HOW TO: Make Your Own Eco, Kid-Safe Cleaning Supplies

by , 12/28/08

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Why should you take the time to make homemade cleaners? Well, first of all, plenty of studies show that toxic, conventional cleaning supplies are bad for your health, your child’s health, and the planet’s health. See the following posts for more information…

baby safe cleaners, cleaners, cleaning supplies, dangers, eco home cleaning, Green Cleaning, homemade green cleaning products, household dangers, safe non-toxic cleaners, toxic-chemicals

The above health issues are reason enough to make green cleaners, but just in case you need more reasons: homemade cleaners smell better, work just as well, cut down on packaging, and save you money. Lastly, this is a very simple green step you can take at home, yet the rewards are huge – cleaner indoor air quality and a healthy, happy family.

baby safe cleaners, cleaners, cleaning supplies, dangers, eco home cleaning, Green Cleaning, homemade green cleaning products, household dangers, safe non-toxic cleaners, toxic-chemicals

WHAT SUPPLIES YOU’LL NEED:

You need very few supplies to make homemade cleaning products. Most of the items you’ll need, you likely have around the house already…

  1. A few plain old spray bottles. You can purchase some, or clean out your old ones (the ones that had icky cleaners in them) and reuse them.
  2. Box of baking soda.
  3. Table salt.
  4. Bottle of white distilled vinegar.
  5. Good old plain tap H2O.
  6. Olive oil.
  7. Natural soap.
  8. Fresh lemons.
  9. Organic essential oil of tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass and rosemary. You don’t need all of them, but having at least a couple on hand is helpful. These are some of the best antiseptic and antibacterial essential oils, plus they smell great. If you’ve never used essential oils before, read Essential Oil Buying Guide and Essential Oil Safety Guide. It’s important that you understand that anyone can have a negative reaction to an essential oil. The posts above explain how to do a skin test – you don’t want to clean with an oil that affects you negatively.
  10. Some eco-friendly sponges or cloths. Or simply buy a pack of washcloths, use old cloth diapers, make cloths out of ripped clothes, and so on. If you’re going to clean green, you may as well ditch the paper towels while you’re at it.

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EASY, GREEN CLEANING SUPPLY RECIPES:

Window wash: Many people who are die-hard into green cleaning love vinegar and water as a window wash. Simply mix 3 tablespoons vinegar with 2 cups of water (or for a bigger job – 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water) and spray right on your windows. Vinegar works great on glass, it’s true, however I can’t stand the smell of vinegar, so I hunted down an alternative years ago. You can also use straight fresh lemon juice or club soda to get your windows and other glass items sparkling clean. Spritz your glass with club soda and scrub with recycled newspaper. If you use straight lemon juice use a lint-free cloth to scrub with.

All-purpose disinfectant: Mix 2 cups water, a few drops of natural soap, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender organic essential oil. You can spray this on all kinds of home surfaces – changing tables, cutting boards, toilets, sinks, walls, and more. Just don’t use this on glass, as it will streak. This basic cleaner is so safe and gentle you could literally spray it on your kids, and they’d be fine. I do suggest baths over disinfecting the kiddos though :)

Scrubbing toilets: Drizzle your toilet bowl with vinegar, lemon juice, or spray on some of your all-purpose disinfectant. Sprinkle with baking soda. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with toilet brush. This mix will also clean sinks perfectly.

Fast non-toxic oven cleaning: You don’t want to use conventional oven cleaners – any product that requires open windows and gloves to use, is not ok to use around your kids (or yourself). The best tip is to not wait to clean your oven when it gets dirty. An old stain is harder to clean. To clean oven stains naturally, sprinkle table salt liberally on the hot spill before your oven cools down. Allow the oven to cool. Grab a damp cloth and rub off the spill.

Mold fighter: Mold is extremely harmful to human lungs. The problem is that once you have mold, you have it, and it can be almost impossible, if not totally impossible to get rid of. Prevention is key. To fight mold from ever occurring, mix two cups of water and three drops of pure organic tea tree essential oil. Once a week, spray your walls with this solution (even behind furniture) and wipe dry. This mixture fights stains and the natural antiseptic qualities of tea tree oil fights mold and mildew.

