Do you spend a lot of your hard-earned cash on an assortment of expensive cleaning products? Consider making your own green cleaning supplies. You can find many of the ingredients in your cupboards at home. And while most commercial products only clean one surface type, natural ingredients serve multiple cleaning purposes, so you won’t need to spend a bunch of money on an array of products.
In addition to saving you money, green cleaners keep dangerous toxins out of your home. Many commercial products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and harsh acids. Indoor exposure to such chemicals can cause a variety of illnesses according to the EPA. And the Children’ Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) notes that VOCs can cause cancer. In most situations, you can use milder chemicals to do the same jobs as VOCs.
Concerns About Homemade Cleaners
You might think that making your own cleaning products will pose too big of a challenge. However, using just a handful of basic household ingredients, you can make your home safer for less money. In fact, you can accomplish most of your household cleaning using just ten items—white vinegar, baking soda, borax, hydrogen peroxide, club soda, lemon juice, liquid castile soap, corn meal, olive oil, and pure essential oils.
If you’re concerned that natural, homemade cleaners won’t kill household germs effectively, you’re in for a big surprise. Researchers at Tufts New England Medical Center worry we’re killing too many microorganisms with commercial cleaning products, and stress that disinfectants found in many household cleaners can contribute to drug-resistant strains of bacteria. If you prefer over-the-counter products to homemade cleaners, consider trying green cleaners made with natural ingredients.
In most cases, you can prevent the spread of germs by washing your hands frequently. You’ll also want to launder your dish rags once a week and disinfect your sponges weekly, boiling them in water for three minutes then microwaving them for a minute or two.
How to Make Your Own Household Cleaners
Now that you’ve discovered all of the benefits of making your own cleaners, read on to get started. You may want to bookmark this page so you can revisit it in the future.
Carpet: Looking to clean and disinfect your carpets naturally? Simply blend a half cup of baking soda, one cup of borax, and one cup of cornmeal. Sprinkle the mixture over your carpet, rub with a cloth, and let it rest a few hours before vacuuming. The baking soda eliminates odors, the cornmeal soaks up excess moisture, and the borax acts as an antifungal agent, fighting off dirt and odors.
To remove stains from your carpets, mix one-quarter cup of liquid castile soap and one-third cup of water in a blender until foamy. Spread your concoction over the stain and let it soak for several minutes before scrubbing with a clean rag. If you need to remove an acidic stain—such as coffee, wine, or juice—club soda works pretty well. And if you’re dealing with large spills, just pour some cornmeal on the spill, wait 15 minutes, and vacuum.
To remove candle wax from carpeting, lay newspaper down on top of the wax and set an iron to low. After the iron warms up, gently run it over the newspaper. As you iron, the wax will slowly start melting and attach to the newspaper, lifting off the carpet. After you’ve removed the large chunks of wax, you may need to do additional cleaning to remove some of the coloring from your carpet.
Hard Floors: To clean hard floors, combine one-quarter cup of liquid castile soap, a half cup of lemon juice or white vinegar, and two gallons of lukewarm water. Use a mop or soft cloth when cleaning. Liquid castile soap is a plant-based soap that makes a great antiseptic and grease cutter. White wine vinegar kills germs and bacteria, and lemon juice help remove stains and cut through grease.
Wood Floors: If you have sealed wood floors—which you probably do—start by placing a small amount of vinegar in a bucket of warm water. You should also wring out excess water before mopping. Once you’ve cleaned your floors, mix one part white vinegar with one part vegetable oil, then polish your floors for a healthy shine.
For natural unsealed wood floors, use linseed oil with a rag, allow it to soak in, and mop it up with a little more oil for good measure.
Bathroom Surfaces: To clean your bathroom, consider using the all-purpose solution mentioned later in this article. If your bathroom surfaces need a delicate touch, combine a half cup of baking soda with enough liquid castile soap to reach a frosting-like consistency. You can also add a few drops of essential oil for a fresh scent. If you need to scrub some of your bathroom surfaces, you can use baking soda or borax as a scouring powder. For plumbing fixtures, club soda makes an excellent polish.
Toilets: When you’re ready to make your own toilet cleaner, simply combine a cup of borax with a quarter to a half cup of white vinegar or lemon juice. You should get a nice paste that you can spread inside your toilet bowl. After letting the paste sit for a while, come back and scrub it with a sponge or toilet brush.
Unclogging Drains & Shower Heads: Need to unclog your shower drain? You can accomplish this naturally without having to pour harsh chemicals down your drain. First, pour a three-quarter cup of baking soda down the drain. After the baking soda, pour down a half cup of white vinegar, making sure to cover the drain immediately after pouring. Because this concoction creates a foaming reaction that will push up and into your tub, you’ll want to ensure your drain stays completely covered, keeping the foam down in your pipes. After roughly 30 minutes, remove the drain cover and slowly pour hot water down the drain. Your drain should flow smoothly.
To unclog your shower head, remove it from its fixture, find a bowl large enough to hold it, and sit it facedown in about an inch of vinegar. Let the shower head soak for an hour or so, then remove it from the bowl and rinse it for a few minutes in the sink. Put it back on your shower and enjoy the improved water pressure.
Coffee Makers: To clean your coffee maker, pour one cup of white vinegar into the water reservoir and fill it the rest of the way with hot water. Then, run the coffee maker as you normally would, but don’t add any coffee beans. After the first cycle, run the coffee maker a couple more times using just plain water. This will help rinse out the vinegar and any build up left inside the machine. Lastly, enjoy your coffee.
