Wednesday, March 31, 2010

DIY household cleaners: save some green

Anyone in the mood for spring cleaning? Steph of Snickerdoodle is here to help you keep it green. Welcome, Steph!

Anyone who's been to my house might chuckle to see that I've written a guest blog post on cleaning. My husband and I share our little old house with three small and very dirty (read: happy) boys. There's always a mess being made somewhere in our home. In fact, I don't remember the last time that our house was all clean at the same time. But the benefit of our messy existence is that we've had lots of opportunities to test lots of different natural cleaning recipes and methods. If these cleaners are able to tackle the messes we make, you can know that they work.

Did you ever see that commercial for the fictional Formula 410? A janitor messing around in a lab sprays some on the wall and burns a hole clean through (complete with an indoor lightening bolt!). The idea was that the world isn't ready for Formula 410, so we can all run out and buy Formula 409, the cleaner that is super effective but just weak enough that it won't burn holes through your stuff. This commercial aired before I had children of my own and became a little paranoid about such things, but I still remember thinking, "Really? I'm supposed to want to use something even a little bit like that?!" Now folks, I realize the commercial was an exaggeration, that it was supposed to be funny and entertaining, but still...

I don't mean to target Formula 409. A quick stroll down the cleaning products aisle of your grocery store will turn up dozens and dozens of cleaners that are probably effective, but dangerous for our families and the environment. Pick up any bottle and read the label and you're likely to find long lists of strongly-worded precautions and warnings.

You don't have to use those harsh cleaners to have a clean home.
Did you know that you can make your own household cleaners that are safe, effective, and cost a fraction of what you'd pay for store-bought cleaners? And it's easy too! Once you've got the ingredients on hand, it only takes seconds to whip up a fresh batch. And the best news of all is that you may already have some of these ingredients in your kitchen.

(note: although the following recipes for cleaners are quite safe, it's still a good idea to keep them out of the reach of children and supervise their use)

Here's what you'll need for basic cleaning:


  • Clean spray bottles (brand new empty ones are an inexpensive investment)
  • Clean shaker-type canister (I use an old sea salt container)
  • Microfiber cloths (you can find these in the cleaning supplies section of most stores, but I find that they're almost always less expensive in the auto care section. Or check Sam's Club or Costco if that's your thing. I got a package of 36 large cloths at Costco for about $14.50. That was over two years ago and I still use them every day)
  • Washing Soda (found near the laundry supplies in most grocery and discount stores)
  • Baking Soda
  • Distilled White Vinegar (you'll probably want to start buying this by the gallon, it's awesome!)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Good liquid soap or detergent (Use whatever you prefer. I really like Method's dish soap-- it's very effective and biodegradable. Some people love Castile soap, and consider it the greenest dish soap option. I have no experience with that, yet...)
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Citric Acid Granules (your local health food store is probably the most likely to carry them)
  • Optional: Borax (usually found near the washing soda in your store's laundry/cleaning section)
  • Optional: your favorite essential oils (for adding scent to your cleaners-- grapefruit oil is my favorite)

My DIY cleaning kit

All-Purpose Cleaner (recipe from care2.com)

I use this all-purpose cleaner for everything: cooked-on messes on the stove, counter tops, crayon marks and grimy fingerprints on my walls, and a great no-rinse mop solution. You may need to give it a little time to work on particularly crusty, caked-on messes. In that case, I usually spray the mess generously, go do something else for a couple of minutes and come back to wipe up the mess. This solution is particularly effective when used with a microfiber cloth.

1/2 teaspoon washing soda
A dab of liquid soap
2 cups hot tap water

Optional: a few drops of your favorite essential oil(s).

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag.

Glass Cleaner (recipe from care2.com)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past. Microfiber cloths are a great, lint-free, low-waste way to wash your windows/mirrors. Newspaper also works really well.

Mold and Mildew Killer (recipe from care2.com)
This stuff is great. I've successfully used it on moldy shower curtains and on the mildew that shows up in my poorly-ventilated bathroom. Tea tree oil is expensive, but a little goes a very long way-- and there are lots of wonderful uses for it. (I'm still using a bottle that I purchased a couple of years ago) The smell of this spray is very strong, but dissipates within a few hours.