Got questions? Go ahead and ask in the comments. I haven’t bought conventional household cleaners in years, so if you need a natural homemade cleaning solution, I can most likely help you out!

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54 Responses to “HOW TO: Make Your Own Eco, Kid-Safe Cleaning Supplies”

  1. Ugo says:

    Loved this post:
    simple, fast, cheap and accessible.

    Cheers

    ugo

  2. Ethan says:

    I for one, hate cleaning my shower. Ever. I love using Method’s after shower spray and never having to scrub. Does anybody have a home-made recipe for this type of product?

  3. Sara says:

    Eco-Me makes some great do it yourself kits.

  4. Mel says:

    I work in a museum and we have LOTS of glass that requires constant cleaning. I was surprised to learn that after testing a number of products the product that won the battle for supreme glass cleaner is good old vinegar and water. Here they use chamois towels to clean the glass but I’ve found that it works okay with other good cloths.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Ethan you can spray down your shower daily with tea tree oil diluted in water (2 cups h2O; 3 drops tea tree) which will naturally keep mildew at bay – you don’t need to rinse it. For a natural scrub you can use plain old baking soda and water or baking soda and some of that All-purpose disinfectant above:, although, baking soda can scratch some surfaces, so I’d test it first. Lemons rubbed on will naturally whiten your tub and make it smell nice too. Overall, the best way to keep a tub clean is to use natural, non-detergent, thus non build-up soaps though.

  6. Lois says:

    What do you recommend for cleaning kitchen appliances? I use diluted Simple Green to get the grease off my black stove, then follow up with windex to remove streaks. Is there a homemade version of these products?

  7. Jennifer says:

    @Lois – vinegar is a natural grease cutter when used full strength. As noted, the scent of vinegar makes me gag so I mix 1/2 tablespoon baking soda in 1 cup hot water, then drizzle lemon juice in. lemon juice in hot water is also a grease cutter, although not quite as good as vinegar, and the baking soda gives it a little scrub action. I don’t always use this though. Sometimes I just drizzle natural soap on the grease and scrub it up with hot water. Seriously never underestimate good old hot water. IF you want to avoid streaks, use a microfiber cloth or recycled newspaper to clean with not a paper towel.

  8. Barbara says:

    What is natural soap. Its mentioned a couple times but I don\’t know what you mean when you say natural soap.

  9. Jennifer says:

    @Barbara To me, natural soap means void of detergents and toxic chemicals or colors. Also, a natural soap should be completely biodegradable, and if possible organic. Many natural soaps are made with olive oil or other plant products vs. harsh surfactants (the stuff that makes bubbles). I posted a link to one decent natural soap above; here it is… http://www.alcasoft.com/soapfact/catalog/catagory.php?Catagory=liquid_soap You can find natural soap at many co-ops in bulk too, so it cuts down on packaging.

  10. Laci says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    I would like to ask how can I replace the shaving cream with something home-made product. The shaving cream always comes in a tin tube, which cannot be recycled, so you have to throw it out into the garbage every month or so. Could you please advise an alternative?
    Thanks in advance, Laci from Hungary, Europe.

  11. Jennifer says:

    @Laci – I don’t know about the Europe market, but here we have a few non can options, like Kiss My Face shave cream, in a recyclable pump container. If you like pain, you can allow a sugar and water paste to dry on your legs, then yank that off with cloth. Since I’m going to assume that no pain is better, you can one, try shaving with organic apricot body oil – which works pretty well OR make something more sophisticated like this – http://badhuman.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/homemade-shaving-cream-yeahthats-right/ (I’ve made something like this, and it works awesome).

  12. Vanessa says:

    I was told to add tea tree oil to a 100-ml spray bottle to make a nasal and hand spray to ward off germs. Can’t remember if it was 6 or 8 drops. Can anyone help?

