Clean Up Your Act: All Natural Homemade Cleaners

And now we’ll continue the cleaning chit-chat with this handy little homemade cleaner breakdown. When we talked about getting even greener and experimenting with homemade cleaners in year three of YHL, an expert in that very area offered up a few of her favorite formulas. And we jumped at the chance to learn how all natural and totally eco-friendly cleaning materials are easy and effective- and sometimes way cheaper than paying for the more toxic stuff that can hurt pets, kids, people in general and the planet at large. Here’s what Evan the all-knowing homemade cleaner girl passed along:

This has become an obsession for me. If you think of your home as a sanctuary you want it to be not only beautiful but safe for your health! Store bought chemicals and cleansers can not only be toxic, poisonous or cause other averse health effects (no wonder they have all those warnings and skull & crossbone images on them) but they can also be expensive, completely unregulated, bad for the environment and full of excess packaging that ends up in landfills every day. They often come with big bold warnings that say things like “danger”, “caution”, “corrosive”, “irritant”, and even “chronic health hazard” which by definition can mean anything from “chemicals that destroy tissue” (corrosive) to “causes sterility and birth defects” (chronic health hazard). And even those that just say “danger” or “caution” can be attached to warnings that say “may be fatal or cause blindness if swallowed” or “highly toxic, flammable, poisonous and corrosive.”

Well Evan, when you put it that way, the toxic store bought cleaners bearing those labels (which can commonly be found on everything from basic toilet bowl cleaners to oven and drain solutions) sound pretty terrible. Tell us more.

By contrast, some non-toxic and all natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar are not only not corrosive, poisonous, or hazardous to your health in any way, they’re actually completely safe if ingested (after all they’re found in the kitchen and they’re 100% edible!).

  • Baking Soda is a great naturally abrasive ingredient with mild alkaline properties, it’s also a natural deodorizer and stain remover, and it rinses easily, is completely non-toxic (no more dangers for kids and pets licking surfaces that you’ve cleaned) and it’s extremely affordable (you can grab a 12lb bag at Costco for next to nothing).
  • Vinegar is an all natural and mild acid, it’s also a known disinfectant that can remove stains, sanitize, and it’s also completely non-toxic and inexpensive (you can also grab a giant jug of it at Costco for an extremely reasonable price). It should be noted that it shouldn’t be used on stone surfaces or acetate fabrics but there are many other natural cleaning methods that work for those surfaces.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide is also non-toxic (learn more about it and it’s many uses here) and is known to be a natural bleaching agent with disinfectant and stain removing properties. It’s also extremely inexpensive (just $1 for three bottles at Walgreen’s).
  • All Natural Tea Tree Oil And Grapefruit Oil (which have known antibacterial properties) And Lemon Juice (which naturally cuts grease and leaves a totally fresh scent) are also extremely helpful to have in your all-natural cleaning arsenal.
  • Liquid Castile Soap (like Dr. Bronner’s, sold at Target, Trader Joe’s, etc) is a vegetable based soap as opposed to a petroleum based one, which makes it completely non-toxic so it can be used on your face and body but will also work well when it comes to cleaning your home. It’s not quite as inexpensive as baking soda or vinegar, but a large 32 oz containter is just $8.99 at Trader Joe’s.

But how do you put them all together? Here are some of Evan’s favorite all-natural homemade cleaning formulas:

Surface Spray:

  • 16 oz spray bottle
  • 2 tsp. borax
  • ¼ tsp. liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • hot water

All Purpose Liquid Cleaner:

  • 1 gal. hot water
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)

All Purpose Abrasive Cleaner:

  • liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 2 tbsp. baking soda

Mix to make a foamy paste.

Refrigerator Cleaner:

  • 2 tbs. baking soda in 1 qt warm water

Wipe down inside and out and rinse with a clean wet cloth.

Oven Cleaner:

  • Dampen with water
  • Sprinkle liberally with baking soda

Leave 20 minutes, then scrub until clean.

Microwave Cleaner:

  • ½ c. vinegar
  • 2 c. water

Combine in microwave safe bowl, heat on high for 3-4 minutes, remove bowl and wipe down inside of microwave.

Dishwasher Detergent:

  • 2 c. borax
  • 2 c. baking soda
  • 4 little packages of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid (or generic)

Mix together and store. You can substitute ½ c. of citric acid for the Kool-Aid but it’s harder to find.

Fruit and Vegetable Wash:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 20 drops grapefruit seed extract

Spray on produce, rinse after 5 minutes.

Fruit and Vegetable Wash #2:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda

Spray on produce, wipe after 5 minutes.

