I really hope that those of you who have been on the fence about homemade cleaners will find some inspiration and feel a little more eager to try it out. The best part is that there is very little to lose. The cost of many of the ingredients needed to make these cleaners is quite low, and even better, many of the products last through multiple batches.
I have a cabinet in my laundry room dedicated to holding my bulkier ingredient items, such as large bottles of vinegar, distilled water, boxes of baking soda and items for making my own laundry soap. By having a place to store all of the ingredients together, I am able to quickly whip up a new batch and also purchase these ingredients in larger, less expensive quantities.
T H E B A S I C S
If you are just starting out, many general cleaners can be made with very basic ingredients.
DISTILLED WATER // It is generally recommended to make cleaners with filtered or distilled water. This provides the best cleaning result and also doesn't negatively impact any of the added ingredients in any way (vs. tap water which may contain hard water, minerals, etc...)
VINEGAR // Vinegar is great for cleaning because it actually has the power to clean up messes and dirt and contains some disinfecting properties. It doesn't streak, dries scentless, and is even more powerful when paired with baking soda.
DISH SOAP // Yep! You trust it to clean your dishes, why wouldn't it be great for counters, floors and the shower too? A little goes a long way and it can tackle quite a few jobs!
BAKING SODA // Whenever I need a little extra scrubbing power, I reach for the baking soda. And it becomes even more beneficial when mixed with additional ingredients. For example, next time you have an awful dish or pan to wash, sprinkle it with a little baking soda and add some dish soap and hot water. Let it soak for 10-20 minutes and the end result is pure magic.
So far you are able to create quite a few cleaners with products that are extremely inexpensive. But if you are looking for the true powerhouse item, add Castile Soap to your list.
CASTILE SOAP // This soap is extremely concentrated, but it is also a really great cleaner and degreaser. Simply pair it with distilled water and it can take on your toughest jobs. I especially love it for cleaning my stove/oven and also for tackling dirty doors and trim. (Castile Soap can be found at many Natural Food Stores, Target and Amazon. It seems more expensive than traditional soaps and cleaners, but a very small amount contains mega amounts of power. A single bottle will last a very long time, and it can also be purchased in travel sizes so you can give it a try with little risk or investment).
T H E S P E C I A L A D D I T I O N S
Now that you have the ingredients to conquer 90% of your jobs, there are a few additional items that take things even further and can aid in creating a some really effective specialty cleaners.
WITCHES HAZEL // Safe enough to be used on your skin but also a natural deodorizer.
RUBBING ALCOHOL // Dries ridiculously fast and streakless with disinfecting properties. It is also an amazing stain remover.
OLIVE OIL // A natural way to treat wood finishes and can also be used to polish stainless steel.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE // A natural whitener.
LEMON JUICE // Smells amazing and has a lot of cleaning power; a great booster when whitening and cleaning bathroom finishes.
Essential oils are not crucial for effective cleaning, but they do have a lot of positive qualities and there are three I find myself reaching for over and over and over.
LAVENDER // Added to a baking soda shaker and sprinkled on our mattresses, it not only deodorizes but leaves behind a soft, sleepy scent. I also add this scented oil to my fabric softener and room freshening spray.
LEMON // Let's face it, lemons have a super-mega-clean aroma. I use this essential oil with the majority of my cleaners because it smells so fresh and also cuts down on the vinegar scent.
TEA TREE // Tea tree oil is a natural and safe disinfectent. Adding this oil to cleaners helps to remove unwanted bacteria, making it ideal for cleaning germy areas like bathrooms.
H E L P F U L T O O L S
You don't need much to make your own cleaners, but there are a few items that are helpful in making the process quick and effective.
MEASURING CUPS & SPOONS // For the most part I tend to eyeball or get my measurements close, it really doesn't have to be an exact science. But there are times when I do like to keep my portions just right and find it helpful to utilize measuring tools.
MIXING BOWL // A few of my favorite recipes work better as a scrub or paste that I like to mix in a bowl first and then transfer to the final container. Additional recipes require heat so a bowl is also helpful in heating the ingredient(s) prior to mixing.
FUNNEL // A funnel is extremely handy for pouring the ingredients into spray bottles; I especially prefer a collapsible funnel because it can be stored right inside my cleaning caddy.