2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water

Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes two cups.

Scouring Powder

Fill a clean shaker-type container with Borax. Sprinkle over damp a damp surfaces and wipe with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly. Great for sinks, bathtubs, and toilets. For toilets, sprinkle generously into toilet water, swish with the brush and let sit 30 minutes to overnight.

This does a beautiful job removing stains from my 68 year old porcelain kitchen sink. Baking Soda also makes a great scouring powder if you don't need to remove stubborn stains.


Hard Water Deposit Remover: citric acid granules

I have very hard water and inevitably end up with deposits on my faucets and around my drains. For a while I thought that I'd just have to live with it; that that was one area that my DIY cleaners just couldn't compete. I knew that the high acid content in vinegar will eat right through hard water deposits. However, vinegar takes time, and short of filling my bathtubs and sinks with vinegar, I couldn't find a way to apply it so that it would stick around and get the job done. Citric acid granules, however, do the trick perfectly. Just sprinkle some on a damp sponge or cloth and scrub away at your hard water deposits and watch them dissappear! Be careful around metal fixtures-- it may discolor them. And you'll also want to do a spot test if your sink is made of anything other than porcelain-- I've only used this on porcelain and I'm not sure if it would cause problems for other surfaces. Citric acid is safe (it's really just vitamin C), but it's high acidity may irritate skin, so be sure to wear gloves when applying.

Disinfectants:

Hydrogen Peroxide is an awesome, and very safe germ killer. It's great for surfaces that come in contact with food and baby stuff. It needs to stay in its brown bottle though, as exposure to light will reduce the potency. Just borrow a sprayer from one of your spray bottles and screw it on, they should match up.

100% Vinegar
is another great disinfectant. I especially love to use it in the bathroom. Perfect for toilets and the walls surrounding (I have boys, remember?) The smell is kinda strong at first, but it will dissipate pretty quickly.

Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide are both great sanitizers in their own right, but when used together, they're actually more effective than bleach or other commercially available cleansers at killing bacteria, according research done by Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Using her method, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are not mixed together in the same bottle, but rather sprayed one after the other. This combo is effective not only on metal plastic and wood, but also food. That's right, you can spritz vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide on your salad greens to be sure they're nice and clean (with no noticeable vinegar taste, even). Woo Hoo!

Dishwasher Detergent and Rinse aid (recipe from DIYnatural.com):

1/2 c. washing soda
1/2 c. borax
1/4 c. citric acid granules (can be omitted if you've got soft water)
1/4 c. kosher salt

Shake to combine and use 1 Tbs. "detergent" per load. Pour white vinegar into your rinse aid compartment.

I've got an old dishwasher, and like I mentioned before, very hard water. The only way I've been able to get any detergent to work for me is to add the "detergent" to the pre-wash dispenser and fill the actual detergent dispenser (the one with the door) with white vinegar in addition to filling my rinse aid compartment. You may have to experiment a bit to get it to work for you.

Laundry Detergent

I'm still working my way through my stockpile of warehouse-sized jugs of liquid detergent. But when I'm through with them, there are a couple of laundry detergent recipes I'm looking forward to experimenting with.

This one from Bonzai Aphrodite looks interesting, and so does this recipe via Sutton Grace.

And finally, don't let your beloved Swiffer stand between you and saving money and the environment. You don't have to give it up! A couple of modifications will make it a mean, green, cleaning machine.

If you look at the cap of your swiffer wet jet bottle, you'll see that it somewhat resembles the cap on a 2 liter soda bottle, except that the ring on the swiffer bottle is fused to the cap. If you carefully cut the ring away (I used an X-acto knive), you'll find that the swiffer cap will screw on and off easy as pie.

a swiffer bottle after the "ring" has been removed

See how it twists off? Now you can refill it with our all-purpose cleaner!
Use that bottle over and over and over again.



