Perfect safer alternatives to conventional cleaning products! Get creative with regular everyday products to make your own household cleaning supplies, which are non-toxic, budget-friendly and super effective.
First of all, of all the home chores, cooking is the only thing I actually love to do. For me, cooking is not even a chore. It’s a special time for me to zone out, put my creative juices to good use and serve my love on a plate in the form of a delicious meal.
Now cleaning, on the other hand, is a chore I am not too fond of. But as a functioning adult, cleaning your surroundings is non-negotiable, for hygienic and aesthetic purposes of course. Plus, I am big on smells, and a funky smelling space is the absolute worst!
So, cleaning your home — excellent! But with what? What do all these hosts of products that we buy and use contain? And how do they that affect our environment on a larger scale, and the health of our households — long and short term — on a smaller scale. After a little bit of reading, I decided to start making my own cleaning products which would not only be eco-friendly and cost way less than store-bought ones, but most importantly, I wouldn’t have to worry about slowly poisoning my household with store-bought products just because I want to keep my home sparkling and fresh.
No one likes the idea of spraying toxins in their home in the name of “keeping it clean.” This is even more consequential when you have kids, pets or someone with a compromised immune system in your home. All-natural non-toxic household cleaning supplies are a useful alternative, especially ones that can be made with simple products that you already have in the kitchen anyway.
With some baking soda, salt, vinegar (preferably white) and lemon, you can make a variety of combinations from these simple products to create your own home cleaning agents — non-toxic, all-natural, budget-friendly, and super effective.
Baking Soda: Always a staple in my kitchen thanks to my love for baking, but an essential in my cleaning as well for 1001 reasons. Baking soda works well as a natural deodorizer (refreshing a foul-smelling fridge, deodorizing musty upholstery, linen, shoes etc) and as an all-purpose surface cleaner. But, when partnered with other household liquids, it becomes a high-powered potion that breaks through greasy residue, cleans grout, polishes metal, and unclogs drains.
White Vinegar: Another powerhouse when it comes to cleaning. Due to its low pH and acetic acid content, vinegar is a hostile environment for many microorganisms. It destroys mildew, bacteria, soap scum and grime, and is excellent for cleaning bathroom surfaces, tiled surfaces and safe to use on a wide variety of household surfaces. I use it a lot in my kitchen. When I say a lot, I mean A WHOLE LOT! I use it to clean my fridge, for cutting through grease in my oven, cooktop, grills, cutting board, microwave etc. I also mix it with water and a favourite essential oil and use as a natural disinfectant and air-freshener.
Lemon: Another favourite ally of mine when it comes to DIY cleaning products. I love lemons. I use lemons extensively in my cooking. You would hardly ever come to my house and not find any lemons. And just like vinegar, I use lemon a lot in cleaning my kitchen surfaces and other areas of my home. Lemons are slightly acidic, so they work well at eliminating soap scum and hard-water deposits. They are also a natural disinfectant, deodorizer, powerful degreaser, stain remover and are wonderful for polishing metal.
Salt: Last but not least in my eco-friendly home cleaning arsenal is good old ordinary table salt. Salt is a potent cleaning agent to have around the house for a multitude of reasons. Because it is abrasive, salt makes a good scrub hence excellent at tackling grime. Salt can also help get rid of stains on metal, glassware, carpet, clothing, etc.
Before using any homemade cleaning product on any surface, test first in a hidden area to ensure the cleaner doesn’t damage or mar the material.
And keep in mind never to use vinegar, lemon or any acidic based solutions on stone surfaces such as granite or marble, cast iron, aluminium, or waxed surfaces. The acid in the cleaner can etch, pit, and strip finishes or otherwise damage these surfaces.
The video below gives an idea of a handful of products which can be made from combining these items.
Below I share with you how I make some of my most used cleaning products. You can adapt as necessary and get creative with what you have on hand.
This uplifting all-purpose spray combines the power of lemons and vinegar and can be used virtually anywhere in your home from the bathroom to the kitchen to the windows.
All you need to do is juice the lemon(s) and strain the juice through a natural cloth or unused coffee filter to remove all the pulp, else the pulp could clog the sprayer. Add equal parts lemon juice, vinegar, and water to a spray bottle, shake well and spray on whatever needs cleaning. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow mineral deposits to loosen, grease to dissolve, grime to lift, and surfaces to be disinfected.
