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, Kate also suggests eucalyptus or clove essential oils.
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.