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Saturday, May 1, 2010

How To Make Green Cleaning Products

It's that time of year again...the dreaded (for some) spring cleaning.

This year, instead of spending all of that money on commercial cleaning products-and subjecting yourself and your family to the harsh chemicals in those bottles-maybe you want to try some home-made, non-toxic cleaners that get the job done without all of the negative side effects.

Now, you may be asking, "why? Why should I 'fix something that ain't broken?"

I'll tell you why.  Just like I said above, to eliminate the harsh chemicals.  Chemicals like bleach are not necessary for your average household on a regular basis.  In fact, these chemicals contain harsh toxins that aren't good for you, your children, or the people that come into your home.  I won't go into all of the scientific proof on this (because honestly, it's long & boring & I know it didn't change my mind on it's own), but there is a reason the label says "Use in a well ventilated area".

I know how weird it can feel switching to green cleaners, and how you can feel that maybe it doesn't clean your house as well because it doesn't have the well-known name or that fresh scent.  Trust me.  I mean, I just made the switch a year ago while trying to ease Addison's discomfort with Eczema.  I was really worried about dis-infecting and knowing everything was clean and germ free.  I mean, that's what they breed into our heads! It can't be clean if you don't buy cleaner and anti-bacterial products, right?!


Here, I'm going to share several recipes for green cleaners.  Some have been tried by me and some have been sent to me by readers that are hoping to help out.

All Purpose Cleaners:

My personal favorite:
1/2 cup of white vinegar
2-4 drops of eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil (it's very important to get essential oil, not scented oil)
2 (ish) liters of water
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup baking soda

Mix all of these ingredients together in a spray bottle and shake.  I use this cleaning solution in the kitchen, bathrooms, and even occasionally on the floor (although you should be careful as certain floors require special care).  Although you expect a vinegar based cleaner to smell strongly of vinegar, my house does not.  You may smell vinegar while cleaning (although the oil will cut down on that), but the smell quickly goes away.

Be very careful, because this solution does foam!

Erica's Powder Cleaner Base #1
2 cups baking soda
1 tbs Borax
1/2 cup shredded natural soap

Erica says "Having a bottle of White Vinegar on hand works great for those hard to clean areas as it makes the cleaner foam and warm up a bit and boost the cleaning to get rid of the soap scum build up that happens especially in the tub. I use my gloves when I have heavy duty cleaning to do like this. I like to make a paste with the powder cleaner and rub on the surface that needs cleaning and then spray with the Vinegar and rub it a bit more, allow it to set for a while and then rinse away. Another application might be necessary for those areas that do not clean up easily. [It] can be used in the powder form or added to some hot water to make a paste for washing surfaces, along with any of the Essential Oils you like. The amount of water used in not listed as some might like more than others so you can judge what you like best. A nice rubbing paste works great for counters, refrigerators, etc.

Here are her recommended essential oil combos for this cleaner (and her Powder Cleaner Base #2 which will be listed further below):

1 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Lavender Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Tea Tree Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Spearmint Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Pine Essential Oil 

 Eucalyptus-Mint All Purpose Disinfecting Soft Soap for Kitchen and Bath:

Erica says,"This soap can be used for dishes, handwashing, floors, stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and hands. It's mild to the skin but effective enough to get cleaning jobs done. The eucalyptus and mint provide a disinfecting quality as well as a fresh scent; any areas washed with this soap will be undesirable to crawling insects and flies. They'll stay away for quite a while."

 5 cups grated castile soap
1/2 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon borax
6 cups hot peppermint tea
1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil 

Put grated soap into a 3-quart stainless steel saucepan and add hot mint tea.  Simmer for fifteen minute on low heat.  Add baking soda, borax, and eucalyptus oil.  Store in a labeled plastic jug or squirt bottle.  Shake before using. 

Bathroom Scrubs:

Being on a budget (like I am), I really love using Borax in the bathrooms as a scrub.  Grist did an article testing 8 green cleaning bathroom products, and Borax won me over just as much as the writer of the article.  It's not no scrub, but it does the best job I've ever seen in my tub and shower.