  13. jennifer says:

    @Vanessa – I’ve heard 3 drops in 5ml h20 for oral germ fighting, 1 drop when inhaled on a tissue, and various other recipes, depending on who is giving the advice. Really, unless you’re experienced with oils or are working with an aromatherapist, I’d avoid using an oil (even diluted) as a nasal application other than a steam. A steam would be putting about five drops into a bowl of steaming water, and hanging your head over so that the steam helps you. I’ve never made a germ hand cleaner with tea tree and water. When I use tea tree on my skin I use about 3 drops per tablespoons base oil. Although once in a while I’ll use one pure drop (no base) for a blemish. If I was making a room spray with h20 and tea tree I’d use a max of 15 drops, but like I said, I haven’t used that on my hands. Sorry I’m not more helpful on this, but using oils on skin is tricky and asking a pro is best.

  14. Dave Fowler says:

    Do you know of a eco-friendly hardwood floor cleaner?

  15. Jennifer Chait says:

    @Dave You can make floor polish-like cleaner: mix one tablespoon lemon oil with a pint of mineral oil – OR mix up about one half cup rubbing alcohol + one cup linseed oil + one half cup vinegar + a few drops lemon essential oil to cut the vinegar scent.
    If you’re looking for the non-polishing type of cleaner; like just a floor wash, use 1/2 cup vinegar and a gallon of warm water. But you have to rinse after washing because vinegar can be caustic to some wood floors. Not if you rinse though. If you want to buy a pre-made floor cleaner I’d try this http://www.green-kits.com/woflcl.html which looks good, but I haven’t used it.

  16. Kayla says:

    Hi, do you have any ideas for clothes soap? I find the organic ones really expensive, and would prefer to use something I can make up myself. Also, did you know that vinegar makes an excellent rinse aid substitute in the dishwasher? To bleach tea stains from cups use a little vinegar and bicarbonate of soda in water>

  17. Angie says:

    Hi
    I did it when I first entered the US in 1975. Since we in Germany did not use Clorox and stuff like that. We knew it is bad for your health and being sick is not a business in Germany. But I learned quickly that Mineral Oil, Borax, Vinegar is not good either and there is Danger in it.
    I learned about Basic H from Shaklee and was a sold consumer. The whole line of Shaklee’s cleaning products is the best of the best. And they work, they are safe and they save you money.
    Share Get Clean with your friends and family. Positive planetary change will add up fast, thanks to you. http://www.SafeGetClean.com

  18. jennifer says:

    @Kayla I actually do buy clothes soap; I found a good brand, that’s not too expensive – biokleen – http://www.treehuggingfamily.com/green-product-review-biokleen-all-temperature-laundry-liquid/ however, you can make your own. http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/make-your-own-laundry-soap.html. I don’t make laundry soap, because most of the recipes that actually work, have a lot of ingredients, it’s less trouble to buy eco-powder. I don’t buy laundry fabric sheets though, I simply sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on a wash cloth, and toss it in the dryer, when I do dry stuff. I hang almost everything,

  19. Heather says:

    what can I use to mop my kitchen floor that will not hurt my kiddos ?

  20. Jennifer Chait says:

    @Heather – look above at comment 15 (there are some floor solutions posted).

  21. Jo Willis says:

    This is a great article. Another great product I have found is the Ultimate Cloth You don’t have to buy any chemicals, you just use water! You can’t get any greener than that. You don’t even have to make your own.It is the best green cleaning product I have found. You can search for it online, but the cheapest place I have found it is Cheap Ultimate Cloth.

  22. Anne says:

    Dear Jennifer

    Thanks for the great ideas. Is the vinegar in the window wash safe for wooden window frames or is it too caustic? Would it be safer to just use club soda? Thanks.

  23. [...] for those in search of some green grime busters, here’s a primer from Inhabitots, who catalogued a few good recipes: Window wash: “I am the viper and [...]

  24. StephanieL says:

    I made the all purpose cleaner and loved it so gave some to a friend with a baby to try…she loved it too! Just wondering if you could use the hardwood cleaning suggestions for laminate flooring as well?