Drain Cleaner:

  • 1 c. baking soda first
  • 1 c. white vinegar second
  • 1 gallon boiling water

Allow to foam for 5 minutes before adding water.

Window, Glass and Chrome Cleaner:

  • 5 parts water to 1 part white vinegar, OR
  • 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, ½ tsp. castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)

Toilet Bowl Cleaners:

  • Liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • Baking soda or borax

Scrub with a toilet brush.

Tub And Tile Cleaner:

  • Apply vinegar full-strength to a sponge and wipe
  • Scour with baking soda

Soft Scrub for Fixtures:

  • ½ c. baking soda
  • Castile soap
  • 10 drops of antibacterial essential oil (optional)

Add enough castile soap until you have a frosting like consistency. Scrub, then rinse with water.

Mildew/Germ Killer:

  • 2 c. water
  • 25 drops of tea tree oil
  • 25 drops of lavender oil


Spray on tile and do not wipe off.

Mildew/Germ Killer 2:

  • 16 oz spray bottle
  • 1 part hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 parts water

Spray, let sit. Rinse after 1 hour.

Wood Floor Cleaner:

  • ¼ c. vinegar
  • 1 gal. warm water

Mop or rag should be slightly damp for cleaning.

Linoleum Floor Cleaner:

  • 1 c. vinegar
  • 2 gal. warm water

Mop or rag can be fully wet for cleaning.

Carpet Stain Remover:

  • 1 part borax
  • 10 parts warm water

Combine in spray bottle. Spray on stain, wait 5 minutes, blot with clean rag.

Carpet Stain Remover:

  • vinegar
  • baking soda

Mix vinegar and baking soda into a paste. Gently work into stain with a toothbrush. Let dry then vacuum completely.

Carpet Deodorizer:

  • Baking soda
  • 10 drops of essential oil (optional)

Mix together then sprinkle generously on carpet, wait 15 minutes and vacuum.

All-Purpose Carpet Cleaner:

After vacuuming first,

  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 3 c. boiling water

Blot mixture onto nap of rug with a wet rag, Dry and air thoroughly. Vacuum.

Air Freshener:

  • 2 parts water
  • 1 part rubbing alcohol
  • Essential oil

Mix in spray bottle, don’t spray on silks or delicates. Experiment with how much oil to add, but start with 5 drops.

Air Freshener 2:

  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 c. hot water

Mix in spray bottle, don’t spray on silks or delicates.



Furniture Polish:

  • ½ tsp. olive oil
  • ¼ c. vinegar or lemon juice

Mix in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces.


  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1  part vegetable oil

Rub into the scratches and polish.

Rust Remover:

  • Sprinkle area with salt
  • Squeeze lime onto salt

Leave sit for 2-3 hours, then scrub w/ lime rind (or try Almost-Doctor Dan’s method).

Metal Polish (copper and brass):

  • 2 tbsp. salt

Add vinegar until you make a paste. Rub on metal with a clean rag. Wipe clean.

Powdered Laundry Detergent:

  • 1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap
  • ½ c. washing soda
  • ½ c. borax

For light load, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.

Liquid Laundry Detergent:

  • 3 pints water
  • 1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
  • ½ c. washing soda
  • ½ c. borax
  • 2 gallon bucket
  • 1 quart hot water

Mix soap in saucepan with 3 pints of water. Heat on low until dissolved. Stir in soda and borax until thickened. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to bucket, then soap mixture, mix well. Fill rest of bucket with hot water, mix and let sit for 24 hours. Use ½ c. per laundry load.

Laundry Pre-treatment (*do NOT use with bleach, since ammonia + bleach can create dangerous fumes):

  • ½ c. ammonia
  • ½ c. white vinegar
  • ¼ c. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. liquid soap or laundry detergent
  • 2 quarts water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot.

Laundry Pre-treatment 2:

  • 1 tsp. liquid laundry detergent
  • 2 tbsp. ammonia
  • 1 pt. warm water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot, let sit for 20 minutes.

Fabric Softener:

Add ½ – 1 c. vinegar to your softener dispenser

Bleach Alternative (Laundry):

  • ¼ c. hydrogen peroxide


But wait, Evan has even more ideas to keep things green and clean around your casa:

  • Run your dishwasher late at night without a heat-dry setting and let things air dry overnight instead
  • Replace sponges with washable and reusable items like microfiber cloths and dishrags
  • Premix large batches of cleaning formulas so they’re always on hand and you’re never tempted to buy store stuff again
  • Set your washer to cold/cold for the most eco laundry you can get
  • Have people take off their shoes when they enter the house and wipe down the shower after each use (these preventative methods will really keep the house cleaner and cut down on your work)

And just because she’s such a pro, Evan even included her resources so you can learn more or see where she got her facts. Gotta love a girl who’s so thoroughAND considerate:Consumer Reports, Nat’l Geographic, The Green Guide, Do It Green, Frugal Living, The Vinegar Institute, EarthEasy, Coyne and Kutzen “The Urban Homestead”

But what about you guys? Do you see any favorite homemade formulas above? Any others to add to the mix? We always love a good DIY project, so homemade cleaning supplies are right up our alley. And we’re itching to know what you’re whipping up in your neck of the woods. Do tell.


