All-Natural, DIY Cleaners to Scrub Every Inch of Your Home
Americans use 35 million pounds of toxic household cleaning products annually. According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, in Los Angeles, traces of cleaning chemicals can be found throughout the human body within seconds of exposure, posing risks like asthma, allergies, cancer, reproductive toxicity, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity and death.
Equally sobering is the decades of research suggesting a relationship between the overuse of powerful disinfectants and the rise of antibiotic-resistant super bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA), as well as concerns over these toxins entering water supplies and wildlife food chains.
Cleaning product labels lack transparency, says Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, because “manufacturers aren’t required to specify ingredients.”
One approach to assure safe ingredients is do-it-yourself (DIY) products. So the next time you have a sink to scrub or a window to wipe, just raid your cupboards. Everyday products like club soda (the bubbles help break down stains by loosening grime), vinegar (the acidity inhibits the growth of bacteria and prevents mold and mildew from forming), and even vodka (a proven germ eliminator) make for fast, cheap, and effective house cleaners.
More than 95 percent of “green” products manipulate labels by providing irrelevant information (declaring a product is free of an already illegal chemical), being vague (masking poisons as natural ingredients), outright lying (claiming false endorsements) and other maneuvers.
~ TerraChoice Group
For me, making homemade all-natural cleaning projects was a logical first step, because I love to follow recipes, which is all that is really involved in making your own cleansers! After lots of trial and error, I have found a few that are my go-to faves, and I’m sharing them today so that you don’t have to do all of the leg work!
Before I get into the specific recipes, though, let me just say this: white vinegar and baking soda clean Just. About. Everything. You’ll see it’s the main combination in a bunch of the recipes below, but there are oodles of other things it can clean, too!
HOMEMADE ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER
- 1/2 c white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp baking soda
- 10 drops tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil (for their disinfectant properties)
- Mix the vinegar, essential oils and a little water before adding baking soda in a clean spray bottle (glass is best).
- Then fill to top with water. I use about a 12 oz bottle. Gently shake to mix ingredients, and then spray, wipe with a cloth, and allow it to dry.
HERE ARE SOME OTHER CLEANERS TO USE IN THE KITCHEN:
HOMEMADE “SOFT-SCRUB” CLEANER
- 1 ½ cups baking soda
- ½ cup environmentally safe liquid laundry soap (ECOS, for example)
- 10 drops tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil
- Mix baking soda and laundry soap in a mixing bowl, stirring vigorously to combine into a paste. Add essential oil and mix well. Store in an airtight food container.
- If the mixture begins to dry out, add a small amount of water and mix well.
HOMEMADE DISINFECTANT WIPES
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup with vinegar
- 8 drops tea tree oil
- 8 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 8 drops lemon essential oil
- Empty “wipe” container (baby wipe, for example)
- 15 – 20 squares of cloth (old t-shirts work well, as do old dish towels or similar material)
- Fold and place the cloth squares into the empty wipe container and set aside.
- Combine in a mixing bowl the water, vinegar, and 3 essential oils, stirring until well mixed.
- Pour this mixture over the cloths in the container where they will soak in and be ready for you to pull out and use!
- Launder and repeat as often as the cloths hold up!
HOMEMADE DISHWASHER DETERGENT
- 1 cup salt
- 2 cups baking soda
- 2 cups Borax
- 1 cup of Lemi-Shine (non-toxic, found in the detergent aisle)
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Transfer to an air-tight storage container. It will last a long time: each load uses only 2 tablespoons of detergent! (I recommend keeping white vinegar in the rinse agent compartment, too.)
HOMEMADE OVEN CLEANER
- ½ cup baking soda
- 2 – 3 Tbsp water (or more/less)
- White vinegar (1/2 cup or so)
- In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of baking soda and stir in 2 – 3 tablespoons of water, adjusting as needed to get a spreadable paste.
- Spread this all over the walls of your ovens, rubbing it in for a scrubbing effect.
- Let that mixture rest overnight.
- In the morning, you will put some vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz everywhere you see baking soda, which will create a foaming action. Wipe clean with a damp cloth, rinsing until clean.
HOMEMADE DRAIN CLEANER
- ¼ – ½ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- Sprinkle baking soda down the clogged or smelly drain, and follow that with the vinegar. Let the bubbling mixture sit for an hour or so, then pour boiling hot water down the drain to rinse.
- Depending on how smelly or clogged the drain is, you may need to repeat the process again. Once you do it regularly, you’ll find that one time usually takes care of it!
