When I was growing up, my mom had a spray bottle with the hand-written words “Vinegar & Water” on it. Whether it was a sticky spill, pet “problem” or cleaning up after my siblings and me, my mom was quick on the draw with this tried-and-true solution.
Now that I have my own home, child and bank account, I too experiment with eco-friendly homemade cleaning solutions using ingredients within an arm’s reach like lemons, salt, baking soda and, yes, vinegar.
Are you hoping to make a clean sweep and replace conventional cleaning products or simply looking for more ways to streamline spending? Make your own earth- and wallet-friendly household cleaning products; it’s easy and you likely have everything you need around the house right now.
Here’s the dirt on a few common kitchen items that pull double duty.
- Deodorizer: To absorb stale odors from carpets, liberally sprinkle with baking soda. Wait a few hours, then vacuum.
- Leave an open bowl of 2-4 tablespoons baking soda in the fridge.
- Soak plastic containers in warm water and baking soda overnight to eliminate lingering food smells.
- Sprinkle some baking soda at the bottom of your kitchen trash can before putting in the garbage bag.
- Counter, Bathtub, Sink and Tile Cleaner: Apply baking soda with a damp sponge or rag. Let it sit for a few minutes. Scour and rinse.
Distilled White Vinegar
- All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean most surfaces around the house. (Vinegar should not be used on marble surfaces.)
- Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Pour 1 cup vinegar into toilet bowl. Toss in a handful of baking soda. The mixture will foam. (Vinegar will clean hard water lime deposits if left standing awhile.) Scrub and flush.
- Red Wine Spill Support: Pour a thick layer of salt over the spill to prevent it from setting. Let it sit for a number of hours to absorb the wine before vacuuming.
- Grease Cleaner for Pots and Pans: Sprinkle salt on cookware to absorb excess grease. Dump out the salt before washing as usual. (Not recommended for nonstick cookware.)
- Drain Deodorizer: Put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal to eliminate odors.
- Microwave Cleaner: Fill a bowl with 1 cup of water and 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice. Place in a microwave and turn it to a high setting for long enough to allow steam to condense on the walls. Carefully remove bowl of water and wipe the inside of the microwave with a warm damp rag.
- All-Purpose Cleaner. The simple 1:1 solution of water and vinegar mentioned earlier is an effective and affordable solution, however if you don’t care for the smell of vinegar, Kate Payne, author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, has a fantastic fix:
Add about 10 drops of a pure essential oil (no synthetic fragrances or you’re defeating the purpose of non-toxic cleaning) to your half vinegar-half water spray bottle. Of all the essential oils I’ve tried, peppermint is one of the few that actually masks the odor of the acetic acid in vinegar.
Note: If you’re not a mint fan, I also suggest eucalyptus or clove essential oils.
Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
- 1/2 c white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp baking soda
- 10 drops tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil (for their disinfectant properties)
Mix the vinegar, essential oils and a little water before adding baking soda in a clean spray bottle (glass is best). Then fill to top with water. I use a 12 oz bottle. Gently shake to mix ingredients, and then spray, wipe with a cloth, and allow it to dry.
Homemade Disinfectant Wipes
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup with vinegar
- 8 drops tea tree oil
- 8 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 8 drops lemon essential oil
- Empty “wipe” container (baby wipe, for example)
- 15 – 20 squares of cloth (old t-shirts work well, as do old dish towels or similar material)
Fold and place the cloth squares into the empty wipe container and set aside.
Combine in a mixing bowl the water, vinegar, and 3 essential oils, stirring until well mixed.
Pour this mixture over the cloths in the container where they will soak in and be ready for you to pull out and use!
Launder and repeat as often as the cloths hold up!
Homemade Liquid Dish Soap
- ½ cup warm distilled water
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Lemon essential oil (optional)
Combine distilled water with salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, Sal Suds, and lemon juice. Stir this mixture into the salt water mixture, and stir until thickened.
You may wish to add 10 – 15 drops of lemon essential oil both for scent and for disinfectant properties.
Pour mixture into a recycled dish soap container for storage.
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
- 1 cup salt
- 2 cups baking soda
- 2 cups Borax
- 1 cup of Lemi-Shine (non-toxic, found in the detergent aisle)
Mix all ingredients together. Transfer to an air-tight storage container. It will last a long time: each load uses only 2 tablespoons of detergent! (I recommend keeping white vinegar in the rinse agent compartment, too.)
Homemade Oven Cleaner
- ½ cup baking soda
- 2 – 3 Tbsp water (or more/less)
- White vinegar (1/2 cup or so)
In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of baking soda and stir in 2 – 3 tablespoons of water, adjusting as needed to get a spreadable paste.
Spread this all over the walls of your ovens, rubbing it in for a scrubbing effect.
Let that mixture rest overnight.
In the morning, you will put some vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz everywhere you see baking soda, which will create a foaming action. Wipe clean with a damp cloth, rinsing until clean.
Homemade Drain Cleaner
- ¼ – ½ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup white vinegar
Sprinkle baking soda down the clogged or smelly drain, and follow that with the vinegar. Let the bubbling mixture sit for an hour or so, then pour boiling hot water down the drain to rinse.
Depending on how smelly or clogged the drain is, you may need to repeat the process again. Once you do it regularly, you’ll find that one time usually takes care of it!
Moving out of the kitchen, let’s talk bathroom cleaning.
A lot of the same principles that apply to cleaning the kitchen carry over into the bathroom.
For example, vinegar and baking soda still play a large role, and the disinfectant power of certain essential oils is key. Here are some of my favorite ways to tackle one of the most-used rooms in the house:
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Did you notice I didn’t write “Homemade” in the title of this one? That’s because technically the ingredient I’m about to tell you about isn’t homemade – and it’s going to blow your mind!
