There are some major benefits of homemade cleaners – the most important being that you’re not spreading poisonous chemicals all over your home, meaning, homemade green cleaners are much safer for people, animals and the planet.
There are other benefits to homemade cleaners as well, such as…
- You’ll produce less packaging waste because you’re not buying new containers over and over.
- You can save money – possibly over $1,000 in five years.
- Your house will smell awesome. Homemade cleaners almost always smell better than store bought and you can make them smell like whatever you like in most cases with essential oils or other add-ins. Plus, did you know natural scents can be good for your health!?
- You won’t waste time and gas running to the store for store bought cleaners. Really! Homemade cleaners are easy and fast.
Before you get started with homemade cleaners, make sure to read the following:
- Basic supply list for homemade cleaning products
- Homemade green cleaner safety
- Green clean correctly with cloth towels vs. paper towels
- Learn how to buy and use essential oils safely
- If using flowers or herbs for your cleaning products, read this safety guide
After you’ve read the posts above, you can start green cleaning with the homemade cleaning recipes below.
Don’t underestimate good ol’ hot water! Mix hot water with some elbow grease for a very safe all-purpose cleaner. If you want to fancy the process up, sure, add a few drops of organic liquid soap. But really hot water will clean just about anything. Used solo, hot water will not totally disinfect, but it will kill many germs and is a winner when it comes to removing layers of dust.
Basic all-purpose cleaner plus disinfectant: Grab a spray bottle and combine 3-5 drops of natural soap, 2 cups water, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender essential oil. You can use only lavender or only tea tree, but I personally prefer a mix. If you do use just one oil, use 30 drops. Use this to spray on any surface such as cutting boards, counters, toilets, and walls. DO NOT USE on glass – it will streak.
Herbal disinfectant: Grab a solid handful of your favorite fresh herb or choose two complementary fresh herbs. Herbs that are good when cleaning include lavender, eucalyptus, juniper, sage, thyme, or rosemary. Simmer the herb leaves and stems for 30 minutes. Use use less water if you want a stronger solution and better disinfectant properties. I usually start with 2-3 cups of water, see how it’s looking and add more water if needed. Strain out the herbs, pour the leftover liquid into bottle, and use on any surface but glass. Add a few drops of natural soap or biodegradable dish detergent (and shake well) if you want a cleaner that will cut grease as well.
Soap scum removal
Apply non-abrasive baking soda directly to your tub or sink and scrub with a damp cloth or sponge. You can also use a scrubby brush for more extra soap scum removal.
Borax and salt sprinkles with lemon juice can also remove soap scum, but it’s not as cool as baking soda because both may scratch some surfaces.
Vinegar can be applied directly to soap scum. Let it saturate the scum for a bit then scrub down.
To make a hot soap scum remover mix for tougher stains, combine 12 ounces of hot white vinegar (heat the vinegar in your microwave) with 12 ounces of your favorite eco-friendly dish soap in a reusable spray bottle. I suggest Seventh Generation Dishwashing Liquid or Earth Friendly Products Dishmate. Mix well and spray onto soap scum. Scrub with a cloth and rinse well. This is a fairly soapy mix, but I don’t like the smell of vinegar. In fact, I usually add a bit of lemon or grapefruit essential oil to this to mask the vinegar smell even more.
Club soda will remove small carpet stains so long as you get to the stain quickly. Just pour a little on and watch it bubble up then blot it dry with a dry cloth.
For larger carpet stains, try sprinkling Fuller’s earth or cornstarch onto the stain. Let the stain sit for about 30 minutes, then scrub with a mixture of one part white vinegar and three parts water.
To deodorize carpets crush up some dried lavender or basil and mix it into baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda over your carpet (kids LOVE to help with this part). Let the baking soda mix sit for 30 minutes then vacuum it up. NOTE: Make sure your vacuum is working well before doing this, or you’re going to have a bunch of leftover baking soda hanging around.
Wooden furniture cleaning and polishing
Basic furniture polish: Combine 1/4 cup white vinegar with 3/4 cup olive oil and wipe down wooden furniture with a soft cloth dipped into the solution.