SPRAY BOTTLES // You can utilize the empty cleaning bottles from your past purchases, but if you plan on permanently switching to homemade cleaners I recommend also switching to glass spray bottles. Plastic bottles can break down over time and seep into your cleaners, especially when paired with a few specific ingredients, but glass will stand the test of time.
SHAKER // Using a shaker for your baking soda makes it easier to store under a sink or in a caddy, and is also easier to control the quantity being used when sprinkling it into sinks, toilets and even on carpets and mattresses.
Quick Tip: You can add a bottle sprayer directly onto your Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol bottles. This allows you to utilize them quickly for those on-demand tasks.
T H E R E C I P E S
ALL PURPOSE CLEANER // 2 CUPS DISTILLED WATER, 1 TSP CASTILE SOAP
Works great for cleaning just about anything and is also a wonderful degreaser. I especially prefer this mix for cleaning my oven, stovetop, trim and doors. It is also safe to be used on most surface types.
ALL PURPOSE CLEANER // 1 1/2 CUPS DISTILLED WATER, 1/2 CUP VINEGAR, 1 TSP DISH SOAP, 1-5 DROPS ESSENTIAL OIL (OPTIONAL)
This is my "go to" all purpose cleaner for any quick cleaning task; especially counters, tables, and floors. This was actually my newest floor cleaning recipe, and when I saw it left my floors streak-free, I figured why not use it for everything? Vinegar may not be safe for all surfaces (some stones specifically), which is why I wanted to offer the above option as well. I do find that if too much Castile Soap is used in the first recipe, it may create a slight haze or some streaking, so I do prefer this version to the other for my primary surfaces.
BATHROOM CLEANER // 2 CUPS DISTILLED WATER, 2 TBSP VINEGAR, 20 DROPS TEA TREE OIL
A great cleaner with disinfecting qualities. Works best when paired with a sponge or microfiber cloth.
GLASS CLEANER // 1 CUP DISTILLED WATER, 1 CUP VINEGAR, 1-5 DROPS ESSENTIAL OIL (OPTIONAL)
This recipe not only works great on glass, mirrors and windows, but it will also leave your fixtures and hardware shining and streak-free. Works best when paired with a specialty glass cleaning cloth. You can also pair this spray with baking soda to clean bathroom toilets and kitchen sinks.
SHOWER SOAP SCUM SPRAY // 1 CUP VINEGAR (HEATED), 1 CUP DISH SOAP
Heat the vinegar in the microwave and then add dish soap. The heat helps the dish soap to quickly combine with the vinegar (and it won't separate even after being stored for some time). Saturate shower walls and doors and let sit, or soak items containing soap scum in a bucket with this mixture. Wipe down shower with an abrasive sponge for optimal results (should remove soap scum with ease). To maintain a clean shower, add mixture to a dish wand and use every couple of days post shower.
WOOD POLISH // 2/3 CUP OLIVE OIL, 1/3 CUP VINEGAR, 5 DROPS LEMON ESSENTIAL OIL
Use to bring back the grain and finish to wood accessories and furniture. Works best when paired with specialty polishing cloth. Above you can see the oiled area on the left and the un-oiled area on the right. I use this on my wooden utensils and handles, cutting boards and wood furniture pieces. I also trust that it is food-safe because of the ingredients.
FLOOR CLEANER // 3 PARTS WATER, 1 PART VINEGAR, 1 SMALL SQUIRT OF DISH SOAP, 5-15 DROPS OF ESSENTIAL OIL (OPTIONAL)
Can be used on most flooring types and will leave your floors clean and streak free. Works best when paired with a dry or slightly damp mop or microfiber cloth. As I mentioned above, I also added this recipe to a spray bottle for everyday cleaning of most surfaces, and also for spot cleaning our floors in between moppings. This mixture can be added to spray mops or used in a bucket (again, I find it works best when the floor isn't overly saturated so wring your mop well).
AIR & FABRIC FRESHENER // 1/2 CUP DISTILLED WATER, 1/ CUP WITCHES HAZEL, 20-30 DROPS LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL (OR FAVORITE SCENT)
The witches hazel is a natural odor neutralizer while the water and essential oil add a pleasant aroma to the room. Lightly spritz around the room and near textiles, just be sure not to completely saturate any surfaces.