For the pads, I just cut a microfiber cloth into an "H" shape, and use straight pins to hold it on. The microfiber makes the mop a little harder to push, but it cleans really well. If you wanted to get all fancypants, you could knit your own colorful swiffer pads and attach them with buttons, like this.

I'm sure we all look forward to the day when houses will clean themselves, but until then, I hope you enjoyed these green cleaning recipes and ideas!

56 comments:

susan said...

This is perfect. I've been wanting to make the switch to greener cleaners but have been too lazy to spend loads of time researching. Thank you for putting it all in one place!

Mary said...

Very informative and encouraging! Here are a couple of cleaning ideas I found on Sew Much Ado:

Reusable Swiffer Sweeper:
http://sewmuchado.blogspot.com/2010/03/tutorial-reusable-swiffer-sweeper.html


Powdered Laundry Detergent:
http://sewmuchado.blogspot.com/2010/03/tutorial-homemade-laundry-detergent.html

Erin said...

Thanks Steph for posting this! I have been meaning to do this for so long. Maybe I will finally get around to it. Thanks for the encouragement!

We live in a Zoo! said...

Vinegar is my favorite, I use it on 90% of everything ;D

LJ said...

Steph, thanks so much for the awesome tips. I've been using Simple Green, but I'm not crazy about the scent, so I'm going to try out some of your recipes.

sheena said...

first off, I LOVE your blog...I just came across it and am so happy to have found you!

second...thanks so much for all this info! I have been using so much vinegar these days....that stuff is crazy what it can do!

I'll be back for sure!

duck said...

I LOVE this post!

Joan said...

I'm really glad to be introduced to these ideas. I've honestly never thought of making my own cleaners.
Thanks for sharing your expertise with us, Steph :)

Bec said...

Great post thanks so much! Love tee tree oil. It is my staple for battling strong odours!

Heather said...

I love this! I have been using a vinegar/water mixture in a spray bottle for cleaning and I LOVE it. But this post has given me so much more info! I LOVE Borax too by the way, it serves so many purposes!

I think it's SO smart to clean this way. Have you ever read the ingredients in cleaners? S.C.A.R.Y. I love knowing I can clean and disinfect w/o worrying about potentially harming my family. Thanks for the tips!

Vicky said...

I wish I'd known it was that easy to remove the lid from those pesky mop refill bottles. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

Awesome article and great tips!

I also make my own cleaning products but I like to add some drops of Citra Solv to them, which of course it's a natural and biodegradable cleaner. It makes them more effective and they smell much better... I hate the sting of vinegar!

Some cool tips and Info you can find on Green Cleaning Mom's blog, you might want to check it out: http://www.greencleaningmom.com/

-Amanda

jayniemoon said...

I was just trying to figure out how to use my swiffer without buying all the stuff they want me to buy! THank you thank you!!

Chris said...

Vinegar also makes a great wash for produce. I fill a large bowl with mostly water and add a 1/4 vinegar. I let everything soak for about 10 minutes. I then remove the produce, rinse it off, and let it air dry on clean towels. You'll be shocked at what is lying in the bottom when you're done.

Christina said...

Our water is really hard too - I am excited to try the citric acid. Thanks for the tips!

Sabrina said...

Great list! I've tried some recipes similar to yours over the last year in my attempt to make household cleaning less toxic. Looking forward to trying some of these out too. Thanks for sharing!

Jassica said...

Useful list of cleaners i have ever found..
Professional cleaning company

johnson said...

I am learning about blogs and like what you did in yours blog.Cleaning company

magi said...

Nice guide thank you!/ I love it! very creative! That's actually really cool Thanks.

Commercial Dishwasher

dancilhoney said...

Commercial cleaners usually supply excellent value to the business office environment, without having to worry about staffing a workforce of cleaners. Carpet Cleaners Johannesburg

Beauprez Family said...

I used your post on my blog and just wanted to say thank you for posting this!

Tyler Perkins said...

It is not enough to maintain the cleanliness in your space. You also have to make sure that your cleaning products are safe and eco-friendly. Using chemical cleaners might affect the quality of your indoor air and have negative effects on your health. Be wise enough with your choices.

william alberto said...