  1. says

    Wow! So many recipes it was almost overwhelming. I can’t wait to use up my old things and start using these though. Healthier and cheaper sound like the best way to go to me!

  2. Jody says

    I use baking soda on my stainless steel kitchen sink at least once a week. I just sprinkle it all over and scrub it with a wet sponge and wipe clean….it makes it sparkle like new! So easy and cheap!

  3. Jessica says

    We only use ‘chemical-free’, but our arsenal consists of just a spray bottle of vinegar, a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a box of baking soda. I’ve never needed to mix up a specific amount of anything for a certain spot in my home. I either sprinkle on the baking soda or spray with the vinegar, wipe it down (mop it up, whatever!) then disinfect with a spray of hydrogen peroxide. I’ve never had any problem with it, even on granite. I purchased some tea tree oil, but haven’t ever figured out how to use it, or to handle the smell!

  4. Jessica says

    I guess I should add that we do purchase 7th Generation dishwasher detergent (borax is listed above in ‘recipe’ for it, but borax is not something I consider safe), liquid dish soap and laundry detergent…there’s no way I’m taking the time to boil my own, no matter how green it is!

    • says

      Hey Jessica,

      There’s certainly no shame in adopting some homemade cleaning ideas and still using things like 7th Generation detergent and dish soap to supplement the entire clean-up process. That approach is definitely the one we plan to take, and you gotta love the convenience of buying some eco stuff along with learning how to whip up a few things of your own!


  5. Kim says

    Dusting baking soda onto carpets is a great idea, and that technique could probably also be used for other things that may need deodorizing from time to time, like couches and other upholstered furniture. I haven’t tried it yet, but I read a while back that cheap vodka is a great multi-purpose cleaner. One thing I read: mix water to vodka 3:1, mist over stinky furniture, clothing, etc., let dry, and all offending odors should be gone (including any vodka smell)!

  6. Laura says

    Thanks for the awesome post! When you mix these formulas above (for example the all purpose liquid and surface cleaners) is it OK to reuse an old Windex bottle, for example (washed out, rinsed) OR it is better to buy a new spray bottle just for the more eco-friendly products? Also, I recently bought some of the Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (in almond scent – yummy!) and would like to begin using it for all things related to cleaning, washing hands, dishes, etc. I know that you mix this with some water before using it. How much water do you mix with it and where do you store the mixture for later use?


    • says

      Hey Laura,

      We just put our entire bottle of Dr. Bronner’s (we also love the almond scent) under the faucet from time to time and let some water run in so it’s a bit watered down (although using it without watering it down won’t have any ill effects). There’s definitely no science to it, but it really goes far when you stretch it that way. As for reusing a Windex bottle, I guess you could do that to save money but a new spray bottle is only about 80 cents at Home Depot or Target and you’re sure it’s chemical free so it might be worth the splurge!


  7. Yulia says

    I love this post! I’m always looking for ways to get toxic chemicals out of my house. I’ve seen the laundry detergent formula before (the one I read said you could substitute ivory soap for the Fels Naptha), but I was concerned about washing soda and borax. Are they safe??? Can they be used safely on children’s clothes?

    Any chemists out there that could comment on Washing Soda and Borax???

    • Tracey Carsto says

      I have eczema and have been using homemade detergent with vinegar for fabric softner for about 3 months with no ill effects. I would have no problem using this on baby clothes.

  8. says


    Glad to see this post. I only clean with these soluns. I find they work way better than $$ products, and they’re very budget friendly! Baking powder to clean my kitchen sink is my fav! It’s a white ceramic and a little elbow grease the baking powder leaves it squeaky clean! In fact, baking powder works on the faucet head, too – metal! Go figure.

    <3 you two!

  9. Sarah says

    GREAT POST!! I am so excited to learn of new ways to use my Dr. Bronners. We have made our own cleaning supplies for a few years and I always love hearing new recipes. I have an excellent recipe for a homemade daily shower spray (you know the kind you spray as soon as you get out so you never have to clean your shower) that I have been using that really keeps my shower sparkly. I am at work right now, but I can post that recipe later when I get home. I also have another recipe for laundry detergent I can post that doesn’t have any soap in it. We use cloth diapers an many of the homemade recipes I found don’t work well with those. I also found a homemade febreeze recipe that I love. I’ll get those posted as soon as I can. :)

    • says

      Hey Sarah,

      Deffffffinitely share your shower spray recipe when you get a chance. We’re always excited to learn what works for people and your shower sounds all sparkly and fabulous!


