Friday, January 14, 2011

Homemade Household Cleaning (No Gas Mask Required)

"2", user Matthew Yaktine, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial

You know how "they" say that when you have a child, everything changes? They weren't kidding. I've always been more inclined to go with more "natural" products, but I was a stickler about my non-natural cleaning supplies. I had used some of the store bought natural stuff and it never seemed to do a good job of really getting my house clean. If it didn't come in an aerosol can and require a face mask, it just wasn't good enough. Oh, how Bean changed that thought process! After she was born, I started becoming more and more interested in finding natural alternatives to...everything. But, my research was put into high gear when we discovered that she had eczema and food allergies. Her eczema got so bad that she would scratch her chest until it bled (she was 5 months old). After reading scores of books and scouring loads of websites, I decided that chemical cleaners were one of the first things that had to go. I won't go into detail about everything I found here (it'd take me days just to cite all of the books and websites I read), but I highly suggest you read up on it. Burns, infertility, cancer, asthma, eczema, nausea, vomiting, ear infections, and headaches are just a few of the nasty side effects of chemical laden household cleaners. Also, guess what? If Bean or Bug ever managed to get into my cleaning supplies, they'd come out alright. Ok...stepping of that soap box (for now). 

I've been making 90% of my own household cleaners since Bean was about 5 months old (2007).  Before I dish out the recipes, I must tell you how much I love vinegar and tea tree oil. I love them like Napoleon loves his Chap Stick. For real. I will save some space on here and just send you here for some info on how great vinegar is and here for a gazillion uses (ok, 1001 to be exact) for vinegar. It's great for not only cleaning, but also for keeping you healthy. I use plain white vinegar for cleaning, but I have been known to throw back a shot of apple cider vinegar when I get a head cold. It's "stout" to say the least, but I always feel better much quicker! I know some people say they can't stand the smell of vinegar, but it really does dissipate very quickly and after a while, you come to associate the smell with cleanliness (like my whole family does now). Hey, a pickled house smells better than a fake lemon-y house, right?? Even my oh-so-skeptical husband now much prefers natural cleaning supplies to the chemical stuff. Here is a great source for uses of tea tree oil. Got a toe fungus? How about dandruff? Mold? Acne? Tea tree is a great remedy for all of those! 
Here are some of my favorite recipes. I've found these on random websites that I don't remember and I've tried to find the websites to cite the authors, but haven't been successful. Just know I didn't create most of these. :)

Mopping Solution for non-hardwood floors (this one was tweaked by me a bit)
-1 gallon very hot (boiling if you want) water
-2 squirts of Castile soap
-15 drops Orange essential oil (optional)
-8 drops lemon essential oil (optional)
-1 cup vinegar (do NOT use straight vinegar with tile can eat away at it, so I've read. But, diluted this much it works just fine on my tile)
-20 drops tea tree oil (TTO)

All Purpose Cleaner
-1 tsp Borax (optional honestly...I've used it without and it works fine)
-2 tbsp vinegar
-1-2 squirts Castile soap
-15-20 drops TTO
*Put all ingredients in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the way with water. Voila! Best. All. Purpose. Cleaner. EVER. Smells great, is antibacterial, and is gentle on surfaces. Straight vinegar works awesome for disinfecting, but I never use it on my countertops anymore (it ate off the protective layer and now my countertops get stained super easy) and I've heard it's not good for granite, either. This spray can work on those surfaces beautifully though!

Furniture Polish (By the way, my very favorite thing to use for dusting is just a microfiber cloth! This polish works great for when you've already dusted and just want a shine on your wood furniture.)

-Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil

Window/Glass Cleaner
-white vinegar (I don't dilute it at all...seems streaky if I dilute it)
*Old burp cloths seem to work the best for me with cleaning windows

Drain Unclogger (I tweaked this one, too, and it works better than ANY store bought drain unclogger I've ever tried)
-bamboo skewers (LOL! That's what I usually have on hand, but you can use anything that would be good for cleaning a drain with...they even sell things in the store for this, but I like to just grab random things, ha)
-1/2 cup baking soda
-boiling water
*Use the skewers to clean out anything that might be blocking the drain (in our case, it's ALWAYS my hair)
*Pour baking soda down drain
*Pour vinegar down drain
*Immediately throw a towel over the "volcano" that is coming out of the drain. You want to trap the chemical reaction inside the slow drain and let as little of it out as possible.
*Let stand for 20 minutes. While it's standing, boil a couple gallons of water.
*After 20 minutes, remove towel from drain. Slowly Pour one gallon of boiling water down drain. If it's still not clear, repeat the process until it's clear. You don't have to do the skewer part again, though.