Surely you have shared some unique and very effective home cleaning methods.. I am trying to satisfy my bond clean terms so the methods will help me lot..

william alberto said...

Surely you have shared some unique and very effective home cleaning methods.. I am trying to satisfy my Bond Clean terms so the methods will help me lot..

Raoena said...

Just a small note: although citric acid occurs naturally in fruit (especially in citrus fruit) it is not the same as vitamin C. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. So if you purchase food-grade citric acid for cleaning please don't add it to your orange juice thinking you are getting extra vitamin C!

Ramiz Raza said...

I can set up my new idea from this post. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information for all,..
Click Here

Levi Eslinger said...

How about you combine vinegar with boiling water, detergent and citrus? That should make a powerful cleaning solution that will help get rid of those buildups. And it might work on clogged drainage too, given that only thing that’s causing the clogs on your drain are amassed dirt and grease, and not some faulty piping system that would require more than just DIY solutions.

Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing

Oven Cleaning Sheffield said...

I use the same mixture of ingredients for cleaning oven glass. detergent, vinegar and water
in a spray bottle. The most important being vinegar. Leave this out and it will not clean with the same effectiveness.

How about a 'DIY household oven cleaner' added to this blog? I would love to see what you would use in that. I would have some great ideas for that too. Lets see it!

sohail sheikh said...

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work.
commercial cleaning services melbourne

Marianne said...

Great! I can't wait to try the glass cleaner recipe.All recipes seem to be easy to make and so useful. Thank you for the ideas!

Angelica Pickles said...

Thanks for the great information.
1st Choice Janitorial

maria smith said...

Vinegar is one of my favorite green cleaning products. I'm always learning new ways to use it. Thanks for sharing the great ideas!

Dr.Jones Methews said...

It feels awe-inspiring to read such informative and distinctive articles on your websites. house cleaners Brisbane

Robert Lima said...

I’m trampled by your contents carry on the wonderful work. Companion Maids

Seo Sea said...

IPAX Caribbean is a manufacturer of superior quality cleaning products that are environmentally responsible for the industrial and commercial workplace. Our products prove that cleaners can be universal, powerful and safe, without being hazardous. Each IPAX solution is a proprietary formula and the result of careful scientific research and development. IPAX products are of the highest quality and excellence with a dedication to, production quality, Green Cleaning, Environmentally friendly Products, Biodegradable Cleaning, Eco Friendly , Earth Friendly, Safe cleaning , Non- Toxic, Green Seal Certified, Multi Propose Cleaning, Hospital Cleaning , Industrial Cleaning, NEUTRAL DISINFECTANT, application technology, operational performance and human safety.

Abhijeet Bhosale said...

Great post. I found very useful info from this post. Thank you very much.
carpet cleaning geelong
school cleaning geelong | furniture cleaning geelong

Franklin7 Seo said...

Your blogs and every other content is so entertaining and useful It makes me come back again.moncler pas cher
Flyttstädning Stockholm

historypak said...

It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commentators here! office cleaning port melbourne

Claudia Goffe said...

These are some really great ideas, thanks for sharing them with us. I use Maid Complete who are a house cleaning company and leave my home looking great. I'm not sure what products they use but I can never complain, as they provide a high quality service!

Lewis said...



Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again


Commercial Cleaning Supplies

Geelong Commercial Cleaners said...

Really good post, this will help me a lot in the future.

carpet cleaning geelong | furniture cleaning geelong

rokn elbeet said...

