleaning machine. Into the cleaner's reservoir, pour one cup Febreze, one cup liquid OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover and one cup white vinegar. Add hot water to the fill line. This is the solution I use in my Hoover SteamVac for challenging situations that get a lot of traffic. Once I've cleaned the carpet thoroughly, I fill Hoover with clear hot water and go over the carpets again to rinse.

This homemade solution should not leave residue on your carpet fibers (I rinse just because I'm especially paranoid about removing all residue) and will not cost a fortune to shampoo the whole house.

Carpet cleaning solutions can be expensive. A small bottle that normally cleans one to two rooms is approximately $15 to $20. Making this recipe should cut that cost down to $5 or less if you get the ingredients on sale.

 Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question," or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. 

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