Have you ever looked at the ingredients in your household cleaning products?
I approach most cleaning products in the same way that I approach the foods I eat. If my great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized an ingredient therein, I don’t use it. The toxins in most cleaning products can be inhaled or absorbed through our skin, and then slosh around our bodies, wreaking havoc as they go. If you wouldn’t eat them, then don’t have them floating around in your home either!
It’s incredibly easy to make your own cleaning sprays, floor cleaners, and even laundry detergent with just a few basic household ingredients.
The Benefits of DIY Cleaning Products vs Store-Bought Ones
The benefits are the same as homemade meals vs instant or frozen ones. For starters, making your own is incredibly cost-effective. DIY cleaning products are about 1/8 of the cost of standard, commercial ones. Furthermore, like homemade meals, you’ll know exactly what has gone into them.
Standard cleaning products are full of toxins that can cause real damage to our bodies over long periods of use. Below are just some of the chemicals in standard cleaning formulas, and how they can affect us:
You’ll find these listed as TEA (triethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), or DEA (diethanolamine) in all-purpose cleaners, oven cleaners, floor washes, dish soap, and other liquid detergents. They’re emulsifiers, which make cleaners foam and lather up nicely.
These ingredients can cause asthma and other lung issues if inhaled. Furthermore, they’re potential carcinogens  and have been linked to tumor development.
Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPEs)
If you use spray air fresheners, degreasers, or liquid toilet bowl cleaners, then you’ve likely come across NPEs before. These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors , which means that they interfere with hormonal function and regulation.
They’re also carcinogens and have been linked to breast cancer development. Furthermore, some studies have found a link between them and reproductive system dysfunction in marine life.
Coal Tar Dyes
These are often used to dye cleaning products blue or purple, such as laundry detergents and glass cleaners. They’re known carcinogens , which means they can potentially cause cancer. You’ll see these listed as P-phenylenediamine, coal tar solutions, benzin B70, naphtha, or estar.
These are just a few of the many harmful chemicals found in most commercial cleaners. Needless to say, the cleaning products you make at home won’t contain any of them.
In fact, you can either eat or slather yourself with the necessary ingredients without coming to harm.
What You’ll Need:
When it comes to DIY cleaning products, you’ll be using the ingredients below in different ratios.
- White vinegar
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Borax (aka sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate)
- Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) in bar or liquid form
- Lemon juice (bottled), fresh lemons
- Washing soda (sodium carbonate):
- Essential oils (EO) in your favorite scents
- Rubbing Alcohol (90% Isopropyl)
As far as essential oils go, get scents that you love, and that you find uplifting in your home. I generally use citrus scents like lemon, sweet orange, grapefruit, and bergamot for the kitchen and living spaces.
In contrast, scents like eucalyptus, sage, tea tree, and mint are great for bathrooms.
1. All-Purpose Surface Cleaner
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 20 drops EO of your choice (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a standard spray bottle and shake well before each use. This spray cuts through grease and disinfects surfaces remarkably well. If you’d like to increase its disinfectant properties, add some thyme or tea tree essential oil to the mixture.
2. Scouring Cleaner
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon borax
- 1/2 a fresh lemon
Mix the dry ingredients together and sprinkle this mixture in your sink or bathtub, or on stained surfaces. Then take 1/2 a fresh lemon and use it to scour the surface. Between the lemon’s acids and the abrasive powder mixture, you’ll be able to scrub away all manner of clingy crud.
This works particularly well as a soap scum remover in the shower, both on the tile walls and glass doors.
3. Standard Floor Cleaner
- 1/2 cup borax
- 1/4 cup liquid Castile soap
- 10-12 cups hot water
- 10-20 drops EO of your choice
Combine all of these ingredients in a bucket, and use the mixture to clean linoleum, ceramic, stone, or laminate floors. Wipe dry with a clean towel.
4. Real Wood Floor Cleaner
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
- 10-12 cups hot water
Combine these ingredients in a bucket or pail, and use a mop or floor squeegee to clean and swab your floor surfaces. Just be sure to only use this mixture if you have real wooden floors. If you try to use it on laminate, you’ll slip all over the place for days.
5. Glass Cleaner
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 cup water
Combine all of these ingredients in a clean spray bottle, and shake to mix well. Then use it to clean glass surfaces such as windows and mirrors. For added sparkle, dry the glass with used newspapers.
6. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- EO of your choice
Do you remember making a volcano erupt in science class? Well, the magic of mixing vinegar and baking soda together also works wonders to clean toilet bowls. Pour the baking soda into the bowl, and add several drops of your favorite essential oil. Then add the vinegar, close the lid, and run away.
Let this work its magic for 15 to 20 minutes, then scrub with your toilet brush and flush enthusiastically.
This mixture doubles as a sink or bathtub drain de-clogger! Just pour baking soda down the drain, and follow it with heated vinegar. Stopper it up quickly and let it dissolve all the glop for 20-30 minutes. Then run hot water down the drain to wash everything away.
7. Laundry Detergent
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and easily absorbs chemicals that land on it. As such, it’s important to be discerning about the chemicals you use on your clothes.
- 1 bar of Castile soap, grated finely*
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup borax
- 1 cup washing soda
- 30-40 drops essential oil(s) of your choice (optional)
Combine all of these ingredients and store in an airtight glass or plastic container. When you’re ready to do a load of laundry, either add 1/4 cup directly into the washing machine or dissolve it in warm water first and then add it.
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) “softens” water so the soap can absorb into fabric fibers and pull dirt and grease from it. Then those dirty particles are suspended in the wash water so they can be whisked away, down the drain.
This is one of the easiest cleaning products to make. Furthermore, you can scent it however you like, if at all. I err on the side of unscented so my detergent doesn’t compete with my perfume. That said, if I’m doing a load that solely consists of my own clothes—rather than a combined household wash—I’ll often add some jasmine EO to the water as well.
You can also make a liquid version of this detergent if preferred. Dissolve the dry ingredients in 4 cups of hot water, and add 1/1/2 cups of liquid Castile soap. Once well mixed, decant into an airtight container. Then use 1/3 cup per full load of laundry.
Switch Things Up!
As you can see, you can make pretty much any household cleaner with some basic kitchen and personal care ingredients. Better still, you can scent them however you like!
Here’s a fun tip: switch up your essential oil choices to work with the seasons and holidays. For example, combine cinnamon, orange, and either pine or spruce EO for winter holiday cleaning.
In contrast, scents like mint, lemon, neroli, or clary sage work beautifully for spring and summer spritzing. I have a combination of tangerine, cinnamon, clove, and frankincense ready for Halloween cleaning sprees too.
Cleaning your home is a necessary chore, but at least you can make it a healthier one with DIY cleaning products. Happy scrubbing?
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- Ji X, Li N, Yuan S, Zhou X, Ding F, Rao K, Ma M, Wang Z. A comparison of endocrine disruption potential of nonylphenol ethoxylate, vanillin ethoxylate, 4-n-nonylphenol and vanillin in vitro. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Jul 15;175:208-214. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.03.060. Epub 2019 Mar 19. PMID: 30901638.
- van Schooten FJ, Godschalk R. Coal tar therapy. Is it carcinogenic? Drug Saf. 1996 Dec;15(6):374-7. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199615060-00002. PMID: 8968692.