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. Carol from Indian Springs says

    Wow, this info is great to have, thanks! I’ll be sure to get some empty bottles and containers to make up this ahead of time and label it (since DH does his share of the cleaning). Although the reason DH does some of the dirty work is because the chemicals mess with my asthma. Doesn’t look like I will have that excuse anymore!

  2. Kalyn says

    Thanks so much for this list! I like using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide already but these recipes will make cleaning a lot more fun.

  3. Amy says

    Not really a cleaning tip per se, but I just bought a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s pepppermint soap (smells so good) and put it in a new soap dispenser. Since it’s so concentrated, I filled the bottle about 1/4 with the soap then added water to completely fill the bottle. Perfect handsoap – and no added chemicals to dry out our hands as it gets colder (and we’re washing much longer and more often to keep yucky germs at bay).

    The other thing – I just purchased a steam mop and am excited to use it on my shower, floors, toilets, counter tops (yes, I’m designating different mop head covers for the various tasks). :)

  4. Valerie says

    Great post!!! Does anyone know if it’s ok to use straight borax or baking soda to clean the toilet bowl or fiberglass tub? Will they scratch? I’ve used straight baking soda on my coffee/tea mugs and it works like a champ. Just mix a bit of baking soda and water in your mug and the brown stains come right off!

    • Robin Lebo says

      I am a plumber and I will tell you those soft items will not harm your fixtures. If I could get half of the cleaning companies at major stores to do the same I would not have to replace so many sinks, toilets, mop sinks, etc.When those are scratched and dark it is because someone has been cleaning with harsh cleansers like comet. The baking soda and lemon juice will cut through the soap scum as well. Another hint: Wax your showers after cleaning with a beeswax or other natural wax and rub til shiny. It will bead up the water better and last between cleaning keeping the soap scum from sticking. Thanks, your local plumber.

  5. Amy says

    When we moved into our house, there was some grease stuck on the stove (the area where the clock, knobs are). Not a lot, but it grossed me out. I tried EVERYTHING to get it off before I discovered this: Sprinkle borax on the cut side of a lemon and scrub away. It worked like a charm, so much so that my mother-in-law thought we’d bought a new stove.

  6. Deb says

    This is AWESOME-thanks for posting this! I had been looking for something like this for a while. I recently switched from using carpet cleaner (for pet accidents) to using baking soda and alchohol. It really works AND best of all keeps the little one from being tempted to “re-mark” the area. Here’s what I do:
    *Soak up accident with a towel (quickly put it in washer-ick)
    *Sprinkle baking soda over area to absorb anything left behind
    *Using spray bottle, spray alchohol generously on accident area.

    The other thing I discovered when my pooch came back from vacation with a few unexpected guests (gross fleas) is that if you use boric acid powder it will kill the fleas (it’s cheap and won’t hurt the pup)! Just sprinkle on carpets, upholstery,etc. Note: Make sure your little friend is not in the area. Vacuum up and enjoy a flea free house!

    • says

      Hey Mary Joy and Beth from CT,

      Good question! We haven’t tried them with our high efficiency washer yet so we would proceed with caution. Maybe you can water it down a bit or google for something meant for a high efficiency washer. Hope it helps!


  7. Lindsey says

    Thank you so much for the post!! I also use Baking Soda as an exfoliant on my face my dermatologist said to add it to a mild cleanser like Cetaphil and make a paste and there you have a very cheap facial exfoliant. I also use peroxide to get blood off of cloths or towels like when I cut myself shaving. Thanks again for the great info!!

  8. says

    Great post, I love these “recipes” and I’ll definitely be printing them to keep on hand!

    One tip I read somewhere and LOVE: Soak paper towels in straight vinegar and squeeze most of it out. Drape/wrap the paper towels over the chrome fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen so the entire surface is coated by the paper towels. Leave for 20 minutes or so while you clean the rest of the bathroom. Then, wiping as you go, remove the paper towels and rinse w/ cold water. No scrubbing and the chrome SPARKLES :) The vinegar smell dissipates quickly, I promise.

  9. Lauren says

    I love this post – what a great list! I stumbled onto natural homemade cleaners accidentally. One day I was out of some product (don’t even remember what) and I thought, “there’s gotta be a homemade way to clean this” and searched online for recipes. Now I only use kitchen ingredients to clean, and I love it. It is less expensive and so much better for you! I call up my sisters to share every time I find a new use for vinegar (put it right in the Downy ball in the laundry – so easy)

  10. Erin S says

    Thanks for the great post, while my husband and I were living in Spain I started cleaning with vinegar and water because their cleaning solutions tended to be VERY perfumed, and I found that I had fewer headaches and it cleaned even better than all of the chemicals! It was awesome, but now we’re back in the states… and we just bought a front-load washer, do you use 7th generation detergent even though the front-loaders need the high efficiency detergent? How does that work out for you?

  11. says

    Love it! I liked your cleaning method post a couple of months ago, but this is even better! I tend to think we all spend too much money and worry on eco-friendly, but still store bought and produced cleaning products…especially when we can all whip up really easy solutions at home for so much less. Thanks for all the great resources!

    Here’s a post on the homemade cleaners we’ve switched to:

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