Are you ready??
Yep, the nectar of our childhoods is an amazing toilet bowl cleaner. Specifically, the lemonade Kool-Aid. Here’s the poop, er, I mean scoop:
Lemonade has citric acid, which helps clean the toilet bowl. (So does the old Astronaut Orange Beverage TANG, but does anyone actually have that anymore?)
All you have to do is flush your toilet, sprinkle a package of Kool-Aid lemonade around the sides and scrub with a toilet bowl brush. Let this sit for several hours (overnight is best), and then flush in the morning.
It’s just that easy!
Homemade Mirror and Glass Cleaner
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 cups water
- 8 – 10 drops essential oil of choice, optional
Combine everything in a spray bottle. Shake to mix well. Spray onto glass surface and wipe clean.
Be sure you shake well to fully integrate the cornstarch, which is the ingredient that reduces streaking. You’ll want to shake before each use.
Homemade Air Freshener
- 12 – 15 drops of pure essential oil (grapefruit, lemon, orange, lavender are favorites)
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1/12 cups water
Combine in a spray bottle, shake, and spray to freshen the room! (Shake before each use).
You can experiment with higher ratios of vinegar to water and upping the essential oil if this is not strong enough for your preference.
Homemade Non-Toxic Liquid Laundry Detergent
- ½ cup Borax
- ½ cup washing soda (i.e. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Laundry Booster)
- ½ cup of Dawn dish soap (every mother of baseball-playing, grass-stain gettin’ boys knows this!)
- 4 cups hot water
- Clean, empty gallon plastic jug (i.e. recycled juice/milk jug)
Combine the first three ingredients in the container (you may need a funnel to get it in there) and then pour in the water to dissolve the ingredients. Fill the container to the top with cold water. Shake before each use. For a standard-sized load of laundry, ¼ cup should work. Use a little more for a more heavily-soiled load.
(Note: This has worked in HE washers with great results!)
Homemade Stain Remover
There are a few ways I like to tackle stains in the laundry room. First, let me just say that a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution is a super stain remover! I’ve used it on lots of stains where I spray it on, let it soak, and then launder as normal. (Note to moms of girls just getting their first periods: there is nothing better to deal with the “Aunt Flow” stains in the underwear or on the sheets!)
There’s also the mixture of washing soda and white vinegar. You simply sprinkle the washing soda onto the stain, spray with white vinegar that has been diluted in a 1:1 ratio with water. Scrub the paste into the stain and let it stand for about 20 minutes. Launder as normal.
For really tough stains, like grass stains, the magic of Dawn dish soap comes in handy. This one calls for a bit of a recipe:
- 2/3 cup Dawn dish detergent
- 2/3 cup ammonia
- 6 Tbsp baking soda
- 2 cups warm water
Mix together all ingredients, and then pour into a spray bottle. Spray onto the stain, let it rest a bit, then launder as normal.
Because of the ammonia, you should NOT want this in chlorine bleach!
Homemade Fabric Softener
- 5 ½ cups water
- 15 oz bottle of your favorite hair conditioner
- 2.5 cups white vinegar
- 20 drops of essential oil for fragrance (optional, especially if your conditioner has a nice scent)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour into empty storage container (such as empty fabric soft container).
Use approximately ¼ cup per normal washload prior to the rinse cycle.
Homemade Dryer Sheets
This is super easy to do! Find a bunch of hubby’s old t-shirts (not his beloved old t-shirts, but the others!) and cut them into washcloth sized squares.
Next, you will take some of the homemade fabric softener from the recipe above, and fill about ½ of an airtight, lidded storage container with this. Place the t-shirts in the container, and press them down to soak up the fabric softener.
Squeeze out excess before tossing a square into the dryer with your clothes. These are obviously recyclable, and don’t have to be laundered between uses!
Homemade Dusting Spray
- 1 Tbsp castile soap
- 15 drops lemon essential oil
- 2 cups water
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake gently to combine. Use as you would any typical dusting spray, either spraying onto a clean cloth and wiping, or spraying on the surface and wiping. (I’d start with the first option, or test a small area of the furniture first).
Homemade Wood Polishing Spray
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 30 drops essential oil, optional (I like lemon, orange, or lavender best)
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake vigorously. Spray directly on wood furniture and buff with a clean, dry cloth. Shake before each use.
Homemade Carpet Freshener (With Added Benefits)
In addition to freshening the smell in a room, this combination of ingredients can disinfect, kill fleas and their eggs, and act as a rodent deterrent.
- 2 cups Borax
- 1 cup baking soda
- 10 drops essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Store in an air-tight container. When you’re ready to use, just sprinkle around the carpet and let sit for about half an hour. Vacuum up, and you’re good to go!
Homemade Carpet Stain Remover
Sprinkle the stain with baking soda and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then vacuum it up.
Next, mix 1 Tbsp Dawn dish soap, 1 Tbsp white vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water.
Sponge this onto the stain and blot with dry cloth, repeating until stain disappears.
Homemade “Soft-Scrub” Cleaner
- 1 ½ cups baking soda
- ½ cup environmentally safe liquid laundry soap
- 10 drops tea tree, lavender, or lemon essential oil
Mix baking soda and laundry soap in a mixing bowl, stirring vigorously to combine into a paste. Add essential oil and mix well. Store in an airtight food container.
Any go-to ingredients you couldn’t clean without such as club soda or mild vegetable soap? What’s your favorite homemade solution for cleaning clothes, scouring the oven or wiping windows and floors?