Basic furniture polish #2: Combine 1/4 cup lemon juice with 1/2 cup olive oil and wipe down wooden furniture with a soft cloth dipped into the solution. I like this one better because… no vinegar smell!
Wood sealant and polish: Melt 1/2 cup of beeswax in a double boiler. Once melted, stir in 1 and 1/2 cups organic olive oil and a few drops of essential oil if you like for scent. Store in a glass jar and allow it to harden. If it’s too hard to dip into, microwave your polish for 30 seconds in the microwave, then using a soft cloth, rub a small dab of this polish onto your furniture (use a soft cloth and rub in a circular motion). Once the polish dries, buff the polish away with a second dry microfiber cloth. You don’t have to use microfiber, but other cloths may leave lint residue on your wood.
Oven and stovetop cleaning
Prevention: When it comes to ovens, prevention should be your first line of defense. NEVER let spills just sit and cook onto your oven or stove top. When something spills use a homemade all-purpose cleaner or even just hot water to wipe the spill up.
Pre-treat hot spills inside the oven: If something hot and sticky spills and you’re in the middle of cooking and can’t turn the oven off, sprinkle the spill with salt immediately. Once you finish cooking and the oven cools off, wipe the salted area with a wet cloth. If the spill is stubborn, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with water to make a thin paste, and use a bristle brush dipped in the paste to scrub the spill. Rinse with water when done or the baking soda will leave a film.
Clean the oven interior: I’d avoid using your oven auto-clean in most circumstances. In my experience (with older ovens) it basically cooks spills and stains to a crisp, thus making the mess worse. Instead try this – remove the oven grates, spray the entire interior with a spray bottle of water until saturated. Coat the oven with baking soda, which should stick right to the water. If any of the baking soda looks dry, re-spray the oven with more water. Allow the baking soda to sit for a few hours, then wipe off with a cloth. A lot of the grime should come right off. For stubborn stains and spills or a really grimy oven you may need to repeat this process a few times and use a scrubby brush vs. cloth, but it will eventually remove all the spills and stains. You can also scrub the harder stains with salt, though it can scratch (not a huge deal inside an oven).
Cleaning your stove top: For flat glass stove tops, sprinkle the surface with baking soda, spray until wet with white vinegar, let it sit a few minutes then simply wipe up with a wet cloth. If you have a regular (old-school, non-flat) stove top, you can clean it exactly the same way, but the issue here is that baking soda falls down into the burners, which is why I use an all-purpose cleaning spray (such as the ones at the top of this post) on most of my stove top and only apply baking soda to the really stuck on areas.
Remove grease stains: At my place there’s a white stove, and when I moved in the stove top looked like a million greasy meals had been cooked on it and it hadn’t been cleaned ever. Anyhow, all those icky yellow-brown oil grease stains were getting on my nerve, so I grabbed a toothbrush dipped in vinegar and hot water and simply scrubbed the random grease spots away. It took about an hour, but wasn’t that bad. I suppose you could use a scrubber, but a decent toothbrush always seems to work better for me and allows you to get at concentrated areas. After you remove the grease stains be sure to wipe down your stove top after cooking to prevent stains from coming back.
Learn more about green kitchen cleaning:
Prevention 1st: I know hearing “prevention is the first defense” gets old, but it’s true. Buy a $2 mesh drain trap at any home supply store and use it. An inexpensive drain trap will prevent hair clogs in the shower and food clogs in a kitchen sink.
Fix a sluggish drain: Mix one cup baking soda with one cup white vinegar and pour this down the drain. After a few minutes flush the drain with a teapot full of boiling water. Use an inexpensive drain snake or plunger if need to clean the excess grime and hair out. If you want to freshen your drain at the same time, pour the juice of one lemon down the drain.
General toilet bowl cleaning: Sprinkle the inside of your toilet with baking soda and lemon juice. Let it sit a few minutes then scrub with a toilet brush.
I haven’t cleaned the toilet bowl in a LONG time cleaning method: For neglected toilet bowls, use the same method noted above but also spray the bowl with white vinegar when using the lemon juice and baking soda.