Erica's Powder Cleaner Base #2-A scrubbing base for the tub, sinks, or to scrub any surface that needs scrubbing:
2 cups baking soda
1/4 cup orange or lemon peel (finely powdered)
1 tbs Borax
1/2 cup shredded natural soap

Erica says, "It is best to take the dried Natural Soap and powder it down in the food processor a bit in order to get it to mix in the powder mixture better."

De-odorizers and Air Fresheners
The most simple, effective, and budget-friendly way of deodorizing your carpet while vacuuming is to sprinkle baking soda or Borax on your carpet before vacuuming.  It offers a fresh scent and eliminates odors in your carpet. 

If you have tougher odors, or just want a more noticeable smell, you can also mix in your favorite Essential Oil before sprinkling it onto the carpet.

Like a fresh smelling home?  There are so many ways to freshen the air in your home.  Some simple solutions include simmering cinnamon or other spices with water on the stove, keeping fresh coffee grounds on the counter, and baking soda. 

Do you like those gel air fresheners you can buy in the stores?  You can make one yourself!

1 packet unflavored Knox gelatin
3/4 c water
1/4 c vodka
1-2 tbs fragrance oil
food coloring as desired

Dissolve the gelatin in boiling water.  Allow to cool at room temp then add the vodka, coloring, and scent. Pour into a decorative jar and refrigerate until set.

I hope some of these cleaners help get you started on the road to a greener, less toxic lifestyle.  There are many, many, many more recipes for cleaners, and as you get more comfortable with the idea of making your own, you'll find that you like different mixtures.  

Keep these key ingredients handy and remember to use them when making your own cleaners:

White Distilled Vinegar
Baking Soda
Lemon Juice
Essential Oils
Natural Soap

If you would like to do more research on this topic yourself, here are some great sites I recommend.  Some of the information in this post has at one  point or another, been learned from these sites as well:
1001 Uses For Vinegar
The Daily Green-Spring Cleaning
Green Cleaning Resources
EarthEasy Non Toxic Solutions
Uses for Essential oils
Article on bathroom cleaners

I would also like to send out a big thank you to Erica over at Goddess Of Cooking for sending over her recipes, tips, and tricks to include in this blog post.

Happy Cleaning!


  1. Great post Angie!! Thanks for the shout out too!

  2. I recently got into the green cleaning products but haven't ventured into making my own. Thanks for the posting this as I have considered making my own and just haven't done it! I have to admit that I actually don't mind buying them b/ it sends the message that more people WANT green cleaners. One day I hope to walk down the cleaning section in the store and see more green cleansers than chemical ones!

  3. Danielle, that's a great point, too. In fact, one of the websites I listed actually encourages people to buy some store bought cleaners to increase the demand for these products that are increasing awareness.

    I do prefer my home made ones though for a few reasons.

    1) I re-use my spray bottle, which reduces waste
    2)It's more eco-friendly
    3) I know exactly what's in it.

  4. Hmm..that #2 was supposed to be "economically friendly".

    & Erica, I found my peppermint tea! I can't wait to make your eucalyptus-mint cleaner! We get sugar ants this time of year and I really want to see if this helps fend them off! Plus, I love the smell of eucalyptus and mint together!

  5. Great tips!
    I switched to natural cleaning a long time ago and when I have time I try to make my own products using for the most part vinegar but sometimes they just don't seem to be working that well. So to give it a push I add some drops of Citra Solv which is a natural product and has a great effectiveness, also it smells fantastic so it kills the sting of vinegar. If that doesn't work either then I just use plain Citra Solv, so far nothing has resisted to it, and yes, it's a natural, biodegradable product, I know, sounds too good to be true!!!


  6. Woohoo!! I'm so excited to see some DIY-at home cleaner info. I've been wanting to do this and now I can!
    I took a look around your Etsy Shop and I love your bows--if only I had a little girl to wear them all! :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!