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Homemade Cleaning Solutions

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, February 25, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

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.


  • 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.

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. I know there are buckets more homemade cleaning solutions out there and would love to hear them.

Any go-to ingredients you couldn’t clean without like essential oils, 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!




Janice Gervais says ...
Rosemary essential oil leaves the house smelling fresh and clean and also has natural antibacterial properties.
02/27/2012 12:48:34 PM CST
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)
02/27/2012 1:39:06 PM CST
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.
02/27/2012 1:48:33 PM CST
02/27/2012 1:50:05 PM CST
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.
02/27/2012 2:04:20 PM CST
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.
02/27/2012 5:52:25 PM CST
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!
02/27/2012 6:57:24 PM CST
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".
02/28/2012 4:24:10 PM CST
Keli says ...
A mixture if salt and vinegar will clean cooper pots wonderfully.
02/28/2012 7:11:03 PM CST
Marion says ...
Pour white vinegar down a clogged drain. It wukk di the trick!
02/29/2012 8:32:41 PM CST
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.
03/02/2012 9:10:02 AM CST
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?
03/03/2012 12:30:02 PM CST
Amy says ...
Can't you just use a paper towel for the grease in your fry pan?
03/04/2012 3:55:48 AM CST
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.
03/12/2012 2:56:37 AM CDT
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.
03/29/2012 1:25:15 AM CDT
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.
03/29/2012 10:13:21 AM CDT
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.
05/03/2012 10:19:55 PM CDT
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.
05/31/2012 11:54:50 AM CDT
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.
06/19/2012 2:44:28 AM CDT
Deborah says ...
do you have a suggestion for getting olive oil out of table linens ? This is a helpful website. Thank you
08/06/2012 1:14:46 PM CDT
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.
08/08/2012 8:58:00 AM CDT
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!
08/08/2012 3:24:00 PM CDT
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.
01/12/2013 3:54:36 AM CST
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.
01/15/2013 11:53:58 AM CST
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/
03/05/2013 10:43:15 AM CST