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Homemade Cleaning Solutions

Household ingredients for making DIY cleaning products

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.

Baking Soda

  • 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.

Salt

  • 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.)

Lemons

  • 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.

Essential Oils

  • 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, Kate also suggests eucalyptus or clove essential oils.

Shortcuts

If you want to leave cleaning solution mixology to the pros but are concerned about toxins, Whole Foods Market has you covered with our Eco-Scale™ rating system. These rated products list full ingredients on their packaging and are third-party verified based on safety and environmental impact.

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?

Let’s tackle the house together!

Orginally published in 2012. Updated March 2016.

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46 comments

Comments

David Bergman says …

The tips for homemade cleaners that you have given are fantastic. I use the water and lemon in my microwave and it works wonders. I like your tip about sprinkling baking soda in the kitchen trash can before lining it with the garbage bag; and I am definitely going to do this. There is an urgent need to use green cleaning products. All the ingredients you have mentioned in your article are always there in our homes and it is so effortless. Would just like to mention that there a number of green cleaning supplies available in the market today. Thank you for all the wonderful tips you have given.

Amy says …

Can't you just use a paper towel for the grease in your fry pan?

Heidi says …

I keep a spray bottle of 1/2 vinegar & 1/2 water for when pets vomit or go to the bathroom on the floor. It removes the smell so they don't go back to the same place.

M says …

This is my all purpose cleaner I have been using for years- vinegar, water, liquid soap pref veg), tea tree oil, other essential oil based on the season- cinnamon and peppermint are a fav. The vinegar kill bac, the tea tree is anti mold mildew and the soap cleans. I use this for kitchen and bath but not on hardwood. I have a cheap large spray bottle from the garden dept that has lasted several years. Usually it works for a one week whole house clean. 1 c borax in toliet works. I initially got the recipe -and others - from a green recipe book for cleaners. Have adapted it a bit. I have also used a hand held steamer for bathrooms and counters. I have not bought a household cleaner in a very long time. The oils are pricy but last a long time.

Janice Gervais says …

Rosemary essential oil leaves the house smelling fresh and clean and also has natural antibacterial properties.

mae says …

I use lemon to clean my wood cutting board, then I put some coconut oil on a cloth and use it to "treat" it. I also use coconut oil mixed with a couple drops of orange essential oils to polish furniture (make sure to do a spot test first on this one)

Ann Place says …

I always have a spray bottle with a mix of 15 drops lavender essential oil to 1/2 cup distilled water. I use this to mist my mattress, pillows, chairs, couches. I read somewhere that this has natural antiseptic properties and it also leaves furniture smelling wonderful. Teatree oil is an acceptable substitute but I prefer the lavender oil.

JANE DAVENPORT says …

WINDOWS ARE EASY TO CLEAN WITH NEWSPAPER PRINT AND VINEGAR..THIS ONE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A WHILE AND REALLY WORKS.

Jill says …

I like to put a few drops of Lemongrass essential oil in with my vinegar and water mixture, it gives the whole thing a nice fresh scent. Also, a paste made with baking soda and water, along with an old toothbrush, has been the best thing ever to take care of the baked on brown bits on my glass baking dishes, and all the gunk off my non-stick pots and pans.

Moira says …

All of the tips are terrific. For a general purpose cleaner that can also be used on granite and other stone surfaces is a spray bottle with 1 cup of water and 1 TBS of dishwashing liquid. Make sure you don't use citrus types of dishwashing liguid as this is bad for granite and marble surfaces.

Bridget says …

The only natural thing I've ever found to not smell so awful and to not bother my son's allergies or swell his nasal passages with vinegar and lemon smells is Melaleuca - their cleaning products actually smell fabulous and they work better than any "green" product out there. If you havent' heard of them or tried them, you must investigate them! Feel free to friend me on facebook and I will show you!

Jennifer says …

I really like Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap. A tablespoon in a large spray bottle works wonders in the kitchen on tough stains. I also use the lavender and tea tree varieties in my facial soap. For other cleaning I also use the vinegar+water mix, but I like to throw a sprig of fresh rosemary or mint into the bottle. I also add sprigs of fresh rosemary and mint to jars of baking soda. Smells nice - good for freshening shoes, scrubbing toilets or baths, foot powder. The kids even like it in their bath as "sprinkles".

Keli says …

A mixture if salt and vinegar will clean cooper pots wonderfully.

Marion says …

Pour white vinegar down a clogged drain. It wukk di the trick!

Gail Northway says …

Anyone know how to clean a dura-ceramic floor? There's some kind of coating on it (unlike plain ceramic) that makes it more picky about what is used. I can't get the manufacturer (Congoleum) to recommend anything but the chemically based cleaner they sell.

Darlene says …

Hi Gail, How about using a Shark steam cleaner? You fill the tank with distilled water or 1/2 distilled water and regular water, depending on your towns water. My Shark has a very small tank. Hope this may help?

Twinkle Teacher says …

Love all these tips and use all that good stuff in my home. Another must have is Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap. I dilute it for handsoap and make a cloth wipe diapering spray with it, too. It's a must have to make my life happy! And I'm all about the happy.

Nicole says …

For a clogged drain I pour as much baking soda that will fit(usually about 1 cup) down the drain then pour distilled vinegar over it. repeat with the vinegar til there is no more bubling and let sit over night. Flush drain with hot water the next day. For degreasing the microwave: put 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water in glass bowl or measuring cup and heat for 3-5 minutes. let sit in microwave for 10 minutes. You can then just wipe down the inside.

cleanster says …

These are very useful tips, easy and safe. Baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and salt are all present in every household and they are very efficient, too.