MOVING OUT OF THE KITCHEN, LET’S TALK BATHROOM CLEANING.
A lot of the same principles that apply to cleaning the kitchen carry over into the bathroom.
For example, vinegar and baking soda still play a large role, and the disinfectant power of certain essential oils is key. Here are some of my favorite ways to tackle one of the most-used rooms in the house:
HOMEMADE MIRROR AND GLASS CLEANER
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 cups water
- 8 – 10 drops essential oil of choice, optional
- Combine everything in a spray bottle. Shake to mix well. Spray onto glass surface and wipe clean.
- Be sure you shake well to fully integrate the cornstarch, which is the ingredient that reduces streaking. You’ll want to shake before each use.
HOMEMADE AIR FRESHENER
- 12 – 15 drops of pure essential oil (grapefruit, lemon, orange, lavender are favorites)
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1/12 cups water
- Combine in a spray bottle, shake, and spray to freshen the room! (Shake before each use).
- You can experiment with higher ratios of vinegar to water and upping the essential oil if this is not strong enough for your preference.
MOVING INTO THE LAUNDRY ROOM NOW…
HOMEMADE NON-TOXIC LIQUID LAUNDRY DETERGENT
- ½ cup Borax
- ½ cup washing soda(i.e. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Laundry Booster)
- ½ cup of eco-friendly dish soap (every mother of baseball-playing, grass-stain gettin’ boys knows this!)
- 4 cups hot water
- Clean, empty gallon plastic jug (i.e. recycled juice/milk jug)
- Combine the first three ingredients in the container (you may need a funnel to get it in there) and then pour in the water to dissolve the ingredients.
- Fill the container to the top with cold water. Shake before each use. For a standard-sized load of laundry, ¼ cup should work. Use a little more for a more heavily-soiled load.
HOMEMADE STAIN REMOVER
There are a few ways I like to tackle stains in the laundry room. First, let me just say that a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution is a super stain remover! I’ve used it on lots of stains where I spray it on, let it soak, and then launder as normal. (Note to moms of girls just getting their first periods: there is nothing better to deal with the "period stains" in the underwear or on the sheets!)
There’s also the mixture of washing soda and white vinegar. You simply sprinkle the washing soda onto the stain, spray with white vinegar that has been diluted in a 1:1 ratio with water. Scrub the paste into the stain and let it stand for about 20 minutes. Launder as normal.
For really tough stains, like grass stains, the magic of Dawn dish soap comes in handy.
This one calls for a bit of a recipe:
- 2/3 cup Dawn dish detergent
- 2/3 cup ammonia
- 6 Tbsp baking soda
- 2 cups warm water
- Mix together all ingredients, and then pour into a spray bottle. Spray onto the stain, let it rest a bit, then launder as normal.
- Because of the ammonia, you should NOT want this in chlorine bleach!
HOMEMADE DRYER SHEETS
This is super easy to do! Find a bunch of hubby’s old t-shirts (not his beloved old t-shirts, but the others!) and cut them into washcloth sized squares.
Next, you will take some of the homemade fabric softener from the recipe above, and fill about ½ of an airtight, lidded storage container with this. Place the t-shirts in the container, and press them down to soak up the fabric softener.
Squeeze out excess before tossing a square into the dryer with your clothes. These are obviously recyclable, and don’t have to be laundered between uses!
AND FINALLY, TO THE LIVING AREAS OF THE HOUSE.
HOMEMADE WOOD POLISHING SPRAY
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 30 drops essential oil, optional (I like lemon, orange, or lavender best)
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake vigorously. Spray directly on wood furniture and buff with a clean, dry cloth. Shake before each use.
HOMEMADE CARPET FRESHENER (WITH ADDED BENEFITS)
In addition to freshening the smell in a room, this combination of ingredients can disinfect, kill fleas and their eggs, and act as a rodent deterrent.
- 2 cups Borax
- 1 cup baking soda
- 10 drops essential oil
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Store in an air-tight container. When you’re ready to use, just sprinkle around the carpet and let sit for about half an hour. Vacuum up, and you’re good to go!
HOMEMADE CARPET STAIN REMOVER
- Sprinkle the stain with baking soda and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then vacuum it up.
- Next, mix 1 Tbsp Dawn dish soap, 1 Tbsp white vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water.
- Sponge this onto the stain and blot with dry cloth, repeating until stain disappears.
So, those are the go-to recipes that I find most helpful around the house. Let me know if you’ve got a recipe or potion that works wonders in your household!