Mopping: Basic hot water with a squeeze of natural dish soap and a decent mop is all you need to mop any hard floor surface – wood or tile.
Wooden floor wax: Combine equal parts organic olive oil and white vinegar. Apply a very thin coat to the floor using a swiffer-like mop with a soft cloth. Make sure you rub the mixture into the floor well so no one slips.
If you have an object that’s rusted, combine two tablespoons salt with one tablespoon lemon juice. Use a soft cloth to apply the mixture to your object and rub well, then rub again with a clean cloth.
Silver that’s not too badly tarnished can be rubbed with a plain old toothbrush then rinsed with water. For silver with more tarnish combine one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda and one piece of aluminum foil. Bring this concoction to a boil. Add tarnished silverware, jewelry or whatever into the pot for about 10-30 seconds. Remove cleaned silver with tongs.
For built up tarnish on silver, combine 1/4 cup baking soda with two tablespoons of water and apply the paste to your silver using a damp cloth, and a rubbing motion, then rinse and dry.
Freshen up your home without chemicals
Basic air freshening: You don’t need to use toxic sprays to keep your home smelling great. Read the following for ideas…
Get rid of musty smells: If your suitcase or trunk or anything has a musty smell, crumple up a bunch of recycled newspaper and toss it into the problem area. Let it sit for a week and absorb the smell, then remove the paper, mist the interior of the item with a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of tea tree essential oil, and leave open til dry.
Get rid of food smells: For burnt or fishy food smells, grab an old thrift store pie plate. Sprinkle the pan with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or other spices you like, plus a few drops of essential orange or tangerine oil. Place the pie plate in your still warm oven and allow the plate to sit as the oven cools and scent your kitchen with nice smells. You can also try this homemade apple & spice air freshener.
Get rid of drain smells: If you have a disposal, grind up citrus rinds in there to freshen your drain. If you don’t have a disposal, a mixture of lemon juice, baking soda and white vinegar poured into the drain will freshen it up.
Freshen the bathroom: Drop 20 or so drops of your favorite essential oil onto an old cloth. Place it behind the toilet, out of view and the cloth will scent the bathroom. Technically you can use this method to freshen any area – Your gym locker, the car, closets, etc.
Basic window and glass cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with a gallon of water. Spray on any glass surface and wipe with a microfiber cloth. If you hate the smell of vinegar (like me) you can also spray your glass with lemon juice or club soda and wipe down with recycled newspaper or a cloth.
Dusty glass objects and mirrors: Dust (vs. streaks and basic grime) on glass objects sticks to the glass and makes it harder to clean. In this case, clean as you would dishes – using water and eco-friendly dish soap to remove dust. Then use one of the glass cleaning options above to finish the job.
Mold removal and cleaning
PREVENTION: Prevention is super key when it comes to mold. Unlike other dirt and grime, mold, once in your home is very hard to get rid of. If you don’t want mold, especially if you live in an area that’s wet and cold (say, like Humboldt, where I used to live) be very on top of cleaning. Use a basic homemade disinfecting cleaner regularly and wipe down mold prone spots occasionally with Borax and water. Borax helps prevent mold and helps disinfect as well.
Quick mold and mildew spray: Fill a small reusable spray bottle with two cups of water and three drops of pure tea tree essential oil. Every once in a while spray down your walls with this solution and wipe dry. This mixture fights stains and the natural antiseptic qualities of tea tree oil help fight mold and mildew.
Combine 15-20 drops of tea tree or lavender or citrus essential oil with a bowl of water. Place the bowl directly into your microwave, and heat up to boiling. After the water hits boiling (thi usually takes about 6 minutes in my microwave) allow the bowl to sit there with the microwave door shut, for about 10 minutes. The hot steam will do most of the work for you by heating all the grime up. After 10 minutes, open the microwave, remove the bowl of water and wipe down the interior with a cloth.
Not interested in homemade cleaners?
That’s ok. You can be eco-friendly without going the homemade cleaner route. First, at least safely toss out the toxic cleaners in your home, then read the following.
- Best store bought green cleaners
- How to buy store bought green cleaners correctly
- The safest store bought cleaners