Microwaves: For microwaves, mix a half cup of water with a few teaspoons of baking soda in a microwave safe bowl. Next, put the bowl in the microwave and run it for two minutes. Afterwards, remove the bowl and wipe your microwave clean. Any spots should come right off.
Ovens: Believe it or not, you can also create your own natural oven cleaner. First, you’ll want to remove any caked-on material using wet steel wool. Next, cover the oven floor with baking soda and spray it lightly with water every few hours to keep it damp. Leave the baking soda in the oven overnight, and wipe it clean in the morning with a wet rag. The gunk in your oven should be loosened and ready to scrub right off.
Refrigerators: You can easily clean your refrigerator using a simple paste made from equal parts baking soda and water. Just scrub and wipe clean with a cloth.
Brass and Copper: Need a great brass and copper cleaner? Simply combine three tablespoons of lemon juice with one tablespoon of baking soda. This makes a great polish. For heavier polishing, you can soak your brass and copper in hot vinegar and table salt. As your items sit in this mixture, their finish will become shinier. Once you see the shine, take out your items and rinse them thoroughly. You can also rub some lemon on your brass and copper items when you need to clean inside any cracks or grooves. Always make sure to rinse and wipe your items after cleaning.
Chrome: You can clean chrome with a simple, natural solution. Just combine one tablespoon of ammonia with a pint of water. Rub your mixture on any chrome surface to remove dirt and grime.
Iron: When your iron cookware starts looking rusty, use a damp cloth and steel wool to get them clean. Simply wipe your iron object with the cloth, scrub with the steel wool, rinse, and dry. Once your item dries, you can rub in a little vegetable oil to prevent further rusting.
Pewter: When cleaning pewter, liquid castile soap usually does the trick. Just use warm soapy water, rinse, and polish with a cloth.
To clean your good silver, put some water in a pan with three tablespoons of washing soda and bring to a simmer. Then, throw a little piece of aluminum foil into the pan and dip your silver right into the mixture. Pull out your item, dry it off, and clean it with a rag. Voila—bright, shiny silver.
Other Household Cleaners
You can make a variety of scented air fresheners using water and essential oils. Simply take an empty spray bottle, pour in some water, and add several drops of essential oil. You’ll find a large variety of essential oils with many different scents, such as lavender, lemongrass, thyme, eucalyptus, rosemary, rose, or clove. This lets you customize your air freshener according to your taste. You can also adjust the intensity of your air freshener by changing the amount of essential oil you add to your mixture.
You might also consider placing small boxes of baking soda around the house in places where odor is likely to strike, such as the cat’s litter box or the refrigerator. And a nice vase of flowers can add a fresh scent to your house without leaving behind toxic residue like plug-ins and sprays.
All Purpose Cleaner: You can use all-purpose cleaners on most surfaces in your home. To make your own all-purpose cleaner, mix two tablespoons of white vinegar and one teaspoon of borax in a 16-ounce spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with warm water and shake the solution until the borax dissolves completely. Once the borax dissolves, add a quarter cup of liquid castile soap and 10-15 drops of essential oil for a clean, fresh scent. Looking for an easier solution? Try cleaning with two cups of club soda in a spray bottle.
Disinfectant: When it comes to making your own disinfectant, start with tea tree oil. Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to a gallon of water to disinfect windows, floors and toilets. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with some water in a spray bottle to clean mold in your bathroom and disinfect your dirty floors. Tea tree oil also works great for disinfecting cuts and scrapes, and it makes a great bug repellant.
Glass Cleaner: For an eco-friendly glass cleaner, simply use a spray bottle filled with club soda. To give your mixture a little extra cleaning power, add a teaspoon of lemon juice. Terry-cloth cotton rags work best for cleaning glass.
Mold Remover: Want to remove mold without using toxic chemicals? You have a few options:
Option 1—Mix two ounces of borax and a cup of white vinegar. Spray your mixture directly at the mold in your tub or shower. After spraying, let it sit 30-60 minutes before wiping the mold away.
Option 2—Mix a half cup of hydrogen peroxide with one cup of white vinegar. Spray your mixture on the mold without rinsing.
Option 3—For periodic maintenance, you can spray moldy areas with vinegar and let it soak in. Vinegar helps kill mold while preventing new mold growth.
Rust Remover: If you have salt and limes in your house, you could drink a margarita, remove some rust, or both. Yes, salt and lime juice work great on rust. Just sprinkle a little salt on the rusty area and put some lime juice right on top of it. Make sure you don’t put so much lime juice on that the salt floats away. Leave the mixture on top of the rust for a few hours, then scrub. The rust should come off relatively easily.
Wood Polish: For a simple wood polish, just dab some olive oil on a soft cloth and massage gently into your wood furniture. If you’re looking for a heavy-duty wood polish, take a spray bottle with three cups of water inside and add four tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Shake the bottle up to mix the ingredients together and begin polishing. Before you begin, you might want to test your mixture on a small section of wood to make sure you have the correct mixture. Too much vinegar can be abrasive on wood surfaces.
 “The Natural Way to Clean Everything in Your House.” The Good Human| Sustainability, Environment, Progressive Politics, Peak Oil, Being Green. Web. 14 July 2011..
 “Green America: Ten Simple Ways to Clean Green.” Green America: Economic Action for a Just Planet. Web. 14 July 2011. .
 “Ten Cheap Ways to Clean Your House Organically.” Sustainable Project Management. 10 May 2011. Web. 14 July 2011. .
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