  25. StephanieL says:

    I made the all purpose cleaner and loved it. I gave some to a friend with a baby to try and she can’t stop raving about it. I’m wondering if you can use the hardwood cleaning suggestions on laminate flooring as well?

  26. Jennifer Chait says:

    @Stephanie – I’m not sure about the floor cleaner on laminate floors – really the mineral oil is beneficial to wood, but I’m not so sure it would benefit other floors. Honestly, to clean my floors I tend to just use hot water, a dash of natural soap, and sometimes some lemon juice or drops of essential oil if I’m going for a scent. If you use lemon juice on floors you have to go over with a clean water rinse though.

  27. Margaret says:

    I have 4 dogs and wash their bed coverings in my washing machine. What cleaning product can I use to freshen my washing machine so when I was my clothes they will smell fresher. Also I need an all purpose cleaner. I mixed vinegar, water and baking soda and it shot up like a gyser so I don’t know what I wrong. Thank you

  28. Jennifer Chait says:

    @Margaret Plain old vinegar should cut the scent. OR you might want to try placing a few drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil on a washcloth and including it in your wash. I don’t have pets so as far as pets go I’m not a cleaning expert. One company I know of does make an eco-friendly pet wash you might want to test out – http://www.ecos.com/petlaundry.html.

  29. gregoryulrich says:

    Margaret, vinegar is an acid (low ph) and baking soda is a base (high ph). When you mix the two together you are causing a chemical reaction which negates the properties of both. If you have a washing machine which has a separate reservoir for fabric softener you could add a baking soda and water solution to the rinse cycle.

  30. gregoryulrich says:

    Margaret when you mix baking soda (a base) and vinegar (an acid) together you’re creating a chemical reaction which neutralizes the properties of both. If you want to use the baking soda in the wash try making a baking soda/water solution and add it to the fabric softener dispenser. It will add the solution to the rinse cycle after the vinegar has been rinsed away.

  31. sevenangels says:

    I highly suggest adding the tea tree oil if you are looking for a scented cleaner, it smells great, very fresh. They list a few other essential oils that work really well on Homemade Cleaners, you may want to look into that.

    Pretty much any scent will work, just depends on what you like.

  32. sarahms says:

    Thank you very much for the helpful tips on cleaning products. This is exactly what I am looking for. Does anyone have suggestion on making natural dish soap (with a little bit of antibacterial function) and natural toothpaste? It would be great if I could store the products for a little while rather than making a fresh batch every day or week?

  33. sarahms says:

    I’ve read that one should rinse the mop in running water rather than dipping the mop in the cleaning solution or a bucket of hot water, when rinsing, does anyone have a solution where one would use a premade floor cleaning solution, and just spray the floor first, then use a mop to clean and rinse the floor (requiring multiple trips to the sink and cleaning/disinfecting the sink afterwards)? Or since the floor cleaning solution mentioned above has disinfecting function, it does not matter if a dirty mop is dipped back into the bucket? Thank you,

  34. sarahms says:

    I apologize for asking so many questions, but I am a novice in green cleaning. Do I need to rinse or wipe off the surfaces after using Jennifer’s all-purpose disinfectant? I have heard grapefruit seed extract is also a powerful disinfectant/fungucide, any recipe containing it available? Jennifer’s recipe sounds really good to me, perhaps it would just do the trick. Thank you for your patience.

  35. earthmamamaven says:

    i have been using soapnuts as a luandry detergent along with tea tree oil but am not feelin like my clothes are getting clean…Anyone have any info on how to use them better…I currently put them in the tray where the soap goes,and let the hot water run over them..I tried the muslin bag in the clothes but that REALLY dint work…

  36. roz says:

    Hi earthmamamaven, this is the laundry mix I make up – Ingredients: 1/2 cup Dr Bronner’s cake of soap grated, 7.5litres of hot water, 1/2 cup washing soda (optional, use if you require a stronger cleaner). Method: In a bucket mix grated soap with 1.5 litres of hot water until dissolved. Stir in washing soda. Fill bucket with remaining 6 litres hot water and mix. Cool and pour into clean plastic 2L milk bottles, using a funnel is helpful. It froths up a bit so pour slowly. Use 1/2 cup mix per load of washing. Makes enough to last for 60 washes. Other soaps can be substituted but Dr Bronner’s is the green option. All the best

  37. stepfanie says:

    Do you have to make each cleaning solution fresh everytime you need it or can you store it, and if so for how long?

