Making your own cleaning supplies at home is really very easy and there are so many benefits – it saves a ton of money and if you use the non-toxic ingredients I suggest, will also benefit the environment, save your health and make your home much safer, especially for children and pets.
I was inspired to start making my own cleaning supplies when a good friend of mine, Tana, introduced me to this fantastic book, (affiliate link) “Clean House, Clean Planet.” The author, Karen Logan, does an excellent job of explaining the toxic chemicals in store-bought cleaners and makes a very convincing argument for making your own alternatives that won't send you or your children to the emergency room if ingested. So, if you're a book person and like to have physical paper in front of you as you mix away, then “Clean House, Clean Planet” is for you. Otherwise, if you're cheap like me, here are my online recipes that are very similar to the ones in the book that I have used!
First, Start Collecting Containers
- A shaker container (like an empty parmesan cheese container, or large spice container like minced onion or oregano)
- 8 oz and 16 oz. Spray Bottles (Hardware stores like True Value, Ace, Home Depot and Lowe's, and there's always Amazon (buy here). sell ones of very good quality, which is important so your hand doesn't tire as you squirt and so they last a long time).
- Squirt Bottles (I use old shampoo and conditioner bottles)
- For Laundry Detergent save your old laundry detergent container so you will have the measuring cup for each load.
Then, Start Collecting Ingredients
- Baking Soda (where to buy)*
- Super Washing Soda (where to buy)**
- White Distilled Vinegar 5% Acidity (where to buy)
- Liquid Castile Soap (I use Dr. Bronner's) or all an natural liquid dishwashing soap
- Essential Oils with Antibacterial and Antiseptic properties like: Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, Lemon, Sweet Orange, Eucalyptus, (or these fabulous blended oils) Purification or Thieves (where to buy high quality essential oils)
*Can be purchased at any grocery store, but I like to buy the 13.5 pound bag from Amazon
**In the laundry aisle of grocery stores
Borax – Safe or Not?
Borax is a naturally occurring compound that is mined directly out of the ground. It can be harmful if ingested, but is still green and doesn't harm the environment or ground water (Crunchy Betty has a great post about Borax if you want more info.). So, my suggestion is to keep your cleaning products that contain Borax out of reach of children and if you use a cleaner containing Borax on countertops or food preparation surfaces, just wipe clean afterwards with a wet washcloth, then rinse it clean. UPDATE: Since the writing of this post, I have ceased to use Borax. I'd rather air on the side of safety, so now I use just baking soda or super washing soda to replace it.
It's also important when using Borax to mix it with hot water first so it dissolves, then add the rest of your cleaning ingredients.
Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca)
This amazing oil has a reputation for having antibacterial properties, and has been proven in recent medical studies that show that it has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic qualities. It was even shown in recent trials to be more effective for treating head lice than prescribed drugs! It comes from the Tea Tree of eastern Australia, and was used by the indigenous people to treat cuts and wounds, inhaled to treat coughs and colds, and used as an infusion to treat sore throats (for more info, visit wikipedia.com). It is your secret weapon in natural cleaning products to kill bacteria!
If you have asthma or are very sensitive to strong smells, add as much as you can handle to your cleaners or do without it all together. Vinegar and Borax also have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
White Distilled Vinegar (where to buy) also has a long history and reputation of fighting bacteria and diseases (going all the way back to Hippocrates, according to wikipedia.org!) According to care2.com, the Heinze company (which makes vinegar) says that straight vinegar (like the kind you buy in the store that is a 5% solution) kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs (viruses), but they cannot print that on their products because the company has not registered its vinegar as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency. It's hard to argue with it's 2,000-year-old reputation as an antibacterial!
Did you know that the ancient Egyptians used baking soda (where to buy) as a cleaning agent, like soap? It has countless uses and is really a magical organic compound. I use it as shampoo because it is an effective cleaner, but is so gentle and doesn't dry my hair out.
A Note About Green Cleaners
I've found that green cleaners work just as well as commercial ones, but sometimes they do take more time to work. So, for hard, dirty jobs, let the cleaner sit on for several hours or even overnight and wipe clean. I've done this countless times with Castile Soap and it works wonders to remove hard water stains and stuck-on food! Also, experiment with your recipes. You may find you need more baking soda, for instance, if you have a job that needs scrubbing. Or you may want to add more Tea Tree Oil or Vinegar to clean something containing bacteria, mold, or mildew.
Label Your Containers
It really helps to label your containers with the ingredients and recipes so you don't have to look them up every time you have to refill them. Many of my recipes contain free printable labels with the recipe so you'll never have to look them up again! This also makes it safer when there are children around so you know what's inside.