Deborah says …

do you have a suggestion for getting olive oil out of table linens ? This is a helpful website. Thank you

Danielle says …

Any suggestions on an easy all purpose spray cleaner for bathroom and kitchen which is safe for tile and grout? I've been told that lemon and vinegar will both cause grout to deteriorate over time.

Megan says …

@Deborah, I've read that chalk is supposed to help with oil-based stains! Here's some more info: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/use-chalk-to-rid-your-clothes-116878 Good luck!

Natasha says …

Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NATASHA - Sorry to hear about your technical problems. Let us know if this persists. You can try a different browser to see if it's the blog that is not loading.

Deb says …

Check out Queen of Green, a great place to find home made cleaning solutions, along with some other eco friendly tips: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/

Caroline Corona says …

I use plain water and a little alcohol to clean mirrors and windows.

Crys says …

Ahhhh, baking soda is also amazing as a facial scrub....AND.....apple cidar vinegar is a great toner (diluted of course!)

Cheryl says …

Thank you!

Jamila fahmi says …

Thank you

Emilia Sanchez-Leon says …

I love it Thank you

Emilia Sanchez-Leon says …

I love it Thank you

Grace says …

I recently burned a batch of lentils and thought I had completely ruined one of my favorite pots. After scrubbing and scrapping to no avail I decided to boil some water and baking soda for about 15 minutes and the burned bits came right off and my pot was as shiny as new!

Penny Hawk says …

A paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide has no smell and works wonderfully on many things. Try it on a stained sink or counter, greasy stove, bath tub, and shower. Just make the paste, let it set a while, then wipe and rinse. Rinse again if needed and dry.

Leslie says …

There's a great scrubbing-type cleaner you can make from baking soda: 1 c baking soda, enough dish soap to make it frosting consistency, a couple of teaspoons of liquid glycerin (drugstores carry it). Mix it up and clean bathrooms, kitchens, etc. I used to run an environmental sustainability group at an elementary school, and we taught 350 kids (and parents) how to make this. I hope they still do.

Jennifer says …

My partner doesn't like the smell of vinegar, but I love to use it in various household cleaning products and beauty products. I've found if I use infused vinegars, which I make myself, or add EO, he doesn't mind as much. To infuse, place vinegar and herbs or citrus peels in a jar. Place jar in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks, shaking every few days. Drain and store in a dark, cool place. I like citrus infused vinegar for cleaning floors (diluted with hot water). Rosemary infused apple cider vinegar is my hair conditioner. Peppermint infused vinegar (diluted) is great for bathrooms. I also use peppermint and eucalyptus EO in vinegar as a laundry softener.

Danielle says …

Is the 365 brand of Baking Soda aluminum free? I notice your "Baking Powder" claims aluminum free, but I did not see the same claim on your Baking Soda. Thank you clarifying this if you can. Customer in Baltimore,MD

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DANIELLE - I checked with our Private Label team and they confirmed the 365 Baking Soda is aluminum free.

Laura says …

I add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the laundry. My clothes smell fresh always.

Fran smelser says …

Hello. I have an idea for a new dish cleaning product that I do not see on your store shelves. What is the process for submitting new products? Do I need to contact the regional office? Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@FRAN - Yes, our buying is done at the regional level. You can find info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company-info/information-potential-vendors

Samantha Pekar says …

To clean cast iron skillets, I spray them with Distilled White Vinegar, sprinkle with Table Salt and Baking Soda. I have a scrubbing pad for cast iron ONLY as I DO NO use soap in cast iron. I rinse it thoroughly and dry it with a paper towel. I DO NOT rub oil in my skillets after every cleaning as it will become rancid if I don't use the skillet for a few days. To clean mirrors and windows, I mix 50/50 rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. I mist it on the glass surface and rub it dry with a wadded piece of newspaper; one page. If you've have pets that roam freely from the yard and back into the house, here's how to kill any possible fleas as well as their eggs. Put 6/8 moth balls into your vacuum cleaner bag or wherever the dirt is collected. This will kill any fleas as well as any microscopic flea eggs that your vacuum will pick up and blow right back out into the air. It also kills any other bug eggs that you might have brought into your home on shoes or packages. Don't worry about the mothball smell. It really cleans the air and the order dissipates in a few minutes. I am 68 years young and learned these house cleaning secrets from my grandmother. She was born in 1900 and went to be with the Lord in 1990. I miss her to this day. I hope some of you find these ideas helpful.

Casey Brown says …

I used a green carpet cleaning company and asked for tips for spot cleaning from him. he suggested two spray bottles, one with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in water for cleaning up the accident and the other with half white vinegar and water for after treatment.Just blot with the dishwashing soap mixture until you have the stain up, then neutralize with spraying the vinegar solution and blot up and let dry. It worked awesome on pet stains.

Steve Krause says …

Greetings: I make a lot of candy and heat sugar in a pan. The pan is ruined. What gets the baked on sugar out of the pan? Yours, Steve

Jess says …

I've always been told that peels (lemon/lime) were bad for the disposal- made it difficult to grind or can hurt the disposal? Is his just an old wives tale? I love the smell of citrus, and this makes the disposal smells so great!

Donna says …

Wish you would list all vitamins and ingredient label on line. Too much to read in store...printing is too small

Robbin Wohl says …

Love this stuff. You rock! Thank you.