I also use this solution to clean the inside of my microwave. Pour the mixture in a microwave-safe bowl, place bowl inside the microwave and turn it on high until the mixture boils and microwave’s window is steamy. Let cool for 5 minutes before opening the door, then remove the bowl and wipe the inside clean with a sponge.
Not only does the low pH (i.e. 2.0 pH for lemon and 2.2 pH for vinegar) and high acid content of this lemon and vinegar solution help loosen mineral deposits and dissolve soap scum, but this solution also creates an environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria and many other microorganisms. This makes this citrus cleaner especially useful for removing stains, fighting germs, and cleaning out mildew and mould. And as a bonus, this DIY cleaner will leave the whole place smelling fresh and citrusy.
Baking soda and vinegar are two of the most useful household products that can be used to clean so many things and areas in your home. They form the basis of so many DIY cleaners.
Combat toilet bowl odours, hard-water stains, and even mildew by simply pouring in about 1 cup of baking soda to the toilet bowl, then add 1 to 2 cups of vinegar. This will create a fizzing action. Let the solution sit for about 10 minutes, use a toilet brush to swish the solution around the bowl, making sure to get the solution onto any stains that are above the waterline. Then leave for at least 30 minutes before returning with a toilet brush to scrub the bowl to remove any stains, then flush the toilet to rinse.
For some scrubbing action, sprinkle some baking soda in a sink, bathtub, shower, toilet, oven, or on a cooktop. Then, spray some vinegar to dampen the baking soda, which will create a paste. Let it sit for a while for tough jobs then scrub away with a sponge or brush and watch as the built-up soap scum, dirt, odours, and mould disappear.
Mix all ingredients and transfer to a spray bottle. This cleaner works on pretty much every surface in your home – kitchen table, stainless steel sinks, microwaves, outside and inside of the fridge, kitchen and bathroom counters, with the notable exceptions being marble or granite, which should be cleaned using speciality products or scrubbed with warm water and mild dish soap if needed.
In case of tougher cleaning jobs such as build-up from mould or mildew, or to get rid of grime, soap scum and potential fungi and bacteria, add 1 cup of dish soap and a couple of drops of tea tree oil (natural fungicide, great warrior against bacteria) to your cleaner before pouring it on the area to be cleaned and let it sit for about 15 minutes to 1 hour before washing and then rinsing.
Lemon and salt are perfect for cleaning wooden cutting boards. This scrub not only cleans and disinfects your board, but you also never have to worry about contaminating food with dangerous chemicals. Make this handy-dandy scrub by sprinkling salt on your wooden cutting board, then rub the board with half of a lemon, squeezing it as you go to release the juice. Let it sit for five minutes, scrape the salt and dirty liquid off, then rinse with abundant water and dry the board. If your stains are particularly stubborn, let everything sit overnight before you rinse with water. Your cutting board will be fresher and visibly brighter.
Another way to use this scrub will be to pour some fine-grain salt (or substitute baking soda) onto half lemon and use to remove hard water stains and soap scum from your bathtub, stainless steel sinks and toilet. This will guarantee you a crystal-clear surface. Not only will your bathroom look sparkling after a regimen of this natural scrub, but it will smell even better.
You could also combine two parts salt with one part lemon juice to create an abrasive scrub that you can use to remove rust, eradicate clothing stains, polish aluminium and copper pots and pans, and brighten hardware and fixtures (chrome faucets, drains etc).
To remove food stuck in your cast-iron skillet or stovetop or to clean the dirty ring on the inside of your favourite coffee mug, make a paste with some fine-grained salt and a dab of liquid castile soap (or dish soap.) Using a cloth or gentle scrubber, buff away the stains using the paste. Those sharp-edged little salt crystals will scrub away the coffee stains or stuck-on food.
Dissolve ½ cup salt in about 4 litres of boiling hot water, then pour down the drain to de-clog your pipes. For tougher clogs, mix 1 cup of salt with 1 cup baking soda and pour down the drain, followed by ½ cup (warm) vinegar. Let it stand for a few minutes, then flush the pipes with hot water. (Boiling water should only be used in metal pipes.)
Mix equal parts salt, borax and white vinegar and rub the paste to the stained area of your carpet. Spread it so that it covers all of the areas you’re trying to clean. Allow it to stay there for about 24 hours or until it dries and then vacuum.