  38. roz says:

    Sorry for late reply. Each batch you make up is about 7.5 litres worth and you only use 1/2 cup each time. I use this up in about 4 – 5 mths, doing 3 loads a week but if you don’t wash that often it will last longer. The solution is the same by the end of that time as there’s really nothing in it to turn the solution bad. Forgot to say if you want a scented mix, then just add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

  39. gbuchhammer says:

    Hi I am new and haven’t made anything yet…just wanted to know how long can I keep a window or all purpose cleaner before I need to make a new batch? Thank you and super excited to start!

  40. Symphony in green says:

    This is a very helpful post and website as well!! Making your own cleaning kit is cheap, effective and environmentally friendly as well. It’s good to know how we can protect our loved ones inside our homes by using safe products to clean. Also thanks for the links about essential oils!!!

  41. Evelyn Leopold says:

    My mother used amonia for spring cleaning.. Do you happen to know what strength would be recommended, what it can safely be used for and general way amonia might be used today?
    Thank you

  42. remysmama says:

    Thank you for the article. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be trying your disinfectant recipe. Generally I use e-cloth (http://eclothusa.com/) products around the house so that I only need to use water but there are times when you need a little extra. I’m a huge fan of baking soda and vinegar. Our porcelain bathroom sink has deep grooves in it that even my microfiber cloths won’t clean out entirely so I sprinkle some baking soda into the sink and then a little vinegar and that great bubbling chemical reaction cleans the grooves right out! And it’s great fun for my 3 year old son to watch!

  43. mamaforhim says:

    I like the water/tea tree oil idea—do
    I have to make it fresh every time? How often do you do it?

  44. Jennifer says:

    @mamaforhim – I have a spray bottle that holds maybe 4 cups or so and I use that for essential oil cleaners. You don’t have to make fresh each time. I have no clue if essential oil abilities get weaker in water, but they don’t seem to. I make a new batch of cleaners every mos to 2 mos or so.

  45. b lev says:

    what is natural liquid soap? also is it poss to make a general purpose cleaner from fresh lemon juice and store it in a spay bottle or will it go off?

  46. Jennifer says:

    @b lev – by natural liquid soap I mean something like Dr. Bronners soap or another non-chemical brand, preferably organic. And as for the lemon juice, I wouldn’t save a container. What I do is keep lemon juice in a jar, already squeezed, so it’s easy to add to cleaners or use for cleaning if I like. Then you only have to squeeze juice once a mos or so, but I don’t think I’d mix up a bottle of lemon based cleaner and keep it.

  47. Jorgek says:

    I am looking for a solution to clean a tiled floor, with glow. Thanks! Jorge (Portugal)

  48. SusannaG says:

    Would you consider rubbing alcohol a safe, natural cleaner? A friend of mine who makes her own floor cleaner adds alcohol in order to help the floor dry quickly. Thank you in advance, and thank you for this information!

  49. samanthatrieve says:

    You guys should definitely try the natural organic cleaning supplies from http://www.naturalwayorganics.net. Theirs are eco friendly, safe, and don’t cost near as much as the other places. You don’t have to make it yourself and it’s already done for you.

  50. jamidianne says:

    I am looking for a good recipe for cleaner to use on my kids toys. So it would need to be safe for them to put in their mouths. Dapple is just so expensive.

    thanks,

    jami

  51. LC says:

    Can these cleaners be used on slate and ceramic tile?

  52. lc says:

    Can these be used on slate?

  53. carreen says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I can’t wait to try these products!

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