  10. says

    This isn’t a product tip, but a cleaning tip: Before washing your microwave, put a cup of water in and microwave it for a minute or so. The evaporating water softens everything up and drastically reduces the amount of elbow grease needed.

  11. says

    Thanks for the great list of “recipes” that you have listed! We did a similar post a little while ago ( and I have been trying to incorporate some of these methods into my cleaning rourtine. We love Dr. Bronners and the baking soda + warm water worked wonders on the fridge. I have been saving old t-shirts to cut up for rags to use on the countertops instead of so many paper towels and have tried to cut out all the harsh chemicals like bleach! Thanks again!

  12. Elaine K says

    I just purchased microfiber sponges at the new Ross for Less on Midlothian Turnpike.(4 for $5 I think). Way more absorbent than a sponge and you can still santitize it in the dishwasher. With flu season here I’m hesitant to give up my Lysol wipes. Does Dr. Dan think the natural remedies kill as many germs?

    • says

      Hey Elaine,

      Good question. Almost-Doctor Dan refuses to comment unless he’s 100% schooled on the subject of something, and since he hasn’t studied natural remedies or eco-friendly cleaning supplies at all he’s hesitant to weigh in. We have heard from many doctors, chemists and almost-doctors (in the comment section of this old post) that regular old soap and water cleaning methods eliminate germs like salmonella though (along with tea-tree oil and other natural disinfectants) so we hope that helps!


    • Sarahgrace says

      My doctor recently told me about all the wonderful properties of vinegar. It is really a better germ killer than Lysol or Clorox wipes. She recently moved to a new building and when the health inspector came to inspect , they told her to lose the Clorox wipes! She was shocked. But they explained that for Lysol or Clorox wipes to actually kill germs, the solution needs to sit on the surface ( without evaporating) for at least 2 minutes, or longer! People think that they are killing germs etc. I’m a teacher and during flu season, we wipe everything down like crazy. But the health inspector said we’d be better off wiping everything down with vinegar, or peroxide. Hope that helps!

      Other cool things she told me about vinegar: it helps clear infections, or rashes, pour about two cups into a warm bath and soak. I was skeptical, but it has changes my life! I have very sensitive skin and I rash out from the weirdest things, and the vinegar soaks do better than and ointment or creams. This may be tmi but they also help kill yeast infections!
      Also, vinegar is a natural bug repellant, so using it around the house keeps bugs away.
      I am prone to sinus infections, and my doctor told me to put a couple teaspoons of vinegar in my humidifier to help kill germs, allergens in my house.

  13. says

    I’m slowing working us towards more natural cleaning supplies. One question I have is this: what is a safe and all natural method for cleaning silver? I was gifted two gorgeous silver bowls by my grandmother at my wedding that she received on her wedding day. Sadly, they’ve tarnished. I’m hesitant to use a cleaner with toxic chemicals on the bowls because they’re sold old, but have had a hard time finding an all-natural silver polish recipe.


    • says

      Hey Jenn,

      We googled around a bit and found this all-natural recipe for polishing silver. Seems like you can use Dr. Bronner’s for a totally chemical free shine:

      1. Fill sink with warm water and mild dish detergent.

      2. Hand wash each individual piece of silver.

      3. Using a soft cotton dish towel, dry silver completely.

      4. Dull silver can be buffed a little with a dry cotton cloth.


    • Suzi says

      All these cleaning suggestions are almost right, but missing one important element. When using vinegar as a disinfectant on hard surfaces that will be touched or as a healing agent for the skin or for feminine douching use APPLE CIDAR VINEGAR. Apple has the safe, healthy, healing property that kills bacteria and endless other benefits. However, if cleaning clogged drains or other industrial type needs use WHITE vinegar with baking soda.
      If removing tarnish from silver, place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your basin before adding the water and baking soda, then place your silverware on top of the foil and allow it to sit there for a few minutes. The tarnish will roll off in long strings as you wipe the silver pieces with a sponge or cloth. The silver will require polishing once the tarnish is gone in order to regain its mirror-like shine, as it will be dull. Fine jewellery stores or upscale department stores that sell quality silverware often carry special mittens or cloths that are treated to buff and polish silverware, and to reduce tarnish presence. Helpful hint: eggs cause tarnish on fork tines and spoons when used to eat them. Eat your eggs with stainless steel instead. ;)

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