اعمال شركة تنظيف بالرياض متميزة داخل المنطقة التي تعمل بها لانها تعمل علي تقديم كل ما هو جديد في عالم النظافة لتقديم خدمة متميزة للعميل فتعامل مع شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض ستلاقي فريق من العمال لدك مختصين في اعمال نظافة الفلل وهذا يحدث ايضا مع شركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض
والتي تعمل علي نظافة الخزانات وتعقيها للقضاء علي الاوساخ والبكتريا الصغيرة التي توجد بها معكم ايضا شركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض التي تعمل علي الصيانة والتنظيف بواسطة اثنين من الفنين المختصين في مجال المسابح واليك خدمة اساسية تلبي لك العيش في بيئة خالية من الحشرات الصغيرة من خلال قسم شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض الذي يعمل علي القضاء علي جميع الحشرات المنزلية كما يوجد قسم اخر في مجال مكافحة الحشرات وهو شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض التي تقدم خدمة الوقاية والقضاء علي هذه الافات بواسطة مبيدات طبيعية

Nikhi Kashab said...

I had no idea about this lol. Pretty interesting subject for sure though.
CEO Maids

Arti Samir said...

Interesting. This looks super cool. I haven't read it all yet, but I'll be back to read the rest of it.
Long island maids

Arman Maalik said...

Do you have a Youtube channel as well with this kind of content on it? I would love to see this post turned into a longer video if possible. Maybe I can share on it on my website.

Alpine Maids

Khaled Ragab said...



شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض


Mia Johnson said...

You know if you are not on Instagram, you should be. I know you can't put text up, but just throw in a few pics and build an audience there. I think you'd find a ton of people who would be super interested in your blog here.
Smile Maids

Hema Kapadia said...

Excellent! Another freakin' FANTASTIC post. Read of course by your number 1 FANtastic person :)
Gleem

Khaled Ragab said...

شركة نور الجنة
شركة تنظيف بمكة
شركة تنظيف مجالس بمكة
شركة تنظيف خزانات بمكة
شركة تنظيف سجاد بمكة
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بمكة
شركة مكافحة حشرات بمكة
شركة نقل اثاث بمكة
شركة رش مبيدات بمكة

Khaled Ragab said...

شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بالقطيف
شركة تنظيف بالجبيل
شركة تنظيف بالخبر
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالقطيف
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالخبر
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالجبيل
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالاحساء
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالخبر
شركة كشف تسربات بالجبيل
شركة كشف تسربات بالقطيف

Khaled Ragab said...

شركة تنظيف بالطائف
شركة تنظيف خزانات بالطائف
شركة تنظيف منازل بالطائف
شركة تنظيف شقق بالطائف
شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالطائف


John simon said...

Nothing like starting off my day reading and learning about something cool. Your blog post accentuated my breakfast perfectly! Thank you :)
Wilmington Maids

Anonymous said...

End of Lease Cleaning Melbourne protects bathroom and en-suites cleaning and also laundry, meeting the expectations of the property managers. Whilst the staff are trained and experienced no cleaning job is too large or small for them.

MASA said...

its very great شركة رش مبيدات بجدة الشركة الأفضل فى السعودية والتى تعتبر افضل شركة رش مبيدات بجدة نحن نضمن لكم الجودة والتوفير لاننا ارخص شركة رش مبيدات بجدة ونقوم بمساعدتك على القضاء التام على الحشرات فى شركة رش حشرات بجدة كما اننا نعمل فى مجال مكافحة الحشرات أيضا فى شركة مكافحة حشرات بجدة والتى تعتبر افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات بجدة بل وتعبر كذلك ارخص شركة مكافحة حشرات بجدة

MASA said...

Very Nice إنها شركة الماسة الألمانية افضل شركة رش مبيدات بجدة بخصوص تنظيف مجارى الصرف الصحى نعطيك نتائج ممتازة فى شركة شفط بيارات بجدة كما أن تنظيف وعزل خزانات الماء فنحن لدينا أفضل العمالة الفنية الماهرة فى شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة ولا ننسى المنازل والعمائر السكنية الكبيرة والفلل فنحن نقدم لك شركة تنظيف شقق بجدة وبخصوص نقل محتويات الاثاث والعفش داخل وخارج جدة لدينا إمكانات متميزة من كما أن الشرمة تضم فريق عمل مدرب على فك وتركيب كل قطع الأثاث المنزلة فى شركة نقل عفش بجدة

Lance Stratton said...

Green cleansing product is too good for bathrooms.