N.B: There is some controversy over how safe borax is to use. Scientists agree that, overall, it is safer than many chemicals used in commercial cleaning agents, but it should not be inhaled or ingested, especially by children, pets, or adults with issues. So if you choose to use borax in home cleaning, use sparingly and protect yourself; but if you are seeking a safer alternative, baking soda could be a great substitute.
In a spray bottle, mix 2 cups of warm distilled water (water boiled and cooled) with ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup rubbing alcohol and get yourself a toxic-free homemade glass cleaner that will leave your windows streak-free and sparkly. Spray the cleaner on windows and mirrors, then wipe with a lint-free cloth.
Another way to clean any glass surface is to spray straight vodka onto your windows, mirrors, and glass-topped furniture, taking care not to spray the trim, frames and stained finishes. Then wipe off the vodka with a microfiber cloth to remove all the streaks and smudges.
Mix all ingredients in a bucket, dip the mop in the bucket, wring it out so it’s barely damp and use to clean wood and laminated floors. Add your favourite scent of essential oils (lavender, peppermint, lemon etc) to personalize this DIY floor cleaner.
You could also fill a small spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and distilled water, spritz a microfiber cloth with the cleaner, and gently wipe your laptop, computer monitor and computer keys, TV screen, telephones, doorknobs, faucet handles, car door handles, refrigerator handles, TV controls, and other often-touched surfaces when cold and flu season hits. And there you have it, an all-natural disinfectant.
Another use for this spray is as a natural air freshener to eliminate unpleasant odours in your home. Mix all ingredients in a mason jar and infuse for a week with rosemary sprigs or lemon and orange peels. All-natural, cheap and effective.
Some ingredients can be a bit harsh for cleaning wood surfaces, but combining 4 parts olive oil (to help maintain the lustre and shine of your wood furniture) and 1-part white vinegar (serves as a disinfecting agent), in a spray bottle could be a cheap eco-friendly way of cleaning your wooden furniture. Sometimes I use lemon juice in the place of vinegar and it works just fine as well. You may infuse some lemon peel in your cleaner or add in a few drops of lemon or orange oil if you are not fond of the vinegar smell and want your space to smell wonderful. Shake vigorously, spray directly on furniture (being careful to use sparingly) then use a clean rag or microfiber cloth to wipe down the furniture in broad strokes. This would leave the wood looking fresh and vibrant.
The composition of your DIY grout cleaner depends on the state of your tile grout. For general dirtiness, mix two parts baking soda with one-part water. For stained or discoloured grout, mix two parts baking soda with one-part vinegar. And if you have coarse or fragile tiles, mix two parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide (an eco-friendlier alternative to chlorine bleach). Use an old toothbrush to apply the paste to the grout lines. Let the paste sit on the grout for a few minutes, then scrub all of the grout lines. Rinse clean with water. If you’re using the vinegar solution, apply a small amount of paste to an inconspicuous area to make sure the acidic vinegar doesn’t stain the tile.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water (you’ll need about 1 cup), pour it into a plastic bag and put the plastic bag around the showerhead so the holes are immersed in the liquid. Secure the bag to the shaft with a thin rubber band. Let the showerhead soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes (up to an hour if you can) before removing the bag and wiping away loosened deposits. Run the shower on hot to flush any leftover debris and you’re all set.
In a spray bottle, add ¼ cup baking soda, 1½ cup of water, 10 drops of your favourite essential oil and shake gently to combine. Test on a small, inconspicuous area of upholstery (such as on the back or under a cushion) to ensure it won’t leave a mark. Spray over upholstery whenever it needs freshening. Use this spray also to freshen your yoga mat. Baking soda absorbs unpleasant odours while essential oils refresh the air. Customize the strength of the scent by varying the type and amount of essential oils used.
As I said above, there are a slew of products which could be made from combining these household items. I just decided to share a few which have become a staple in my home. You can use these pantry items to make your house sparkle and smell great.
So if you decide to make your own cleaning solution, make them in small batches, since there are no preservatives added and mixing too much at once can cause the cleaner to lose potency. Also, make sure that you clearly label any homemade cleaners and store them out of reach of children and pets.
Now I just have to find a fun podcast to listen to and get to cleaning!