Grout Cleaner
-3 cups baking soda
-1 cup warm water
*Mix baking soda and water into a paste and scrub grout with a toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.

Rust Stains:
-Full strength vinegar; let stand until rust disappears.

Mold Killer #1
-2 tsp tea tree oil
-2 cups water
*Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes about 2 cups, lasts indefinitely. We had horrible mold issues on our windows and bathroom and this killed it all and smells so awesome.

Mold Killer #2 (odorless)
-20 drops grapefruit seed extract
-2 cups water
*Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes about 2 cups, lasts indefinitely.

Mold Killer #3 (my favorite)
-Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82% of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar straight into a spray bottle, spray on the moldy area, and let set without rinsing. You can add essential oils for a more mellow scent.
Hardwood Floor Cleaner
-straight white vinegar
*Use a sponge mop. Spray vinegar directly onto floor and mop. Kills germs like no other! However, if you have a protective sealer on your hardwoods, I'd dilute the vinegar to 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water because straight vinegar can eat through the sealer.

Powder Laundry Detergent for Cloth Diapers & Clothes
This recipe comes from Amanda over at The Eco-Friendly Family and I love it!

For a huge batch (you'll need a 5 gallon bucket)
3 Boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz each)
2 Boxes 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz each)
1 Large Tub OxiClean (96 oz)
My wash routine is like this:
Cold short wash with 1 tbsp laundry detergent
Long hot wash with 2 tbsp laundry detergent with extra rinse
Short warm rinse with a cup of vinegar

For a smaller batch, she recommends using:
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup of oxiclean

What I do is make the large batch. I then divide it in half. One bucket is for cloth diapers. To the other bucket, I grate up 12 bars of soap and mix in and that's for our clothes. However, I've used it without the bars on clothes and it works just fine. You can use Fels Naptha soap, Ivory, Zote, or even Castile bar soap. I used Ivory last time but I think my skin didn't like it. I'm going to try the castile this time around.

These are my very favorite recipes, but if you're looking for other homemade/natural household cleaners, this is a great website.

I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Method brand cleaning products. Their "Wood for Good" line is my favorite. I love the almond scent! I use their hardwood floor cleaner weekly, then do a vinegar mop once a month (most of our house is hardwood, so that much vinegar is a really strong -eye watering- scent to use more than once a month). I also love the Wood for Good furniture polish. Another Method favorite is their shower spray.  Seventh Generation also makes natural disinfecting wipes that I love. Speaking of disinfectants,  CleanWell hand sanitizer is fantastic! There's a pretty cool back story behind CleanWell that I love, too. Another great product is Biokleen Bac-Out. It is a fabulous toilet cleaner and just a general bacteria killing all purpose cleaner. It removed stains from my old toilet that even bleach (which I loathe) couldn't get rid of.

Ok, so that's my "now I can breathe again, love my vinegar, saving my family loads of money and protecting the planet" tangent.


  1. Thanks for posting these. I'm a total believer in the cleaning supplies and products and building materials (paints, dyes, glues, etc in them) causing many of the diseases everyone has today. I preach to people about it all the time but they don't seem to care! maybe one day... as someone with eczema I could not use regular cleaning products without severe hand reaction and anything like Clorox makes me wheeze. I will be trying out these mold killer recipes FOR SURE - the icky growing stuff on my bedroom and dining room ceiling are the first thing on my post job quitting to do list!

  2. Where do you purchase tee tree oil?

  3. I buy TTO from the local Herb Store. I actually saw it at Walmart with the other vitamins the other day. I'm not sure how high of quality it would be from there, but it's there. You are so right about the toxins!

  4. better question, how much does tea tree oil cost? just out of curiosity :) I'm sure cheaper than buying cleaning supplies! Lol

  5. Erin, I also just edited the original post to add that I love Bac-Out by Biokleen! Follow the link above to check it out. I can't find it anywhere locally, but Whole Foods carries it, as does Earth Fare. Amazon is a great resource for it, too. Just wanted to throw that in just in case you missed the edit.

  6. Megan, it's really not expensive. I found some on Amazon ( for $13 for 2 oz. I'm pretty sure I didn't pay that much for it, though. Also, a 2 ounce bottle lasts me for months and I use it daily. It is SUPER concentrated, so a drop or two goes a LONG way. It comes out much, much cheaper than store bought natural cleaning supplies. I believe it's cheaper than if you bought non-natural cleaning products, too. I use it in pretty much every cleaner I use, so it's a staple around here. All of the "staple" items I use are either very cheap (vinegar) or are very concentrated so they last a long time.