TECH SCREEN CLEANER // 1/4 CUP DISTILLED WATER, 1/4 CUP RUBBING ALCOHOL
Although vinegar leaves 99% of my surfaces streak free, it didn't have the same effect on my tech screens. I can only guess that it may be the heat of the screens paired with the dry time of vinegar that left my screens quite streaky. Swapping the vinegar for rubbing alcohol did the trick, and leaves my screens crystal clear!
LAUNDRY DETERGENT // 2 CUPS CASTILE SOAP FLAKES (GRATED), 2 CUPS WASHING SODA, 1 CUP BAKING SODA, 1 CUP COARSE SEA SALT (OPTIONAL)
FABRIC SOFTENER // 2 CUPS VINEGAR, 20 DROPS LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL (OR FAVORITE SCENT)
This recipe is quite similar to one I had been using for years, but it is slightly modified to be even safer. My previous recipe called for Borax, and although it is a natural ingredient, there are debates that it may be toxic and harmful. However, Borax is frequently found in many cleaning recipes, especially laundry detergents. After some research and testing, I found that swapping the Borax for Baking Soda yielded the same results. I also switched from using Fels-Naptha to a straight Castile Soap bar. I can get four cups of grated flakes from a single bar, so I double this recipe each time I make it (every few months). Finally, we have hard water and the salt helps to combat that. You can make a scented softener out of coarse sea salt and essential oils, or just add the salt directly into your detergent recipe. Be leery of using Epsom salt as a softener (as some recipes suggest), as it technically isn't salt at all and can actually make your water harder.
I find it works best and is easiest on our HE washing machine to add 1-2 tablespoons of the powder directly to the washer drum with the clothing/linens. I then run the scented vinegar through the fabric softener dispenser. Our clothes come out soft, fresh and clean (with zero vinegar scent).
I store the softener in this bottle and the detergent in this container.
SOFT SCRUB // 1 CUP BAKING SODA, 1/4 CUP CASTILE SOAP, 1 TBSP DISTILLED WATER, 1-5 DROPS ESSENTIAL OIL (OPTIONAL)
Mix in a bowl to create a paste consistency (may need to add more baking soda to thicken). Store in a squeeze bottle or lidded jar (I used an old dish soap bottle). Works best when paired with an abrasive sponge or scrub brush.
GROUT SCRUB // COMBINE BAKING SODA AND WARM WATER IN A BOWL (MIX INTO PASTE). FOR WHITENING POWER COMBINE 1 CUP DISTILLED WATER, 1/4 CUP LEMON JUICE, 3/4 CUP HYDROGEN PEROXIDE
Spread Baking Soda paste into grout lines. For whitening power, spray lemon/peroxide mixture onto paste and let sit. Scrub lines with heavy duty bristle or grout brush. Wipe clean with water and dry microfiber cloth.
See more in this post here.
F R E E P R I N T A B L E S
That was A LOT of information, but hopefully it was easy to understand and feels doable! My younger kids love to help make these recipes (it is almost like baking and science combined), and I have also convinced quite a few friends to move to the homemade cleaning side as well. You can do it!
But to make it even easier, I created two different printables that contain all of the recipes above.
|FREE homemade cleaning recipe chart | FREE homemade cleaning recipe cards (to be printed on 3x5" index cards)|
I keep these recipe printables in two locations. I laminated the larger chart and store it with my bulk cleaning ingredients in our laundry room. I also printed the recipes on 3x5" blank index cards, which I laminated and placed on a binder ring. The cards conveniently tuck right into my cleaning caddy.
Raise your hand and comment below if you are feeling inspired and excited to give this a try! And don't be afraid to start small and grow your homemade cleaning products and skills. Start with a simple counter or floor cleaner and expand from there. Not only do the cleaners work, you will know exactly what you are cleaning with and what you are being exposed to. It is oddly satisfying to mix up a batch of something and watch it work just as well as something much more costly.
And last but not least, I recently discovered a couple of resources that will help you determine which products are safest to use in regards to your cleaning and beauty routines. I was both relieved and shocked to find these sites and will definitely be checking on our personal care products in both areas frequently. Just go to either of the sites below, enter your product in the search bar and click the item that matches. You will then see ratings and information in regards to the product and its overall safeness.
EWG Cleaning Product Search
EWG Beauty Product Search
Looking for more product details? Check out my favorite cleaning supplies and tools here.