How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products (with recipes)

house cleaning

Around the holidays, it can feel like a constant battle to keep your house clean. Whether it’s nieces and nephews or grandchildren adding to the raucous of an already hectic home, it feels like “Dinner’s ready!” is almost inevitably followed by “Tommy spilled his drink on the floor!”

I made the switch to buying non-toxic cleaning supplies a few years ago, but it seems like every time the extended family comes in town we run out of something. Aunt-so-and-so runs to the store and comes back with a bottle of the regular stuff, laden with chemicals, and I sigh as it’s spread across the counter where little hands will inevitably pick up toxic residue.

This year, I decided not to let that happen. But instead of going out and stocking up on tons of high dollar natural cleaners, I made a few simple purchases of bulk supplies. Now, when the bottle runs out, I just run to the closet and mix up a new batch. Best of all, now that Tommy is eight-years-old, I’m totally comfortable handing him a rag and a bottle of harmless (but effective!) non-toxic cleaning supply and putting him to work on his own mess.

One side note: Many DIY cleaning supply recipes call for ammonia and Borax (boric acid). Although these are effective cleaners and useful for people making their own supplies solely to save money, there are enough concerns about their effects on human health to warrant not including them here.

Shopping List: (You can buy some or all of this, depending on which recipes you use)

  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer makes one version — find it with detergents)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Natural Liquid Soap (like Dr. Bronner’s — available at most natural food stores; http://www.drbronner.com/)
  • Lemons
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Empty Spray Bottles (available at most dollar stores)

All-Purpose General Cleaner

Combine two cups of hot tap water with a few drops of liquid soap and half a teaspoon of washing soda. Shake in spray bottle and keep indefinitely!

Floor Cleaner

Two-thirds water, one-third white vinegar. It’s that easy! Mop away.

Bathtub and Shower Cleaner

Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a cup of white vinegar and a few drops of liquid soap. Removes soap scum and other icky bathroom residues.

Bonus Tip: Drain Cleaner

Drain cleaner is particularly toxic stuff. I recently had a weekend houseguest who noticed my shower was backing up and offered to fix it, sans chemicals. Here’s what he did: Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Then pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Chase it all with the boiling water. For really clogged drains, this process can be alternated with a plunger. It works even better than a chemical drain cleaner, and my shower is still unclogged.

Glass Cleaner

Mix a cup of water, a cup of rubbing alcohol, and a tablespoon of vinegar. A quarter teaspoon of liquid soap and a little extra vinegar can also be substituted for the rubbing alcohol. This mixture doesn’t streak, dries fast, and can be used on glass, tile, and chrome. For an extra green measure (that’s even more streak averse than paper towels), wipe it on with newspaper.

Oven Cleaner

Cooking holiday dinners can do a number on your oven. There’s no way to avoid some scrubbing (even with ‘self cleaning’ ovens), but this trick makes the job much easier. Make a paste of water and baking soda, and coat the inside of the oven with it. Let it stand overnight, then scour off the mixture in the morning and wipe it down with a rag.

Microwave Cleaner

Put a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice in it and microwave on high for five minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe down the sides.


Bleach is an old standby, but it affects many peoples’ breathing. For a disinfectant, mold-killing substitute, mix two cups of water with three tablespoons of liquid soap. Drop in 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.

Extra tip: Tea tree oil (or lavender oil or lemon juice) can be added to any of these recipes to enhance their scent and help cover up vinegar odor.

Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and customized calendars, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses.

Image credit: D’Arcy Norman at flickr under a Creative Commons license.

  1. Kim

    I know what you mean about running out of things at the most inopportune times. I ran out of our eco friendly dishwashing soap the other day and had company coming over. Luckily I had plenty of the other kind and just washed up the dishes by hand. I know that is much more green anyway. However I do have a dishwasher that uses less water and less detergent. Anyway, my concern with the DIY products is that there is little evidence that these recipes will kill all the bacteria etc that can be left behind. So I have just decided to buy the “family” sized bottles of cleaner and order before I run out. I like to use BioKleen products. They smell great and according to the manufacturer kill germs. Please visit my website at http://www.freetobgreen.com and follow my blog.

  2. Amanda

    Recently, I have started using only natural cleaning products. They are efficient enough and safe for my kids. The vinegar and the baking soda can be your best choice for a shining kitchen.

  3. Lauren

    These natural formula are great for people who like cleaning on a
    regular basis – that way toxins won’t be as likely to build up. Especially important if there are kids or pets around! Some professional house cleaning services also use natural cleaners that are commercially made rather than home-made formulas like these. But those can be just as safe especially since they are tested for safety.

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