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.

Dusting:

 


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.

Scratches:

  • 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

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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.

Comments

  1. says

    I put a coffee mug filled with water and some soap (i.e. like Dr. Bronner’s) in the microwave for a few minutes and it starts bubbling up/steaming/even flowing over the sides, and then it’s extremely easy to clean up any caked on, tough messes! Not that I like to let the microwave get that dirty, but you know… sometimes it happens.

  2. Stacy says

    This is something I started doing about 6 months ago. I make my own laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent; essentially everything now. The savings are astronomical and I feel better about my approach.

    Plus I get a little high in feeling like I’ve somehow beat the system.

  3. Julie says

    I LOVE Fels Naptha soap – it is the best stain remover! Just get the clothes/other fabric wet on the place where there’s a stain, and scrub the bar of soap on the stain. Let it sit for a minute or two, then put it in the wash. We have a 4 month old baby and baby poop stains are the worst – nothing else seems to work on them. But we haven’t had any stains yet (despite lots of accidents…) because of Fels Naptha. It’s so cheap, too!

    I’ve never actually tried it on anything but baby stains, but I’ve heard it works really well on grass stains, etc.

    Thanks for the tips – I have been looking for greener ways to clean!

    • Lanie says

      Fels Naptha (I get at Wal-Mart for 83 cents a bar) has many wonderful uses in addition to laundry stains. We own many rent houses and I use it to clean NASTY bathtubs, just get bar and green scrubby wet – rub scrubby on bar until foamy and scrub dirt, grime, and soap scum away. It is also a wonderful paint brush cleaner and keeps paint brushes soft and in great shape – saves a bunch of money not having to replace so often. For water based just rub brush on soap bar until lathered good then let sit for a few minutes and clean as usual. For oil based paints, clean brush with paint thinner first and then clean with fels naptha as you would a brush used for water based paints.

    • Farmer Mama says

      Fels Naptha will even remove old stains. I wet the bar and rub it on the stain! Worked so well I use it one everything. Grape juice stains ect.

  4. says

    I wonder if I can use something “green” for my stainless steel fridge. I’m a little scared to use borax though, seems a little iffy for toxicity from what I’ve read before. Thanks for all the recipes and I hope to use them soon. We just bought a house and it needs a good deep cleaning!

    • says

      Hey Sara,

      Just use a moist microfiber cloth without anything on it! We heard from a number of people this morning on our other post that it’s perfect for keeping pesky fingerprints off stainless steel. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

    • Jamie says

      Vinegar works really well on stainless. It gets all the little fingerprints and smudges off and doesn’t leave any streaks.

  5. says

    I have been researching and using non-toxic home cleaners for a while now. I used to use Melaleuca (a membership company) but found it was getting a little expensive. I’ve also bought from Shaklee. Then I started making my own using many of the products you mentioned. But when recently reading up on this I found that our homemade recipes aren’t killing 99.9% of germs (needed to be considered a disinfectant by the EPA) and important to me with my kids, germs and flu season. So I did just find and ordered a natural disinfecting cleaner (with no warning labels-yay!). You can check it out here if you’re interested: http://www.benefect.com. I’ve been using it and I’m happy with it so far.

    • Alice says

      You must remember that all germs are not bad. There are many good ones that we need to be healthy. We have gotten germ phobia these days. We also need to be exposed to germs to keep our immune system working, or we get everything that comes along.
      Just clean things and stop the worry about germs.

  6. Carolyn says

    Thanks for the great info. I can’t wait to try some of these. My favorite natural cleaning tip is for the microwave (similar to a couple other comments above). I put a mug filled with water and a few lemon slices in the microwave. Heat for a few minutes (until the water is about boiling). Leave it in the microwave (with the door shut) for a few more minutes to let the steam work. Then just wipe out the microwave with a rag. Everything comes off easily, and it smells lemony-clean.

  7. Adam says

    My wife and I have been using vinegar and baking soda for a lot of our cleaning for a while. The only caution I have is to avoid heating vinegar in the microwave for any real length of time. We once put a small bowl (a few ounces) in to warm it up before cleaning something and it exploded (though nothing was broken).

    The upside to that was it cleaned out the microwave.

  8. says

    LOVE this post….I’ve recently started using some of the same solutions at home that I found on the internet. Baby steps toward all homemade natural cleaners. Woo hoo!

  9. jo says

    this is an AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME post you guys! i haven’t come across such a complete list of recipes anywhere else before. and it is laid out so nicely that i feel like i can get to work on creating my new cleaning solutions asap! 3 gold stars for you!

    and i also have one tip for people looking for an incredibly effective yet non-toxic and eco-friendly alternative to those clorox/lysol wipes. it’s called sol-u-guard by ecosense and is an all botanical disinfectant spray that kills 99.99% of bacteria (salmonella, staphyloccocus and even HIV!) it is all natural but effective enough to use in hospitals. good stuff!

  10. says

    I’ve used the vinegar and baking soda trick to clean drains for years. It’s much more effective than any store bought junk and it’s way more fun, too. All that bubbling and fizzing. Way more fun than Liquid Plumber. hehehe

    I also have used vinegar and water to clean mirrors and windows.

    Baking soda and peroxide are good at bleaching stained mugs. My tea and coffee mugs are notorious for getting stained. I sprinkle a little baking soda on the bottom, pour some peroxide over it (maybe add a little water, too), mix and let soak overnight. Wipe and rinse. Easy peasy.

  11. sarah says

    Not sure if this was mentioned above- but for the microwave, we use a cup of water plus a few drops of vanilla extract (or orange extract if we’re feeling good ;) ). It steams the inside enough to make it easy to wipe down and leaves it smelling pretty too.

  12. elizabeth says

    We started using Charlie’s Soap All Purpose Cleaner for nearly everything. I bought a gallon and then filled 3 spray bottles with different dilutions.